Fiddle Leaf Fig Care: Mastering the Diva of All Houseplants
Known for its showy foliage, the popular (and sometimes difficult) fiddle leaf fig requires specific care to look its impressive best.
If you’ve opened a design magazine or watched a home-improvement show lately, you have probably seen strategically placed fiddle leaf figs adorning stylish interiors. These large plants with enormous leaves make a statement. Even stuck in the corner of a room, they are an eye-catching feature.
These finicky beauties require special care to maintain them at their magnificent best, but once you become accustomed to their demands, they will flourish as healthy, happy additions to your home decor.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Care At a Glance
Common Name: Fiddle leaf fig, banjo fig
Scientific Name: Ficus lyrata
Soil: well-draining, pH 6 to 7
Light: bright, indirect light; morning sun is best
Water: thoroughly when the top 2 inches of soil becomes dry
Food: diluted 3-1-2 liquid fertilizer once a month during growing season; less in winter
Temperature and Humidity: consistent warmth between 65 and 75 degrees, high humidity
Propagation: stem cuttings in soil or water; air layering is an option for larger plants
Safety: the leaves are poisonous if ingested
Fiddle Leaf Fig Characteristics
Originally from Central and West Africa’s tropical regions, where they grow in lowland forests, the fiddle leaf fig plant belongs to the Ficus genus, one of about 850 species in the Moraceae family. In the wild, fiddle leaf figs are epiphytes that grow on top of other plants. Naturally, they do not like to be moved, so it’s best to find the right spot for them in your home and leave them there.
Ficus lyrata goes by many common names: fiddle fig tree, fiddle leaf tree, and fiddle leaf fig. It’s a fast-growing plant with enormous leaves that add drama to any space. The large, glossy leaves are shaped like a violin—thus, the name.
In its natural habitat, where they are pollinated by wasps, the tropical plant produces fruit: small, green figs that nestle under the tough, leathery leaves. However, it’s unusual for them to bloom or fruit in indoor environments. Nevertheless, their popularity resides in their towering form with showstopping foliage.
Types of Fiddle Leaf Fig
- Ficus lyrata ‘Bambino’ is a dwarf variety that reaches just a few feet tall.
- Ficus lyrata ‘Variegata’ is an uncommon, highly sought-after cultivar with variegated leaves of green and cream.
- Ficus lyrata ‘Compacta’ is a variety that can grow up to 5 feet tall and features smaller, more bunched leaves.
Selecting Soil for Fiddle Leaf Figs
Fiddle leaf fig plants like well-draining soil high in organic matter with a pH between 6 and 7. Most quality indoor potting mixes designed for tropical plants will work for fiddle fig trees. Alternatively, 1/3 of the mix can be cactus soil to promote drainage, as these plants don’t like wet feet.
For maximum health, it should be repotted every other year, although their rapid growth may make annual repotting necessary. Wide, deep pots allow for more growth and keep the roots from tangling, but almost any sturdy planter at least 2 inches larger in diameter than the pot it’s replacing should suffice.
To keep mature fig houseplants from outgrowing their space, you can trim off up to 20 percent of the root ball while repotting, or trim the top of the plant once it’s reached the height you desire.
The Right Light
Fiddle leaf figs love bright, indirect light, and the more leaves the fig has, the more light it requires. Place the plant in front of a window with eastern exposure to take advantage of soft morning light. However, direct sunlight can burn them and turn the leaves brown, so protect them in such a western exposure with an overhang or shade on the window. Rotate the plant every few days to ensure it grows straight, rather than curving toward the light.
Too little sun will result in leaf drop. It can be difficult to provide enough natural light indoors for particularly tall fiddle leaf trees or during winter months. You can supplement natural light with fluorescent or LED grow lights for 6 to 8 hours a day.
Watering Fiddle Leaf Figs
Use room-temperature water to give the fig plant a thorough soaking about once a week during the spring and summer. Water that is too hot or too cold can cause the plant to go into shock.
