How to Plant, Grow, and Care For ‘Black Mission’ Fig Trees

Do you love to eat figs? Did you know that fig trees are remarkably easy to grow? In this article, gardening enthusiast Liessa Bowen will discuss the proper care and maintenance of one of the most popular fig cultivars, the ‘Black Mission’ fig.

Close-up of a ripe fruit on a black mission fig tree among green foliage. The Black Mission Fig Tree is characterized by its broad, lush canopy of deep green, lobed leaves. The tree produces small, pear-shaped fruits with a deep purple-black hue when ripe.


Mission fig (Ficus carica ‘Mission’), also known as the ‘Black Mission’ fig, is a popular edible fig cultivar. There is a tremendous variety of different edible figs, and the ‘Mission’ fig is one of the more common varieties you can buy from garden centers and plant nurseries. ‘Mission’ figs are also one of the most common fresh figs sold in supermarkets, so you are likely to have seen them somewhere before.

The most likely reason you’ll want to grow a fig is for eating. Figs are sweet, tender, and absolutely delicious! A fig tree takes up a bit of sunny space and requires rich, moist soil, but if you can provide the right growing conditions, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to grow your own fresh figs. 

You can eat figs directly from the tree. They are delicious when eaten fresh, at their peak ripeness. But figs ripen very quickly, and you are likely to grow more than you can eat all at once. Fortunately, you can enjoy figs in a lot of different ways. Preserve them in jams and jellies, make pickled or canned figs, freeze them to blend into smoothies, or dry them for snacking. 

Keep reading to find out if you can grow a fig tree in your yard and how to help it thrive so you can harvest your own superabundance of these fantastic fruits.

‘Black Mission’ Fig

‘Black Mission’ fig trees:

  • are low-maintenance
  • yield abundant figs in spring and fall
  • have sweet, delicious flavor
  • grow well in the ground or in containers
  • thrive in zones 7-10

buy at Epic Gardening Shop


Close-up of a Black Mission Fig Tree with ripe fruits in the garden. The Black Mission Fig Tree is distinguished by its dense canopy of glossy, dark green leaves that are deeply lobed and create a lush, verdant display. Hanging from its branches are clusters of small, pear-shaped fruits with a rich, purplish-black skin.
Plant Type Fruit tree
Family Moraceae
Genus Ficus
Species carica ‘Mission’
Native Area Asia, Mediterranean, Europe
USDA Hardiness Zone 7 – 10
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Rich, Moist, Well-drained
Watering Requirements Medium
Maintenance Medium
Suggested Uses Edible landscape, container garden, ornamental tree, wildlife landscape
Height 10 – 30 feet
Bloom Season Spring
Flower Color Green
Attracts Birds, bees, pollinators
Problems Insects, root-knot nematodes, fruit spoilage, fungal leaf blight, fig rust
Resistant To Deer, heat
Plant Spacing 25 feet

Plant Natural History

Close-up of ripe purple fig dripping with juice on a branch among green foliage. The leaves are large, wide, deeply lobed with distinct pale green veins that contrast with the dark green foliage. The fruit is medium-sized, pear-shaped, purple-pink in color.
From ancient origins to abundant harvests, ‘Mission’ figs flourish worldwide.

Edible figs originated in Asia and the Mediterranean region, including some of the warmer climates of Europe. Fig trees grow naturally on rocky hillsides and in well-drained soils with full sun.

They evolved with a special pollinator relationship with the fig wasp. In cultivation, however, most fig cultivars, including the ‘Black Mission’ fig, do not require a pollinator to produce an abundance of edible fruits. 

Fig trees have long been cultivated as a valuable food crop. They are now grown throughout the moderate climates in the world and have been bred to include hundreds of different cultivars. ‘Black Mission’ figs are very productive trees and easy to grow, making this variety an ideal candidate for commercial production.

They bloom in the springtime, but don’t expect to see any flowers. The flower is actually more of an inverted fruit. In early summer, look for tiny, rounded green structures. These are a combination of the flowers and the fruits. The flowering parts are inside and not visible from the outside. 

These fruiting bodies will continue to enlarge and grow and will eventually become the first fruits of the year. This first crop is called the “breba” crop. Then, in mid-summer, trees will produce a second or “main” crop of fruits. Many figs produce a small breba crop and a larger main crop, but the ‘Black Mission’ fig produces an excellent breba crop, making it one of the earlier-fruiting varieties you can grow. 


Close-up of Ficus carica 'Mission' with ripe fruits in a sunny garden against a blurred background. The Ficus carica 'Mission', commonly known as the Black Mission Fig, showcases broad, glossy green leaves that are deeply lobed, creating an elegant and lush canopy. The medium-sized, pear-shaped fruit with purple-pink-green skin hangs from the branches.
Graceful yet protective, the ‘Mission’ fig offers bountiful harvests.

