How to Plant, Grow, and Care For ‘Brown Turkey’ Figs

Would you like to grow your own fig tree but don’t know where to start? ‘Brown Turkey’ figs are easy to grow and incredibly prolific. Within a few years after planting a young edible fig tree, you’ll be harvesting a tantalizingly tasty crop of sweet, delicious fruits. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen introduces the ‘Brown Turkey’ fig and how to grow your own.

Close-up of brown turkey fig on a tree in the garden. The Brown Turkey fig is a deciduous tree bearing medium-sized, pear-shaped fruits with a purplish-brown skin. The tree itself boasts large, lobed leaves with a rich green hue.


The ‘Brown Turkey’ fig (Ficus carica ‘Brown Turkey’) is a member of the mulberry family (Moraceae). There are hundreds of different edible fig cultivars and ‘Brown Turkey’ is one of the most readily available for gardeners. As long as you can provide the right growing conditions, these are remarkably easy fruit trees to grow!

Figs are fast-growing deciduous trees originating in the Mediterranean region. Edible fig trees prefer warmer climates and are well-adapted to survive mild winter weather. If you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 6-9, you should have no problem growing fig trees! They will, however, require some extra winter protection in cooler zones.

Perhaps the best reason to grow a fig tree is because you like to eat figs, although there are many other benefits to growing edible figs. Fig trees are beautiful and make a very appealing addition to your landscape. They have a compact, rounded form, and the thick, smooth, bare branches remain attractive in the winter months. These trees also provide food and shelter for wildlife, making them a good choice for a bird-friendly garden.

Let’s dig right in so you’ll know what a ‘Brown Turkey’ fig tree needs to thrive and how you can start growing your own harvest of tasty fruits.

‘Brown Turkey’ Fig

‘Brown Turkey’ fig trees:

  • are fast-growers
  • feature beautiful lobed leaves and colorful fruit
  • produce sweet, rich fruit
  • grow well in zones 7-10


Close-up of two ripe fruits on a Brown Turkey fig tree. The leaves are a glossy, vibrant green, providing a dense canopy that offers shade and privacy. The tree produces small, pear-shaped fruits, displaying a rich, deep purple-brown skin.
Plant Type Fruit tree
Family Moraceae
Genus Ficus
Species carica ‘Brown Turkey’
Native Area Mediterranean Europe, Asia
USDA Hardiness Zone 6 – 10
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Rich, Moist, Well-drained
Watering Requirements Medium
Maintenance Medium
Suggested Uses Fruit tree, edible landscape, accent plant
Height 10 – 30 feet
Bloom Season Spring
Flower Color Green
Attracts Birds
Problems Fruit rot, root-knot nematodes, birds, fungal leaf blight, fig rust
Resistant To Deer, heat, occasional drought
Plant Spacing 30 feet

Plant Natural History

Close-up plan of unripe Brown Turkey figs on a branch in the garden. The unripe Brown Turkey figs exhibit a vibrant green coloration. These small, teardrop-shaped fruits are firm. The leaves are large, lobed, bright green.
Edible figs are a diverse and delicious fruit trees from warm climates.

Edible figs (Ficus carica), also known as common figs, are members of the mulberry family (Moraceae). This family has over one thousand different, naturally occurring species from around the world. The genus Ficus encompasses a very diverse group of fig trees, including a wide assortment of vines, trees, and shrubs, most of which grow in tropical and temperate climates. Edible figs are known for their sweet, tender, juicy fruits.

Edible figs are native to the Mediterranean region of Europe and parts of Asia. In their natural habitat, edible figs live in mild and warm climates. They enjoy fully exposed, sunny locations with well-drained soil. They grow in open grasslands and rugged, rocky exposures. 

These plants have a fascinating history. Ancient civilizations cultivated and enjoyed them as a staple food source. The fruits are tasty, easy to grow, and prolific, making them quite desirable for cultivation. Breeders have introduced hundreds of different edible fig cultivars for commercial, private, and ornamental uses. The ‘Brown Turkey’ fig is one of the most popular cultivars.

Wild figs evolved a special relationship with the fig wasp, a uniquely adapted pollinator. Fortunately for fig-growing enthusiasts, most commercially available fig varieties are self-fertile and will produce plenty of fruits without a need for cross-pollination or any specific pollinator. 


Close-up of a fig tree with ripe fruits in a sunny garden. Its large, lobed leaves boast a glossy green hue, providing a lush canopy. The tree bears clusters of fruit. These fruits are pear-shaped and display a rich, deep purple-brown skin when ripe.
It is a fast-growing tree with large leaves, irritating sap, unique flowers, and sweet fruit.

