Fiddle-leaf figs (a.k.a. Ficus Lyrata) are one of those plants that are super popular with first time plant parents yet deceptively complex to care for. Which, understandably, turns a lot of people off of indoor plants entirely! But they’re also a beautiful plant, and learning to properly care for them will build those good gardening habits that will benefit your whole collection. So if you’re having trouble keeping your fiddle-leaf happy and healthy, here’s a few tips that might help.
Fiddle-leaf figs are native to the rainforests of western Africa. Like most rainforest plants, this means they want bright, filtered light in order to grow and look their best. Direct sunlight, especially hot afternoon sun, can burn their leaves, leaving dead brown patches. On the other end, if they are kept in too-low light they will grow very slowly — this may be a benefit if you’d prefer not to let your fiddle-leaf reach towards its 50-foot maximum height, but be sure to find the right balance or it may start to droop.
It’s also a good idea to rotate your fig every few days so the light hits the whole plant. This promotes even growth all the way around, rather than one side leaning towards the light.
Soil + Fertiliser
Fiddle-leafs aren’t too demanding in the soil department. Any good-quality indoor potting mix should do the trick, so long as it has very good drainage. Fiddle-leaf figs are quite sensitive to high salt levels, which can come as a result of poor soil drainage.
As for fertiliser, fiddle-leafs need a lot of nutrients to grow their iconic large leaves. Many brands make specific formulations just for fiddle-leaf figs, but anything high in nitrogen will suffice. Just be sure to read the bottle instructions to determine how regularly to feed your fig. Typically, you won’t need to fertilise during the slow-growing winter months.
Water + Humidity
Being rainforest natives, fiddle-leafs like a steady, moderate amount of moisture in their soil and a high-humidity environment. If they don’t get enough water, their beautiful leaves can turn yellow and wilt — too much water, however, can lead to root rot and potentially kill it.
To check if your fig needs watering, poke a finger into the top inch of soil: if it’s dry, it needs a drink. The regularity of this depends on your environment — if it’s hotter where you are, this might need to happen once a week; colder climates can slow down to once a month.
What is very important, though, is the fiddle-leaf’s humidity. You need to aim for a level between 30 and 65 percent in the room where the fig lives, though this can be hard to measure without the right tools. A quick solution if your fig still seems sad after regular watering and sunlight is to mist its leaves with some clean water from a spray bottle every day. You can alternatively place the fig’s pot on a tray of pebbles filled with water (just don’t let the pot touch the water) that you top up regularly. Or, if you have the budget, they love a humidifier.
Another thing to note is that fiddle-leaf figs don’t like sudden temperature fluctuations! Keep them away from areas with high air-flow, as well as air conditioning or heating vents, all of which can cause sudden temperature changes.
Beyond the basics of light, water, and soil conditions, there are a few things you can do to keep your fiddle-leaf figs living their best life.
Dust Them Regularly
Those big beautiful leaves can hold a lot of dust! This can slow down photosynthesis and, therefore, the plant’s growth, as the dust can block a good amount of the sunlight hitting the leaves. Give them a wipe with a damp cloth once a week to keep them nice and shiny, and help them get all the sunlight they need. It’s also just nice to spend some quality time with your fig.
Keep Them Pruned
A fiddle-leaf fig benefits from having its leaves pruned every so often to promote new growth. Cut back any leaves that have been damaged, and also any leaves or branches which crossover and block the light of others to help the fig breathe. If it gets too overgrown, it can be much harder to manage the fig’s light and water needs. If you’re pruning a branch, just be sure to cut it about an inch away from the trunk; leaves can be pruned from their node.
Re-pot Once A Year
Fiddle-leaf figs in a happy environment will grow very steadily, meaning they need to be repotted regularly or they’ll start to become root-bound. We aim to re-pot ours every spring, though in colder climates you could stretch that to every second spring. When choosing a new pot, aim to go up about two inches in diameter every time.