How to Care for a Fiddle Leaf Fig:
The Ultimate Guide
Fiddle leaf figs are the most notoriously fragile house plants of all time. At the same time, they remain one of the most popular.
Perhaps it's the challenge of keeping them alive that adds to their appeal.
The truth is that fiddle leaf figs have no problem living to a ripe old age when left to their own devices. In the wild, they can grow almost 40 ft. tall and quickly become invasive.
So, why are you having difficulties with your indoor fiddle leaf fig? For starters let's take a look at the basics on how to care for a fiddle leaf fig.
Understanding the Fiddle Leaf Fig
The fiddle leaf fig, or ficus lyrata, belongs to the same family as the mulberry tree, Moraceae. It hails from Cameroon in Africa where it relishes the hot, humid climate.
Fiddle leaf figs have huge attractive green leaves that rely on copious amounts of sunlight to power this large plant. This lovely foliage is what makes it so popular as a house plant.
If you master the art of caring for your fiddle leaf fig, it could grow as tall as 10 feet indoors, so have a backup plan in mind if your plant does take off.
The first prize is relocating a too-large tree outdoors but if you don't have a sunny exterior spot attached to your apartment, you'll need to find it a new home.
One last thing to remember is that these plants are mildly toxic to animals, so don't let your pets nibble on the leaves.
Location Is Everything for Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
The fiddle leaf fig thrives in its lush natural environment, so your city apartment probably isn't the ideal place for it.
Don't give up hope though, in the right circumstances, your treasured house plant will forgive your lack of tropical ambiance.
When placing your plant, pick a place that's as close to its natural environment as possible. This plant loves humidity and light as much as it hates drafts.
Keep it happy by catering to these basics and you're all set.
Light up Its Life
If you place your fiddle leaf fig in direct sunlight in front of a western or southern facing window, you'll make its day. Six hours of bright ambient light per day is ideal for most tropical plants.
Plants use sunlight to create energy for growth and survival. Dropping leaves are a sure indication that your fiddle leaf fig isn't getting enough light. Reposition it before it starves to death.
Brown spots appearing on the leaves of your fig mean the light is too bright. Reposition it gradually until you find a happy medium.
There are a few ways to measure the quality of light in an area. You can use a device called a light meter, or you can hold up your hand in front of a natural light source.
If your hand throws a crisp shadow, the light quality is good. A blurry indistinct shadow means you're dealing with low light.
Give It Enough Water
These types of trees may come from a hot, wet environment, but they don't like to sit in water for long periods of time. In their forest home, nature takes care of all its drainage needs. That task falls on you when you bring it into your house.
Wait until the top inch of your plant's potting soil is dry before watering. Avoid watering it with cold water. Room temperature or lukewarm water works best for these plants.
- Pay attention to these water warning signs if you want to avoid disaster:
- Too little watering results in the leaf edges turning brown
- Overwatering shows up as dark brown spots on the leaves
- An unpleasant smell also signals overwatering
Correct your watering routine as soon as you notice any of these signs. Ignore these warning signs at your peril, they'll eventually result in holey unattractive leaves if left unchecked.
Figs Like It Hot
Cameroon, where fiddle leaf figs belong, is in Africa where temperatures regularly reach 90° Fahrenheit.
Keeping them in a sunny spot will help ensure they're as warm as possible. They're unlikely to last long where the temperature dips below 50°F.
Placing other plants near them, or planting them on top of a tray of gravel helps increase humidity and keep them warm.
Brown spots on your tree's leaves or dropping leaves are the first sign that their environment is too cold.
Avoid placing them in areas where they'll be subject to drafty conditions and if you have to move them, do so gradually. They aren't fond of dramatic temperature changes either.
Humidity is essential for the survival of fiddle leaf figs, they do best in a humidity level of 65. Unfortunately, urban indoor humidity levels rarely climb above 10.
If your plant looks droopy and starts to brown, set up a humidifier close to it. Alternatively, you can mist it every morning to help it cope.
Nurturing Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Like all plants, fiddle leaf figs rely on the soil for their nutrition. In nature, they receive an abundant supply of organic fertilizer as a matter of course.
You should feed your fig tree with an approved organic fertilizer during the growing season. A 10-10-10 fertilizer containing 10% each of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium works best.
Plant vitamins are a nice extra to give your plant a boost.
Protecting It From Pests
Mealybugs, mites, aphids, and scale love fiddle leaf figs. Check your plant's leaves regularly for anything that looks out of place.
When you spot any unwelcome visitors, wipe them off with a suitable insecticide or a hot, soapy cloth.
Getting Started With Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Avoid repotting your fiddle leaf fig as soon as you arrive at home with it. These plants dislike disruption and they're already dealing with relocation from their previous home.
Leave it in its original container until the roots start to escape from the bottom of the pot. You can place it inside a more decorative vessel to hide the ugly functional nursery pot you bought it in.
Another test of readiness is to grab your plant by its stem and tug on it. If it comes out of the pot, it's good to go.
Always wait until the springtime before your repot your fiddle leaf fig.
When you repot your fiddle leaf fig, place it in a container that's two to three inches larger than its current abode. If you have a pot with no drainage holes, start off by placing about an inch of rocks or gravel at the bottom.
Next, place your fiddle leaf fig in its new home, make sure there are at least 2 inches of space left on all sides. Fill in the gaps with suitable potting soil, and press it down firmly.
Let the plant settle for about a day until you water it.
Now's a good time to prune and clean your plant to ensure it gets a fresh start for the spring growing season.
Little-Known Tips on How to Care for a Fiddle Leaf Fig
Apart from the basics covered so far, there are a few more ways to ensure your fiddle leaf fig enjoys a long, happy life. These are the top tips for expert fiddle leaf fig care.
Keep Them Clean
These large leaves are a magnet for dust, so wipe them down regularly to keep them looking their best. It's difficult for a plant's leaves to make the best use of sunlight when they're covered in a layer of dust.
Rotation Is Key
If you notice your fiddle leaf fig starting to lean toward the light, rotate it. All plants naturally grow towards the nearest light source and benefit from rotation every few months.
First Aid for Figs
Chopping off the top of the tree's trunk can do much to revive its flagging spirits. Before too long it'll bounce back with new leaf growth and end up bushier than it was.
Regular pruning can also help your fiddle leaf tree prosper. Snip off any damaged or wilting leaves as well as crossing branches.
Figs are at their best when you give them room to breathe. If preferred, you can also prune your tree into any shape you desire. It's best to prune your fiddle leaf fig tree leaves at least an inch away from the trunk, to avoid harming the plant.
For best results, get into the habit of removing substandard leaves as soon as you notice them.
Make Your House More Homely
Learning how to care for a fiddle leaf fig and keep it alive, isn't as complicated as it seems! With a little dedication and attention, you too can enjoy the beauty of this lovely house plant wherever you are.
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