How to Care for a Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata)

By: Matt Slaymaker
January 18, 2024
Fiddle Leaf Fig Care
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A fiddle leaf fig (Ficus Lyrata) is popular among plant enthusiasts for its striking, giant violin-shaped leaves, despite the fact that it’s a tricky plant to keep. Besides being finicky, the plant is highly susceptible to environmental and seasonal changes, as well. Thus, it's crucial to provide the right conditions for its optimal growth. This includes proper sunlight exposure, well-draining soil, and a balanced watering routine, as discussed in this comprehensive fiddle leaf fig care guide. 

So, keep reading to find out how to care for a fiddle leaf fig in the right way! You'll also learn about some common issues you may encounter with your plant's maintenance and how to resolve them.

What Is a Fiddle Leaf Fig?

What Is a Fiddle Leaf Fig

Fiddle leaf fig is a flowering plant from the mulberry family, Moraceae. It’s native to western Africa, where it grows up to a height of 12 to 15 m (or 39 to 49 ft.) in lowland tropical rainforests. It has multiple stems and large wavy leaves that resemble a fiddle, hence the name.

Is a Fiddle Leaf Fig an Indoor Plant?

Yes, a fiddle-leaf fig is an indoor plant. It grows relatively slow and reach about 5 m in height indoors. However, the plant can be also grown outdoors in a tropical or semi-tropical climate, with no risk of frosty weather.

Benefits of a Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree

Owning a fiddle leaf fig not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of your interior space but can also improve the indoor air quality.  

  • Air-purifiers: A study by NASA found that houseplants like fiddle leaf figs have great  air-purifying properties. 
  • Better mental health: The plant’s therapeutic qualities include effective stress management and mental well-being. 
  • Enhanced productivity: Ficus lyrata can improve your overall focus and concentration, thus increasing productivity. 
  • Noise reduction: The giant leaves, stems, and branches of the plant are also great at absorbing sound waves, making your surroundings more peaceful and quieter. 
  • Improved mood: The fiddle leaf fig tree can help boost your mood and attract positive energy into your home or office.

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How to Care for a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree? 

How to Care for a Fiddle Leaf Fig

Now, let’s see what your fiddle leaf fig tree needs to grow strong and vibrant. This section covers everything you need to know about its care and maintenance, from the best soil type and fertilizer to its water and light requirements. 

Potting Your Fiddle Leaf Fig: What Is the Best Soil for a Fiddle Leaf Fig? 

A well-draining potting soil is perfect for your fiddle leaf fig. You can use a ready-made soil mix or augment universal potting soil with a one-third to one-half cactus potting mix.

This will improve drainage and aeration around the roots, preventing waterlogging and root root, as well as reducing the risk of fungal and bacterial issues. 

How Big of a Pot Do I Need for My Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree?

If you’ve just brought a fiddle leaf fig into your home, consider getting a bigger pot and repotting the plant as soon as possible. The best pot for your fiddle leaf fig tree is one that’s at least 3” to 4” wider in diameter and ½” or two taller than its current container. Note that these plants benefit from being repotted yearly, unlike other houseplants, which can be transplanted every two years. 

How Often Do You Fertilize Fiddle Leaf Figs?

You can fertilize fiddle leaf figs once every few months with a pellet fertilizer and once or twice a month with a liquid one in the growing season. There’s no need to feed your plant in the fall and winter.

How Often to Water a Fiddle Leaf Fig? 

Watering a Fiddle Leaf Fig

The best way to know when to water your fiddle leaf fig is if you use a digital moisture meter. When the meter reads between a 3 and 4, this is the right time to hydrate your tree. Alternatively, you can stick your finger into the soil and if the top two inches are dry, you’re good to go and water your fiddle leaf fig. Note that these plants prefer the same amount of water at regular intervals. Also, be sure to dump any excess water that pools in the drainage tray to avoid overwatering and root rot.  

Being finicky about their watering is the main reason why fiddle leaf figs have taken on the nickname fickle leaf fig, so do pay attention to this aspect of their care routine!

Should I Bottom Water My Fiddle Leaf Fig?

You can bottom water your fiddle leaf fig with caution. While the bottom parts of the roots will easily get the hydration they need, the plant’s upper roots may dry out. This also leads to a buildup of salts and minerals in the soil, which may have adverse effects on the well-being of your fiddle leaf fig.

So, it’s best if you don’t bottom water your fiddle leaf fig exclusively but alternate with watering it over the soil, as well.

Fiddle Leaf Fig: Light Requirements

Fiddle Leaf Fig Light Requirements

The giant, heavily veined, and glossy violin-shaped leaves of a fiddle-leaf fig tree are one of its main attractions and signature. As a result, it requires consistent sunlight, however, avoid placing it in direct light. 

An unobstructed south-facing window is a good spot for your capricious tropical beauty. It’s good to point out that this plant doesn’t appreciate to be moved. 

Best Light for a Fiddle-Leaf Fig

Steady, bright, indirect sunlight is the best light for a fiddle-leaf fig. It’s recommended to regularly rotate it (90 degrees every one to three weeks) so that the plant continues to grow straight up.

Now that we’ve established that the picky fiddle leaf fig is not an easy-to-care-for plant, always allow it to adapt to its surroundings so that it doesn’t get stressed. 

Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree: Temperature and Humidity

Fiddle leaf fig trees prefer a temperature range of 65°F to 85°F (or 18°C to 30°C). This tropical plant can’t tolerate cold temperatures well or survive prolonged freezes. Therefore, avoid letting temperatures drop below 60°F (or 15°C). 

