June 20, 2024

How to Grow and Care for Fiddle-Leaf Fig

The fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) is a popular indoor tree featuring very large, heavily veined, and glossy violin-shaped leaves that grow upright on a sleek trunk. A fiddle-leaf fig is perfect as a focal point of a room if you can situate it in a floor-standing container where the plant is allowed to grow to at least 6 feet tall. (Most indoor specimens reach around 10 feet tall.) It’s a fairly fast grower and can be potted at any point in the year if you’re like most gardeners acquiring a nursery plant to keep indoors. Keep in mind this gorgeous plant is toxic to cats and dogs.

Common NameFiddle-leaf fig, banjo fig
Botanical NameFicus lyrata
FamilyMoraceae 
Plant TypeBroadleaf evergreen
Mature Size50 ft. tall (outdoors), 10 ft. tall (indoors)
Sun ExposurePart shade
Soil TypeLoamy, medium moisture, well-draining
Soil pH6 to 7
Bloom TimeRarely flowers outside of its native area
Flower ColorInsignificant
Hardiness Zones10-12 (USDA)
Native AreaTropical western Africa
ToxicityToxic to cats and dogs

Fiddle-Leaf Fig Care

These plants are native to tropical parts of Africa, where they thrive in very warm and wet conditions. This makes them somewhat challenging for the home grower, who is likely to have trouble duplicating these steamy conditions. However, they are relatively tough plants that can withstand a less-than-perfect environment for a fairly long time.

Fiddle-leaf figs are not especially demanding plants as long as you can get their growing conditions right. When grown as a houseplant, be prepared to rotate your fiddle-leaf fig every few days so a different part faces the source of sunlight. That way, it will grow evenly, rather than lean toward the light.

Also, every week or two dust the leaves with a damp cloth. Not only does this make the leaves appear shinier and more appealing, but it also allows more sunlight to hit the leaves for photosynthesis. Moreover, you can trim off any damaged or dead leaves as they arise, as they no longer benefit the plant. And if you wish, you can prune off the top of the main stem for a bushier growth habit.

Light

Fiddle-leaf figs require bright, filtered light to grow and look their best. Direct sunlight can burn the leaves, especially exposure to hot afternoon sun.2 And plants that are kept in very low light conditions will fail to grow rapidly.

Soil

Any quality indoor plant potting mix should be suitable for a fiddle-leaf fig. Ensure that the soil drains well.

Water

Fiddle-leaf figs like a moderate amount of moisture in the soil. If the plant doesn’t get enough water, its leaves will wilt and lose their bright green color. And if it gets too much water, the plant might drop its leaves and suffer from root rot, which ultimately can kill it. During the growing season (spring to fall), water your fiddle-leaf fig when the top inch of soil feels dry. And over the winter months, water slightly less.

Furthermore, these plants are sensitive to high salt levels in the soil.3 So it’s ideal to flush the soil until water comes out the bottom of the pot at least monthly. This helps to prevent salt build-up.

Temperature and Humidity

Fiddle-leaf figs don’t like extreme temperature fluctuations. A room that’s between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit is typically fine, though you must position the plant away from drafty areas, as well as air-conditioning and heating vents. These can cause sudden temperature shifts. 

Aim for a humidity level between 30 and 65 percent. If you need to supplement humidity, mist your plant with clean water in a spray bottle daily. Or you can place it on a tray of pebbles filled with water, as long as the bottom of the pot isn’t touching the water. Plus, fiddle-leaf figs can benefit from being in a room with a humidifier.

Fertilizer 

Add Fertilizer throughout the growing season with a high-nitrogen plant food, following label instructions. There are fertilizers specially made for fiddle-leaf figs available. You generally won’t have to feed your plant over the winter.

Types of Fiddle-Leaf Fig

The main species, Ficus lyrata, is the most common fiddle-leaf fig plant that gardeners grow. But there are several cultivars available as well, including: 

  • Ficus lyrata ‘Bambino’: This is a dwarf variety that only reaches a few feet tall.
  • Ficus lyrata ‘Compacta’: This variety can reach up to 5 feet tall and features smaller, more bunched leaves than the main species.
  • Ficus lyrata ‘Variegata’: This is an uncommon variety with showy leaves that are a mix of green and cream. 

