7 of the Best Cold Hardy Fig Trees

Considering their Middle Eastern and western Asian roots, fig trees (Ficus carica) are generally considered warm-climate plants. But our friends in the North and Midwest may rejoice, because you of colder climates need not be fig-less.

A vertical picture of a branch of a fig tree with large flat green leaves with lighter green veins and stems. Fruit in various stages of ripeness adorn the main stem, on a soft focus white background. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white text.

Multiple varieties of cold-tolerant figs are available, and we’re going to share our favorites with you here. If you’re altogether new to growing these trees, be sure to check out our fig growing guide.

But first, let’s get some idea of how to maximize success when growing figs in chilly weather.

A vertical picture showing green fig fruits on a branch with a light dusting of frost. The background fades to soft focus snowy garden scene.

Most fig trees will thrive unprotected in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10. The cold-hardy varieties can withstand winters in Zones 6 and 7, but they will require some protection.

Tips for Growing Figs in Cold Weather

After you choose the cold-hardy variety you would like to plant, the next important factor is site selection. Even a type well-suited for your climate needs a head start by being planted in a protected location.

A close up of a fig tree branch with small green unripe fruits, and large flat dark green leaves on a soft focus background with filtered sunlight.

Your best bet is to site your tree in a sunny area protected from wind – next to a south-facing wall, for example.

If you suspect you might have to cover or wrap your tree to keep it safe through the winter, consider keeping your tree pruned into a bush form.

Burlap and tar paper are good materials to use if you need to wrap your tree. You can also construct a “cage” of chicken wire around the tree, and then fill the cage with mulching material such as hay, straw, or shredded leaves.

You’ll also want to lay down a thick carpet of mulch round the base of the tree to protect its roots. We’ll cover these techniques in more detail in a future guide to wrapping fig trees (coming soon!).

A vertical close up of a bulbous, purple fig fruit, its deep color contrasting with the bright green leaves surrounding it, on a soft focus background in light sunshine.

Alternatively, you might purchase a dwarf-type fig, plant it in a large container with casters, and overwinter it in a protected area such as a garage.

One consideration to keep in mind is that, regardless of hardiness rating, the timing of a cold spell can impact a fig tree’s ability to withstand the chill unscathed.

A close up of light green fruit on a fig tree, contrasting with the dark green leaves and the brown stem, on a soft focus background.

In other words, if temperatures drop from 70°F to 10°F very quickly, the plant will be less likely to be undamaged than if the temperature had decreased more gradually.

Cold-Tolerant Varieties to Choose

Check out this list of cold-hardy fig varieties that could soon be enlivening your landscape and tickling your palate.

1. Brown Turkey

These big beauties can grow to 20 feet tall, but can also be pruned to a more manageable size – around 8 feet tall is most desirable. Some people even prune ‘Brown Turkey’ trees into bonsai plants!

‘Brown Turkey’

‘Brown Turkey’ does well in Zones 7-9, but with extra attention will overwinter in Zone 6, as well.

This tree has shallow, somewhat invasive roots, so keep that in mind when selecting a site.

Find a ‘Brown Turkey’ plant in a 4-inch pot from Hirts: Edible Figs via Amazon.

You can also order live plants from Home Depot.

2. Brunswick

Also known as ‘Magnolia,’ the ‘Brunswick’ variety grows to about 10 feet tall by 12 feet wide. This tree produces medium-to-large purple fruit, and the pink to amber flesh is especially well-suited for preserving.

‘Brunswick’

‘Brunswick’ does well in USDA Zones 7, 8, and 9. It is hardy to 5°F.

Live plants 0f 4-12 inches tall for this variety are available from Andryani via Amazon.

3. Celeste

‘Celeste’ produces small, brown-purple figs that are rich and sweet – so sweet that another nickname for this variety is “sugar fig.” The attractive tree can get quite large at 15 feet tall and wide.

‘Celeste’

‘Celeste’ is cold-resistant to 0°F – like what you will find in Zones 5 and 6 – and does especially well in Zones 7-9. Keep in mind that you will have to offer the tree protection, as described above, in the colder zones.

This low-maintenance tree is self-fertile, meaning you need only one tree to get fruit. It’s not picky about soil, as long as it is well-draining.

Get a live ‘Celeste’ plant in a three-inch pot from Wellspring Gardens via Amazon.

4. Hardy Chicago

This variety produces sweet, light purple-brown figs that ripen in late summer. The tree grows 10-15 feet tall, with a spread of 9-12 feet. See our guide to growing ‘Hardy Chicago’ fig trees here.

A close up of the fruit from a 'Chicago Hardy' fig tree, some light green and others deeper purple. In the background are green leaves fading to soft focus.

‘Hardy Chicago’

Among the hardiest of fig trees, this one will withstand Zone 6 winters, and maybe even Zone 5, if planted in a sheltered location. Its stems are hardy to 10°F and its roots can withstand temperatures down to -20°F.

Stems that die back will likely resprout in spring and produce fruit on the new wood.

This cultivar is also known as ‘Bensonhurst Purple.’

This variety is available at Burpee.