The plant enjoys high humidity, so misting it occasionally in dry weather will be beneficial.  

How Cold Is Too Cold for a Fiddle Leaf Fig?

Any temperature under 60°F (or 18°C) is too cold for a fiddle leaf fig. Exposing the plant to such cool conditions may result in leaf drooping and falling off, and overall shock.  

How to Prune a Fiddle Leaf Fig?

You should remove damaged leaves near the stem base with sharp sterilized scissors or shears. To stimulate new growth, prune the fiddle leaf fig by cutting between two nodes. You can make the plant bushier this way, as it will branch into two stems and grow new leaves. 

Although fiddle leaf figs are not exceptionally fast growers, they can get very large over time, reaching a height of up to 6 feet. So, it’s up to you to choose whether you want to prune the plant to promote horizonal rather than vertical growth. You can use the pruned stems for propagation.

Last but not least, clean the dust of your fiddle leaf fig regularly to facilitate photosynthesis. 

When to Prune a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree? 

In general, a fiddle-leaf fig must be pruned in early spring or summer. This is the time of the year when it produces new foliage, and there’s plenty of sunlight to stimulate new growth.

Propagating Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree

Fiddle-leaf fig trees can be propagated using three methods - in soil, water and by air-layering.   

In soil: The best and most common way to propagate your fiddle leaf fig is by rooting a stem cutting in soil. Cut a branch of your plant using a pair of sterilized sharp shears, ensuring at least 3-4 nodes along the stem. Let this cutting sit in rooting hormone while you prepare the potting container with a well-draining soil mix. Once done, plant the branch into this pot, covering it with a plastic sheet to increase humidity. 

In water: The next propagation method involves root the cutting in water. For this, fill a glass container with fresh water of room temperature and place the cutting in it. Wait for a few weeks for the roots to grow at least an inch or two before transferring the cutting into a pot. 

Fiddle Leaf Fig Propagation in Water
Source: Reddit


Air layering : The third propagation technique is probably for the expert plant enthusiasts. Cut a healthy stem by making a small upward cut and dip the exposed area in the rooting hormone. Wrap this section of your ficus lyrata with moist sphagnum moss, covering it with plastic wrap, and securing the ends. After roots emerge, cut below the moss-covered section, and plant it in soil.

Fiddle Leaf Fig: Common Problems & Solutions

Fiddle Leaf Fig Common Issues
Source: Reddit

Being sensitive plants, fiddle leaf figs immediately give cues of distress when something is wrong. For example:  

  • Dropping leaves - This might be in response to abrupt changes in temperature, humidity, or light. Ensuring a consistent environment for your fiddle leaf fig throughout the year can fix this issue. 
  • Brown and crispy leaf tips - This is another common issue, which is primarily caused by underwatering. This thirsty plant from South America prefers regular watering or when the top 2” of its soil has dried out.
  • Overwatering - Giving too much water to your fiddle leaf fig isn’t a good idea, either. This not only leads to yellowing leaves but also root rot, pest infestations, etc. Hence, avoid overwatering your ficus lyrata to ensure its good health. 
  • Nutrient deficiency - Sometimes, certain sections of the leaves may exhibit yellow patches, indicating that the plant is deficient in vital minerals. Following a regular fertilization routine is the most effective solution to this problem.
  • Inconsistent light exposure - If exposed to uneven sunlight, fiddle leaf figs can start leaning to one side, leading to lopsidedness. Luckily, the fix is straightforward. Rotate the pot once a week or every two weeks to ensure that the entire plant gets sunlight evenly throughout the year. 

Fiddle Leaf Fig Care: FAQs

Q: How long will a fiddle leaf fig live?

A: In general, fiddle leaf figs have a lifespan between 25 to 50 years. If grown indoors, they may live up to 15 years before reaching maturity. 

Q: Can you put a fiddle leaf fig outside?

A: Yes, you can put your fiddle leaf fig outside, provided you live in a tropical or semi-tropical climate, close to the plant’s natural environment. 

Q: How to care for a fiddle leaf fig in winter?

A: Take care of a fiddle leaf fig plant in winter by following these tips: 

  • Ensure the temperature doesn't fall below 60°F (or 15°C).
  • Simulate sunlight with grow lights to give your ficus lyrata the energy to survive cooler weather.
  • Overwatering is a strict NO! 
  • Consider running a humidifier or putting out pebble trays to boost indoor humidity levels. 

Q: Is a fiddle leaf fig tree toxic to cats and dogs?

A: Yes, a fiddle leaf fig is toxic to cats and dogs. Its leaves and stems contain a thick white sap that’s high in sharp-edged calcium oxalate crystals, which can irritate the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestinal tract of your pets if they ingest or come in contact with it. You can consider growing the pet-friendly money tree instead if you can't keep the ficus lyrata out of reach from your furry friends.

Conclusion

Cultivating a healthy fiddle leaf fig involves a delicate balance of attentive care and favorable conditions. Ensure optimal environment for your plant by providing bright, indirect sunlight, well-draining loamy soil, and a consistent watering routine. Regularly dusting your ficus lyrata’s broad leaves and monitoring them for pests further promotes its growth and vibrancy. 

Are you looking for some good companion plants for your fiddle leaf fig tree? If so, consider adding a rubber tree, snake plant, and Chinese Evergreen to your indoor garden.