Desert King FigFicus carica ‘Desert King’
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Ficus carica ‘Desert King’
Outdoor Growing zone
The Desert King Fig is the best variety available for areas with cooler, damp summers, exactly where most figs don’t fruit well. It carries a reliable ‘breba’ crop in mid-summer, and a possible main crop in early fall, depending on where you live. The figs are medium-sized to large, with green skin that turns yellow when ripe, and with deep red internal flesh. The flavor is rich and sweet, tasting of strawberries and honey. Nothing beats a home-grown fig, fully ripened on the tree, for flavor, sweetness and juiciness.
Plant your Desert King Fig tree in full sun, and allow enough room for its final size. It is hardy in zone 6, cropping well. Grow it in any well-drained soils, including drier, sandy or stony soils, which produce the largest crops. Remove the growing tips from long stems that haven’t branched out, to encourage lateral stems, which give a larger crop. Normally untroubled by pests or diseases.
So you want to grow a fig tree? You are right, nothing in this world beats a tree-ripened fig – even those fresh ones in the store can’t compare to the sweet juiciness and delicious flavors of one still warm from the sun. Choosing the right variety for your area can be tricky, but it really pays off to find ‘the one’, because a wrong choice can lead to disappointment and poor results. So let’s see – do you live in an area with cool summers with humidity and rain? Are the winters cold but not biting – perhaps no more than minus 10o F at night? (That’s zone 6.) If you answered, “Yes”, to these questions, then a great choice for you is the Desert King Fig tree. Despite its name, this is the top-rated fig for areas without hot summers, because it produces a large breba crop that doesn’t fall in winter. “What the heck is that?”, you might be asking. A breba, or breva crop are figs that develop in spring on older stems, from tiny fruits that form late in the year, and stay dormant through winter. It is different from the main crop, which forms on new stems of the same year. With most varieties, the breba crop falls during winter if it is at all cold, but this doesn’t happen on the Desert King Fig tree. So you have a good harvest of medium-sized figs in early summer. As well, in warmer areas with hot, dry summers, you will have a second main crop of larger figs in August or September.
The Desert King Fig is a deciduous shrub with thick, flexible branches covered in smooth gray bark. It is fast growing, and soon reaches between 15 and 25 feet in height and spread, or perhaps smaller when grown in cooler zones. The large leaves, approaching 12 inches across, are green, with 3 or 5 lobes, but not as deeply cut as we see in many other varieties of fig. This fig is unusual because it develops a crop of figs in mid-summer, ripening over 2 or 3 weeks. This ‘breba’ crop is carried in clusters of 6 to 8 figs on stems from the previous year. This variety is self-pollinating, and carries a full crop all by itself. These figs are medium-sized, and they are ripe when the green skin turns yellow. Sometimes the skin can split a little as well, but this is fine. The inner skin is white when cut open, and the central flesh is a bright but dark red. The flavor is delicious, with sweet juice like honey gathering among the red flesh. It tastes of strawberries, with a delicate scent, and it is sweet, but not overpowering. If you have never eaten tree-ripened fresh figs still warm from the sun, you are in for a real treat. You can expect your first crop within 2 summers of planting.
As well, in some areas, depending on the region and climate, a second main crop will be produced, on new branches. These ripen late in the year, into September, and they are similar to, but larger, than the early crop. They are often also even sweeter, and contain a few small, crunchy seeds.
The Desert KingFig is ideal for outdoor growing in cooler zones, but it is also a good choice anywhere in the country, especially with its promise of two crops a year. Plant it in a sheltered, sunny spot, and allow enough room for its final size when choosing that spot.
The ‘Desert King Fig grows well, and usually carries a breba crop, in zone 6. Most other varieties will drop their breba fruit in early spring, during wet and cold weather, but not this one. It also tolerates more rain and humidity in summer, so it grows well in the northwest, and also in cooler areas in the east. However it is still a good choice for hot zones into zone 10, promising two good crops a year in those areas.
Full sun is best for the Desert King Fig, and gives the best growth and largest crops. It is also needed for good ripening of the fruit. Plant in any well-drained soil, including poor, sandy and rocky soils. There is no need to add organic material when planting. Once established it has good drought resistance, and only needs watering in summer if you see leaves drooping or yellowing, and immature fruit dropping.
As found with all fig trees, pests and diseases are rarely an issue when growing them, and figs are easy to grow. The Desert King Fig tends to produce long, unbranched limbs, which results in a lower crop. To prevent this, pinch out the growing tip of any branches you see growing without side branches, to encourage 2 or 3 side limbs to develop. No other pruning is necessary.
The fig tree, Ficus carica, is one of the earliest fruit trees grown by humans once farming began, and it has been cultivated around the Mediterranean, from Spain to the Middle East, for thousands of years. Some of the earliest plants grown in America were brought to California by early Spanish missionaries when the area was still owned by Spain. All we know about the origins of the variety called Desert Kingis that it was found in Madera in the San Joaquin Valley, California. This region of hot, dry summers is still today almost 70% Latino. Desert King is a San Pedro type fig, sometimes simply called ‘King’ or ‘White King’.
For exactly the climates – wet, cool summers but mild winters – where most figs fail, the Desert King Fig is a great choice. It’s a great choice everywhere if you enjoy green-skinned figs, so order now and look forward to figs in summer, and perhaps figs in fall as well. Order right away – this variety is hard to source, in high demand, and our supplies are limited and will soon be gone.