Updated: Feb 7
The Fiddle Leaf Fig is the most popular plant we get bookings about by far. So we've put together a quick guide that'll walk you through all the things to keep in mind while growing yours! To kick things off, here's a client call about a Fiddle Leaf Fig:
The Ficus Lyrata 'Fiddle Leaf Fig’ is a tropical strangler fig native to the rain forests of western and central Africa.
In the wild, the Fiddle Leaf Fig can grow up to 50 feet tall and 35 feet wide, the trunk can even grow up to several feet wide!
Since the Fiddle Leaf Fig is a tropical plant, it prefers warm, humid environments. Of course this is not the typical environment of our homes. The key to growing Fiddle Leaf Figs indoors is consistent environmental factors to help the plant acclimate to those conditions. There are parameters to those conditions though. For example, this plant should be kept in temperatures between 65-85°F and can die if these temperatures drop below 50°F.
If any sudden changes are made to the acclimated growing conditions, sudden leaf drop can occur. The plant dropping its leaves is a way for it to conserve energy to stay alive. Think of it as ‘survival mode’. Often, environmental changes indoors occur during the winter and summer months when the A/C is running often. It is important to keep plants away from vents or drafts as these drafts can dry out the foliage of the plant. Placing a humidifier near the Fiddle Leaf Fig will help keep its humidity levels up, especially during the winter months when the heater is running.
The Fiddle Leaf Fig needs quite a bit of light to grow healthily and to promote a fuller form. As a strangler fig, Ficus Lyrata often starts its life as an epiphyte high up in the branches of host trees. The fig will slowly send its roots down to the ground and strangle its host, taking over its place in the canopy. All that is to say that Ficus Lyrata, like all the strangler figs, loves light. It loves light so much it has evolved to avoid having to start life in the depths of the forest floor. Cater to your fig’s light-loving nature by keeping this plant in a room that gets the most sunlight, such as a room with a southern or western window.
This plant can acclimate to lower light conditions, but will develop a stretched look with few leaves. We often receive calls from new Fiddle Leaf Fig owners worried about the leaf drop. This leaf drop will almost always occur as the plant is usually grown in a bright nursery in a greenhouse and it is transitioning from this into an indoor home with less light (regardless of how bright it is). The best course of action here is to let your plant acclimate to its new lighting conditions. Remember you will grow new leaves when your plant is in its active growth phase that will be acclimated to your home.
In hardiness zones 10b-11 (southern parts of U.S. states including Florida, Texas and California), the Fiddle Leaf Fig can be grown outdoors in partial shade to full sun once acclimated. Placing the plant outside without first acclimating it can cause sun scorch to the leaves. To acclimate, begin slowly introducing the plant to more sunlight each week.
Aside from temperature, watering is another big factor in this plant’s health. The Fiddle Leaf Fig is a somewhat drought resistant plant, but ideally the soil should be kept at a moist level. In order for roots to stay healthy, it is important that they do not dry out. Dry roots are not able to take up soil nutrients properly, which will eventually lead to the plant becoming nutrient deficient.
It is important to get on a consistent watering schedule and don’t make any sudden changes to this schedule. A moisture meter is a helpful tool in determining when to water again https://amzn.to/3j2qCzm. Most of these meters have a gauge of readings: ‘dry’, ‘moist’ and ‘wet’. Water when the meter reads between ‘dry’ and ‘moist’, but avoid a ‘wet’ level.
Watering frequency may fluctuate seasonally and depending on the warmth and humidity levels in the home. Keep in mind that the less sunlight the plant receives, the less water the roots take up and therefore less watering should be done. This is often the case during the fall and winter months.
A common problem with watering the Fiddle Leaf Fig is over watering. Over watering causes the roots to sit in water, eventually drowning them. These roots will eventually die and begin to rot. If the rot is not removed, it can spread to the rest of the plant’s root system, eventually leading to the death of the plant.
If you have just purchased your Fiddle Leaf Fig, chances are you will see some leaf drop as the plant is acclimating to your home from a bright nursery where it received more light. Keep in mind that this is normal, and do insure that you water your plant less if there is significant leaf drop. This is because your plants will have less leaves from which to transpire its water from.
