Fig, kiwi: how to get them ready for winter outside

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:15 pm

Whether outdoors or in tubs, the plants, which originate from more southern regions and are therefore only conditionally hardy, need additional protection in the cold season. In this article, the fig is a prime example of the correct implementation.

You can also use our instructions for other plants with similar preferences, such as kiwis or grapes.

Fig, kiwi: how to get them ready for winter outside

May we introduce: Fig “Fiete

Before we start to prepare the fig for frost, we want to very briefly discuss its needs – origin, preferences and co, in fact, help us better understand the little tree. The Bloomify fig “Fiete” originates, just like olive “Olivia” from Asia Minor. So the fig loves it nice and warm, sunny and rather dry; in front of a house wall or wall facing the sun, it can fully get its money’s worth. In addition, it has a medium to low water requirement and has a great aversion to the dreaded waterlogging. If it is planted outdoors, you will hardly have to water it during the main growing season in spring and summer in our latitudes; only during longer dry periods will additional watering be necessary. If it is planted in a container, you can water it every 7 to 10 days. A detailed description of the care, cultivation and harvesting of “Fiete” can also be found here in our “Knowledge” section.


Figs in winter vacation: Here’s what you should pay attention to

Our Bloomify fig is conditionally hardy to about -15 degrees, which corresponds to winter hardiness zone 7. This means that it is a little more tolerant of the cold than the olive and may remain outside throughout the winter, provided appropriate measures are taken. Conditionally hardy means that it can handle low temperatures well and will certainly survive a few days of severe frost. However, this should not be a permanent condition! So in the colder regions, for example towards the Alps or in the eastern part of Europe, it may be too cold for the fig to be cultivated outdoors permanently. However, in milder regions (e.g. wine-growing areas, river valleys or areas close to the coast), there is nothing to stop it from being grown outdoors.

It is true that the younger the fig tree, the more sensitive it is to frost. In general, we can say that the fig is still very sensitive to frost until the second or third year of growth, but this improves with age. For this reason, we recommend cultivating it first in a container and then planting it outside from the third (or even better, the fourth) year at the earliest. But be careful; as with the olive, an older fig that does not yet know the cold at all and comes from the warm greenhouse can be very sensitive to frost – plants also have a memory.

Fig, kiwi: how to get them ready for winter outside
Our photo model is still young and should spend the first years in the tub

Watering in winter: Less is more

After harvesting in late summer, the little tree then gradually adjusts to winter dormancy. The beautiful foliage changes color, turns yellow and is eventually shed. This means that in winter there is no evaporation through the leaves, so it needs even less water than during the growing season. Generally, the only time you need to water a little in winter is if it stays dry for an extended period of time. If your fig is growing in a container and is protected, you can check every few weeks to see if the soil feels dry. If this is the case, you can give it a little water on a frost-free day. Since fig “Fiete” is so allergic to waterlogging, it actually makes sense to mulch at any time of year.

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Fig, kiwi: how to get them ready for winter outside
The yellow foliage of the fig tree glows in the October sun.

Overwintering outdoors: in a tub

If your fig grows in a container all year round, you will need to take care of a few details as soon as the cold weather sets in. Properly winterized, the fig can then remain outside. Of course, the following instructions don’t just apply to our “Fiete”, but can be used with pretty much any tub plant that keeps her company outside over the winter.

You will need:

  • Styrofoam or wooden board as a base
  • Insulating protective fleece (jute, bubble wrap, or similar)
  • Robust cord for fastening
  • Leaves or straw for mulching
  • Optional: heating cable

Before you get started with your insulation, now is a good time to check for pests and diseases. Even if most pests can’t survive the frost, this makes sense – after all, there are very mild winters and surprisingly cold-resistant crooks from time to time. Once the coast is clear, you’re ready to go!

