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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Ficus carica, Pruning trees, Espaliers

I purchased a fig tree and my property has very limited space. There is an ideal strip of land by the south side of the wall that gets plenty of sun. I read that fig trees should be planted near a south facing wall, but my only concern is how close can it be to the side of the house. The strip of land is only about 2 feet wide and I also read that fig roots are shallow and spread beyond the canopy. I'm worried that the root system would cause damage to the foundation/basement.


The roots of a fig tree may be shallow, but they may spread out as much as 50 feet, and if the soil conditions are right (soft, permeable), roots may go as much as 20 feet deep. I think planting so close to the house is not ideal, unless you were to have a dwarf variety of fig in a container (such as Petite Negri or Negronne). If there are any cracks in your foundation, then tree roots may be a concern. Tree roots do not usually penetrate a solid wall, although as they grow and expand, they can exert pressure on surfaces. The other concern with planting that close is that you will find you frequently need to prune branches away from the house. There is a tradition of growing fig trees as espalier forms (trained to grow flat, on one plane), but to do this you need to restrict the tree's roots in a container. Below are links to information on how to do espalier:

Mississippi Cooperative Extension

Royal Horticultural Society

The following links have excellent general information about growing fig trees:

Purdue University Extension

California Rare Fruit Growers

Here is information from Reads Nursery, a British fruit specialist. Excerpt:

Allow 8' - 15' horizontally and 6' - 10' in height per plant. Root restriction is required. Construct a box of 2' square paving slabs 4' x 2' against a wall or side of greenhouse, leaving 3 inches showing above ground. Put 9 inches of rammed brick rubble in the bottom and fill up with good soil such as John Innes No 3.[*This is a British product--you can use compost instead.] When planting loosen root ball carefully around the outside and plant 1-2"deeper than before. Water in well. Pruning. Treat as for Figs in Pots but, on a wall, the plant should be fan trained on horizontal wires 12 inches apart.

Date 2017-07-18
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May 23 2018 14:32:42