Fiddle leaf fig or Ficus lyrata are a firm favorite for many plant nerds like me because of their impressive size and color. These plants can grow enormous even inside and are quite trendy right now whilst staying affordable. In fact I bought one about 80cm tall for just $8 from the grocery store!
The fiddle leaf fig tree is a little bit … picky shall we say? It’s known for being a touch dramatic so I’m going to walk you through the major mistakes to avoid and a few of my secret tips for a happy fig plant. Don’t worry though I’ll also be laying out basic care guides as well!
Table of Contents
- A Quick Care Guide
- What Are Some Fiddle Leaf Fig Varieties?
- What Equipment is Recommended?
- What Are the Light Requirements?
- When Should I Water?
- What is A Good Level of Humidity?
- How to Fertilize Your Fig Plant?
- What Are Some Pests and Problems?
- How Does Soil Propagating Work?
- Any Other Useful Tips?
- About Ficus Lyrata
How to Care for Fiddle Leaf Fig (FLF): A Quick Guide
A whistle stop tour of looking after the fig tree indoors:
|Light||Bright light but not too much strong sunlight|
|Watering||FLF hate wet feet so wait until the soil is dry to water|
|Humidity||LOVES it, use a humidifier if you can|
|Extra tips||Shake the tree gently to help strengthen the trunk and dust the leaves or their pores get blocked|
What Are Some Fiddle Leaf Fig Varieties?
Fiddle leaf fig – Ficus Lyrata
Your standard FLF with large, impressive leaves that can grow up to 10 feet tall indoors as either a tree shape or a bush shape.
Dwarf FLF – Ficus Lyrata Bambino
The bambino version of a FLF grows to only 2-3 feet tall. It also has smaller, rounder leaves than the traditional FLF making it a great option for people who don’t have as much space in their homes.
To know if your plant is a bambino examine the foliage, bambino leaves are thicker, rounder. They are held more upright than the traditional fiddle leaf fig leaves are. Bambino plants grow their leaves with less distance between them so are bushier and more compact.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Compacta – Ficus Lyrata Compacta
This is a mid-size cultivar which reaches around 4 feet at maturity, the foliage resembles a traditional FLF a bit more closely. It’s basically a great compromise!
Variegated FLF – Ficus Lyrata Variegata
Leaves on this cultivar of fiddle leaf fig are absolutely beautiful. I’m not ashamed to say I would give organs to come into ownership of this particular plant.
All of these types of fiddle leaf fig need basically the same care except the variegated plant which is going to require just a little more sun in order to maintain the pattern on its leaves.
It’s quite easy to find the traditional varieties of fiddle leaf fig (compacta and bambino). However the variegated one is much harder to come by. I’ve actually never seen one in a plant shop before so either ask your nursery if they can order you one in or check on sites like facebook marketplace or etsy as they are sometimes listed.
What Equipment is Recommended?
Normally, I would say the only thing you really need to grow a plant is some water and some soil – if you’re feeling fancy. Plants are so versatile and resilient you can grow them everywhere with no need to buy more stuff.
Except with this plant.
Because they’re so particular about the conditions they want to grow in there’s a few bits that can really help you out, no they’re not necessary at all but will make your life easier for sure.
Fiddle leaf fig trees love humidity and will look a little rough around the edges if exposed to dry air too often. Here’s our top picks of humidifiers for your home if you’re in the market and need advice check it out. You can also mist the leaves of your plant but I find it relatively ineffective compared to an actual humidifier.
To help prevent pests and deal with them if you get unlucky.
Helps the soil drain a little better.
To keep the plant thriving.
So you don’t have to rely on your own judgment.
What Are the Light Requirements?
Since this plant comes from West Africa it likes a lot of sun – like a LOT! I have mine right by my south-facing window to try to replicate the tropical jungle environment. Remember, this advice changes depending on where you live – it’s always raining and gray in England for instance so my sunniest window only really provides a bit of direct sunlight.
An abundance of bright, indirect light is your best bet. Try not to move your plant around too much so consider where you’re going to grow this plant before buying it.
Like most plants Fiddle leaf figs adapt to their environment so can get used to more or less light than it previously had. It might just need some time. Here’s a guide to knowing where your plant is getting too much or little light.
|Too Much Light||Too Little Light|
|Stunted growth||Stunted growth/ leggy|
|Brown patches on leaves||Yellowing or pale leaves|
|Crispy leaves||Leaning towards the light|
You can certainly bring your plant outdoors for some more rays if the light inside your house just isn’t cutting it. Do keep in mind that the plant could get shock or sunburn from being moved too quickly. I’d recommend gradually increasing the sun exposure in order to acclimate the plant a bit better.
