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  • Zone 9 desert climate best practices thread

    Myself included inevitably all of the newbies and many existing fig enthusiasts ask how do I have success in the hot desert garden zone of 9. This most often includes Arizona far south Texas and the inland empire and deserts of California.
    anyone that can contribute please do.
    topics to address include:
    - best varieties
    - watering schedule and strategies
    -shading needs
    - soil strategies
    -potted versus In ground
    - when to prune and plant in high heat
    - raising young plants ie: cuttings
    -any additional tips and tricks

    my hope is this becomes sticky as so many people want to take advantage of the wonderful zone 9 sun but often struggle.
    thank you everyone for your contributions !
    Last edited by Wildcat97; 07-23-2021, 12:25 AM.

  • #2
    Good topic!

    I’m still learning myself, but a few things I could say have helped me are:
    1. A more water retentive potting mix than typically recommended for pots. Because I am on a well, this helps with not needing to water as often as well.
    2. Using shade cloth, especially for younger trees during peak heat in Summer.
    3. I also find fabric pots are best for me over regular black plastic pots, especially fabric pots that have some type of plastic liner which helps with water retention.
    4. Watering really depends on your soil/potting mix and the size of your root structure. Right now, because my trees are all young, I’m able to get away with watering less often than I will next year when the plants have more roots. I’m watering 2-3 times a week currently, but I expect that to increase next year.
    5. Using things like aloe or seaweed emulsions can help the roots and leaves deal with heat and sun.
    6. Mulch is helpful for managing root temperatures and holding moisture in the soil.
    That’s all I can think of for now, I’ll update if more comes to me.
    Last edited by RosyPosy; 07-23-2021, 06:45 PM.
    𓂃𓂃☽︎​ᨏ𓂃High Desert Foothills𓂃ᨏ☼​𓂃𓂃
    Zone 9ã • Southern CA


    • #3
      It seems that not all varieties of fig appreciate the high temps and low humidity levels...I'm in Phoenix. Some produce better quality fruits in these conditions than others, and I am in the process of figuring out which are which. Now that we are experiencing some monsoon rains, which cool down the temps and raise the humidity, I am starting to get better quality figs. Last summer we virtually got no rain...it was a NON-soon. I haven't had anything split yet this year

      I can say that the list by RosyPosy is a good start for this sticky...and I second all her recommendations...I haven't tried the aloe or seaweed emulsion yet. We have a bit of a salty water that comes from our city wells, so I have to be mindful of adding anything that may contain additional salts.
      Pm me for the list of trees available for sale.
      Phoenix, AZ zone 9B


      • #4
        I am in 9a. I start my cuttings Dec/Jan and push them out fairly quickly for acclimation. I was planting figs from cutting in-ground this year the first week of March. My goal is always to get everything in ground before June, especially if I REALLY wanted that variety. If they can get established before the heat hits they will be stronger when it does, and IMO less likely to stall. That said, I planted some figs yesterday because to me they are better off in ground than in a pot all summer (one was already fried and I'm just hoping it comes back!). Planting them in clusters, or basically high density planting within 5-10ft of each other, ensures they will get better water from me. I plant them in full scorching sun (with mulch), no shade cloth as babies either. Figo Preto is reputed to grow better than Black Madeira in the hotter areas, and Bourjasotte Gris is one that loves it here too. Shafter seemed to be my strongest grower to 7ft in it's first year. I am in the IE, we tend to hit 115 for at leat a week at some point yearly, with 100 degree days for months. I water 100 plants by hand on a rotation that isn't very strict. I find the figs very adaptable to watering, not requiring a strict schedule. The figs that get watered the most maybe get it 3x a week, while others get watered maybe only 1-2x a week. I think the heat didn't come on strong really this year so far until recently, so I'm still getting a groove with my summer water schedule. It's basically as needed and most do okay with a week inbetween if I forget about them if they are in-ground. I use dried foxtail weeds chopped in Spring as mulch for my plants, but even the few figs without it do okay. You can find my collection list on Fig Database, MotherofDragons; not all were selcted for heat tolerance, some are for fun trialing.

        Reading on the forum early on made it clear not all figs loved the scorching heat so I tried to prioritize varieties that had proven to thrive in it, not getting caught up in all the latest NEW varieties. I spent a lot of time watching Enlightenment Garden on Youtube for her fig recommendations and experiences. She doesn't just discuess the flavors, but discusses and shows in video the growth habits of each tree in her climate. I really appreciated that information. I keep her shared Google Docs favorited for reference. She keeps great records of what she has currently, has culled and why, and shares it publicly for others. You can find her top 15 for the Phoenix area here too: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...#gid=732808655

        I also paid close attention to anything Bluemalibu has ever recommended on the forum ever as he has the most experience with the largest group of figs (I think) in our type of climate. He has spent years trialing them and that experience is something to take advantage of! His experiences with Black Jack and Panache alone, give one something to think about. Spend some time using the search feature and absorb anything he has said. For example, RLBV is one he touted as loving those 110+ heat waves and producing through them- so I was sure to put it at the top of my list of must haves. I think it will be a while still before I can make variety recommendations off my experience alone.
        9a. WL: Black Manzanita.


