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Are Fig Trees Messy?

are fig trees messy

Having a few fruiting trees around isn’t a bad idea. But, you have to ensure you have the space along with the discipline to stay on top of their care. Fig trees are an excellent plant to grow. They’re beautiful, the fruit is delicious and they produce quite a harvest when fully ripe.

But, there is a trick to caring for them so their growth doesn’t get out of hand. In this regard, many people wonder if fig trees are messy. Yes, these tend to be messy in several ways. First, the roots and branches are robust and require diligent pruning. Also, the ripened fruits or picking fruits too early can result in a sticky hodgepodge of sap and fruit juice.

However, it’s important to understand that the variety of fig will determine the level of chaos to deal with. For instance, Kadota and Brown Turkey will be less troublesome than Black Mission, Black Jack or Desert King varieties.

Do Fig Trees Make a Mess?

Fig trees can and do make a mess, especially if you leave the tree unattended. The branches can grow into a tangled jumble, the roots begin suckering and ripened fruit juices will drip down around the entire areal circumference of the tree. This can make the ground feel sticky and slimy.

What’s more, a white tacky sap leaks out upon pruning leaves and branches. All this can become quite messy and cumbersome. But, remember, most of these problems only occur if you fail to care for the plant correctly.

Are Fig Trees Hard to Care For?

Although fig trees can be messy, they aren’t particularly hard to care for. However, they do have some requirements along with you adopting an excellent sense of harvest timing. Regardless, the difficulty level of the fig will depend on the variety.

For instance, the common fig is one of the easier types because it doesn’t require pollination from fig wasps. There are male and female flowers on the same tree that create the conditions for proper cross-pollination. Kadota figs need very little pruning.

Environmental Requirements

Fig trees require a spot in a bright, warm area without risk of winter damage. This means they’re happiest in USDA hardiness zones of 8 or higher. The soil should drain well and contain a variety of organic material. But they will take well to any acidity level and nutrient make up.


Harvesting is yet an additional poignancy in caring for a fig tree. If you pick the fruit too soon, the white sap will come oozing out. If you wait too long, fruit will drop or rot.

Also , when the leaves dieback as the fig tree begins its dormancy period, you cannot pick any unripe fruits. Figs do not continue ripening after harvesting, so you have to take them at the right time. In dormancy, you have to remove these unripe fruits and dispose of them. Figs are ready for picking when:

  • Colors change
  • Fruit droops with a soft neck,
  • There’s an appearance of a gentle squeeze
  • Liquid drips from the “eye” (hole at the end) of the fruit
  • Skin begins to crack

How to Clean Up After Your Fig Tree

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Cleaning up after your fig tree isn’t difficult but you will have do it regularly. Depending on the variety, at least twice during the growing season is ideal. Always wear a pair of gloves and use a clean, sterilized cutting implement. This will protect your skin from irritation from the sap and avoid introducing disease to the tree.

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Best Times for Cleaning ; Pruning

You should also have a receptacle for trash and another for ripe fruits. In terms of pruning, there are only a few times throughout the growing season to do this. The first is after the initial fruiting harvest, around late summer. Here, you will trim back weak stems, branches and twigs about ⅓ their length.

The other time is when the tree is in its dormancy during late fall through early spring. You will remove suckers, branches , anything with signs of weakness and other unsightly areas. Cut away dead leaves and pinch off fruits that will not ripen. This will ensure you won’t force the tree to struggle.

Collect other fruits drooping and dropping to the ground. Decide which ones you’re going to throw away and what others you want to eat. When you do this right, the fig tree will respond by pushing beautiful new growth.

What to Do With Fig Tree Debris

Dispose of the pruned debris by using it in your own mulch mix for the garden or other potted plants. In fact, fig trees actually like their soil to contain their own cuttings because it provides drainage and necessary nutrients. You can also throw it in your compost pile as long as it’s disease and pest free.

In regards to suckers, you can replant these in another area and start growing another fig tree if you wish to get a larger crop. However, if you get the right size root growing in a pyramidal shape, you may want to start your own bonsai with it. All tree varieties from the Ficus family make excellent miniature potted plants.

Final Thoughts

Fig trees can be messy but this will depend on the variety you’re growing. However, branches can grow in crossed and crooked ways while suckers proliferate from the roots in abundance. Also, fruits can drip juices around the entire vicinity and a white sap can leak from the tree.

All of this can be a sticky, difficult mess. Regardless of the cultivar, you have to be diligent in caring for the tree by removing branches, suckers and fruits at the right times. If you do this prematurely, you can cause the tree to struggle, truncate development and inhibit fruit production.

While this all can seem daunting and overwhelming, fig trees aren’t that difficult in the interim. It’s just that you have to stay on top of its care and maintenance.

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