Open any home décor or interior design magazine and you will see dozens of rooms staged with fiddle leaf figs. These trees, scientifically known as ficus lyrata, are coveted for their sculptural form and large fiddle shaped leaves. Native to Africa, these stunners come from tropical rainforests, but with the right care, can also thrive in your home.
Being finicky about their watering is a main reason why fiddle leaf figs have taken on the nickname fickle leaf fig by many who care for them. If you have purchased our moisture meter, the best time to water is when the meter reads between a 3 and 4. Otherwise, you can stick your finger into the soil and if the top two inches are dry, it is time to water. These plants prefer the same amount of water at regular intervals. Yellowing leaves are signs of overwatering and root rot. Be sure to dump any excess water that pools in the drainage tray to avoid that fate. Brown spots on the edges of the leaves can be a sign of under-watering among other issues.
Sunlight and humidity
Sunlight is another care factor that fiddle leaf figs tend to be picky about. They do best in bright indirect light. If the plant receives too much direct light, the leaves will begin to turn yellow. If the tree is not receiving enough light, it will drop leaves.
When you place your fiddle leaf fig in a spot that you know gets bright indirect light, the best thing you can do for the plant is leave it. Fiddle leaf figs do not like to be moved, and need time to acclimate to new surroundings so if you are confident in the light situation, leave Figgy there for a while even if she drops a couple of leaves or does not show any signs of new growth. It is still okay and recommended to regularly rotate your fiddle leaf (90 degrees every one to three weeks) so that it continues to grow straight up.
Since these plants are tropical, they enjoy humidity, so regular misting is a good idea. Pebble trays or humidifiers are not usually necessary for these guys, but never hurt, especially if you live in an exceptionally dry climate.
You can propagate your fiddle leaf fig by cutting off the top and letting it root in water or planting it right away in soil and allowing it to establish itself. You should wait for your fiddle leaf fig to be a few feet high before you attempt to propagate it.
Benefits and toxicity
These amazing plants are known to purify air at an efficient rate because of the large surface area of their leaves. They are also known to moderate humidity in the surrounding areas.
Be aware when bringing one into your home that they are an eye irritant and the sap is toxic. Additionally, they can cause skin and gastrointestinal irritation to pets.
Cleaning and Pruning
The leaves on these plants act as huge solar panels for the plant. It is important that these leaves not be caked over in dirt or dust so that they can effectively do their job. To ensure the leaves stay clean wipe them down with a damp cloth every couple of weeks. You can also mix in a mild dish soap to prevent pests.
Although fiddle leaf figs are not exceptionally fast growers, they can get very large over time. When they reach a height of 5 to 6 feet you can choose to continue growing them for height, or prune them to promote branching and horizonal growth. One way to do this is to cut off leaves near the top of the tree where the stem/trunk is still green. Another option is to make a notch in the stem/trunk near a node with a pair of sharp shears. This notch should go one-fourth of the way through the trunk so that some white sap seeps out. If all goes well, a branch will begin to form from the node.
Fertilizer and type of soil
Any standard well-draining potting soil will work well for these guys. If you tend to overwater, mixing in 1/3 or 1⁄4 cactus and succulent soil is a good precaution to boost drainage.
When you first get your fiddle leaf fig, it likely does not need to be fertilized right away because the soil is still rich with nutrients. When the next growing season comes, you can fertilize with a fiddle leaf fig specific fertilizer or any house plant fertilizer mixed to the recommended strength.
Pests and problems
One important thing to note about fiddle leaf figs is that they do not like cold drafts. For this reason, it is best not to place them near an air conditioner, a window that is regularly opened and closed, or a door that opens to the outdoors.
They are susceptible to common house plant pests. If you notice signs of pests on your fiddle leaf, wipe down all of the leaves with a soapy cloth or a bit of neem oil.
If you are concerned that your fiddle leaf fig is suffering from root rot, take it out of the pot and inspect the roots. If they are firm and a whitish color, they are healthy. On the flip side, if the roots are brown and mushy, they are rotting. If this does happen to your fiddle leaf, do not panic. If caught early, the tree will make a full recovery. What you need to do is remove the tree from its pot and plant it in a new pot (or the same one cleaned) with completely fresh soil. After this, just make sure to cut back on watering.
When you first get your fiddle leaf fig, it is best to hold back on repotting. Ideally, you should wait a few months for your new plant to acclimate before you repot it. If the nursery pot bothers you during this time, a cover pot is a good alternative. This is when you place the nursery pot inside a slightly larger decorative pot so that it appears as though the plant is growing in the decorative pot.
You will know your fiddle leaf is ready for a larger pot when the roots peak out the drainage hole(s). It is best to wait until this happens to repot it, as they like to be fairly rootbound. When doing so, you should go up two inches in pot size so that your lovely fiddle leaf does not need to be repotted for another couple of years.
When you get your fiddle leaf fig home, you are taking ownership of a living, growing, and ever-changing sculpture. Beautiful yet moody, these guys can take some getting used to, but once you figure out their care they should thrive. Just remember to let your fiddle leaf acclimate and then wait for it to amaze you.