Overall lighting recommendations: every plant is different so the key thing is to provide your fiddle leaf fig with lots of bright light (a south facing window is ideal). Be mindful and watch out for the warning signs of too much or too little sun.
When Should I Water?
Not to sound like a broken record, but it’s all about balance when it comes to watering your fiddle. Like every plant it’s tough to give a definite guide of how often to water your fiddle leaf fig, but I’ll try my best.
You’ll want to water your fiddle leaf fig roughly every ten days. However it’ll vary depending on the size of your plant pot, the season, temperature, humidity, volume of water given each time, and amount of sunlight the plant gets.
Since they are native to rainforest environments they are used to receiving large quantities of water with dry spells between waterings. I like to water my Fiddle Leaf Fig in the shower with lukewarm water to replicate the rain. I give it a rinse for around a minute and then leave them in the shower to drain for a few hours to avoid dripping water on my floor.
My main piece of advice is to not stick rigidly to a schedule, whilst consistency is good for a plant it’s okay to wait longer to water or to water early when you think it’s appropriate.
Here’s a guide to how each factor affects the watering schedule:
|Factor||Increase or decrease in watering|
Extra tip: use lukewarm or room temperature water as cold water can shock the plant and cause leaf drop.
What is A Good Level of Humidity?
Fiddle leaf figs are going to want more humidity than is naturally available in your home, ideally around 30%-65%. Tons of people recommend misting but I strongly advise that you do not do this. Create a humid environment using a humidifier if need be, check out this guide for finding the best one 10 best humidifiers for plants
Misting encourages pests and sunburn by creating pools of stagnant water. I highly recommend you do not let any water sit in your plant or pot.
Alternatively, if you want to boost humidity in your home without spending any money on a humidifier there’s a few DIY tricks. Grouping plants together – plants lose moisture in their leaves, by grouping many plants together they create a more humid microclimate.
Here are the main signs your fiddle leaf fig plant needs more humidity:
- Brown edges/ crispy leaves
- Dull color
- Yellow leaves
- Stunted Growth
How to Fertilize Your Fig Plant?
Since these plants are so finicky, a company has even made a fiddle leaf fig specific fertilizer which you can buy online. From what I’ve read this fertilizer works really well and a lot of people have seen lots of new growth from having used it. The reviews all say it is well worth the money.
The key thing about fertilizer for a fiddle leaf fig is all about the N-P-K ratio. Every fertilizer on the market has nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, in different volumes, with each nutrient performing a different function. In the wild, nutrients are added to the soil when plant and animal matter break down, as this doesn’t happen in potted soil it is important to add some in manually.
Fiddle leaf figs do best when given a fertilizer with a 3-1-2 ratio, meaning 3% nitrogen, 1% phosphorus and 2% potassium. This is because ficus lyrata love nitrogen so a 9-3-6 fertilizer also works. Those who are handy at math have probably noticed that’s the same ratio. The difference is just in concentration, which will be reflected in the instructions of how diluted to make the fertilizer.
The other thing to consider is liquid fertilizer versus granules.
Overview of Fertilizers:
|Liquid||Easier to control and use||Needs to be use more often|
|Better for young plants as they have a lower salt content||Harder to keep track of|
|The nutrients are more mobile so can reach the roots more easily|
|Granules/ Pellets||Cheaper||Less control over the nutrients|
|Easier to store||Harder to use|
|Needs using less frequently|
Make sure to never combine both types of fertilizers!
When should I fertilize?
I recommend fertilizing only during the active growth season which is spring and summer/ april to september.
Personally, I use a dilute liquid houseplant fertilizer which I mix into the water every time I water my plants. Make sure to follow the instructions on the label of whichever fertilizer you chose to buy because they’re all slightly different.
What Are Some Pests and Problems?
Luckily these plants aren’t particularly known for serious pest issues. However they can be affected by spider mites or bacterial and fungal infections.
Here’s a breakdown of each potential issue as well as how to identify and solve it:
|Symptoms||Potential Causes||How to solve|
|Dropping leaves||Too much or too little water Extreme changes especially changes in temperature||Reduce the frequency of wateringInvest in a 3-1 moisture, humidity and temperature probe to check the growing conditions for your plant|
|Yellow leaves||Bacterial infectionNutrient deficiency||Remove any affected leaves and start fertilizing your plant|
|Brown leaves||Root rot|
|Check the roots, any mushy or dead roots should be removed. It might be necessary to repot the plant into dry soil depending on how bad the situation is.|
Ensure the plant isn’t near any central heating or air conditioning units
Move the plant away from the light source if brown spots continue to appear after trying the first two steps and if the brown spots are accompanied by dry, crispy leaves
Overwintering Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
As the seasons change, your plant will be receiving a lot less light and be enduring much colder temperatures. This calls for a change in how you care for your plant. The key things are compensating for seasonal changes in the environment – watch out for negative effects of the way you look after yourself in the winter.