The ‘Brown Turkey’ fig is a woody, deciduous shrub or small tree. It has smooth, light gray bark, a thick main trunk, and many smaller branches. These fast-growing trees can reach a total of 10-30 feet tall.

‘Brown Turkey’ figs have large, broad, palmate leaves that typically measure around six inches across. Each leaf has three to five large lobes with tiny, rough hairs. These leaf hairs can cause minor skin irritation for some people. 

The leaves and stems contain a milky white sap, which can cause contact dermatitis in some people. Wear long sleeves and garden gloves when working with these trees, especially when harvesting fruits and pruning. Wash your hands after harvesting your figs to rinse any remaining residues from your skin.

Edible fig flowers are very unusual. They are inverted and form inside a hollow fruit-like form. So don’t be surprised if you never see your fig tree in bloom. The flowers simply look like tiny firm green fruits. 

The fruits start small, dark green, and very hard. As they mature, they grow larger but stay green and firm. Just before maturity, they suddenly grow a little larger and blush into their mature skin coloration.

Ripe ‘Brown Turkey’ figs turn dark maroon-brown on the outside. The skin of a mature fig is extremely soft and doesn’t need peeling before eating. The inner flesh is amber-maroon in color with a soft, juicy texture. The sweet flavor is sugary or berry-like

‘Brown Turkey’ fig trees produce two crops of fruits each year. The early crop is known as the breba crop and is typically less prolific than the later main crop. The early breba crop ripens in late spring or early summer, and the main crop ripens in late summer. 


Many trees are a bit tricky to propagate but you can easily propagate a fig tree with a stem cutting. There are other methods to propagate figs, such as grafting and root suckers, but cuttings are the quickest and easiest, especially if you already have a mature fig tree. 


Propagation of fig tree by cuttings. Close-up of a starter tray with cuttings planted. These cuttings are wooden branches with a few young bright green leaves. These leaves are lobed with finely serrated edges. The soil and leaves are moist.
Take 10-12-inch cuttings, dip in rooting hormone, and plant.

In late winter, just as your fig tree starts looking a little bit green at the tips of the smaller branches, it’s time to take a cutting. Start with a couple of cuttings because not every cutting will successfully root. Take cuttings about 10 to 12 inches long from ¾ inch thick branches. Dip the lower half in rooting hormone for faster rooting, then place your cuttings in large pots of fresh, clean potting soil. 

Place the potted cuttings in a protected area and keep the medium moist. In a couple of weeks, your cuttings should start to grow roots. You’ll know if your cuttings are successful when fresh green leaves begin to sprout from the top, and the cutting starts to grow. You can keep your cuttings in a pot until you are ready to transplant them. Keep the soil moist and place them in a protected but sunny location. 


Close-up of a young woman planting a fig tree seedling in the soil. This seedling has an upright stem and several bright green leaves. These leaves are small to medium in size, have deep lobes, a smooth texture and slightly serrated edges.
Transplant potted saplings in cool weather and water thoroughly.

Wait for a cool spring or fall day to transplant a potted fig tree to a permanent in-ground location. First, identify where you’d like your fig tree to live. Prepare the site by digging a hole about twice as wide as the pot in which the young fig is growing. Mix some high-quality organic compost into the hole to give your fig a healthy start in its new home.

Carefully remove the fig from its pot and transfer it into the hole. Spread out the roots so they aren’t bunched or tangled under the plant, but keep the thickest, main taproot aiming down. Backfill the hole to fill in any gaps around the roots and tamper down the soil around your plant. Water your transplant well to help it settle in, and then keep the soil moist for the first several weeks.

How to Grow

As long as you can provide adequate growing conditions, fig trees are easy to grow and immensely rewarding. They will require some regular maintenance to help them look and perform their best. Otherwise, all they need is a mild climate with plenty of sunlight and rich, moist soil.


Close-up of a ripe Brown Turkey Fig on a branch in the garden under sunlight. Its plump, pear-shaped body showcases smooth, deep purple-brown skin, almost velvety to the touch.
Plant figs in full sun for optimal growth and fruiting.

Figs need full sun. Plant them in a location where they will receive at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Plants grown in the shade will have poor leaf and fruit development.


Watering a fig tree outdoor on a sunny day. Close-up of fig leaves covered with drops of water. Drops of water splash around the tree and glow from the sunlight. Fig tree leaves are distinctive with their broad, lobed shape and vibrant green coloration. They deep feature, pronounced veins that run throughout the leaf, giving it a textured appearance.
Keep young fig trees consistently moist.

