Figs are notoriously hard trees to keep healthy. There is nothing like tasting a sweet fig that you grew yourself, but maybe most of that joy stems from how hard-won fruit can be from these trees. If you own a fig tree and want to keep it healthy, it is important to know exactly what might ail the tree and to act quickly at the first sign something is wrong. Here are some reasons your fig tree may be dying and what you can do to change its fate.
1. Its Basic Needs Aren’t Met
While figs are picky about most of their growing conditions, the good news for people in California is that we naturally have most of what they require. Ensuring that your fig’s basic needs are met is the most important step to keeping it alive and, hopefully, making a few fruits. Here are the basic needs for most fig trees (but be sure to know if your specific cultivar is different):
- Soil type: Sandy-loam profile soils work best for fig trees, although they will tolerate other well-draining soils.
- Water needs: To produce figs, trees need 750 mm of water annually, most in the spring.
- Sun needs: In order to ripen the fruit, figs need full sun. But the tree itself should still grow in part shade conditions.
- Soil pH: Most figs need between 6 and 8 pH.
- Fertilizer: Fertilizing is important, but too much nitrogen can impact the tree.
2. Fungal Disease
Fig trees are prone to several fungal diseases, each with its own signs and treatments. Some of the common fungi to look for include:
- Leaf blight: This fungus, Pelliculariakolerga, infects the leaves with spots that start off yellow and wet. When the spots dry out, they feel papery and may turn brown. The only thing you can do is cut out infected leaves and dispose of them far away from any plants.
- Fig rust: This is a common infection on fig trees, but it typically only kills trees that have another stressor as well. Still, if you see rust-colored splotches on the underside of your figs’ leaves, you should use neem oil on them. Also, be sure to remove fallen leaves from the soil.
- Pink blight: If there are pink or white spots on your fig tree that seem velvety, this is pink blight. It is caused by poor air circulation. You need to both remove anything that has turned pink, including whole branches, and thin out the tree to provide proper circulation.
3. Root Knot Nematodes
When your fig tree just seems generally unwell, develops fewer leaves and fruits, and is gradually declining, the cause may be root knot nematodes. If they are the culprit, when you dig out the tree, you should see swollen growths on the roots. Unfortunately, the fig tree doesn’t recover from this.
4. Fig Mosaic
This is another disease that will kill your fig tree, unfortunately. Fig mosaic starts out looking like leaf blight, but the yellow spots develop red or brown bands. Usually, the fruit stops growing or drops. There is no cure, but you can remove the tree to stop it from infecting others.