        • #5
          Incredible post hopeful aka “mother of dragons”
          exactly what I was hoping for. Kudos! I am well aware of the search capabilities I thought it would be nice to have a dedicated thread since so many newbies struggle at the beginning with the high heat and unique desert climate of zone 9.
          thanks again!


          • #6
            FigHopeful I really enjoyed reading your posting....as someone who lived many years in Calif, I cannot figure out what IE is....calif has many different climate zones...some are as hot as Phoenix...where I live. I assume you are in a hot zone....so please...what is IE ?? I also like Enlightenment Gardern's youtube videos. I was originally going to do a food forest and then figs won over. I was starting out in some sub tropicals like mangos, star fruit, guavas, avocados, etc...but as those died I just didn't replace them. Figs were much too interesting! I don't have many "tropicals" anymore.
            Pm me for the list of trees available for sale.
            Phoenix, AZ zone 9B


            • FigHopeful
              FigHopeful commented
              Editing a comment
              I am working on a food forest here too. I think replacing failed tropicals with something productive is a worthy idea! I'm trying avocados again this year, and guava as well. For me it's the cold that kills them. I think Wildcat did a good job of explaining what the IE is; I certainly don't have a clue where any real boundaries would be. To me it is this scorching section of the interior valleys with a thick rolling dry heat in summer. I don't know if we qualify as the desert, but if you live here it sure feels like you live in one. It is hot enough that I dabble in Arizona groups for growing tips and information =)

          • #7
            I'm by no means an expert but I do have a lot of on the job experience from this summer. I'm in Southern Utah on the edge of the Mojave Desert. Temps this summer hit 117 degrees and are consistently 105 - 110 degrees. Humidity is low, sometimes only 4% - 5%. There are very few varieties that have failed because of environment more that have failed because of my learning curve. I have about 75 2nd leaf trees in the ground and way more than 75 newly rooted cuttings that have been up potted to 5 gallon pots that I now consider trees.

            I'm with RosyPosy on ...
            1. A more water retentive potting mix than typically recommended for pots
            2. Using shade cloth, especially for younger trees during peak heat in Summer.
            3. Mulch is helpful for managing root temperatures and holding moisture in the soil.

            My rule of thumb is if the tree doesn't leaf out in my yard, it lives under 70% shade cloth rest of the summer. So any trees I buy or any cuttings that were rooted inside, grow for the 1st summer under shade cloth except for some early morning or late evening sun once the leaves have toughened up under the shade cloth. I lose plants if I break this rule.

            I try to up pot plants on overcast days and then put the tree under shade cloth or if it is an expensive one it goes inside for a few days before going back outside under shade cloth for rest of the summer. I only put plants in ground when they are dormant.

            I use plastic pots because I got them pretty much for free. Black plastic pots in a blazing sun can cook roots fast. I wrap my pots in reflective foam or put some dirt around the pot to insulate from the sun. I also mark the pot as to which side is toward the sun and if I move it I make sure to put the same side back toward the sun. The tree won't produce roots on the sunny side of the pot because of the heat and will grow roots on the cooler side of the pot. If you put the rooted side of the pot towards the sun when you move it, the heat will damage the roots and the plant may not make it.

            In ground trees don't have any of those issues since the ground, moisture, and mulch keep the roots cool. Any plant I've decided to keep after trialing goes into the ground. The blessing of the desert is that you don't have to worry about moving pots inside for the winter

            I water my in-ground trees with a drip system. 5 minutes from a 2 gph dripper 3 times a day. When it gets over 105 degrees, I add an extra watering after the sun goes down. You'll know you got it right if the leaves stay green. If the leaves start to have brown edges, water a little more. I water trees in pots that are under shade cloth once a day either in the morning or in the evening. Same goes if leaves get brown on the edges.

            Fertilize lightly but more frequently. A heavy dose of fertilizer in 110 degree sun can burn the tree.

            I don't prune trees during the hot growing season. I will pinch a sucker as soon as I see it. If I find a badly placed branch that I missed during the hot times, rather that prune it, I airlayer it and remove it from the mother tree when temps are under 90 degrees at the end of the season.

            I think that is it for now. This is what works for me but every location is different and you have to develop a green thumb for your figs as you see what works or doesn't work for you.
            Last edited by RedRockFig; 07-25-2021, 09:08 AM.
            Ed- Southern Utah 8b - Wish List: Anything that is very tasty, that is common and I don't have.


            • #8
              RedRock great post. Any suggestions on your best varieties for fruiting and flavor in the desert?
              figsandtropicals IE refers to the inland empire in the greater LA area when you get inland away from the marine layer and it gets really hot. It starts getting really hot around the riverside area and out. And it gets hotter as you get further away from the coast.


              • figs and tropicals
                figs and tropicals commented
                Editing a comment
                thanks....all my time in calif and I rarely went to s. calif...and know very little about it. Inland Empire...I never made it to those spots....I would have never figured that out. something new learned today...