Figs and Winter Protection

While many fig varieties are susceptible to cold damage, many gardeners successfully grow them out of zone by exercising due care and diligence. When growing zone 7 or zone 6 figs in a zone 5 climate, strictly adhere to these guidelines to be successful. In zone 6, these figs will need some protection but not to the extent listed here. Figs grown in zone 7 and warmer need little if any protection from cold.


When all leaves and fruit are off the fig, sometime around Thanksgiving, selectively prune and tie the plant. Begin by pulling all side branches inward and upward to form a vertical shape. Tie tightly being careful not to break any branches, using a strong rope of natural fibers. Let the plant remain like this for several weeks.


On a clear and dry day in early December, when it has not rained for several days, so that the rope is completely dry, wrap the figs making sure to finish the same day you start. First, wrap the tree with burlap from top to bottom covering completely. Use pins or nails to hold the burlap in place. Then wrap with heavy brown paper and tie in place. The next step is cardboard around the bottom half of the shrub or tree. Use tar paper as an outer layer, placing it in shingle style so that water runs down the tar paper and does not seep through any cracks. Tie the tar paper in place. Next mound soil around the base to further insulate the fig from cold air. At this point you can place a pail over the top to prevent rainwater from getting inside. DO NOT USE PLASTIC WRAPS. These can cause condensation on the interior which could freeze and damage the branches.

In spring, after danger of frost has passed, choose a cloudy day to unwrap your fig. The earlier this is done, the greater the chance for fruit to develop, mature and ripen properly. If wrappings are removed too early there is a danger of damage by a spring frost. For this reason, be prepared for spring frost by having a light cover, large enough to cover the fig, on hand for temporary protection.