The fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) is a striking and popular houseplant known for its large, glossy leaves that resemble the body of a fiddle. While its dramatic foliage can add a touch of tropical elegance to any indoor space, caring for a fiddle leaf fig requires a thoughtful approach. From providing the right amount of light and water to addressing potential challenges like pests and leaf care, nurturing a healthy and thriving fiddle leaf fig involves a balance of attention and expertise. In this guide, we'll delve into the essential care practices, offering insights to help you keep your fiddle leaf fig not just surviving, but flourishing as a vibrant centerpiece in your home.
What Is a Fiddle Leaf Fig?
Fiddle leaf fig houseplants are a type of ficus (Ficus lyrata) that is native to the tropical regions of West Africa. While being primarily cultivated as an ornamental plant, they are related to the mulberry and fig family Moraceae. This evergreen plant is characterized by its large, glossy leaves, which are typically dark green and can grow up to 18 inches long and 12 inches wide, making a bold statement in any room. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the fiddle leaf fig is favored for its air-purifying qualities.
How To Care for a Fiddle Leaf Fig
Fiddle leaf figs are known for being somewhat finicky when it comes to their care. While they do tend to be particular about their environment, sensitive to changes or fluctuations, and sometimes hard to read, once you get the hang of them and familiarize yourself with their preferences, you will have a happy and healthy plant that grace you with its beauty for years to come.
1. Light Requirements for Fiddle Leaf Fig Plants
Fiddle leaf figs thrive in bright, indirect light. Place your plant near an east-facing window to ensure it receives ample sunlight. They can be positioned near west or south-facing windows as long as they are positioned correctly, avoiding direct sunlight, as this can scorch the leaves. This is the best way to ensure that your Fiddle Leaf Fig receives adequate sunlight.
These houseplants, however, actually grow in full sun exposure in their natural environments. Because of this, they can be introduced into an area of your home that receives direct sun. So, if you are more of an advanced plant parent and want to give this a try, you can very slowly and carefully acclimate your plant to more intense lighting by gradually moving it closer to the light source. Give it a few weeks to settle in each time you move it and only move it in small increments at a time to avoid overwhelming the plant. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to us!
2. Watering Requirements for Fiddle Leaf Figs
Allow the top inch of the soil to dry out before watering. Water when the soil feels slightly dry to the touch. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so it's crucial to maintain a balanced watering routine. Ensure the pot has drainage holes to allow excess water to escape, preventing waterlogged soil. Find more information on watering your houseplants here!
3. Humidity Preferences for Ficus
Fiddle leaf figs appreciate higher humidity levels. You can increase humidity by misting the leaves regularly, placing a tray of water nearby, or using a humidifier.
4. Temperature Requirements for Fiddle Leaf Fig
Fiddle leaf figs prefer temperatures between 60-75°F (15-24°C). Avoid exposing them to drafts, sudden temperature changes, or cold air. This will be particularly important in the winter if you have your ficus positioned next to a window, door, or air vent. Drafts from windows and doors, or hot or cold air blowing out of air vents can be enough to cause your fiddle leaf fig to start dropping leaves.
5. Soil and Potting Preferences
Plant your fiddle leaf fig in well-draining, nutrient-rich soil. A mix of potting soil, perlite, and orchid bark works well. Ensuring that your soil drains appropriately will be important, as soil that does not drain well will hold onto too much water, which is one of the most common causes of root rot. Repot your fiddle leaf fig every 1-2 years or when you notice it outgrowing its current container. Use fresh, well-draining soil (never reuse old soil), and plant in a container that is only an inch or two wider in diameter than the root ball of the plant.
6. Fertilizating Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Feed your fiddle leaf fig with a balanced liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing season (spring and summer). Reduce or eliminate fertilization in fall and winter when the plant is not actively growing. Always be careful to follow the directions on the back of your container closely, as fertilizing too heavily can cause burn damage to the roots of your plant.
7. Pruning Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
While fiddle leaf fig care does not usually require regular pruning, this can be done to create or maintain a desired shape. Pruning often encourages the plant to branch out, creating a more bushy growth habit. If you would like specific instruction on how to prune your fiddle leaf fig houseplant, reach out to the professionals! We are here to help. Just remember, whenever doing any sort of pruning, be sure to use clean, sharp pruning shears. Dirty shears can introduce diseases to the wounded part of your plant, and dull shears won't make a clean cut, causing damage to the area and thus increasing your plant's healing time and the likelihood of pests and disease afflicting the plant.
