I love Moreton Bay fig trees. From the overall shape and spread, to the magnificent buttress roots that they form and the shade they provide, I think they are a stunning feature in the parks and gardens that have the room for them. About 2 years ago we decided that we would like to grow a Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrophylla). We had the land to do it (40 acres) and hoped to see its first 40 years or so.
Sourcing a seedling
So, where to get hold of a seedling in Perth and surrounds? First we tried various nurseries but, probably not surprising for suburban Perth, no luck. Next we tried asking for help from a variety of places including those with mature Moreton Bay figs – a variety of councils (city and country), Kings Park and the University of Western Australia but still no seedling. We also tried one of the advanced tree nurseries but the cost of an advanced tree, the logistics involved (and a bit of uncertainty on our behalf as to the fig variety) proved prohibitive for us. After exhausting our WA search, we started looking for interstate options and finally found that Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery in Kyogle, NSW had plants that could be sent to WA. Hooray – success!
I completed our order on line and our beautifully packaged, healthy plants arrived by courier around mid March 2014. I say ‘plants’ because somehow in the excitement of finding the website and perhaps getting carried away, I managed to order not just one Moreton Bay fig, but four!
The four figs in mega tubes (90mm square x 150mm deep) arrived in one box with an overall height of 90cms. Although probably not ideal, they stayed in these pots for about a month before we planted them out into 250mm pots with a good quality general potting mix.
The property is about 100kms north of Perth with both sandy hills and river flats. We can experience frosts over winter so we decided not to plant the figs out until spring. In mid September we took the plants from Perth to the property and planted them on the river flats (but still quite a way from the river). Despite all the figs being planted on the river flats, the soil conditions of the planting holes were quite different. One was quite sandy, two were quite nice and rich and one was somewhere in between. After a bit of debate we decided not to improve the soil but we did use a wetting agent as our soils are generally very hydrophobic.
Progress since planting
In the time since the figs were planted we have had a total of 108mm of rain (none in December or January), and we have been deep watering the plants once every week over summer with bore water. So far, so good we think. They haven’t grown significantly – they range in height from 750mm to 950mm – but they look healthy, have filled out and the stems are thickening, so we are taking all that as good signs.
We have found it quite hard to find much information about growing Moreton Bay figs. Google searches reveal many photos of magnificent 100+ year old trees but I have found it impossible to determine what our trees may look like in say 5, 10 or 20 years. Similarly, there appears to be little information on caring for a young fig. We know figs are tough but, for instance, how susceptible are they to frost etc?
There’s a beautiful Moreton Bay fig in the grounds of the University of WA and, if you believe the story, it was planted about 80 years ago when the gardener dug a hole, threw in a dead cow and planted the tree. I only had live cows so maybe that will prove to be my undoing.
For those who might be interested, I will be keeping records as to height and appearance changes for as long as possible. I’d like to think that in 5 to 10 years we will have nice size trees (say 3-4m or more) but would love to hear from anyone who has experience growing these magnificent trees.
Daley’s Fruit Tree Nursery
For anyone in WA looking for some of the more unusual fruit trees and hard to source plants Daleys provides an excellent selection and a pain free way (in our experience) to get the plants you want. They deliver to WA every 2-3 months and deal with all the quarantine issues, which makes it very easy for the customer. In our case the costs associated with freight and quarantine came to about $30 each. Daleys very informative website can be found at http://www.daleysfruit.com.au/.