Fig trees produce delicious fruits, have full blooms, and are an overall great choice for your space whether that is indoor or outdoor. When deciding to plant a fig tree, especially in your yard, you must consider how much sunlight the area receives, in order to best sustain your fig tree.
Fig trees grow their best in full sun because it supports fruit production and flower production, and promotes an even, rapid growth rate. After winter dormancy, full sunlight is what helps the fig tree become active and productive once again. This condition for growth should not be overlooked.
With so many different growing requirements, you may be wondering why fig trees need full sunlight when other tree species prefer partial sunlight or even more shade than sunlight
This is a great question, and it has to do with the needs of each individual species, really.
Sunlight is key for almost all life. It certainly makes a big difference when it comes to people, animals, plants, and anything else that is living and out during some daylight hours.
Unless we’re talking deep sea creatures or organisms that live underground, sunlight is non-negotiable!
Most trees and plants need partial to full sunlight in order to go through the process of photosynthesis which is central to their ability to grow and develop. Fig trees benefit most from full sunlight conditions, meaning that they need at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day according to the University of Georgia.
There are many reasons that fig trees do best in full sunlight, and we’ll go over them here.
1. Fig Trees Grow Much Faster In Full Sun
Every single tree has a specific environment in which it grows the best. An evergreen tree like a pine tree could never last in the conditions of a tropical island, just as a coconut tree wouldn’t ever be found in the winters of North Dakota.
Fig trees, like every other tree, have their preferred habitats that will best meet their growing requirements.
Photosynthesis is an essential process for a tree to create energy and sustain new growth. This process is triggered by sunlight, which helps to explain why the amount of sun that a plant receives is so important.
Why Is Photosynthesis So Important?
Photosynthesis is a process where plants use sunlight, water, and the gases in the air to make glucose. This is a form of sugar that plants need to survive, and which helps to effectively feed the tree.
All plants, algae, and even some microorganisms are known to go through photosynthesis.
Sunlight is one of three main factors needed to complete the process of photosynthesis, among carbon dioxide from the air and water.
It is not surprising, then, to learn that the more sun a leaf gets, the more energy it will produce through photosynthesis.
The more sugars that a fig tree is able to produce, the more energy it will be able to put toward its growth. The more any tree can focus on growing, the stronger, taller, and more adaptable the tree will be.
2. Sunlight Helps Shape Your Fig Tree
The shape of a tree is not merely an aesthetic property. It also influences the overall health of the organism.
Of course, it’s natural to want a tree to look its best, but, more than that, we want it to grow well and be strong. The overall health of the tree circles back to its appearance, because a healthy tree will lose less branches and will only drop its leaves during the proper season.
Sunlight plays such a big part in the process of shaping your tree. New growth inherently gravitates toward sunny areas, so if your fig tree is growing in an area with partial shade, it will begin to lean toward the area where it can get the most sun, most consistently.
Think, for example, of a different kind of plant. Maybe you have some mint growing on the windowsill above your kitchen sink. Have you noticed that it will lean toward the window?
The plant naturally gravitates toward the window, the source of its sunlight, because it needs sunlight to thrive.
It is no different when it comes to trees. They will try to lean toward the sunniest spot that they can find to make sure that their growth is maintained in a positive, constant way.
When your tree is growing outdoors with full, unobstructed sunlight, your fig tree will grow in an even, uniform manner with a canopy that is full and upright.
A fig tree that grows in partial shade may experience some unwanted effects:
- Weak Branches: Any branches that are more shaded than not will be weaker due to their need to reach farther to access sunlight. These branches also may end up with weaker attachments to the trunk due to their reaching away from the base of the tree and toward the sunlight.
- A Lopsided Tree: If sunlight is only available in a few concentrated spots, such as through a gap in canopies of other trees. The appearance of the tree will end up being rather lopsided because the majority of growth will occur in the few sunny spots.
- Less Canopy Space: Due to the gaps in growth that your tree will experience, the canopy is also going to be thinner and less even. The unevenness of the canopy will also lead to less shade and fruit production.
When met with plenty of unobstructed sunlight, your fig tree will grow into a strong, productive, reliable tree. Without this basic necessity, it will struggle and provide you with fewer of its benefits.
To combat this, many gardeners decide to grow a fig tree inside of pots in their actual home. If you’d like to go that route, take a look at our guide on the best potted fig tree soils to help get you started.
3. Fig Trees Produce More Figs In Full Sun
Fig trees not only need sunlight in order to grow taller, but also to grow fruit.
Photosynthesis helps to produce energy that does so much more than catalyze the growth of a tree. It helps the tree to be healthier, less prone to disease, and produce more fruit, nuts, or whatever the specific tree may grow.
In the case of a fig tree, the more sunlight the more, and better, figs.
