Everybody loves a fig tree. The fig’s popularity began in the Garden of Eden, according to legend. The trees and their fruits were sacred to the Romans, used in commerce during the Middle Ages, and delight gardeners around the globe today. However, fig trees, native to the Mediterranean region, thrive in warm locations. Do hardy fig trees exist for those growing a fig tree in zone 5? Read on for tips about fig trees in zone 5.
Fig Trees in Zone 5
Fig trees are native to regions with long growing seasons and hot summers. Experts name the semi-arid tropical and subtropical areas of the world as ideal for fig tree cultivation. Fig trees are surprisingly tolerant of chilly temperatures. However, winter winds and storms severely reduce fig fruit production, and a lengthy freeze can kill off a tree. USDA zone 5 is not the region of the country with the lowest winter temperatures, but winter lows average around -15 degrees F. (-26 C.). This is far too cold for classic fig production. Although a cold-damaged fig tree may regrow from its roots in spring, most figs fruit on old wood, not new growth. You may get foliage but are unlikely to get fruit from new spring growth when you are growing a fig tree in zone 5. However, gardeners seeking zone 5 fig trees have a few options. You can select one of the few varieties of hardy fig trees that produce fruit on new wood, or you can grow fig trees in containers.
Growing a Fig Tree in Zone 5
If you are determined to start growing a fig tree in zone 5 gardens, plant one of the new, hardy fig trees. Typically, fig trees are only hardy to USDA zone 8, while the roots survive in zones 6 and 7. Pick varieties like 'Hardy Chicago' and 'Brown Turkey' to grow outdoors as zone 5 fig trees. ‘Hardy Chicago’ is top on the list of the most reliable varieties of fig trees in zone 5. Even if the trees freeze and die back every winter, this cultivar fruits on new wood. That means that it will sprout from the roots in spring and produce abundant fruit during the growing season. Hardy Chicago figs are rather small, but you’ll get lots of them. If you want larger fruit, plant ‘Brown Turkey’ instead. The dark purple fruit can measure up to 3 inches (8 cm.) in diameter. If your area is especially cold or windy, consider wrapping the tree for winter protection. An alternative for gardeners in zone 5 is to grow a dwarf or semi-dwarf hardy fig trees in containers. Figs make excellent container plants. Of course, when you grow fig trees for zone 5 in containers, you’ll want to move them into a garage or porch area during the cold season.
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Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.