8. Cleaning Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
When considering how to care for a fiddle leaf fig, making sure to maintain clean leaves is very important! It is recommended to wipe the leaves of your houseplants gently with a damp cloth to remove dust from the surface. Clean leaves help the plant better absorb sunlight, enabling the plant to photosynthesize more efficiently and grow strong and healthy. Cleaning the leaves of your plant also gives you an opportunity to inspect the plant for any other things that may deter the growth and health of your plant, such as pests.
9. Monitoring for Pests
Keep an eye out for common pests like spider mites, mealybugs, and scale. These houseplant pests are so small or so well camouflaged that they are often nearly undetectable. It is always recommended to thoroughly inspect your leaves, top and bottom, on a regular basis. Odd bumps, white fluffy masses, or tiny clusters of webbing are just a few signs that you may have a pest infestation. Any pests will need to be treated immediately to avoid the infestation growing larger and killing your plant. Learn more about houseplant pests, signs of a pest infestation, and how to get rid of houseplant pests in our library of pest control articles. You can also shop pest control products online!
10. Don't Forget to Rotate!
One small thing to remember to do as a part of your fiddle leaf fig care routine is to periodically rotate the plant. This will ensure even exposure to sunlight and promote balanced growth. Not allowing even exposure to light can cause your plant to grow unevenly, leading to a less than symmetrical shape, which can look funny and also cause the plant to lean to one side. If this is the case with your plant, stake it appropriately so that the plant doesn't sustain damage and rotate it to help balance out its growth.
Fiddle leaf figs can take time to adjust to new environments. So, be patient and avoid making drastic changes to their environment or their care routine. If you have been struggling with leaf drop, pest infestations, or other issues common to fiddle leaf figs, it is recommended to only adjust one thing at a time to not overwhelm the plant. Keep in mind that it can take several weeks for the plant to adjust to any treatments or changes in care. As always, feel free to reach out to us for help diagnosing what may be going on and how to better care for your ficus.
Common Fiddle Leaf Fig Issues & Solutions
Caring for a fiddle leaf fig comes with its challenges, and various issues can arise. Here are some common problems associated with fiddle leaf figs along with their solutions.
Brown Spots on Leaves
Brown spots can be caused by overwatering, underwatering, or exposure to direct sunlight. If you are watering your plant every week, make sure the top inch of soil is dry first. If this is not the case, you may want to cut back on watering. If you are only watering once per month or so and the soil is nearly completely dry by the time you do water, you may want to increase your watering slightly. If watering does not seem to be the issue, ensure your fiddle leaf fig plant is positioned such that it only receives bright, indirect light.
Yellowing leaves may indicate overwatering, underwatering, or nutrient deficiencies. As we mentioned above, check the soil moisture before watering and adjust the amount and frequency of your watering as needed. If this does not seem to help, implement the use of a balanced liquid fertilizer during the growing season.
Drooping or Wilting
Overwatering or underwatering can lead to drooping or wilting leaves. Assess your watering routine and always check the soil before watering. If your soil is constantly moist, let it dry out a bit. Ensuring proper drainage will also help to prevent waterlogged soil. If your soil is completely dry, increase watering.
Leaf drop is often a result of stress, changes in the environment, or sudden temperature fluctuations. It is most common for a fiddle leaf fig plant to experience leaf drop when environmental conditions aren't ideal, when the seasons change, right after transporting a new plant home, and similar situations. The best thing you can do to avoid this is to maintain consistent care practices, avoid sudden changes, provide a stable environment, and exercise patience after any changes have been made, as it will take some time for your plant to adjust.
Overwatering can lead to root rot, a fungal infection that affects the roots. Root rot can be difficult to combat, but the first step is to stop watering your plant until the soil has a chance to dry out. If the soil does not dry out within a few days, it may be necessary to repot the plant in new soil, being sure to thoroughly rinse the roots and the container before replanting. To avoid this problem in the first place, always be aware of not overwatering your plants. Just remember, it is always easy to water more, but not so easy to undo the effects of overwatering.
Fiddle leaf figs are susceptible to fungal infections, especially in humid conditions. Ensure proper ventilation, avoid overcrowding with other plants, and treat fungal issues with appropriate fungicides. If you think you may be dealing with a fungal infection but need help to be certain, let us know! We are happy to help diagnose your plant and give recommendations for treatments.
