The fiddle leaf fig is the plant of the moment, but have you noticed how many rules you have to follow to keep them thriving? From finding them just the right spot in your home to maintaining a watering and feeding regime so strict it’s like having another pet, this is not a plant to put in the corner and forget about.
The Latin name of these beautiful plants is Ficus Lyrata, from their large, violin-shaped leaves. It’s not hard to see why they’ve become so popular. Larger specimens are incredibly sculptural and make a fantastic focal point in any room.
In the right conditions, even the smallest example can grow from a foot-tall desk plant to a full-size tree but, unlike your monstera or your pothos plant, they’re not indestructible. Thankfully, whatever the size of your fiddle leaf, following some simple tips will keep you both happy.
|Scientific name||Ficus Lyrata|
|AKA||Fiddle Leaf Fig|
|Similar to||Ficus Audrey|
|Native to||West Africa|
|Shape||Grows as a single trunk until you take action to make it branch.|
|Maximum size||10’ indoors|
|Watering requirements||Moderate (allow the top of the soil to dry first)|
|Light requirements||Bright, indirect light, tolerates moderate direct light|
|Preferred temperature||60 – 75F (15.5 – 24C)|
|Soil||Well draining peaty potting soil with optional extra gravel.|
|Fertilizer||NPK balanced fertilizer for leafy green plants|
|Propagation method||Leaf and stem cuttings|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans and pets.|
|Vulnerable to||Mealybug, white fly, aphids|
12 Best Fiddle Leaf Fig Caring Tips for 2019
Take Care When Watering
Caring for your fiddle leaf fig is easier if you remember that it comes from central and west Africa. This means that it’s used to living through alternating spells of dry weather and heavy rain, relying on its deep roots to drink water from the soil. If you can replicate these conditions at home, you’ll have a happy plant.
It’s best to wait until the top 2 inches of soil are dry before you water the plant, then soak it.
Choose the Right Water Temperature
This is a rainforest plant. It’s easy to shock it if you give it something other than the warm rain and humidity that it’s used to. When you’re watering your plant, always use lukewarm rather than cold water.
If you can plan ahead, it’s even better to use water at room temperature. Try filling your watering can in advance and leaving it for a day or so to come to the same ambient temperature as the soil.
Find the Right Light Source
You’ve guessed it – the fiddle leaf wants its light to be just right. Not too much, not too little, and never in a dark corner.
Looking after your plant usually means choosing a south or west-facing spot where it can enjoy ambient, but not direct, sunlight. The extreme summer temperatures of a windowsill will bake the plant, dry out the soil too quickly, and cause the leaves to spot and brown.
Find the Right Place, Draft and Humidity
Before you purchase your new plant, make sure its future home is completely free from drafts. These plants hate the cracks in window frames, but you should also be sure to keep them away from external doors and even air vents in your home.
Cold drafts can shock the plant and lower the humidity of the room, both of which the fiddle leaf hates. Living in these conditions for too long is a problem that is sure to damage its foliage.
Wipe Down the Leaves
The rigid, waxy leaves of Ficus Lyrata are beautifully glossy but they soon attract dust. This means you’ve got another chore to add to your list.
Every three months, you should bathe your fiddle leaf fig. Rinsing the leaves gently with room temperature water means that dust is removed from their pores, allowing them to absorb light and photosynthesize much more efficiently. Bath time is also a great opportunity to check your plant for pests.
Check for Browning
Leaf browning is a common problem for fiddle leaf figs. It can indicate issues from lack of humidity, to root rot, to the wrong watering regime, to pests. It’s a sign that your plant needs more attention, but it’s sometimes hard to tell what the problem is.
It’s a good idea to check the leaves of your plant for damage at each watering. This way, you’ll be in a good position to deal with any problems as they arise.
Be Careful When Repotting
Repotting is an essential task when caring for your fiddle leaf, and you should aim to repot your new plant soon after you bring it home. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to upset the plant when doing so. To minimize stress for everyone involved, the new pot should have plenty of drainage holes and be about 4 inches larger than the previous one.
When you repot, be careful not to damage the roots. Use scissors to cut away the old pot if you have to.
Fiddle leaf figs are particularly vulnerable to pests. After all, the right spot for the fig – consistently warm, sunny and humid – is also an attractive environment for mealybugs, whitefly and aphids.
Even a few of these bugs can suck the sap from the leaves and cause spotting, deformed leaves and, eventually, leaf death. A good first line of defense is to wash the leaves with soapy water at the first sign of pests.
Use the Right Soil
Your fiddle leaf needs a well-draining compost to allow air to circulate the roots. Thankfully, a regular house plant mix will be fine. Unlike orchids or succulents, there’s no need to buy a special kind of compost.
Consider adding a few handfuls of gravel to the bottom of the pot for extra drainage and make sure that you never compact the soil too much when repotting. This way, you’ll keep your plant happy and encourage maximum growth.
