|Ficus carica 'Hardy Chicago'
Hardy Common Fig
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|Family: Mulberry Family (Moraceae)
Native Habitat: Greece, east to Afghanistan
Ficus carica, the Common Fig, is a large deciduous shrub or small tree that is grown for its delicious edible fruit. It is the plant with the earliest record of cultivation by humans (fossilized figs from the early Neolithic period have been found in the Jordan Valley). It is also a very ornamental plant. It's widely grown for its edible fruit throughout its natural range in the Mideast and the Mediterranean region and also in other areas of the world with a similar climate. In the U.S. its commonly thought to be hardy in Zone 7 and south but a few hardier varieties are being grown much further north. 'Hardy Chicago' is one of those varieties.
We first noticed 'Hardy Chicago' some years ago during a visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden. They have a small planting of them in their fruit and vegetable garden area. There they often die back to the roots after colder winters but will resprout and produce attractive plants by summer. This is a fun variety for the adventurous gardener in Zone 5. If you want to grow them in the landscape try to place them in a sheltered spot with a warmer micro-climate. Or grow it as a potted specimen and bring it inside into the garage or basement during its dormancy in winter. The large, lobed, dark-green leaves are a textural treat and the delicious fruit is an added bonus. You'll probably get more fruit on potted plants that are protected for winter but you should get at least some fruit on plants grown outside all year.