Ficus carica 'Chicago Hardy'
Common Name: fig
Type: Fruit
Family: Moraceae
Zone: 6 to 10
Height: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 9.00 to 12.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Green
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Insignificant
Fruit: Showy, Edible

Culture

Figs are best grown in USDA Zones 8-10 in organically rich, moist, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Figs may be grown in protected locations in USDA Zones 6 and 7 (e.g., against south-facing walls) with root mulch, but plants will usually show significant die back in cold winters. When temperatures in winter dip below 15 degrees F., consider additional protection for outdoor plants to the extent possible (e.g., clear plastic sheets or frames). In USDA Zones 5 and 6, figs can be grown as low-branching shrubs that are “laid down” in winter (branches are bent over and covered with soil with soil also mounded over the main trunking). Many fig cultivars are now available, with ‘Brown Turkey’ and ‘Chicago Hardy’ being noted for having unusually good winter hardiness. In St. Louis, plants are best grown in containers in full sun. Water regularly during the growing season but reduce watering in fall. Containers must be brought indoors in winter. Large containers may be overwintered in greenhouses, garages or basements.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Ficus carica, commonly called common fig, is a deciduous shrub (to 10-15’ tall) or small tree (to 15-30’ tall). It is noted for its spreading habit, attractive foliage and edible fruit. Old trees with smooth silver-gray bark (sometime gnarled with age) are ornamentally attractive. Large, palmate, hairy, 3-5 lobed leaves (to 10” long) are rough dark green above and smooth light green beneath. Non-showy greenish flowers form in spring inside hollow receptacles near the branch growing tips. The fruit (edible fig) develops within each receptacle. The main fruit crop ripens in late summer or fall on new wood. In some areas, a lesser crop may appear in spring on new wood. Species plants as well as most fig cultivars are parthenocarpic (fruits develop without cross pollination).

Genus name comes from the Latin name for Ficus carica the edible fig.

Specific epithet refers to Caria, a district in Asia Minor known for growing figs.

'Chicago Hardy' is considered to be one of the hardiest edible figs. Its stems are hardy to 10 degrees Fahrenheit and the roots are hardy to 20 degrees below zero. It can be grown in zones 6 and warmer, and in zone 5 if situated in a warmer microclimate and given protection with a heavy mulch when dormant. Stems that die back will resprout in spring and will produce fruit on the new wood. It may also be grown in a pot and brought indoors or kept in a cool garage. It has large, leathery leaves that have a cordate base and 3 to 5 lobes. The medium-sized fruit has light brown to deep purple skin with sweet, pink flesh and ripens in late summer and early fall. It will grow 10 to 15 ft. tall and 9 to 12 ft. wide although it may only grow 3 to 4 ft. tall in cold climates if it dies back. This fig is also known as 'Bensonhurst Purple.'

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for root knot nematodes, scale, aphids, mealybugs and spider mites. Leaf spots, rust and blight may occur. Fruit can become a mess if not promptly harvested.

Garden Uses

Ornamental or fruit tree. In Missouri, plants may be grown in sheltered locations outdoors with root mulch or in containers that are overwintered indoors.