The ‘Black Mission’ fig is a deciduous, small to medium-sized fruit-bearing tree. These trees develop a very highly-branched, rounded form and more closely resemble a large-branched bush. The branches, particularly at the truck and base, are very thick, with smooth, light gray bark. 

Fig trees have large, deeply lobed leaves. The leaves emerge in early spring and stay on the tree until they are killed by the first frost. Fig leaves do not display bright fall foliage but rather change quickly from green to brown. The leaves have short, stiff hairs on them that cause them to feel a little rough and possibly even irritating on sensitive skin. 

The leaves and stems also contain a white, latex-like, sticky sap. This sap can cause contact dermatitis on sensitive skin. It’s best to wear long sleeves and gloves when working closely with these trees and wash your hands thoroughly after handling them, especially if you come in contact with the sap. Most people do not have a severe reaction to the sap, but it can still be slightly irritating.

The ‘Black Mission’ fig produces high-quality edible fruits. The fruits are two to three inches across and change from green to reddish-purple at maturity. The fleshy interior is strawberry pink and has a deliciously sweet flavor. These fruits have very soft skin and split easily when they are past their peak ripeness.

These trees develop a large, shallow, sprawling root system. Wherever you plant your fig, you can expect to see some of these knotty roots poking above the soil surface around your tree. 


The easiest ways to propagate your fig tree will be either by taking cuttings or starting a root sprout. Stem cuttings are very easy and reliable and will grow you a full-size fig tree from a dormant twig! Whichever propagation method you choose, you will need a mature tree from which to gather your starter materials.


Close-up of a Ficus carica cutting in a man's hand against a blurred background. The cutting is a short stem with young white thin roots at one end and young small leaves at the other end.
Embark on a new fig tree journey from stem cuttings!

Start a new ‘Black Mission’ fig tree from a stem cutting! Actually, it’s best to take a couple of stem cuttings because not every one will sprout successfully. Take your cuttings sometime during late winter, ideally while the tree is still dormant but just before it breaks dormancy in the spring. Using clean, sharp clippers, prune off a healthy young terminal stem section, approximately 10 to 12 inches long. 

You can treat the lower half with rooting hormone if you have it, but it’s generally not necessary since figs are very vigorous growers. Plant your cutting about halfway deep in a pot of fresh, clean, potting soil.

Keep the soil moist and protected from hard freezes. As soon as the weather starts to warm reliably, your stem cutting should start producing roots of its own. You’ll know that the cutting is a success when fresh leaves begin to grow from the top. 

Root Sprouts

Close-up of a young fig sprout growing at the base of a large fig tree trunk in a garden. This young sprout has an upright green stem with large, wide green leaves with lobed edges.
Expand your fig tree family with root sprout propagation.

A mature fig tree will sometimes develop new root sprouts around the perimeter of the tree. If you can isolate a small section of root with a small, upright stem attached, you will have a very easy way to propagate your fig tree. The best time of year to take a root sprout for propagation is in winter when the plant is dormant. 

Prune the root several inches on either side of the root sprout, but make sure you have some small fibrous roots attached as well. Then, carefully dig out the section you isolated and transfer it to a pot or another garden location.

Water it well and keep it protected from harsh freezes until it starts to grow independently. Root sprouts should take hold in their new location fairly quickly because you already have both a stem and some root matter to start with.


Close-up of a gardener planting a young fig seedling in a sunny garden in loose, brown soil. The fig seedling has an upright green stem and small to medium bright green lobed leaves.
Easily transplant your ‘Mission’ fig tree for thriving growth.

Transplanting a potted ‘Black Mission’ fig is simple. Spring and fall are the best seasons for transplanting. Prepare your planting site first by digging a hole about twice as wide as the pot in which your fig is growing. The hole should be approximately the same depth as the pot. 

First, remove the plant from the pot and untangle the root ball. Carefully spread the roots into the hole so they are not twisted or tangled in a circle. Then, backfill the hole with high-quality soil and tamp it down around the tree. Thoroughly water your transplant to help it settle in, and then keep it regularly watered for the first several weeks so it doesn’t dry out.

Make sure you transplant your fig into an adequate space. These trees will sprawl to a mature width of up to 30 feet. You can prune them to keep them smaller and more compact, but if you want to allow them enough space, including the sprawling roots, make sure there is plenty of room between your fig and any neighboring vegetation and structures. 

How to Grow

‘Black Mission’ fig trees are easy to grow in the right conditions. The most important things they need are plenty of bright sunlight and rich, moist soil. They will also require some regular maintenance to keep them looking and performing their best. 


