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With glossy green leaves and elegant stature, the fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) makes a statement in any room. However, this popular houseplant can also be fickle when it comes to temperature and other growth factors, meaning that plant care is essential. Read on to learn everything you need to know to keep your fiddle leaf fig tree healthy and looking great.
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Fast Facts on Fiddle-Leaf Figs
|Common name||Fiddle-leaf fig (sometimes called a “banjo fig”)|
Tropical and subtropical climates; Western Africa: Sierra Leone to Cameroon
Bright, indirect sunlight
Average mature height (indoor)
Loamy and moist; drainage holes often required to maintain ideal moisture
Frequency of watering
Once every 7 to 10 days
Toxic to dogs and cats
Ideal humidity level
30% to 65%
How to Grow a Fiddle-Leaf Fig Indoors
Fiddle-leaf figs thrive in warm, humid environments. Caring for these plants can be challenging if you’re introducing a fiddle-leaf fig to your home decor and live outside of these balmy environments.
The keys to growing a fiddle-leaf fig indoors are ensuring that your plant gets a mix of indirect and direct sunlight and avoiding underwatering and overwatering the plant.
Like most plants that thrive in the tropics, fiddle-leaf figs love bright light. However, full sun can damage the plant’s leaves, causing brown spots. It can be difficult to make sure that a fiddle-leaf fig is getting enough light when it cannot thrive in direct sun.
Place your fiddle-leaf fig in an area with plenty of filtered light, such as your living room or primary bedroom. Don’t make the common mistake of putting the fig tree in a room with a window facing full, direct sunlight, at least during the hours when the sun is the strongest.
While fiddle-leaf figs might be finicky when it comes to light, they can tolerate a range of soil mixes. Any indoor potting mix sold at your local home improvement store will work for a fiddle-leaf fig. Be sure that your potting soil drains well—saturated roots can lead to root rot, a deadly fungal disease that can kill any new plant it infects.
If you live in an area that experiences regular drastic temperature changes, you might struggle to see new growth on any fiddle-leaf figs introduced into your home. However, these lustrous plants can grow well in most rooms that are consistently between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep your plant away from air conditioning units, portable heaters, and radiators.
Fiddle-leaf figs can withstand humidity levels between 30% and 65%. Install a portable humidifier or mist your plant with clean water daily to supplement humidity.
The fiddle-leaf fig’s growing season typically begins at the start of spring and ends when the temperature begins to drop in the fall. Use nitrogen-based plant food throughout the growing season to help the plant grow stronger roots and stalks, which will make the process of repotting easier.
Overwatering is the number one mistake most new fiddle-leaf fig owners make with their new plant. Overwatering can lead to a fungal infection called root rot. Fungal infections require continuous damp soil to thrive, so ensure your fiddle-leaf fig has proper drainage where it’s planted.
The best way to water a fiddle-leaf fig is to douse it infrequently until the plant’s leaves are dripping. You can do this by bringing your plant to an outdoor space or bathtub, watering it thoroughly, and allowing it to dry for one to two hours. If you don’t want to move the plant, you can use a plant stand and allow the excess water to drip into a tray stationed below the stand.
Whichever way you water your plant, ensure its roots don’t have the opportunity to soak in water for too long. Use a moisture meter to keep track of your plant’s soil condition and determine when you should water again.
How to Prune Fiddle-Leaf Fig Plants
Like other tropical plants, fiddle-leaf figs must be pruned regularly. This is especially true during the plant’s growing season, which lasts from spring until the beginning of fall. Pruning your plant regularly helps the indoor tree grow fully, which makes a more dramatic statement.
- To prune your fiddle-leaf fig, start by examining the plant. Look for leaves with brown spots, torn leaves, and dying leaves, pruning them back as you go along.
- Cut back overgrowth and crossing branches, allowing the plant’s interior to enjoy better air flow and grow new leaves without obstruction.
- Cut about an inch away from the trunk when pruning to avoid hurting the plant.