If you use central heating then consider this a PSA. It’s really important to move your plants (all of them, not just fiddle leaf figs) away from blasts of air/ radiators/ fireplaces.
Using any kind of indoor heating will also dry out your air, which can negatively affect plants so consider using your humidifier for longer periods of time during winter.
To begin compensating for the cold weather, reduce your watering as the temperature is lower and the plant is receiving less light they will be photosynthesising less. This means they need less water than they need in the seasons of active growth. Water your FLF around every two to three weeks.
Another way to adjust the plant care is to stop fertilizing the plants, again this is just because the plant is not actively growing it is not using as many nutrients so does not need extra fertilizer. Too much fertilizing leads to growth which is unsustainable and then death.
You might also consider investing in a grow light for your houseplants, if you have one already I would recommend using it more in the Winter to compensate for the lack of sunlight.
If you keep your fiddle leaf fig outside during the summer I would personally recommend bringing the plant inside, but this depends on the weather where you live.
If you are planning on bringing your plant indoors try acclimating it in advance by moving the plant into a shadier spot, outside, ahead of time. Don’t panic if there is some leaf drop, unfortunately it may be unavoidable.
Pruning and Branching
Pruning your fiddle leaf fig is important for a few different reasons, it helps to keep the plant healthy and reduces unwanted growth. Here are some of the main benefits to pruning the plant!
Improving the Overall Health of Your Plant
By removing dead or damaged plant tissue you prevent infection spreading throughout the plant and reduce the strain on the plant from supporting diseased growth. I remove damaged or diseased growth any time I see it, no matter what season it is.
Keep the Plant an Appropriate Size for Your Space
You may have seen the phrase that the only thing worse than a sick fiddle leaf fig is a healthy fiddle leaf fig! Some growers complain that their plants quickly outgrow their homes. Root pruning can be a great alternative to pruning the tip of the plant – I’ll explain the step by step of pruning processes in a minute.
Helps to Create a Bushier Plant
If you’re looking for a bushier, fuller look for your fiddle leaf fig then I recommend pruning the top of the plant to help encourage side shoots. Alternatively, you can remove any lower leaves and side growth to create a more tree-like look – whatever floats your boat!
Here’s My Guide on Pruning Your Fiddle Leaf Fig:
Decide your goals, think what shape you are ultimately going to want your fiddle leaf fig to be, you can’t undo what has been done when it comes to pruning.
Try to remove any damaged parts of the plant and aim to reduce crowding if necessary.
Use a sharp and clean tool when pruning in order to minimize damage to the plant and decrease the likelihood of infection. I’d also recommend leaving around half an inch between the cut you are going to make and the trunk to reduce the chances of infection to the main trunk.
Always try to cut off less than 10% of the plant’s overall mass in order to avoid shocking the plant.
If you make any large cuttings you might want to try your hand at propagating!
Propagating a Fiddle Leaf Fig
Now, truthfully, this isn’t a particularly easy one to propagate but it is definitely doable. Here is the best method, in my opinion, to propagate a fiddle leaf fig and not end up with a zombie fig leaf.
How Does Soil Propagating Work?
Take any kind of plastic container, as long as it has some kind of drainage, an actual nursery pot works but so does an old yogurt pot that you cut a hole in. Fill it with a soil mix which is well draining but also retains moisture. It needs to be heavy enough to hold water but not as much as regular soil since the cutting won’t have roots. Something like sphagnum moss is a popular choice and it’s easy to find.
Take a cutting from the mother plant, I like to cut at an angle using sharp, sterile tools. To actually grow your FLF cutting into a full plant you’ll need at least three nodes in the cutting. Dip the cutting into a rooting hormone which makes the plant more likely to succeed by providing hormones which stimulate root development.
Water the soil well, by watering before you put the cutting in you avoid the rooting hormone being immediately washed away and it also helps to hold the soil in place so it can support the cutting a bit better.
Use a chopstick or a finger to make a hole in the soil to put the cutting, this helps to prevent damage to the plant when putting it in the soil. Cover the cutting with a clear plastic bag or sheet and mist it regularly. We want the humidity to be super high around the new cuttings since the cutting doesn’t have roots so it is hard to replace the water lost through transpiration .