Close-up of ripe fig fruits on a tree among green foliage under sunlight. These fruits are medium in size, pear-shaped and dark purple in color. The leaves are large, lobed, with jagged edges.
Nurture your ‘Mission’ fig in full sunlight for optimal growth.

Figs require a location with full sun. Make sure your ‘Mission’ fig is planted in a location that receives at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. They will grow in a partially shaded area, but these trees will lack the vigor and prolific abundance of those grown in full sun.


Close-up of ripe figs with water drops among green foliage in a sunny garden. This fruit is pear-shaped with purple skin and a slightly dusty coating.
Hydrate young fig trees weekly for strong, drought-resistant growth.

Fig trees appreciate medium-moisture soil. A young tree will require regular watering until it develops a mature root system. Once established, however, a fig tree becomes somewhat drought-tolerant and probably won’t require supplemental watering. Give your young trees a thorough watering once each week, which can also be satisfied by sufficient natural rainfall.


Close-up of a farmer with a large garden shovel digging soil in the garden. He is wearing high black rubber boots. The soil is dark brown, lumpy, slightly moist.
Enrich fig soil with organic compost for thriving growth.

Figs love organically rich soil. Work some organic compost into the soil at the time of planting to help enrich the soil and get your tree off to a solid start. The soil at your planting site should also be well-drained, with a neutral to slightly acidic pH.

Climate and Temperature

Close-up of ripe figs on a tree in the garden. Figs are a medium-sized, pear-shaped fruit with dark purple skin. The leaves are large, wide, lobed, green.
‘Mission’ figs thrive in Zones 7-10, needing winter protection elsewhere.

‘Mission’ fig trees are hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7-10. They can be overwintered in Zone 6, but they will require some winter protection and may not overwinter reliably.

‘Mission’ figs will withstand mild winters, but a severe or prolonged freeze can kill the roots. Add a layer of winter mulch around your trees in cooler climates to help protect the roots from freezing.


Close-up of a ficus carica tree in a large container with granular fertilizers. The fig tree has light gray, smooth bark and large, lobed leaves of bright green color. It produces medium-sized, pear-shaped fruit with green skin.
Nourish young fig trees with a balanced fertilizer for robust growth.

If you have naturally rich soil, you may not need much fertilizer, but figs will eventually deplete the nutrients in their surrounding site. Don’t fertilize a newly planted fig tree. Fertilize your young fig for the second and third years after planting with regular feedings during the growing season.

Any balanced fertilizer should be fine for this purpose. Older trees don’t need extra fertilizers, especially if you regularly add mulch, unless the tree seems to be struggling with productivity.


Close-up of fig tree foliage in a sunny garden. Fresh leaves on the fig tree are characterized by their vibrant green color, smooth texture, and distinctively lobed shape.
Maintain fig trees with regular pruning and weed management.

Keep any weeds pulled from under and around your fig tree. Prune off any root suckers so you can maintain a single, strong main stem. Check your tree regularly for dead or dying branches and prune these off as well. Mature, well-established trees require very little maintenance other than harvesting fruits.


Close-up of female hands with freshly harvested black mission figs. The fruits are medium-sized, soft, pear-shaped, with dark purple skin and bright red-purple flesh with tiny yellow seeds.
Savor the joy of harvesting and enjoying fresh ‘Mission’ figs!

Picking ‘Mission’ figs is one of the best things about growing your own fig tree! The best way to tell when a fig is ripe is simply to pick one and try it. Unripe figs will be green, hard, and tough. Overripe figs will be extremely soft and start to smell fermented. 

Ideally, you will want to pick them at their peak ripeness and eat them quickly. Pick your fruits carefully because they bruise easily. Then wash them and eat them whole (you can eat everything but the stem), or store them in the refrigerator for a few days.

Garden Design

Espalier fig tree growing against a brick wall in the garden. The Espalier fig tree is defined by its meticulously trained branches, which are pruned and arranged horizontally. Its foliage consists of lush, lobed, dark green leaves with a glossy texture. The bark of the fig tree appears smooth with a pale grayish-brown hue.
Enhance your landscape with a versatile and fruitful fig tree!

Have you ever wanted to create an edible landscape? A fig tree is a great way to either start or enhance your edible landscape or permaculture garden. Grow a fig tree to complement some other fruiting shrubs, such as blueberries, or grow your ‘Mission’ fig on the other side of your yard from your vegetable garden — you don’t want to shade your veggies by planting a fig tree too close!