Pruning

A fiddle-leaf fig benefits from having its leaves pruned every so often. Cut back any damaged leaves, overgrowth, or crossing branches to let the plant breathe. Make any cuts about an inch away from the trunk to avoid any damage. If you are taking off a dead brown leaf, pull on it very gently before trying to cut it because it may come off by itself.

Propagating Fiddle-Leaf Fig

It’s easy to propagate fiddle-leaf fig with stem cuttings, and extremely difficult to do with seeds. Working with a cutting is just about fail-proof.

  1. Use a pair of sharp shears to cut a stem about 12 to 18 inches long with a few leaves. Pinch off all the leaves except for one.
  2. Place the vase of the cutting in a jar or vase of clean, room-temperature water and put it in a warm place with bright, but indirect light.
  3. Change the water only when it appears cloudy.
  4. In a few weeks, small white bumps will appear on the stem’s base that’s sitting in the water. In a couple of weeks after that, roots will grow in the water from those spots.
  5. When the roots reach 1 to 2 inches long, plant the cutting in a 1-gallon pot filled with potting soil and water until damp, and continue to keep the soil moist, but not soggy or overwatered.

Potting and Repotting Fiddle-Leaf Fig

Plan to repot a young fiddle-leaf fig annually every spring. Select a sturdy container that is roughly 2 inches larger in diameter than the existing one. Gently loosen the plant from its current pot, lift it out while supporting its base, and place it in the new pot. Fill in the spaces around the plant with potting mix. 

Once the plant is mature, it likely will be too large to repot. In that case, remove the first few inches of soil each spring and replace it with fresh soil. 

Moreover, if you will be doing the potting work outdoors, do so when the temperature is at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything colder can cause too much stress for the fiddle-leaf fig.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

These plants don’t have serious pest or disease issues, but they can be prone to spider mitesscale insects, and bacterial or fungal diseases.2 With these issues, you might notice leaf damage, such as spots or dark patches, as well as small bugs on the leaves. Treat the issue as soon as possible with an appropriate fungicide, pesticide, or other remedy. And make sure your plant has adequate air circulation and isn’t sitting in overly damp conditions, which can help to prevent future problems.

Common Problems With Fiddle-Leaf Fig

A fiddle-leaf fig plant can be sensitive to its environment and watering schedule, so when something is off, you can tell by the behavior of its leaves. The plant can develop spots on leaves or drop leaves, sometimes at a fast rate. Be on the lookout for the first signs of leaf distress.

Bleached Leaves

If you see light brown or bleached spots on the top of the leaves, the plant may be getting too much direct sunlight. This is called leaf sunburn or leaf scorch. In the case of a fiddle-leaf fig plant, you can prune the leaf with sharp shears and relocate your plant away from sitting near the direct and harsh rays of the sun.

Brown Spots on Leaves

If your green leaves develop dark brown spots or browning edges, the plant may be suffering from root rot from sitting in too much water. Check the roots to see if they are brown and mushy. Cut away the spotted leaves and gently cut mushy parts of the roots. Repot and monitor your watering to make sure the plant is not overwatered.

Brown spots can also mean the plant is experiencing extreme temperature swings, check around for drafty spots or heating/cooling units or vents, and move the plant away to a consistently warmer location.

Yellowing Leaves

If newer fiddle-leaf fig leaves are yellowing, it may indicate a bacterial problem. It may be too late to save the plant. But try cutting off the affected leaves and repotting the plant in fresh soil.

Dropping Leaves

When a fiddle-leaf fig loses its leaves, it’s generally a sign that the plant is getting too much or not enough water. In addition, the plant may be exposed to extreme temperature changes, which can also make the plant drop leaves. Move the plant away from any heating or air conditioning units, vents, or drafty areas. Pull back on watering a bit so the soil is never soggy and only slightly moist.

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