Here are a few reasons why fig trees are able to produce more figs when they receive more sunlight:
- Higher energy levels: Trees that have less energy have to prioritize more, and often they put all their energy toward simply surviving. A healthy tree that receives enough sun can redirect energy toward producing fruit that will taste better and be larger.
- Fewer structural issues: Full sun conditions help to dry out trees after rain and other watering. This will ultimately help any tree, including your fig, be less susceptible to pests infesting it and disease forming.
4. Fig Trees Bloom Better In Full Sun
The growth and strength of a tree are some of the benefits of full sun, along with the fruit that a tree is able to produce. There’s more, though.
Fig trees will also bloom better when they receive full sunlight.
You might expect that all trees would have a higher number of flowers when they experience full sun conditions, but this idea does not extend to all plants.
Many plants love shade and can grow better in those conditions. In the case of plants like geraniums and primrose will actually bloom less if they receive too much sunlight.
This is why it is so important to know the specific needs of your plants. This gives them the best chance at thriving under the conditions they require.
If you want to know more about choosing the best fig tree for your yard, and how to plant it to give it the best chance at success, check out our planting guide specifically about fig trees!
5. Sunny Conditions Promote A Healthier Fig Tree
So, we know that sunlight can obviously help dry off the leaves and branches of a tree that has been recently watered. This is actually quite important to the success of a fig tree.
Wondering how so? Let’s go over a few reasons why the drying of leaves and branches promotes a healthier fig tree:
- More resistance to disease and rot: Wet conditions promote disease, the growth of fungus, and the eventual rot of your tree. Keeping a tree that is meant to receive full sunlight dry means keeping it strong, and resistant to these potentially fatal problems.
- Avoiding pests: Insects and pests are often drawn to areas that are damp or have begun to rot. The more water that is left to sit on your tree, the more potential for an infestation that could cripple the tree.
- Stronger skin of the fruit: If water is allowed to sit on the fruit for too long, it can cause the outer layer of the fruit to crack. This will render your figs unusable (unless you wish to feed the birds or other little critters that frequent your space).
Of course, water is a necessity for your fig tree, but the amount of water matters.
If you are worried about overwatering your tree, even if it is in full sun, you can invest in an irrigation system like the CARPATHEN Drip Irrigation Kit. With ¼ tubing, drip connectors, and drip emitters, this is a full irrigation system that is adjustable to your needs and space.
Ultimately, if your fig tree is planted in an area where it receives the proper amount of sunlight, it will dry thoroughly after watering. If not, pruning is another solution for a tree that might be retaining a bit too much water on its surface.
The Gonicc 8.5” Professional Titanium Coated Pruning Shears can help you thin out your fig tree’s branches, which will allow better air circulation and more sunlight to reach all parts of your tree.
How Can I Tell If My Fig Tree Has Too Much Sun?
You’d expect that there’s no such thing as too much sun since fig trees clearly need full sun to thrive.
Is that right, though? Not exactly.
There are some negative aspects to having too many sunny, hot days in a row.
Now, it should be noted that it is often the heat and dryness that accompanies it, on top of sunlight, that most directly impact a fig tree. So, the sun itself is not to blame. However, the effects of too much sun can still negatively impact your tree.
Fig tree leaves are hardier than most, and can withstand levels of sunlight and heat that might scorch other trees like cherries or even the more tropical bananas. There is still such a thing as too much sun and heat, eventually.
There is one sign in particular that your fig tree may be getting too much sun which, in turn, leads to too much heat and dryness.
Your Fig Tree Can Get A Sunburn
Did you know that, like humans, trees can get sunburned? It’s true! If a tree is under direct sunlight for too long, especially when it is extra hot out and there is a high UV level, it can end up with a sunburn.
What might a sunburn on a tree look like, you ask?
Tree sunburns manifest somewhat similarly to human sunburns in that the bark may become discolored and look drier than usual. Bark may also end up becoming loose and even peeling, much like your skin when you receive a particularly harsh sunburn.
Water Stress Can Harm A Fig Tree
Another difficulty that can occur in fig trees that have received too much sun has to do with the tree’s basic needs.
A tree that is under water stress may appear droopy, have discolored leaves that have begun to dry, and may appear weaker overall.
On top of impacting the bark of a tree, too much heat and direct exposure to sun can dry out the soil beneath the tree. This will put your tree under water stress, which will hinder it from absorbing all the nutrients it needs.
If you are looking to learn more about how to maintain a healthy fig tree throughout the spring and summer, check out our post on caring for your fig tree.
How (And When) To Protect Your Fig Tree From Too Much Sun
If your area happens to be always sunny, it is going to be great for a fig tree. How do you, then, protect your tree from receiving too much sunlight, though?
To find that sweet spot, the balance between full sunlight and sunburn or water stress, you’ll want to focus on certain areas of the tree that may be affected more than others.