Figs like moist soil. Mature, well-established plants, however, become somewhat drought-tolerant. Keep the soil around your fig tree moist for the first year or two. The soil shouldn’t be wet, but the roots shouldn’t be completely dry either. As a general rule of thumb, your plant needs a thorough watering approximately once each week


Close-up of a young fig trunk surrounded by soil. This trunk is smooth and brown in color. The soil is loose, lumpy, dark brown in color.
Use well-drained, slightly acidic soil with soil amendments if necessary.

The soil should be rich, moist, and well-drained. Soil pH should be neutral to slightly acidic. If you have heavy clay soil or extremely sandy soil, add some soil amendments before planting to provide nutrients and excellent drainage. 

Climate and Temperature

Close-up of a young Brown Turkey fig tree in a garden against a blurred background of a brown fence and green lawn. Its leaves are deeply lobed and glossy green, providing a dense canopy. The tree produces a small unripe fig, characterized by its green hue and teardrop shape.
Grow ‘Brown Turkey’ figs in USDA zones 6-10 for optimal conditions.

Edible figs prefer mild to warm climates. If you live in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 10, you should be able to grow a ‘Brown Turkey’ fig tree in your area. These trees tolerate mild winters and brief periods of freezing temperatures, as well as hot, humid summers.


Close-up of a branch with ripe figs among green foliage. Ripe figs showcasing a range of colors from deep purple to purple-brown. These plump, pear-shaped fruits boast smooth, tender skin.
Avoid fertilizing young fig trees.

Fig trees generally don’t require extra fertilization. Don’t fertilize your fig tree at all in the first two years after planting because they are very sensitive to over-fertilization. If you notice yellowing leaves or poor fruiting after the first two years, you can add an annual dose of balanced fertilizer. Instead of fertilizers, mulch around your fig trees with organic compost for a natural nutrient boost.


Close-up of a young fig tree with young leaves in the garden. The leaves are medium sized, smooth, ovate in shape, lobed and features a slightly serrated edge. They are vibrant green with thin pale green veins.
Minimal maintenance involves pruning dead branches, weeding, mulching, and harvesting fruits.

A healthy fig tree won’t require much maintenance. Check your tree periodically for signs of dead or dying branches, and prune these off as you notice them. Weed and mow around the base of your tree, but be careful not to damage your tree with a mower or string trimmer. Consider mulching and harvesting fruits as part of your annual maintenance routine.


Close-up of a young Ficus carica tree with mulched soil. The Ficus carica tree large features, lobed leaves with a deep green hue and a velvety texture. These leaves are deeply dissected into several distinct segments, giving them an intricate and ornamental appearance.
Add mulch around fig trees to preserve moisture.

Fig trees have extensive, shallow root systems. Mulching around the base of your fig tree helps suppress weeds, preserve soil moisture, and add nutrients to the soil as the mulch breaks down. Add a layer of mulch in the fall to help protect the roots from winter freezes.


Close-up of a woman picking figs fruit in the garden on a blurred background. The Brown Turkey fig fruit presents a distinctive appearance with its pear-shaped body and smooth, mottled skin, deep purple-brown.
Harvest ripe figs daily to prevent overripening and rot.

Harvesting fruits is one of the best parts of growing your own fig tree. When ‘Brown Turkey’ figs are fully ripe, they will be large, plump, and purple-bronze in color. If you aren’t sure when to harvest, pick a fig and try it. If it tastes great, it’s ripe and ready to pick!

Once figs start to ripen on the tree, they ripen very quickly. Check your tree daily during harvest season and pick all the ripe figs every day. Figs left on the tree will soon become overripe and begin to rot.


Close-up of ripe Brown Turkey fig fruit cut in half on a wooden surface. Brown Turkey fig fruit reveals a luscious interior characterized by its deep burgundy flesh punctuated with tiny edible seeds.
Consider drying, freezing, or giving excess away.

Any figs you don’t eat immediately can be stored in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer or a refrigerated container. You can store refrigerated figs for just a few days before they soften and become unappetizing.

If you need a longer-term storage solution, you may want to try drying them, freezing them, or preserving them. If you simply have too many figs to process promptly, give them away to your neighbors.


Closeup of shriveled figs hanging on a branch covered by snow in a snowy garden with a hedge and a house in the background. These fig fruits are small, pear-shaped, wrinkled, and brown in color.
Overwinter outdoor figs in zones 6 or warmer.

Figs grown in zones 7 and warmer don’t need any special winter care. If you are in zone 6, there’s a good chance you can still overwinter a fig tree outdoors.

Container-grown figs in zones 5 to 7 need a cool, dark location— such as a garage or basement— to protect the roots from freezing over the winter. Give them just enough water to keep the roots from drying out, and bring the plants back outside in the spring.

