How To Propagate Fig Trees – 6 Different Methods To Try

Revised: Not only do fig trees add beauty to a garden or landscape, but they also provide a plentiful harvest of delicious fruits.

While purchasing fig trees from nurseries is common, propagating your own fig trees can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to expand your collection or share fig trees with friends and family.

In the following, you’ll learn about the various propagation techniques, including step-by-step directions and possible problems you might encounter.

If you’re not excited yet, you should be. You’re about to discover multiple ways to make dozens and dozens of free trees!

Propagating fig trees can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to master the basics first. I explain it all in my must-read article Fig Tree Care and Maintenance.

Growing a Fig Tree From Seed

Starting a fig tree from seed is possible, and although most people choose other propagation methods, it can be fun to try.

Growing a fig tree from seed requires patience as it takes longer for a seed-grown fig tree to mature and produce fruit compared to other propagation methods.

Directions:

  1. Collect fresh fig seeds from ripe fruits. Ensure the seeds are fully ripe for better germination success.
  2. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours to soften the seed coat and promote germination.
  3. Plant the seeds in a seed-starting mix or potting soil, burying them approximately half an inch deep.
  4. Keep the soil consistently moist by misting it with water, and cover the container with plastic wrap to create a greenhouse effect.
  5. Place the container in a warm location with indirect sunlight, ideally maintaining a temperature around 70-75°F (21-24°C).
  6. Transplant seedlings into larger pots or the ground once they have developed several sets of leaves and are sturdy enough to handle transplanting.

Possible Problems:

  • Low germination rate: Fig seeds often have varying degrees of viability, resulting in a lower germination rate.
  • Slow growth: Seed-grown fig trees take longer to reach maturity and produce fruits.
  • Variation in fruit quality: Fig trees grown from seeds may exhibit a wide range of fruit characteristics, which may not be consistent with the parent tree.

Rooting Cuttings in Soil

Rooting fig tree cuttings in soil is a popular and relatively simple method that allows you to clone fig trees with desirable characteristics.

Directions:

  1. Select healthy cuttings from a mature fig tree during the dormant season (late winter or early spring).
  2. Make a clean, diagonal cut just below a node (the point where leaves emerge).
  3. Remove any leaves from the lower two-thirds of the cutting to reduce moisture loss.
  4. Dip the cut end of the cutting in a rooting hormone (I use this one) to stimulate root development.
  5. Plant the cutting in a high-quality potting mix, ensuring at least two nodes are buried in the soil.
  6. Place the pot in a warm location with indirect sunlight (around 70-75°F or 21-24°C).
  7. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged, allowing excess water to drain out.
  8. Mist the leaves periodically to maintain humidity and prevent excessive transpiration.
  9. Transplant rooted cuttings into larger containers or the ground after they have established roots and a healthy root system.

Possible Problems:

  • Failure to root: Not all cuttings will successfully root due to factors such as the health of the cutting or inadequate moisture, light, or temperature.
  • Root rot: Excessive moisture or inadequate drainage can lead to root rot, resulting in the death of the cutting.
  • Lack of humidity: Insufficient humidity can cause excessive moisture loss from the leaves, resulting in wilting or drying.

Rooting Cuttings in Water

Rooting fig tree cuttings in water is an alternative method that eliminates the need for soil and allows you to visually monitor root development.

Directions:

  1. Select healthy cuttings from a mature fig tree during the dormant season.
  2. Make a clean, diagonal cut just below a node.
  3. Remove any leaves from the lower two-thirds of the cutting.
  4. Place the cutting in a container filled with water, ensuring the cut end is fully submerged.
  5. Keep the container in a warm location with indirect sunlight.
  6. Change the water every few days to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
  7. Monitor the development of roots, which should emerge from the submerged portion of the cutting.
  8. Once the roots have reached a sufficient length (around 2-3 inches), transplant the cutting into a well-draining potting mix or soil.

Possible Problems:

  • Slower root development: Rooting in water may take longer compared to rooting in soil due to the absence of soil’s natural growth-promoting factors.
  • Weak or fragile roots: Roots developed in water may be more fragile and less adapted to soil conditions, making the transition challenging.
  • Difficulty transitioning from water to soil: Some cuttings may struggle to adapt when transferred from a water environment to soil, requiring extra care during transplantation.

