Lately we've been getting a lot of viewers asking if fig trees can be planted in containers or large pots. I thought this would be a great question to answer on a blog, because there are several reasons why you might want to grow a fig tree in a large pot. But to answer the question, yes they can be grown in a pot!
Why Grow Figs in a Pot?
1. Your Winters Are Too Cold
Although some trees are more cold hardy than others, fig trees typically don't like temperatures below 15°F. This is when you'll start to see the trees dying back to the ground in some cases. Older trees will be tougher than younger trees that are only 1-2 years old.
If your harsh winter weather doesn't allow for in-ground fig planting, you can grow them in a pot! Growing a fig tree in a pot allows you to move that pot to spot where the temperatures are more favorable. You can move the pot inside during the winter and move it back outside once temperatures warm in the spring.
For the sake of not having a huge tree inside your house, I'd recommend letting the tree go dormant while outside during the fall months. The tree will lose its leaves and be much easier to move indoors. A light frost won't hurt it. But be sure to get it indoors before you start having really cold temperatures.
2. You Don't Have Much Room
Maybe you want to start collecting fig varieties, but you don't have a huge backyard. In this case growing in pots would allow you to have more trees and more varieties. You'll still get to enjoy delicious figs from each of the potted trees, but you won't need a huge backyard to house them all.
We've seen many growers over the years have all their fig trees in pots -- literally dozens of them! They'll often have them in a straight line or row on top of landscape fabric in their backyard. They also usually have a drip irrigation system feeding each individual pot.
Just be sure to have a good labeling system if you go this route. I'd recommend putting a label into the soil of the pot, and also putting a limb tag label on the tree. You really can never have too many labels when you start collecting a bunch of different fig varieties.
3. You're (or "they're) Not Ready
The above two examples are situations where a pot will be the permanent home for a fig tree. But what if you just need to keep it in a pot temporarily until you're ready to put it in the ground. We often see this with new homesteaders who are clearing land and making room for a fruit orchard. They want to go ahead and get trees, but they don't quite have their spot ready.
To circle back to reason number one, you also might want to temporarily keep your fig tree in a pot if you live in zone 7. Older trees will usually survive the winter in zone 7, but younger trees won't. As a result, it's a good idea to grow your fig tree in a pot for a couple years before putting it in the ground.
Once you put that older tree in the ground, it will have a much better chance of surviving the winter without dying back each year. Here in zone 8b, we plant very young trees each spring with no issues. But this is not recommend for zone 7 and above where it gets much colder in the winter.
What Size Pot Do You Need for a Fig Tree?
This will largely depend on whether you're needing a permanent or a temporary home for your fig tree. In the case of reason #1 or #2, you'd be wanting a pot to be the permanent home for the tree. In the case of reason #3, you'd be wanting a pot to be the temporary home for the tree until your land was ready or the tree was old enough to be more cold hardy.
For trees where the pot will be the permanent home, my general rule is this: Use the biggest pot you can find, but that you can still move. You don't want a pot that's going to be too large and too heavy to move inside. But try and go as large as you can here. The larger the pot, the more extensive root system that fig tree will be able to have.
For trees where the pot will be the temporary home, there are a wide range of options. I've left trees in a 4"x9" pot for over a year and they always hit the ground running when we plant them in spring. You could certainly use a 3 gal or 5 gal pot if you have extras around your homestead. But if the pot is just a temporary home, there's no need to use a massive pot. That's just going to make in-ground planting harder in a year or two.