Group Title: Circular
Title: Growing figs in Florida
Full Citation
Permanent Link:
 Material Information
Title: Growing figs in Florida
Series Title: Circular
Physical Description: 1 folded sheet (6 p.) : ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Krezdorn, A. H ( Alfred Herman )
University of Florida -- Agricultural Extension Service
Publisher: Agricultural Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville Fla
Publication Date: 1967
Subject: Fig -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: A.H. Krezdorn.
General Note: Caption title.
General Note: "April, 1967"--Cover.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00084315
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 82969574

Full Text
Circular 311

Growing Figs

In Florida


Agricultural Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville

April, 1967

A. H. Krezdorn
Chairman, Department of Fruit Crops

The edible fig is not as widely grown in Florida
as in some southern states. However, it is a pop-
ular dooryard fruit, particularly in north Florida,
and some figs are grown for local sales.

The edible fig, Ficus carica, is a member of the
large Moraceae family that includes many of the
beautiful glossy-leaved trees grown in central and
southern Florida and throughout the tropics. It
also includes the common mulberry and Osage
Specialized cells in the plant produce a latex
that contains ficin, a protein decomposing enzyme
similar to that produced by papayas. When the
latex comes in contact with the skin, the ficin
causes a dermatitis or skin irritation that makes
the use of gloves advisable when working with or
harvesting figs.
Figs seldomly attain tree form in Florida be-
cause they are occasionally frozen to the ground,
causing them to sucker from the base and form a
bush. The lateral spread of roots is extensive
and, in certain soils, the roots go quite deep. A
profusion of fibrous roots occurs close to the soil
surface, which makes deep cultivation undesir-
able. Shoot growth is vigorous and the wood soft.
Terminal growth may continue into early winter
and fail to mature. Such growth is very suscepti-
ble to cold damage. The large, distinctive leaves
have a pubescence that is very irritating to the
The fruit is produced primarily in the axils of
the leaves of the new growth. In some varieties,
fruit is also produced on leafless wood which
formed the previous season. The fruit itself is
unique, being derived from a hollow receptacle
with flowers borne on the inner walls. At the apex
of the fruit, there is an opening known as the eye.
Insects and water enter through this eye unless it
it is tightly closed.

Based on their flowering and fruiting charac-
teristics, figs can be placed into 4 categories -
caprifig, Smyrna, common, and San Pedro. Cap-

rifigs are inedible and produce only staminate
(male) flowers. They are useful only for the pol-
len produced. Smyrna types bear only pistillate
(female) flowers and require pollen from the
caprifig to develop and mature.
Common types, the only kind recommended for
Florida, produce only pistillate flowers but they
are parthenocarpic (do not require pollination to
develop and mature fruit). San Pedro types bear
2 crops of figs, as do some varieties of the other
types, and produce only pistillate flowers. Figs
of the first crop, borne of the leafless wood, do not
require pollination. Figs of the main crop, born
on the new wood, will not produce mature fruit
without pollination.

Florida gardeners sometimes obtain figs of the
Smyrna or San Pedro types from California.
Since Florida has neither caprifigs nor the spe-
cial fig wasp that is needed to transfer the pollen
from the caprifig to the Smyrna and San Pedro
types, fruits of these types fall before ripening.
Even varieties of the common type sometimes
shed fruit prior to maturity. This may be brought
on by excessive heat or drought. Heavy infesta-
tions of nematodes may also cause premature
fruit drop. When some varieties of figs are frozen
to the ground, they do not produce fruit on the ex-
tremely vigorous new shoots that arise following
the damage.
From the standpoint of adaptability, there are
several desirable characteristics but no variety
has them all. A closed eye prevents entrance of
the dried fruit beetle and water. A long peduncle
or fruit stem allows the fruit to droop and pre-
vents the entrance of moisture through the eye.
Green skin color at maturity results in less bird
damage to the fruit. Some varieties fruit on the
vigorous wood produced following severe freeze
When purchasing fig trees, one is occasionally
misled because some varieties are sold under sev-
eral names, and in some cases the same name has
been given to more than one variety. In describ-
ing varieties adapted to Florida, the name com-
monly used in this region is given, and synonyms
are included in parenthesis.
'Celeste' (Celestial, Blue Celeste, Little Brown,