While fiddle leaf fig plants like their soil moist, they don’t like it too wet and can succumb to root rot if overwatered. However, if they don’t get enough water, their leaves will wilt and lose color. A good rule of thumb is to ensure that at least the top 2 inches of soil dries out before watering again. During the winter, water less.
Fertilizing Fiddle Leaf Figs
Fertilize fiddle leaf fig trees about once a month throughout the summer growing season with a high-nitrogen plant food; for example, one that has an NPK ratio of 3-1-2. Do not fertilize in the winter.
Because they like a neutral pH soil (the perfect level is 6.5), supplements like coffee—even though it’s fairly high in nitrogen—are too acidic and could be harmful to the plant, causing leaves to turn yellow.
Setting the Temperature and Humidity
These tropical plants like warm, humid, stable conditions: extreme temperature fluctuations can harm them. Indoors, temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal, but avoid placing them near heating and air conditioning vents or drafts, which can cause temperature shifts that result in dry or discolored leaves.
A relative humidity level between 30 and 65 percent provides the best environment for fiddle leaf trees. During winter months, when humidity levels in homes drop significantly, you may want to place a humidifier near the plant or mist it once a day. Additionally, placing other plants nearby raises the humidity level for all.
Propagating Fiddle Leaf Figs
To propagate a fiddle leaf fig, use a sharp, sterile knife to take a cutting with at least two or or three nodes. Apply rooting hormone and place the cutting in a small pot with moist soil. Roots should appear in 6 to 8 weeks.
Air layering is slower, but can produce a larger plantlet from a mature fiddle leaf fig houseplant. Choose a 2- to 3-foot branch that you will eventually cut off. Near the base of the selected section, remove a couple leaves and use a sharp knife to scrape off the top layer of bark. Apply rooting hormone to the exposed section of stem; then create a pocket of sorts around the area with clear plastic and twist ties. Fill the pocket with soaking-wet sphagnum moss and keep it moist for about two months. Once roots fill the moss ball, use a sharp knife to separate the new fig and transplant it into its own pot.
As with many beautiful plants, the fiddle leaf fig poses a threat in that its leaves are toxic to dogs, cats, and people if ingested, causing gastrointestinal irritation.
Like their cousin the mulberry, they exude a milky sap that can cause blistering of the skin. They can also cause slight dermatitis or skin irritation in children and pets.
Potential Pests and Diseases
Like most houseplants, fiddle leaf fig trees are susceptible to pests, including mealybugs, scale, whiteflies, and aphids. Fortunately, on a healthy fig, they are uncommon. Most can be easily removed by wiping down the plant and using insecticidal soap.
One pest common to most houseplants is the fungus gnat, which is attracted to damp soil. Repotting, ensuring plants aren’t overwatered, and applying food-grade diatomaceous earth to the surface of the soil are a few ways to combat these little bugs.
FAQ About Fiddle Leaf Fig Care
Fiddle leaf fig care isn’t inordinately demanding, but it is important to get it right in order for the plant to thrive. With the right care, fiddle leaf figs can live 50 years! Read on for answer to some of the most-asked questions about fiddle leaf fig care.
Q. Should I mist my fiddle leaf fig?
Fiddle leaf figs benefit from light daily misting because it increases the humidity level. Dust off the broad leaves first so they can properly absorb the moisture.
Q. Do fiddle leaf figs like coffee grounds?
Although rich in nitrogen, coffee grounds tend to be too acidic for these neutral pH-loving plants.
Q. Can fiddle leaf figs live in low light?
Low light causes the leaves of the fiddle leaf fig to wither and drop off. They prefer bright, indirect light.
Q. Do fiddle leaf figs need direct sunlight?
Full sun results in the fig’s leaves scorching, turning yellow, and falling off. Fiddle leaf figs prefer bright, indirect, filtered light.