May 2021 Plant Profile: Ficus carica ‘Desert King’

Split fig fruit with red flesh exposed, sitting on top of a fig leaf
Desert King fig, displaying red interior flesh. Photo by

Figs are often overlooked here in Washington. Ripe fruits are not viable for transportation so they are picked under-ripe or arrive bruised in the store. The undeveloped flavor of the fruit can be unsatisfying and the cost they demand can be prohibitive. If you have ever plucked a ripe fig straight from the tree, the sap oozing from the jam-like interior and suspended at the bottom of the fruit, you know that you have to grow your own figs to fully appreciate their wonder.

The UW Farm was given clippings from a Desert King fig tree in the fall of 2020. We propagated seven clippings which will be planted in the fall of 2022. Fall is an ideal time to plant saplings as the seasonal precipitation generally prevents the need to water.

The Desert King, Ficus carica ‘Desert King’, is an outstanding fig variety for the Pacific Northwest climate as the fruits hold up well in the rain. The tree fruits in mid-summer and produces plentiful fruits with a mildly yellow green skin and a blazing red interior. Figs are unique in that they fruit on both new and old wood. The fruit that springs from buds set on the previous season’s growth are known as the breba crop. The Desert King fig is classified as a San Pedro type and sets a breba crop without pollination (a process called parthenocarpy). These trees are low maintenance and will thrive in the full sun on the south side of the UW Farm.

The Desert King will produce fruit two years after planting, so mark this milestone on your calendar for the summer of 2024. The fruit and vegetables grown on the UW Farm must not be picked by passersby as it is grown for campus outlets. If you would like to taste fresh figs and some of the first fruit of these up-and-comers, you might consider signing up for our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box and subscribing to our newsletter for updates on our Desert Fig trees.

Fig cuttings in pots, view from the side
Desert King fig cuttings (above and below), currently thriving in the Douglas Research Conservatory at the Center for Urban Horticulture, will be planted out at the UW Farm in fall of 2022.

Fig cuttings in pots, view from the top

One Response to “May 2021 Plant Profile: Ficus carica 'Desert King'”

  1. Paul Gardiner

    Grown this for years now very delicious hardy. I attempted to espalier it but failed – it knows it’s own mind. Best I have seen have been grown against a wall in the UK the wall heats up and supports the temperature loving characterisitics. Fresh Figs- hard to beat.