Use Fertilizers and Plant Food
Fiddle leaf figs need to be fed if you want them to grow quickly. It’s best to choose a water-soluble fertilizer rather than a fertilizer stick, as the nutrients are then distributed throughout the soil. The best time to feed them is in spring and then every month until the end of the growing season.
Never make the fertilizer solution stronger than advised. You’re a lot more likely to kill your plant than to make it grow faster.
Talk to Your Plant and Give it a Name
More than almost any other house plant, a fiddle leaf fig has a personality of its own. They’re persnickety, they’re protective of their favorite spot, and the shapes they can grow into range from tall and gangly to leafy and dense. It should be easy to find a name to match their personality and start a conversation.
I called mine Bobby and Antoni after two of the Queer Eye Fab Five. If my collection grows, maybe I’ll complete the set next year.
Don’t Stress Out
It’s true that, despite their popularity, these are fussy plants. You’re just as likely to kill them by caring too much as by neglecting them. But if you listen to your plant, the two of you should get along fine.
So instead of stressing, enjoy getting to know your new friend. In the frustrating moments, picture your room a few years down the line when your plant has grown to a majestic tree right out of the pages of a magazine.
Trimming to Promote New Growth for the Fiddle
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Do fiddle leaf figs need direct sunlight?
They can tolerate some direct sunlight, but it’s not their favorite place to be. The plant prefers steady, ambient light, so it’s a good idea to place them near a south or west-facing window but not directly in the sun. If you must, they can stand direct sunlight for up to 6 hours per day.
These plants are creatures of habit and the best thing you can do for them is to find a spot where the conditions are as constant as possible throughout the day. One thing you should never do is put your plant in low-light.
Can my plant go outside?
Given the right conditions, of course you can care for your fiddle leaf fig outside. If you find it just the right spot, it might even behave like it does in its native habitat and grow to over 40 feet tall. To avoid any problems, though, your garden should be completely frost-free and never below 50 at night.
You should also be careful on summer days. Don’t let your plant become too hot too quickly and water it regularly so the roots have a constant supply of moisture. Just like when you keep it as a house-plant, you should also be vigilant about the amount of direct sunlight it receives.
Why do the leaves turn brown?
If your fiddle leaf fig is starting to develop brown leaves, you have some homework to do. There’s a long list of possible causes, but the most common are to do with light and water.
Generally, if the leaves are browning at the edges, the problem is water. If only the lower leaves are affected, it’s a sign of root rot caused by overwatering. If all of the leaves are turning crispy, it’s more likely that the plant is thirsty. Unhappy leaves turning brown in the center indicate that the plant is getting too much light and could benefit from some extra humidity.
What’s the difference between a fiddle leaf bush and a tree?
It can cost hundreds of dollars to purchase an established fiddle leaf tree, so you’ll probably find yourself encouraging a smaller plant to grow tall. Left alone, Ficus Lyrata tends to grow straight up, but you can either snip the new growth or notch the stem to encourage branching.
To notch, decide where you would like a new branch to grow and use a clean knife to cut 1/8 into the stem above a node. A new branch should sprout from the node. When your plant is looking especially healthy, you can then remove the lower leaves.
Should I mist my plant?
Misting is an essential chore when you’re looking after any rainforest plant, especially in the winter. Fiddle leafs are happiest at 65% humidity, which is much higher than most homes.
The best way to mist is to fill a spray bottle and leave it beside the plant. This way, you can mist it with room-temperature water regularly. It is especially important to mist your plant after you’ve dusted its leaves. If you can afford a humidifier for your plant, so much the better, but regular misting with a spray bottle should keep it happy too.
How long does it take for the plant to grow?
Indoors, most fiddle leafs will reach up to 10 feet tall. If they’re really happy, you may even find that they outgrow your house. Still, that’s going to take up to 15 years. Of course, you guys want to be together for that long, but if you’re waiting for a plant right out of a magazine, it can be hard to be patient.
These are not the fastest-growing plants, but with a fertilizing regime and the right conditions, you can expect the 18 inch bush you bought from the garden center to grow into a decently sized tree in 3 – 4 years.
Should I cut off brown spots off the leaves?
Brown spots on the foliage are not attractive, but you shouldn’t cut them off straight away. After all, the plant needs its leaves to photosynthesize. If you remove the leaves at the first sign of spotting, your plant is going to struggle to survive.
When the leaves turn brown, your plant is trying to tell you that it needs something, whether that’s water, fertilizer, light or pest control. The best thing to do is try to discern the problem, address it, and then wait until your plant has some healthy new growth before you pinch off the damaged leaves.
Are fiddle leaf fig toxic?
Yes. We’re not talking beautiful but deadly, but if you have children and pets in your home, you should be careful of them around any plant from the Ficus family, including your fiddle leaf fig.
Ingesting the plant won’t do lasting damage to a healthy adult, but the calcium oxalate crystals in the leaves are dangerous to cats, dogs, and small humans. Signs of a reaction include a burning, irritated mouth, difficulty swallowing, drooling and vomiting. If you suspect that your child or pet has eaten part of the plant, seek medical advice right away.