Issue: September 14, 2002

Fig seeds?


Can you grow fig plants from the ripened fruit? I have a box of fresh Kadota figs and fresh brown Turkish [sic] figs and would like to start a tree from one or both of them. - E. Seaton


Figs rarely make viable seeds. While I haven't looked at Kadota, I have never seen a seed with Brown Turkey (Turkish) figs. The crunchy things inside the fig are usually aborted ovules that never matured into seeds.

The structure of the fig inflorescence (flower structure) is unusual. The flowers are inside the "synconium" or enlarged stem base. It is this synconium that forms the fig fruit. In order for the fig to form viable seeds, a small wasp must enter the synconium from an opening at the end, lay her eggs inside the fruit, and in the process pollinate the small flowers that line the interior of the fruit. Most people don't like the idea of eating the small (maggot-like) wasp larvae, so fig breeders have developed varieties of figs that do not require pollination and thus have no wasp larvae inside. Without pollination, no viable seeds are formed.

Figs are most often propagated by cuttings. This is a fairly easy process if you have access to small branches pruned from the fig trees. This can be done successfully in the spring or fall. As a child growing up near Houston, I had success rooting fig cuttings by placing them in the soil on the north side of my home. In arid climates, a greenhouse or some cover to increase humidity and reduce evaporation would be helpful.

Potassium based water softener?


We recently installed an "Ecowater" water softener. We had the effluent (potassium salt water) drained to the outside so we could use it. We were told it would not hurt the trees. Is this true? We get a purge of about 30 gallons every four or five days. We hate to waste the water. Should we use it or drain it down the sewer? - D. Smith


Whether or not to be concerned depends on your soil conditions. In the East where soils are acidic and deficient in many mineral salts, the potassium in the water would be beneficial. In Southwestern soils, such as those in New Mexico, there is reason for concern any time we add additional salts to already salty soils (potassium is a nutrient salt, but it is a salt). The only way to be sure is to have your soil and the effluent from the water softener tested for quantity of dissolved solids (saltiness). Your local Cooperative Extension Service office can help you get your soil tested and help you interpret the results.

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Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden, Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at or at Please include your county Extension Agent ( and your county of residence with your question!

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page:

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.