How to Repot Fiddle-Leaf Figs
When your plant’s roots begin to outgrow the pot, or if it is having trouble balancing, it’s time to repot the plant into a bigger space. This usually happens once every two years, and you’ll need to add about 2 inches of soil each time you repot. Here are the steps:
- Choose a new pot 2 inches wider than the original to account for the increased soil presence.
- Add 2 to 3 inches of rocks to the bottom of the pot—this will help the plant drain excess water.
- Add moisture-control potting soil, leaving room for the root ball.
- Remove the plant from your original pot and examine the root ball.
- Trim back any brown or rotten roots.
- Loosen the root ball gently to allow the roots to breathe a bit before being repotted.
- Gently repot the plant in the soil and top it with the same soil you used for the base of the plant.
Shipping your plant or driving it home may cause shock, so don’t repot the plant immediately.
How to Propagate Fiddle-Leaf Figs
Propagating a fiddle-leaf fig is straightforward, requiring only a few simple steps.
- Cut your stems: Grab a pair of sharp scissors or shears and cut a stem from the tree you’re propagating. The stem should be between 12 and 18 inches and have a few leaves. Pick all the leaves off of the branch except for one.
- Place it in a vase: Fill a vase with clean, room-temperature water and place the stem inside. Leave the stem in the vase for a few weeks. Make sure that the vase spends most of its time in indirect light, and change the water only when it starts to look dirty.
- Monitor growth: Over time, white bumps will begin forming on the stem. Shortly after, roots will begin growing from the bumps. When the roots grow to about 1 to 2 inches, plant the new growth in a gallon pot with damp soil.
Common Issues with Fiddle-Leaf Figs
Understanding some of the most common signs of sickness or infestation within your fiddle-leaf fig can potentially save your plant. Be sure to keep your eyes out for the following issues.
Fiddle-leaf figs are sensitive to sudden changes in temperature and humidity. If any part of their environment suddenly changes, they may begin dropping their leaves. While this may be annoying, it won’t kill your plants. Try to gradually introduce changes to your environment whenever possible to avoid leaf drop and keep your plant lush.
If you notice black spots on your leaves, overwatering is likely the culprit. Excess water in your soil results in root rot, which can quickly kill your plant if you don’t take action. Hold off on watering your plant for a few days if you notice black spots, and monitor the plant to see if it returns to its normal color. If not, repot the plant immediately.
Brown spots usually indicate the presence of pests in your home, most commonly spider mites or gnats. These tiny pests attach themselves to the leaves of the plant and suck the juice from the interior of the leaves, leaving holes behind after they feed. Call a pest control professional if you notice several brown spots on your plants.
While fiddle-leaf figs can be fickle to own, you can manage them with just a little research and the proper care tips. First, decide where in your home you’ll place your plant—make sure you have an area with plenty of indirect sunlight, so you don’t burn the leaves with direct sun.
Avoid overwatering your plant by watering it heavily once every week, and ensure that roots cannot soak in moisture. If your plant begins to drop leaves or you see the presence of pests, call a pest control professional to identify and rectify the problem as soon as possible.
Fiddle-Leaf Fig FAQ
How long do fiddle-leaf figs live?
In its native Western Africa, fiddle-leaf figs may live between 25 and 50 years. Fiddle-leaf figs may live up to 15 years as an indoor plant before reaching maturity.
Are fiddle-leaf figs hard to take care of?
Fiddle-leaf figs can be one of the more difficult tropical plants to take care of. Before getting a fiddle-leaf fig tree, be sure you have a spot with plenty of indirect light and know how to avoid overwatering and underwatering. If you’re looking for an easier plant to take care of, consider the trending snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata) or one of the many gorgeous monstera fern varieties.
What are the benefits of fiddle-leaf figs?
Fiddle-leaf figs provide many benefits to your home and your health. Like other indoor plants, fiddle-leaf fig plants improve indoor air quality by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. They also provide a dramatic focal point that fits seamlessly with most types of interior decor.