Air Layering Fig Trees

Air layering is a technique commonly used for woody plants, including fig trees. It allows you to create a new rooted plant while the original plant remains intact.

Directions:

  1. Select a healthy, flexible branch of the fig tree, ideally around pencil thickness.
  2. Make a horizontal cut through the bark about one-third to halfway around the branch, creating a semicircle.
  3. Apply a rooting hormone to the exposed area to encourage root growth.
  4. Wrap the area with moist sphagnum moss, ensuring it covers the wound completely.
  5. Cover the moss with plastic wrap, securing it in place with twine or rubber bands.
  6. Monitor the moss regularly, and keep it consistently moist by misting or watering as needed.
  7. Once roots have formed (usually within 4-12 weeks), carefully cut the branch below the rooted area, and plant it in a suitable container or location.

Possible Problems:

  • Insufficient moisture: Inadequate moisture levels in the moss can prevent proper root formation.
  • Inadequate contact: Ensure the moss makes close contact with the exposed ring to encourage root development.
  • Improper cutting or damage to the main branch: Care must be taken to ensure a clean cut without damaging the main branch during separation.
A fig tree with two air grafts in place.

Ground Layering Fig Trees

Ground layering is a propagation method that involves encouraging a branch or shoot to root in the ground while still attached to the parent plant.

Directions:

  1. Select a low, flexible branch close to the ground.
  2. Gently wound a section of the branch by scraping or nicking the bark.
  3. Apply rooting hormone to the wounded area to stimulate root growth.
  4. Bury the wounded area in a shallow trench, leaving the tip exposed.
  5. Secure the branch in place using landscape pins or weights to keep it in contact with the soil.
  6. Keep the soil consistently moist, and monitor root development.
  7. Once roots have formed (usually within a few months), sever the branch from the parent plant, and transplant it to a suitable location.

Possible Problems:

  • Poor root formation: Ensure the wound is thorough and properly treated with rooting hormone to enhance root development.
  • Damage to the parent plant: Take care when cutting the rooted branch to minimize any damage to the parent plant.
  • Insufficient moisture or poor soil conditions: Maintain adequate moisture levels in the soil, and ensure the soil has good drainage to promote healthy root growth.

Grafting Fig Trees

Grafting is a technique used to combine the desired characteristics of different fig tree varieties onto a single tree, ensuring consistent fruit quality.

Directions:

  1. Select a rootstock fig tree with strong, healthy growth. The rootstock should be compatible with the desired scion variety.
  2. Choose a scion (cutting) from a desired fig tree variety. The scion should have desirable characteristics, such as fruit quality or disease resistance.
  3. Make a diagonal cut on both the rootstock and scion, creating matching surfaces.
  4. Match the cambium layers of the rootstock and scion, ensuring a snug fit between the two.
  5. Secure the graft union using grafting tape or a grafting clip, ensuring the surfaces remain in close contact.
  6. Cover the graft union with grafting wax to protect it from drying out and infection.
  7. Keep the grafted tree in a warm and humid environment until the graft has successfully taken.
  8. Monitor the graft regularly for signs of growth, and remove any side shoots or buds that may compete with the graft.

Possible Problems:

  • Failed graft union: Proper alignment and secure binding are crucial for a successful graft union.
  • Incompatibility between the rootstock and scion: Certain fig varieties may not be compatible with specific rootstocks, resulting in graft failure.
  • Infection or disease: Proper sanitation and care should be taken to prevent infection and disease from affecting the graft union.

Best Practices for Successful Propagation

  • Start propagation during the dormant season when plants are not actively growing for best results.
  • Use clean and sharp tools to minimize the risk of infection and ensure clean cuts.
  • Maintain proper environmental conditions, including temperature, light, and humidity, depending on the chosen propagation technique.
  • Monitor moisture levels carefully, avoiding both overwatering and underwatering to promote healthy root development.
  • Patience is key. Some propagation methods may take longer than others to show visible results.
  • Experiment with multiple techniques to increase your chances of success and learn which method works best for you.

Final Thoughts

Propagating fig trees offers an exciting and rewarding way to expand your fig collection or share this delightful fruit tree with others.

Whichever method you choose, understanding the techniques and being aware of potential problems will increase your chances of successful fig tree propagation.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t succeed with your first attempt. Propagation is a learning process, so keep trying until you find what works for you. Good luck!

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