Q: A fig tree that has been in my family for three generations and produces a great harvest. My father recently passed away and we are selling the property. It is too large to transplant. Is there a way to take a cutting and grow a tree from it?
A: Early summer is a great time to propagate fig cuttings. This method has worked for me:
Get 4 – 6 six-inch plastic pots, a small bag of fresh potting soil, a small bag of perlite, and some 2 gallon Ziploc bags.
Mix 1 cup of perlite with 4 cups of potting soil. You’ll have to mix more as needed. Add just enough water to make it slightly moist.
Fill a pot with the mixture. Press the surface with your fingers to firm it up a bit.
Go to your fig tree and cut off several 6″ long brown stems that include a couple of leaves on the end of each cutting. Poke a cutting into each of your pots so that 4″ of the cutting is below the soil surface and a bit of stem and the leaves are exposed above.
Pour just enough water on the potting soil to saturate it. Stop when a little bit of water leaks out of the bottom of the pot.
Find a spot in your yard that doesn’t get direct sun during the day but is not in dense shade either. I have a potting bench underneath a big cherry tree that works nicely for me. You’ll need a flat solid surface in the shady place where you can put your pots. Open and invert the Ziploc bags and put one over each pot.
Now you have plastic covered ‘greenhouses’ in which the cuttings can form roots. Check them each day to be sure there is a little bit of condensation inside the bag. If there is no condensation, add water to the soil.
After four weeks, gently tug on the cuttings. If there is resistance to them coming out of the soil, the rooting process has begun. Keep them under plastic another two weeks after you detect rooting.
Cut the top (bottom edge) of each bag so that it is still around the pot but you have more air circulation inside the bag. Water when the soil surface seems dry. After another two weeks, you can remove the bags completely. Water as needed to keep the soil moist, but never soggy, for another couple of weeks.
The figs should be well-rooted in the pots by this time. You will probably want to transplant them into 1 gallon pots or even 2 gallon pots at this point. You can put them in a place that gets full morning sunshine but shade in the afternoon.
The figs can be transplanted into their permanent new home in the fall.