Signs of Over Watering
Signs of over watering in the Fiddle Leaf Fig are browning or yellowing that begins at the mid-vein in the center of the leaves, followed by leaf drop. To correct any root rot that might have developed, the roots will have to be examined. If this is the case we're more than happy to verify root health for you by booking a quick checkup. The roots should look white and be solid to the touch. Black, mushy roots should be removed. A beneficial fungi called Trichoderma can be used as a root drench which may be able to stop the spread of root rot, but removing rot and correcting over watering is the best bet https://amzn.to/3LFqyBR.
Signs of Under Watering
Fiddle Leaf Figs that go too long with completely dry soils will develop leaf droop and eventually dry, browning on the edges of the leaves, followed by leaf drop. It is important not to let the soil completely dry out for more than a day or two to prevent these symptoms. The roots can eventually die if left too long without water.
Although the Fiddle Leaf Figs can grow to be enormous in their natural, rain forest environment, they grow much smaller when potted inside our homes. However, given a large enough pot and high ceilings, these plants can still grow to be quite large.
We often get questions about how to get the branches on the Fiddle Leaf Fig under control as they tend to have long, winding branches that can take up quite a bit of room. This is especially true in low light conditions that cause the plant to reach for sunlight. Spacing between each leaf set will become wider as the plant stretches for the light.
The best way to get a Fiddle Leaf Fig under control before it gets too big is to vertically train each branch by placing a thick support post in the pot and tying the branches to the post with garden tape. When placing the post in the pot, be careful not to damage too many roots by slowing working the post into the soil. This is best done after watering when the soil and roots are loose.
Rotating the plant regularly can also help with more even growth and prevent some parts of the canopy from getting too little light.
Pruning a Fiddle Leaf Fig is an option if the stems begin to take up too much room or if the stems don’t have much leaf growth. When pruning, make a clean cut right above a node. A node is where new leaves and branches form. The part of the branch that has been cut off can be propagated by placing in water or soil until roots form. Using a rooting hormone when propagating can add a quicker and better success rate to cuttings. Clonex is one of the best rooting hormones on the market https://amzn.to/3s7VPpD.
Fungal & Bacterial Infections
Foliage bacterial or fungal infections are common on the Fiddle Leaf Fig. Symptoms of infection are necrotic lesions or yellow ‘halo-like’ spots on the leaves followed by leaf drop. These fungal spores could have already been on the plant when purchased or may be living in the soil and can be easily spread in warm, high humidity environments with little air flow. Infections can be treated with a copper foliage spray. https://amzn.to/3Gdq56M
Insect infestations are another common problem to look for on the Fiddle Leaf Fig. These pests can include aphids, mealy bugs, mites, scale, and whitefly.
These insects often live on the underside of leaves. Symptoms are tiny, white or brown dotting on the top of the leaves or a sticky residue from the insects sucking the sap out of the leaves.
Insects are best treated with horticultural oil that suffocates the insects. https://amzn.to/3uafo2k.
Our specialists can inspect your plants for insect damage and correct course of action as well, feel free to book an appointment here.
As a general rule, plants should only need to be re-potted once every 1.5-2 years in the spring. When upgrading the pot size, only go 2” larger in diameter. A pot that is too large can create an over watering issue because the roots take longer to fill out in the soil, allowing moisture to sit at the bottom of the pot. Plant roots need oxygen to breath and if they are sitting in too much water, they will essentially drown and begin to rot.
Make sure to massage the root ball of The Fiddle Leaf Fig to allow the plant’s roots to spread out into the new soil easier. Any general purpose potting soil will work, but keep in mind that organic potting soils may contain insect larvae, such as fungal gnats that can create further issues. The warm, moist environment in bags of organic soil is the perfect environment for insects to live. Chemically treated potting soils such as Miraclo Gro are less likely to contain insect larvae.
Since the Fiddle Leaf Fig has such large foliage and stem growth, fertilize with a high phosphorus fertilizer such as Osmocote ‘Flower & Vegetable’ https://amzn.to/3J9SbBe. This is a granular, slow release fertilizer that should be applied once every six months in the spring and fall.
If using other fertilizers, look for the N-P-K percentage. This is Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium. Osmocote 'Flower & Vegetable' has an N-P-K ratio of 14-14-14. The higher these numbers, the higher the content of the nutrients. This means there is 14% of each nutrient per weight.
Getting personalized help for your Fiddle Leaf
If you have anymore questions about how to care for a Fiddle Leaf Fig, we will be happy to assist you in a virtual telehealth appointment with one of our Plant Specialists. Please click on one of the options below to book an appointment.