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Oct 18, 2010 07:20 AM

When to "winterize" my baby fig tree?

My little twig that I wrote about this spring now has 8 giant leaves and is doing well. Still in a pot out on the porch. A friend told me to wrap it in bubblewrap and leave it out for the winter, rather than in the basement/garage uncovered. Don't want to mess up now! Is it unwise to leave it out even though covered when it's potted, do you think? She also just gave me a tiny little beach plum plant for my yard, also in a beginning size pot. Should I stick it in the ground now, or let it sit until spring? My thumb isn't all that green yet, although I'm working on it.

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  1. I would ask your local nursery or call your country extension service. Even within certain "zones" there are micro-climates and what works for your friend may not work for you.

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      I have an Cornell extension right down the block that I could visit, but I did ask at Agway and they suggested putting it in the garage, while my friend seems to be a bubble wrap proponent. She even thinks I should enclose the side of my wraparound porch with plastic and put bubblewrap underneath to seal, and start some seedlings next spring. Wish I had the time, what a great idea!

      I'm pretty sure that Long Island is all one zone, notwithstanding the small pond on her property. Neither of us is directly on the ocean or bay. She also spends a lot of time in Manhattan and Morocco, so I defer to her overall knowledge, as those climates are significantly different than here. She has a full size fig tree in her yard here with lots of fruit, hoping to get there someday too.

      My question is, I know that what works for something planted in the ground isn't the same as potted, as witnessed by my perennial herbs, so wondering if anyone has any experience with baby potted trees. And beach plums too, now there's a wild card, hope they take....the extension would probably be the place for that info, since they're native.

    2. Our figs are all in pots and we bring them into the house and put them in a sunny south window for the winter. I'm talking BIG pots. They still go through a dormant phase, losing their leaves and looking pretty pathetic, but wake up around March. We haven't fertilized them since September and are beginning to water them less. After the leaves have dropped we water them sparingly until we see new growth budding up in the spring at which point we either repot or begin fertilizing again. We don't see severe winters here but we are just that hair too far north (and too elevated) to be able to safely plant them out (we're in sw VA). However, a nursery 3 hours north of us but at a slightly lower elevation can plant theirs out and they winter over fine. It depends on the variety you have and if you have an extremely sunny, well protected spot you might get away with planting it out. But I would bring it indoors this winter and not plant it out until spring, if at all. The beach plum, since they are tolerant of colder winters, should do fine if planted in the spring and allowed to establish itself before winter. But it's too late to plant it out now. The problem with leaving potted plants out through the winter is that the pots are much more subject to freezing, thawing, and heaving, which will wreak havoc on your plant and most likely kill it. Planted in the ground, the ground actually maintains a more steady temperature that protects the roots with less chance of heaving. Some nurseries recommend mulching around the base of trees AFTER the ground freezes to provide more insulation and help prevent possible thaws and heaving through the winter months.

      3 Replies
      1. re: morwen

        Glad to hear from you, morwen, I was hoping you'd have some advice. I will bring them both in soon then, my fear is based on the fig tree I bought a few years back from the farmer down the block. It was gorgeous when I got it in the fall: I put it inside right off the bat and it kept its leaves and figs until around March. Then they all fell off and I'm pretty sure it was dead, I put it out in the spring but nothing further ever happened. Not sure what I did wrong, but I have a fear of killing this one too..... Maybe I overwatered it when it should have been dormant? Next spring I'll pop those beach plums right in the ground, and the fig to a bigger pot for one more year. Second time is the charm I hope! I have a place picked out for both of them in my yard, hope I'm not being too optimistic.

        1. re: coll

          Our first one held on to it's leaves and figs like you described although they finally dropped earlier. It looked just like a stick and I thought it was dead too. Later little buds started to appear at the tips of the twigs and it did leaf out all along the branches. We have Brown Turkeys and Celestes and they're supposed to do fine down into the upper teens but we've been having nights in the upper 30's here so we've brought them into the garage and will soon bring them into the house.

          1. re: morwen

            We're still in the 50s most nights, I'm waiting to hear the first frost warning. I'll probably bring them in sooner than that though. I will try not to treat it like a house plant, but rather a dormant tree, and keep my fingers crossed. Eventually it will be planted outside, I know lots of people that have them in their yards here and they do well, except for the ants.

      2. Now! Don't let these mild days fool you. Pot and all in the ground, make a teepee out of plastic, fill it with leaves, and uncover In the spring. Did it this way with my grandfather for 15 years, zone 5 in CT.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Gatogrande

          I am loving these lazy hazy days, but thinking about your suggestion, sounds so natural.

          Here is what Cornell Extension told me, gotta say I love those guys .....

          "The fig tree can go into your basement or garage. Last year I kept 2 large fig trees in my unheated garage and they did very well in spite of the cold winter.

          I have never tried a beach plum, but they are much more winter hardy than figs. If you have an unheated garage or shed, I would keep the beach plum there. Not only because it is more winter hardy, but also because it will need the cold treatment to grow properly next year.

          If you are concerned about the roots of either tree surviving the winter, you can double pot them. i.e., you can put their small pots inside larger pots and surround the inside pot with soil or growing medium. This will act as insulation for the roots.

          If the fig is protected from the wind, you will not need to wrap it. Also, keep the fig on the dry side. Too much water is worse than too dry.

          I hope that this is helpful.


          Thanks Gatogrande, and Mark. I think I have a few more days to decide!