Around 4-6 weeks later you should notice new growth and rooting.
Any Other Useful Tips?
Here are some of the less talked about tips for keeping your fiddle leaf fig plant happy
Shaking the Trunk
By shaking (gently) the trunk of the fiddle leaf fig you help to simulate its natural environment where the wind would blow the tree. It helps to strengthen the trunk which is very important for long term stability.
Houseplants can grow quite weak over time from the lack of wind and may reach a point where they cannot support their new growth. Simulating the wind will also encourage the plant to strengthen its root system which aids in water and nutrient absorption – so a double win!
Once a week for just a minute or two is plenty.
Rotating the Plant
I always try to rotate the plant on a regular basis to avoid a wonky, leaning plant. They stretch towards the light and if left unattended they can lean so far that they fall over.
Dust the Leaves
Whenever I tell people I’m dusting my plants they look at me like I’m absolutely a weirdo – obviously true but not for this reason. Plants have these holes in the leaves where they do gas exchange and lose water – like pores that we have in our skin. Dust can block these holes (called stomata) and prevent the plant being able to photosynthesise. The dust also stops the plant from absorbing as much light as possible.
Use a damp cloth, like a microfibre towel or anything else that is gentle, to wipe the leaves.
Aerate the Soil
When the plants are shipped from growers to shops the soil is often compacted in order to avoid spilling it everywhere, this makes it harder for the water to evenly saturate the soil. I always recommend trying to loosen up the soil and break up any bigger pieces, as well as using perlite in the soil mix to help prevent root rot.
To do so, slowly insert something like a chopstick and give it a gentle wiggle, repeat this step a few times across the soil.
About the Ficus Lyrata
These plants aren’t epiphytes as adults (epiphytes are plants that grow on the surface of another plant and have aerial roots that take moisture from the air). However they do start their lives as one, on another tree, which it then strangles with its roots as it reaches maturity. They grow by landing as a seed on another tree where there’s loads of sunlight. Then the seed germinates and grows towards the ground, where it competes for sunlight.
They’ve been growing in the wild for millions of years and can grow to about 60 feet tall in the wild or 10 feet tall as a houseplant. In the wild they can also grow little green fruit, and they are in the family of fig and mulberry plants.
The fiddle leaf fig tree was named because of its thick, wide leaves which look like violins/fiddles.
Their wide leaves and slender trunks make them an interesting design piece and now they’re on everyone’s wish list (next time you’re watching a movie or show watch out for them because they’re actually everywhere).
FAQs About the Fiddle Leaf Fig
Can you over-fertilize a houseplant?
Yep – unfortunately this is 100% a possibility but it is not the end of the world. Here’s how to handle it if you have overdone it with the houseplant food.
Use a spoon or trowel to remove any mineral buildup left on the surface of the soil – this will be water soluble meaning the next time you water the plant it’ll get even more nutrients unless the deposit is removed. Aerate the soil gently and then thoroughly water to flush out excess minerals from the soil.
Does a fiddle leaf fig houseplant produce fruit?
Fiddle leaf figs will not produce fruit as a houseplant kept indoors.
How often do I water a fiddle leaf fig?
You’ll want to water your fiddle leaf fig roughly every ten days but it’ll vary depending on the size of your plant pot, the season, temperature, humidity, volume of water given each time, and amount of sunlight the plant gets.
Do fiddle leaf figs need direct sun?
Fiddle leaf figs LOVE sun. Providing it with a bunch of bright indirect light is best. Just remember that once you place it, it’s best to keep it where it is as these plants can adjust to the space where you put it.
Does fiddle leaf fig like to be misted?
It is not a good idea to mist your fiddle leaf fig. Since this plant loves the sun, the droplets on their leaves can act as a magnifying glass for the sun, burning the leaves!
Is a fiddle leaf fig easy to care for?
It’s known as the easiest houseplant to maintain. But if you remain consistent with it’s lighting, watering, and humidity, you’ll be all set. One trick I’ve learned is to regularly dust the leaves. This will help the photosynthesis process and will keep your fiddle leaf fig healthy and strong.
Think You Can Handle the Fancy Fiddle Leaf Fig?
To keep your fiddle leaf fig happy you’ll want to replicate their humid, warm, sunny environment in your own home. The major mistakes are overwatering, low humidity and not giving the plant enough attention – seriously! I recommend naming your plant (it’s “scientifically” proven that plants with names are happier), talking to it and giving it a lot of love!
And if you find a variegated fiddle leaf fig BUY IT or I will!
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