Sugar). This is the European variety, Malta, and
the most widely grown fig in the South. The fruit
is small, purplish-bronze to light brown in color,
and the eye is tightly closed. The fruit droops at
maturity and ripens from mid-July to mid-
August. 'Celeste' does not bear fruit the season
following severe freeze damage.
'Brown Turkey' (Everbearing, Harrison, Ram-
sey, Lee's Perpetual, Eastern Brown Turkey,
Brunswick). This variety rivals 'Celeste" in pop-
ularity. The fruit has a medium open eye, is of
moderate size, has bronze colored skin and the
fruit is short. The fruit ripens from late July
until late fall, if growth conditions are satisfac-
tory. The extended fruiting period has resulted
in the names Lee's Perpetual and Everbearing.
It will fruit following severe freeze damage.
'Green Ischia' (Ischia Green, White Ischia, Is-
chia Verte). This variety is not widely grown but
its green skin color and closed eye are desirable
characteristics that make it worthy of wider trial.
The fruit does not ripen until late July or early
August and its fruiting season is short. It does
not fruit the season following a severe freeze.
'San Piero' (Thomson, California Brown Tur-
key). This variety has no common name in Flor-
ida. Florida gardeners sometimes purchase
Brown Turkey from California nurseries and get
San Piero by mistake. The fruit is very large
with an open eye and a purplish-black to purplish-
bronze skin color. The fruit does not droop at
maturity and sours and splits badly.
'Magnolia' (Brunswick, Madonna). This is the
commercial canning fig of Texas and is fairly
common in the South but uncommon in Florida.
The eye is open, the skin is bronze colored and the
peduncle is short. The fairly large fruit has a
lopsided appearance. Fruit matures from mid-
July to late August. 'Magnolia' bears fruit follow-
ing severe freezes. Its value as a fresh fruit is
lessened by a tendency to split and sour.

Cultural Practices
Planting. If planted bare rooted, figs can be set
out anytime during the dormant season. Late
winter is preferable as this reduces the possibility
of freeze damage. Container-grown plants should
be set out in early spring, after the danger of
frost is over.
Pruning. Little pruning is needed other than to
maintain the desired bush size. If the plant is

straggly, it may be cut back to cause branching.
Only 3 to 5 trunks or leaders should be kept and
the sucker growth cut out annually. Following
freeze damage, damaged portions should be cut
out. If the apparently undamaged growth puts
out extremely weak growth, the tree should be
cut back to short stumps and a new bush de-
Moisture Supply. Figs require large quantities
of water during the fruiting season but will not
tolerate excessively wet soils or poor drainage for
protracted periods. Shallow cultivation to elimi-
nate weeds and weekly irrigation in periods of
drought result in optimum fruiting.
Fertilizers. Little is known about the specific
fertilizer needs of figs. Observation indicates that
they respond to fertilizer application much as
other fruit trees in Florida. The heavy Florida
rainfall and extended growth period of figs sug-
gests the application of small amounts of mixed
fertilizers about once a month during the growing
Fig Pests
Birds. The primary pest of figs in Florida is
birds. They are especially fond of the darker
colored fruits. To minimize the problem, ripe
figs should be harvested early each morning.
Insects. The primary insect problem is the
dried fruit beetle or sour bug that carries souring
organisms through the eye into the fruit cavity.
Planting varieties with closed eyes, and removing
all fruit as soon as it is ripe are the only current
methods of control. Figs with open eyes should
be picked just prior to maturity and preserved.
Beetles sometimes attack weakened limbs. Dam-
aged portions should be removed and tree vigor
restored through proper care.
Diseases. Fig rust stands out as an important
foliar disease. The leaves take on a rusty brown
appearance, become distorted and fall. Prema-
ture ripening and reduced tolerance to cold result.
The disease can be controlled with a 5-5-50 Bor-
deaux (copper sulfate, lime and water) spray ap-
plied every 2 to 3 weeks from June through
August. It is important to spray the undersides
of the young leaves for this is where infection
takes place.
Anthracnose sometimes causes sunken black
spots on the fruit but is not usually serious.
Various other fungus diseases such as web
blight, thread blight and pink blight cause fun-

gal growths on the twigs where figs are crowded
with other plants, or in excessively wet areas.
The problem is generally solved by pruning out
infected limbs and providing better air movement
by removing adjacent shrubbery.
Nematodes. Nematodes are minute worms that
attack the roots. They become so severe in the
deep sands of central Florida that figs cannot be
successfully grown without special measures.
Where clay subsoils are present, the damage is
greatly lessened. Grown next to buildings, the
roots penetrate the soil under the building where
nematodes are fewer and conditions for root
growth better. Heavy organic mulches also lessen
nematode damage. A preplanting treatment with
one of the nematicides is helpful, and new nema-
ticides that can be applied to growing plants are
The application of these materials should not
be made without consulting someone, such as your
county agricultural agent, who has been trained
in their use. Limited field observations indicate
that figs grafted onto Ficus glomerata thrive in
root-knot nematode infested soils. This stock is
a smooth-leaved tropical type, and generally can
only be used as a stock in warm locations of the
citrus area. If, however, one is willing to mound
soil around the base of the plant to a point well
above the bud union each winter and remove it
each spring, the stock can be successful elsewhere.
When grafted trees are used it is more convenient
to maintain a single trunk.

The homeowner frequently wants to propagate
his own trees. This is easily done by cutting dor-
mant wood into 6- to 12-inch lengths. Use wood
up to 3/4-inch in diameter and avoid weak, slender
growth. Make the basal cut directly below a node
or joint. In late winter, the cuttings may be
planted in any well-drained soil or put in a can or
flower pot containing a well-drained soil. About
1" of the cutting is left above the soil level. Care
should be taken to keep the soil only moderately
moist-not wet. Leafy shoots also root well under
intermittent mist.

(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service, University of Florida
United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
M. O. Watkins, Director

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