  • Start by mulching the soil – on the one hand, this ensures a good moisture balance, and on the other, it prevents waterlogging. In addition, straw and leaves keep the frost away well.
  • Now the protective fleece has its big appearance: wrap the planter generously with it. However, make sure that you do not close the soil too tightly, so that no rotting occurs in the root area. You can place the fleece almost up to the crown, so that the trunk is also protected. You can then fix the whole thing with a sturdy cord – again, not too tight.
  • With young trees and shrubs, or if you generally want to be on the safe side, it is also advisable to wrap the crown with the fleece. After all, there are no more leaves, so the fig does not need so much light. For plants that don’t shed their foliage, just leave the crown exposed.
  • For extra security, you can fill the spaces between the fleece and the pot with leaves or straw, which will provide additional insulation.
  • Once everything is well wrapped, you can move fig “Fiete” to the right place: Move it to a sheltered spot that will be spared from rain and wind as much as possible. A house wall is ideal and provides some warmth.
  • Once you’ve found the perfect spot, you can grab your wooden or styrofoam board and place it under the tub – it’s important to keep our fig’s feet from freezing off!
  • If you have more plants on the terrace, you can also place them in groups. This way they can support each other and intercept wind and rain.
  • We are in the depths of winter and temperatures in the double-digit minus range are announced? Maybe even for several weeks? This is pretty rare, but if it does happen, you have two options:
  • Move your fig and other conditionally hardy plants to temporary safety: a bright garage, a cold conservatory, garden shed or greenhouse, a basement with windows, or even a cool stairwell are great. It should not be pitch dark, but at least a small, natural light source should be available. In any case, make sure that it does not get warmer than 10 degrees – otherwise we disturb fig “Fiete” (and also the other consorts) in the winter dormancy, which it needs for flowering next year! Should the tree sprout again, it will of course need more light – and must then at the latest go outside again!
  • If you don’t have a suitable place, or just want to make sure that nothing happens, you can also use a so-called heating cable (you can find it in any hardware store). Simply lay it between the plants and into the crown, so you can reliably keep the frost at bay.
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Overwinter outdoors: Outdoors

We have already mentioned above that our Bloomify fig originally comes from warmer climates and is therefore not so enthusiastic about extremely cold winters. So if you live in a region where winters aren’t so unforgiving, you can permanently grow fig “Fiete” outdoors and make sure it’s wrapped up warm before winter sets in, so it’s well prepared for the frost.

You will need:

  • Material for mulching (leaves, straw, wood chips are best).
  • Winter fleece/jute (especially for younger trees)
  • Sturdy string

Optional:

  • Wide wooden slats or wire mesh + sticks.
  • More leaves and/or straw
  • Heating cable
  • You’ll also want to have a tarp in ambush to cover just in case heavy, continuous rain is on the horizon!

In the open field, the procedure is even easier than with potted plants. Once again, we would like to present two variants of how to wrap your fig warmly.

  • The first option is usually sufficient, especially if your fig is no longer in its infancy and has already grown a little larger and more robust. Here, you simply mulch the root area very generously with the material of your choice. You can pile it up directly around the trunk (a bit higher if you like), this way you make it difficult for the frost to penetrate to the sensitive root base. If you want to make the whole thing a bit more stable, you can also take discarded potting soil and spread it over the top, this will make it a bit more difficult for the foliage. In no case should you press the soil firmly, as this will make it harder for water to seep away and cause waterlogging, which the fig will certainly resent. Afterwards, take the protective fleece again and wrap the crown with it, quietly down to the trunk. However, you should not wrap the trunk completely, because sunlight is absorbed and metabolism is carried out via the bark, albeit to a very small extent. If your fig is already somewhat older and a mature tree, you can do without protection for the crown. If there are signs of persistent heavy rains, you should temporarily throw a tarp over your plants.
  • Is your fig just outside for the first winter and still a little tender? Are you very concerned about its well-being, or perhaps there is an additional danger that very low temperatures will suddenly spread in the region where you live? Then this variant of cold protection may be interesting for you! For this you need the wire mesh (plus the bars) or the wooden slats. Now place the material of your choice around the little tree – either stick the wooden slats into the ground in a circle around the fig, or do the same with the sticks and wrap the wire mesh around it. It’s important that the structure is stable, can hold the mulch material, and won’t wander in strong winds. You can additionally fix it with a few stones. Then fill the insulating material – preferably leaves or straw – up to half of the trunk, so that the fig ends up in a kind of insulated base. For the crown you can proceed in the same way as described above with a cold protection. If the situation is still too delicate for you, you can again lay a heating cable (preferably between two layers of insulation, so that it is not too exposed to the rain and the heat can better retain and distribute).
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As we now know, it is very possible to grow conditionally hardy, heat-loving plants in your own garden. Especially with younger specimens, some additional measures must be taken, but when you think of the pretty foliage and aromatic figs (which simply taste even better from your own garden than from the supermarket), it is absolutely worth the effort!

Fig, kiwi: how to get them ready for winter outside
If it’s not quite so cold, protection in the lower trunk area and above the roots is also sufficient, here in a kiwi plantation.

If, despite all your measures and conscientious approach, it seems that your fig has not survived the winter, you should not immediately lose hope. Give it a chance by cutting it back to just above ground level – with any luck, as soon as it’s warm enough, it will sprout again and regain its strength!

Author

  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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