June is fig season in Louisiana. The popular fruit tree abounds in backyards throughout the state.
Figs are easy to propagate and are good pass-along plants, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Charlie Johnson.
The most common variety is Celeste, which has been around for more than 100 years. But several newer varieties, such as LSU Purple, LSU Gold, Tiger, Champagne and O’Rourke, have been introduced in the past 25 years by the LSU AgCenter.
You can find LSU fig trees at many nurseries and garden centers. Because they’re public releases, no nursery has exclusive rights to propagate and sell them.
LSU has been known for its fig research, Johnson says. It started back in the mid-1950s when Ed O’Rourke started breeding figs in the LSU Department of Horticulture.
His research led to the introduction of several new fig varieties, including LSU Purple, LSU Gold, Tiger, Champagne and O’Rourke.
Figs are really sweet — 18 percent to 20 percent sugar — which makes them popular with people as well as birds and other backyard visitors, Johnson says.
Because they’re so prolific, you can find figs at farmers markets throughout the month.
Figs add nutrients and minerals to your diet, without adding any fat, according to AgCenter nutritionists. Compared with other common fruits, figs have the highest content of potassium and iron, and their calcium content is second to oranges.
Figs are low-acid but very perishable, Johnson says.
“Ripe figs off the tree hardly will keep long enough to get from the tree to the kitchen,” he says.
Taking care of fig trees is relatively easy, which makes them popular in home landscapes.
Maintaining the trees is straightforward, Johnson says. Unlike many other fruit trees, figs make new fruit on new growth that comes in spring, so winter pruning doesn’t cause problems.
“Pruning is almost a necessity to keep fig trees in bounds,” Johnson says. “It’s better to keep space under the tree open for air circulation and to keep the center clear for sunlight.”
The height should be “about as high as you can reach with a pruning sheer — about 8½ feet,” he says.
Figs can be grown totally organic, Johnson added. “In fact, few pesticides are labeled for figs.”
For smaller spaces or for people who like to grow different varieties, figs can be easily grown in 5- and 10-gallon pots.
Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.