Presumably, you’d want to grow a ‘Mission’ fig because you want to eat figs, but keep in mind that these are highly ornamental small trees for any sunny landscape. They like to be the center of attention, so give them plenty of space to develop a fully rounded shape. The root system is also wide. The roots are shallow and can eventually spread beyond the width of the tree itself. Don’t plant your fig tree near sidewalks, driveways, foundations, or underwater pipes to eliminate the possibility of the fig’s roots interfering with your property. 

What can you do if you want to grow a fig tree but have limited space? Grow a fig in a large container! ‘Mission’ figs will adapt well to container gardening. Make sure your container has excellent drainage and fill it with high-quality soil. Place the container in the sun and water your fig tree regularly to help keep it moist. Container-grown figs will also need regular pruning.

Wildlife Value

Close-up of a European Serin (Serinus serinus) sitting on a fig branch and eating a ripe fig fruit. The European Serin is a small passerine bird with a vibrant yellow-green plumage covering its upperparts and a soft yellow underside.
Invite nature into your landscape with wildlife-attracting ‘Mission’ figs!

‘Mission’ fig trees are great for your wildlife-friendly landscape. The fig fruits attract insects and birds. Fruit-eating birds like to eat the fruits, and small mammals will also come to forage on the fruits. Fortunately, fig trees are typically so prolific that you will have plenty of fruits to share. 

Common Problems

Fig trees are beautiful trees that are generally easy to grow. You should, however, be aware of some of the most common problems encountered by fig growers.

Root-Knot Nematodes

Close-up of plant roots infected with Root-knot nematodes. Root-knot nematode damage manifests as swollen, knotted, and distorted roots, often appearing as small galls or knots along the root system. These abnormal growths impede the roots' ability to absorb water and nutrients effectively, leading to stunted growth and wilting of the plant above ground.
Protect your fig trees by avoiding root-knot nematode-infested soil.

Root-knot nematodes are soil-dwelling organisms that will attack and kill fig trees. If you know that these pests already exist in your soil, particularly if you have had a fig tree die in the same location, you can save yourself the trouble of planting a fig tree in that location because they will also attack the next tree you plant there.

Root-knot nematodes invade the root system and cause roots to swell and bulge. You can easily see these swellings by digging up a small section of fibrous roots of an infected fig tree. Infected trees will grow poorly, develop yellowed leaves, and poor fruit quality. Eventually, trees will die from the infection.

Treat soils with beneficial nematodes to get rid of the disadvantageous ones. You’ll have to apply your treatment in a temperate season two times at a frequency of two weeks apart.


Close-up of a swarm of wasps eating overripe figs on a tree in the garden. The Vespula germanica, commonly known as the German wasp, is recognized by its distinctive black and yellow striped abdomen.
Harvest figs promptly to deter unwanted insect visitors.

Your fig tree will attract insects during different phases each season, but be especially aware of peak and post-fruiting times. If you don’t harvest the fruits promptly, they will quickly attract a multitude of rather unpleasant insect pests. Overripe fruits will play host to fruit flies, yellowjackets, wasps, and many other assorted insect life, many of which will sting. 

Fruit Spoilage

Close-up of spoiled figs on a tree in the garden. The fruits are small, pear-shaped, rotten, dried out, wrinkled, and brownish-purple in color.
Prevent spoilage by promptly harvesting and preserving excess figs.

Any figs that you don’t pick promptly will also spoil quickly. Overripe and spoiled fruits will not only attract insects, they will also taste bad. Fortunately, it’s easy to prevent fruit spoilage on your tree.

You will just need to harvest all your fruits promptly, even if you can’t eat them right away. Preserve fruits you can’t consume within a few days of harvest or give them away to your neighbors, but don’t let them rot on the tree.


Fig rust produces rust-colored leaf spots.

Fungal leaf blight and fig rust are two common diseases that ‘Mission’ fig trees can experience. Leaf blight develops in warm, humid weather, and on trees that have rotten fruit still attached. If you noticed small water splotched lesions developing on leaves, remove them and monitor the tree for further issues.

Fig rust presents as leaf spots that have a rust colored coating on the leaf underside. You can remove those leaves that are damaged, and attempt to prevent spread with a light misting of neem oil. Advanced infections of either of these diseases should result in removal of the tree from your garden.

Final Thoughts

Anyone considering growing a fruit tree should definitely consider figs. ‘Black Mission’ fig trees are beautiful trees that are highly prolific and easy to grow in warm, temperate climates. If you have an open, sunny location with rich, moist soil, go ahead and try growing figs!

Within a few years, you will find yourself with a beautiful and highly ornamental tree and an abundance of sweet, delicious fruits that you can enjoy fresh or preserve for later snacking. Chances are, you will grow more than you can eat, and you can share with your friends and neighbors, as well as your resident birds.

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