My Chicago Hardy Fig Tree - After Replanting

On getting rid of my fig tree.

Two years ago I bought a fig tree. It was at once a thoroughly calculated and yet impulsive buy. I’d wanted to get a fig tree, I’d thought about getting a fig tree, I’d researched where I could even get a fig tree in Chicago, if you could even grow a fig tree in Chicago. And then I ended up purchasing one at a farmer’s market outside my train stop. I was on my way to work when I spotted a Chicago Hardy fig tree at a stand, handed over $20, and lugged it home. I was late to work that day.


Chicago Hardy Fig Tree in a Chicago Apartment

My Chicago Hardy Fig Tree soon after I bought it from a farmers market.


I loved my fig tree and I was obsessed with having a fig tree and, because of that, I kept it alive. For someone whose thumb is as black as mine, that was an accomplishment. I kept it alive for 6 months, 12 months, 24 months. It even produced fruit. A tiny crop of tiny fruit that prematurely fell from the branches. But fruit. Actual, edible, sweet, delicious, fruit.

I watered the tree regularly, pruned back its browning leaves, and repotted it when it looked like it needed a new home.

Because that tree grew.

The tree quickly grew out of the pot it came in so I bought a new one. I replanted it then and then, earlier this year, replanted it again in a pot big enough for it to grow into.

The tree now took over half my bedroom but I didn’t care. I loved having my very own fig tree.


My Chicago Hardy Fig Tree - Before Replanting

My Chicago Hardy Fig Tree – Before Replanting

My Chicago Hardy Fig Tree - After Replanting

My Chicago Hardy Fig Tree – After Replanting


And then, I got cats.


Rooney cat playing in the soil of my fig tree.

Rooney cat playing in the soil of my fig tree.


When I started fostering cats I joked that the fig tree was obviously going to die soon because I am only capable of taking care of one thing at a time. Because I am barely capable of taking care of one thing at a time. How could I possibly remember to both water a plant and put out water for a cat? How could I tend to pruning dead leaves when I had to tend to a used litter box? And, most importantly, how could I keep those damned kittens things out of that damned tree?

Bandito, my first foster cat, loved the fig tree. Rooney loved the fig tree. Ford really, really, loved the fig tree.

Every time I’d turn my back, one of them would be digging in it. Or, trying to eat it.

And did I mention that fig trees are poisonous to cats?

I tried everything I could to keep the tree and keep the cats out of the tree. I tried a specialty citrus spray meant to keep cats away from plants (it didn’t work). I tried building a fence of bamboo stakes (the cats found the holes and broke it down). I tried lining the outside of it with vinegar-soaked rags (it worked ever so temporarily but they’d be at it the next day. And my bedroom stank of vinegar). I tried lining the topsoil with a layer of rocks (which they thought were toys). I tried lining the topsoil with crumpled up balls of tin foil (which they thought were toys).

None of it worked. Every morning I’d wake up to a layer of dirt on my floor, a hole in the soil, and one (or two) dirty cat(s).


Ford cat sleeping in my fig tree,

Ford cat sleeping in my fig tree,

Ford cat digging in my fig tree,

Ford cat digging in my fig tree,


So, I did what any rational cat/tree owner would do: I locked the tree in the bathroom. I suppose I could have just locked the cats out of the bedroom. But then I wouldn’t be woken up in the middle of the night to one biting my feet and the other laying on my head and what would be the fun of that? I mean, trees don’t cuddle.

But, while locking the tree in the bathroom kept the cats out, it presented a whole new set of problems.

If my tree seemed to have been taking up my entire bedroom it most definitely, truly, accurately, literally, took up my entire bathroom. Have you seen my bathroom? It’s not that big.

And I had to shower with the door closed. And I hate showering with the door closed because it just feels so stuffy in there and I can’t breathe. And, let’s face it, I live alone. I never would close the bathroom door for anything.

And because of the stuffiness and being locked away the tree was beginning to die. I’d forget to water it (though it got a little because it was spilling into the shower). I’d knock into the branches. The temperature was all wrong. It wasn’t getting enough sun. The tree had seen better days.

And getting into and out of the bathroom became a pain. My bathroom door jams against the toilet seat whenever you close and open the door, making it impossible to close and open the door in one go. And the extra seconds it took to get into or out of my bathroom often allotted just enough time for one or both of the cats to sneak in and go right towards that tree.

And then the door broke. It didn’t really break break, but I think all the jamming loosened the knob so sometimes when I thought the door was closed it hadn’t really latched. And so I’d come out of my bedroom or the living room, blissfully unaware, and look and see that the bathroom door was open and there were two happy cats with muddy paws and a layer of dirt over every surface: the floor, the bathtub, the sink, the toilet seat.

And that’s when I hit my breaking point.


The cats got in the bathroom, and the plant. Chaos ensued.

The cats got in the bathroom, and the plant. Chaos ensued.

The cats got in the bathroom, and the plant. Chaos ensued.


I put out a call on Facebook too see if anyone wanted to adopt my fig tree and, luckily, a good friend and her husband and family said they’d take it in and another friend came by to pick it up and, you guys, I have a bathroom again.

I have a bathroom that I can use without closing the door. I have a bathroom that doesn’t get too stuffy when I take a shower. I have a bathroom that isn’t covered in dirt. I have a bathroom that I can comfortably walk through from the hall to the shower. I have a hallway full of western light because I can keep that door open.

And I have a pair of foster cats who have to find other ways to get into trouble (and they do, believe me, they do).


On getting rid of my fig tree. Getting rid of my Chicago Hardy fig tree because my cats were destroying the plant and my apartment.
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Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

1 Comment
  • Ali
    September 30, 2017at3:32 am

    You know, I wouldn’t read a post about a plant from just anyone…
    Seriously though, I’m glad you found a new home for your fig tree, and that the cats didn’t poison themselves on it!

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