Pests (Spider Mites, Scale)
Common pests like spider mites and scale can affect fiddle leaf figs. Familiarize yourself with the signs of these houseplant pests and regularly inspect your plant for any indication of an infestation. Even if you have the slightest suspicion, treat with the appropriate pest control products to avoid a full-blown infestation. Routine preventative treatments are also a common practice in the world of houseplants.
Brown Edges on Leaves
Brown edges, or leaf margin burn, can result from dry air, direct sunlight, or inconsistent watering.
Increase humidity, adjust the plant's position to avoid direct sunlight, and ensure a consistent watering routine. Once the edges of a leaf have turned brown, they are like that permanently. These edges can be trimmed off to maintain the aesthetic of the houseplant.
White, Powdery Substance on Leaves
Powdery mildew, a fungal infection, can manifest as a white, powdery substance on the surface of the leaves. If allowed to persist, this fungal infection can kill your plant. It is recommended to treat with a fungicide specifically designed to combat powdery mildew, improve air circulation, and slightly reduce humidity.
Lack of Growth
Insufficient growth can result from factors like inadequate light, less than ideal growing conditions, or nutrient deficiencies. Ensure your plant receives enough bright, indirect light and fertilize during the growing season with a balanced liquid fertilizer. Keep in mind that the growth of these tropical plants slows significantly throughout the cold months and little to no growth is not uncommon during the winter.
Fiddle Leaf Fig FAQ's
Q: Why is my fiddle leaf fig so hard to keep alive?
A: Fiddle leaf fig houseplants are considered to be an advanced houseplant in terms of care and maintenance due to their finicky nature. They are very sensitive to a number of factors such as light, temperature, and moisture, and if any elements of their environment are off, they will not be happy. This is why fiddle leaf fig care is difficult. Many plant enthusiasts purchase the plant based on its aesthetic appeal rather than based on their skill level and ability to give it the care it needs. So, if you have found yourself in this situation and can't seem to strike a rhythm or get in a groove with your fiddle leaf fig, let us know. We are happy to help guide you towards knowing how to better care for this tricky tropical.
Q: How do I know if my fiddle leaf fig is happy?
A: You will know your fiddle leaf fig is happy if it is green, perky, and producing new leaves regularly. If leaves are droopy, dull, turning yellow or brown, or falling off entirely, these are sure signs that something may be wrong. Plants that consistently produce new growth are generally happiest, as this means that their environment and care routine are on par, allowing them to have the energy to grow strong and healthy. Plants that aren't growing are likely putting what little energy they have towards simply surviving. Keep in mind that slowed growth is to be expected outside of the growing season (spring and summer).
Q: Do fiddle leaf figs like to be misted?
A: Fiddle leaf figs appreciate increased humidity, and misting can be a beneficial practice, especially in dry indoor environments. These tropical plants naturally thrive in humid conditions, and misting helps mimic their native habitat. Lightly misting the leaves with water using a spray bottle can provide a temporary boost in humidity around the plant. However, it's essential to avoid excessive moisture on the leaves, as too much water can lead to fungal issues. Aim to mist the leaves sparingly, focusing on the air around the plant rather than soaking the foliage. Additionally, consider other methods such as placing a tray of water nearby or using a humidifier to maintain an overall humid environment for optimal fiddle leaf fig health.
Q: Where should fiddle leaf figs be placed in the house?
A: Since fiddle leaf fig plants prefer bright indirect sunlight, east-facing windows are often the best option. North-facing windows receive the least amount of sunlight, which can sometimes not be quite enough for these plants. South-facing windows, on the other hand, get the most sun exposure, which is often direct and too much for this ficus to handle unless it is positioned several feet away from the window where it will not come into direct contact with the sun's rays. West-facing windows usually get less direct sun exposure than south-facing windows, though it will still be important to make sure your plant sits back away from the window to protect it from sustaining burn damage from the sun. All in all, it is best to place your fiddle leaf fig somewhere it will receive bright light without coming into direct contact with the sun. To learn more about lighting and plants, check out our blog!
Q: How long do indoor fiddle leaf figs live?
A: The lifespan of indoor fiddle leaf figs can vary based on several factors, including care, environmental conditions, and the overall health of the plant. With proper care, a fiddle leaf fig has the potential to live anywhere from 5 to 10 years or more. Some well-cared-for plants have been known to live even longer.