5. Petite Negra (Negri)

With a mature size of three to four feet tall and wide, the highly prunable ‘Petite Negra’ is particularly well-suited for container growing.

It’s hardy to Zone 7, but if you grow it in a container, simply move it to a sheltered spot or indoors to overwinter.

This plant is self-pollinating. Its medium-to-large, deep purple-black fruit has a thin skin and is quite tasty, and you’ll likely get two crops a year.

6. Violette de Bordeaux

Also known as ‘Negronne,’ this variety is on the smaller side, growing to six to 10 feet tall and spreading four to five feet wide.

A close up of a fruit of the 'Violette de Bordeaux' variety, cut in half showing the dark purple flesh. In the background is a large dark green leaf on a white background.

‘Violette de Bordeaux’

The blackish-purple fruit with purple-red pulp is known for its lovely fragrance and rich, sweet flavor.

This one does well in Zones 5-9, though it will need winter protection in Zones 5 and 6.

Small rooted cuttings of ‘Violette de Bordeaux’ are available at Burpee.

7. White Marseilles

This fig was apparently a favorite in Thomas Jefferson’s gardens; he is said to have discovered it in France and introduced it to the United States.

A close up of the yellow fruit of the 'White Marseilles' variety of cold hardy tree, with leaves in the background in bright sunshine.

‘White Marseilles’

This variety is particularly well-suited to northern climates, and is considered appropriate for Zones 6-9.

Its fruits are greenish-yellow and have sweet yellow flesh. It grows to a height and width of 10-12 feet.

Live plants of this variety are available at Burpee.

Plenty of Fig Options for Colder Areas

If you’re looking to grow this Mediterranean favorite in a chilly part of the country, as you can see, you have choices.

A close up of a fig tree branch with large flat leaves and several fruits in shades of purple and light green on a soft focus background.

You may have to take a little more care than those of us in the south do, but with the proper varietal selection and a bit of TLC come fall, your tree should do just fine.

Do you grow figs in the North? In the comments area below, tell us your favorite type and any tips you have for fellow cool-weather gardeners.

Looking for other fruit trees for your orchard? Check out these articles:

© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on December 30, 2019. Last updated: March 9, 2020 at 17:32 pm. Product photos via Andryani, Burpee, Hirt’s: Edible Figs, Grower’s Solution,  and Wellspring Gardens. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Gretchen Heber

A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.

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jennifer angelini
jennifer angelini (@iminazoo2)
5 months ago

I have 2 fig trees in containers in my home (MA). Both are about 5’ tall. I have been battling spider mites and thrips all year. After finally getting them under control, one of the trees developed about 10 small fruits; I was so excited! After 2 days(that I had the flu) I looked at the trees and not only were the fruits gone, but the entire tree was sagging and withering! The other tree was fine. I have no idea what’s happened, but I am heartsick! I was given the trees last summer and I don’t know much about… Read more »

farrah
farrah (@guest_6597)
Reply to  jennifer angelini
4 months ago

I don’t have any recommendations, but I have recently bought two olympian figs to be indoors only. I lost a red angel pomegranate plant while I was sick a few years ago that was battle infection so I know the feeling!! (and that plant had lost all of its leaves and flowers, regrew and was fruiting 2 poms!!!)

I hope you solve your issues. As a fellow northern-based, container-growing, indoor plant person, I wish you luck!!!!

Scott
Scott (@guest_7610)
Reply to  jennifer angelini
3 months ago

To battle insects, make a mixture of water and dish soap, dawn is your best bet and add 10-20 drops of (real) peppermint oil to the mixture. As far as the fig tree is concerned, it’s best to have an arborist come and look at it and tell you how to take care of it properly, but from what I have read; I’m not a gardener and can only parrot information I have gleaned from the experienced; you can scrap the twig sized branches and see if they are green underneath the bark. Gray or brown indicates that part of… Read more »

Nan Schiller
Nan Schiller (@rellihcsnan)
Admin
Member
Reply to  jennifer angelini
3 months ago

Hi Jennifer –
While it’s possible that a lack of water caused the fruit drop and wilting, another possibility is soil nematodes. I recommend contacting your local agricultural extension representative to conduct a soil test and discuss the tree’s condition.

Steve
Steve (@guest_9526)
29 days ago

I just simply love cold hardy figs! I have successfully overwintered most of the varieties mentioned above in St Louis, MO (zone 6). My absolute favorite is a variety a friend of mine brought back from China. He calls it ‘Tsing Tao.’ It has survived with minimal protection for three winters now and always produces a large, sweet crop of fruit from September to October. I truly believe it gives hardy Chicago a run for its money in terms of hardiness, with MUCH tastier fruits. A true marvel sourced from the Far East!

Lynne Jaques
Lynne Jaques (@lynne)
Reply to  Steve
28 days ago

Oooh, I’m going to have to try to find some of those ‘Tsing Toa’ trees. How did your friend get them through customs? Were they cuttings for grafts?

Joe
Joe (@guest_9601)
Reply to  Steve
25 days ago

Any chance you would be willing to share some cuttings