Garden Design

View of a young Ficus carica tree in a garden against the background of other trees and white houses with red roofs. The Ficus carica, commonly known as the fig tree, presents a distinctive appearance with its broad, lobed leaves that are deeply cut into several distinct segments. The leaves are a vibrant shade of green and provide a lush canopy. Its bark is smooth and greyish-brown.
These trees are ideal for edible landscaping.

‘Brown Turkey’ figs make lovely landscaping trees. Their rounded, bushy appearance is very attractive and they make an excellent centerpiece in your sunny yard. These are ideal trees for an edible landscape. Plant some blueberry bushes in another sunny location, add some herbs, perhaps some garden veggies, and then mix in a few edible flowers, and you will have a beautiful yard that you can also eat!

Since figs develop a large, sprawling, shallow root system, don’t plant them near a sidewalk, driveway, structure, or shallow pipes. The roots can interfere with their surroundings and cause problems. It’s best to give these trees a spacious area where they can grow freely. Keep in mind that a mature ‘Brown Turkey’ fig tree can spread 30 feet wide.

Don’t try to grow anything under your fig tree. The dense root system and low growth habit won’t support other plants growing underneath. You’ll also want to walk around your entire fig tree without any obstacles, allowing yourself to reach all the delicious fruits. If you want to try growing your ‘Brown Turkey’ fig in a large container, prune it annually to keep it very compact.

Wildlife Value

Close-up of a Mockingbird eating a fig fruit on a tree in the garden. The Mockingbird boasts a distinctive appearance marked by a slate-gray plumage with white patches on its wings and tail. Fig fruits are small, pear-shaped, and purple-bronze in color.
Birds and mammals enjoy figs.

Several species of birds and mammals love to feast on ‘Brown Turkey’ figs. Fortunately, deer and rabbits don’t generally bother edible fig trees. Squirrels can be a problem, but they seem to favor other fruits.

Many fruit-eating birds, particularly catbirds and mockingbirds seem to enjoy the fruits. Since these trees are so prolific, you will probably have plenty to share with the hungry birds. 

Common Problems

Edible fig trees tend to be trouble-free, but there are a few issues you should watch for. You may occasionally see common insect pests on your fruit trees, but they generally aren’t cause for concern.

Fruit Rot

Close-up of dry, rotten fruits on a fig tree in a sunny garden. These fruits are small, shriveled, with a wrinkled texture and black in color with a gray coating.
Promptly pick ripe figs to prevent rot and insect infestation.

Pick your ripe figs promptly and avoid leaving them on the tree to rot. Rotten figs will smell bad and attract an abundance of unpleasant insects like yellow jackets and fruit flies.

Heavy rainfall at peak ripening time will also encourage the fruits to rot because they become waterlogged. There isn’t much you can do about heavy rainfall except continue to pick as many fruits as you can when they are fully ripe. 

Root-Knot Nematodes

Close-up of the roots of a plant affected by Root-knot nematodes. Root-knot nematodes cause distinct damage to plant roots, resulting in a swollen, knotted appearance. Affected roots exhibit abnormal growths, known as galls or knots, along their length.
These root-eating nematodes cause poor growth.

Root-knot nematodes are particularly prevalent in sandy soils. These parasites feed on the roots and create visible swellings and bulges on the smaller roots of your tree. These microscopic creatures will eventually cause your tree to display poor growth, yellowing foliage, and poor fruiting. 

Check some of the roots for obvious swellings if your tree appears diseased. If you know that root-knot nematodes are already present in your soil, do not plant fig trees because they will easily become infected.

If you have previously lost fig trees to root-knot nematodes, don’t plant more figs in the same location. You can treat this area with beneficial nematodes in a temperate season. Apply two treatments two weeks apart for the most effective solution.


Close-up of a fig fruit on a tree among bright green foliage. This fruit has holes pecked by birds. Figs are small, pear-shaped with a flat bottom and purple skin. The flesh of figs is crimson-red in color.
Deter birds with hanging, moving, shiny objects.

It can be fun to feed the birds, but if you’re having problems with birds decimating your fig crop, you can try to deter them. Birds peck holes in ripe fruits, and the damaged fruits then rot quickly and attract insect pests. Try hanging shimmering, moving objects in your tree to scare away the birds.


Look out for rust-colored leaf spots, which may indicate fig rust.

Fungal leaf blight and fig rust are two common diseases that ‘Brown Turkey’ 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

If you love eating figs, seriously consider growing a ‘Brown Turkey’ tree. All you need is a moderately warm climate, a sunny location, and decent soil. Once you plant a fig tree, there’s very little maintenance you will need to do.

These trees are easy to grow and very attractive in the home landscape. In fact, fig trees are one of the easiest fruit trees to grow. The best part, of course, is harvesting your own plethora of fresh, tasty, colorful, and nutritious figs! 

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