According to the University of Illinois, plants have evolved a version of sun protection that acts in a similar way to people putting on sunglasses in bright conditions.
This is called photoprotection, and it is activated in full sunlight but turned off when a leaf is shaded. This shade could come from a building, a cloud, or even just another leaf.
Photoprotection is the process that keeps leaves from being what we call sunburnt, or oxidated and bleached by full, direct sunlight.
Okay, that is great but how can we help to protect our trees, too? After all, we normally wear sunglasses and some sort of other sun protection, like sunscreen.
You can utilize tree wraps when looking to help protect your tree from getting the negative effects of direct, full sunlight.
Dalen’s Protective Tree Wrap and Breathable Material is light-colored in order to reflect the harsh sunlight, and acts in the same way as sunscreen might.
Between the natural “sunglasses” of photoprotection, and the “sunscreen” of tree wraps, your tree will be prepared for whatever a hot, sunny day might throw at it.
The best part is, that these won’t hold in any moisture that the sunlight is working to dry up, so your tree will be protected without being otherwise hindered.
How Do Fig Trees Respond To Cloudy Days?
We know now how important sunlight is to a fig tree. Regardless of whether there is such a thing as too much sunlight, it’s clear that too little sunlight could be negative for your fig tree.
How do fig trees fare, then, on days that are cloudy?
Might they begin to wilt? Maybe fig trees will start to produce fruit that is less developed if there are enough cloudy days in a season? Just because a day is cloudy does not mean that your fig tree is going to suddenly lose all of its energy, or that it won’t still be able to produce some energy.
Ever had a sunburn that you got on a cloudy day?
This is because the sun is still shining through, just not as intensely. Cloudy days may not be as productive for fig trees as bright, sunny days are, but the odd day with less sunshine will not have a significant impact on your tree.
The less energy produced on cloudy days will be put toward the overall survival of the tree, so blooming and fruit production may be slightly slowed down.
What Can I Do If My Fig Tree Is Not Getting Enough Sunlight?
The main concern is if the cloudy days become consistent for any reason. Over time, the minimal impacts of a day or two without sunshine will add up, and if you have a certain amount of days with less sunshine, your tree may begin to decline in its fruit production.
Say you live in an area that does experience many cloudy days, should you be concerned?
You’ll just need to understand that your fig tree will grow slower, and produce less fruit due to the amount of energy it is able to produce.
Indoor trees can become the same way, if there is not enough light coming through the windows, or you have nowhere to take your tree outside.
That is where LED lights come in!
Artificial grow lights are a great supplement to your indoor plants, and can be the source of light that your fig tree needs to thrive and be more productive.
WTINTELL LED Plant Grow Light with Stand comes with 4 adjustable lights and the option to set them on a timer. Think of your irrigation system, but for light.
Even Indoor Fig Trees Need Enough Sun
If you don’t have space in your yard to plant a fig tree, you are not alone.
In fact, many people do not have the outdoor space available to plant a full-grown fig tree.
Grow an indoor fig tree!
Now wait a minute, how on earth is this possible? We’ve just spent an entire article talking about how imperative it is that fig trees get full sunlight. An indoor plant couldn’t possibly have its needs met, could it?
There are many species of fig tree, particularly miniature or self-pollinating species, that grow quite well indoors.
We never said it was easy to maintain a fig tree indoors, but following a few simple steps will lead you to success.
- Make sure that your fig tree has enough consistent light from a window, along with proper amounts of water and fertilizer as needed.
- Check out a balanced fertilizer like the Southern Ag All Purpose Granular Fertilizer 10-10-10 to help sustain your fig tree.
Growing a fig tree indoors can be tricky, but we have you covered when it comes to choosing the best soil to ensure a healthy tree.
That’s A Wrap!
Sunlight is incredibly important, and knowing how much your plant needs can be the difference between a lush, thriving plant and a wilting, declining one.
Fig trees benefit hugely from being planted in an area that receives full sun, at least 6 hours of sunlight a day is a good rule of thumb.
If you are not confident in your ability to evaluate your tree, rely on a local arborist to help you make sure you are caring for your tree in the best way.
Compton, S.G., Wiebes, J.T. and Berg, C.C., 1996. The biology of fig trees and their associated animals. Journal of Biogeography, 23(4), pp.405-407
Kim, K. M., Kim, M. Y., Yun, P. Y., Chandrasekhar, T., Lee, H. Y., & Song, P. S. (2007). Production of multiple shoots and plant regeneration from leaf segments of fig tree (Ficus carica L.). Journal of Plant Biology, 50(4), 440-446.
Stover, E., Aradhya, M., Ferguson, L., & Crisosto, C. H. (2007). The fig: overview of an ancient fruit. HortScience, 42(5), 1083-1087.
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