Hi there, welcome back to the blog!
Today we are going to talk about Fiddle Leaf Figs, or the Ficus Lyrata, and how to care for them. Now, these beeeg bois are not nearly as finicky as most people think. They’re just creatures of habit that don’t like change. Not so different from humans, right? So if your fiddle has ever started to look like this:
...don’t worry, we’re gonna talk about how to get it back to looking like this:
The fiddle leaf fig doesn’t try to be dramatic, it’s just a little sensitive. So when you first get it home, try not to mess with it too much. They are creatures of habit and will likely be a little shaken up from the rehoming. This is just how fiddles are, so when you lose a few leaves, don’t freak out, your fiddle is just adjusting and will yet live to see another day. I do recommend that you use Superthrive when you do your first watering from a can. I do ¼ tsp of Superthrive with 1 gallon filtered water to make the dilution, and then water thoroughly from that.
When cogitating where to place your fiddle fig, you want to make sure it’s not too close to a vent. They don’t like being near the heat blasts, especially in winter when the heat is cranked, which literally dehydrates all the guard cells of the plant foliage in your house. The most important part about positioning your fiddle is ensuring it has access to indirect, bright sunlight. If the light you give is too direct, the leaves are susceptible to being scorched. So if you notice your leaves starting to look burnt and yellow, you may need to back it up a bit further from the window to decrease its direct light intake. Consider that when they are grown commercially, fiddle leaf figs are often grown under a shade tent with 70% shade.
That being said, they do thrive with indirect sunlight. We keep ours right by a big, open window. Other ideal locations would be a covered canopy if outdoors, or near a large south or north facing window (avoiding direct sunlight).
Another tip to keeping your ficus lyrata happy is to wipe off its leaves regularly. When dust builds up on the foliage, it reduces the ability for the plant to photosynthesize. This is how the plants feed themselves, through the photon of energy emitted when chloroplasts absorb light energy. I spray the leaves down with water and then wipe them down with a damp paper towel. There are lots of home mixtures you can whip up, but I just stick with plain water, like in nature. If I can collect rainwater, I’ll spray with that. This will also help you avoid pests. Mealy bugs and spider mites are much easier to catch and take care of if caught early on by cleaning, or by the process of physically displacing them while cleaning the leaves.
Now, on to watering. This is probably the most critical piece of advice I could give you about fiddle leaf figs. And truly, with a lot of plants. Fiddles are susceptible to root rot- meaning, they don’t like for their roots to sit in water for extended periods of time. However, that does not mean they don’t like a thorough drenching when they are watered. The key is infrequent, but THOROUGH waterings. Root rot occurs when roots are sitting in water for too long. So, you might see your plant drooping, like you see in this clip here, and have the kneejerk desire to freak out and start watering it every day without letting it dry in between. This is actually the worst thing you can do to your plant- watering it around the roots constantly and with no drying interim.
Instead, I would totally recommend you taking your big plant babies into the shower. You can put a time on it, like every few weeks, but truthfully, I just go off the look of the plant. Especially because there will be different environmental factors like sunlight, humidity, time of year, and respective growing vs. dormancy cycle of the plant. When I notice my fiddle drooping, I take her in for a shower. You will be surprised by how much she perks up.
I keep my fiddle in a large 10” planter pot nestled inside a decorative basket. When I see the leaves drooping, I take it into the shower on a low to medium water pressure and use the detachable part to water in and around the roots. Then I work my way to the top, watering the foliage as I go. Their shape naturally funnels water downward into the trunk and roots. Plants enjoy when we mimic the concept of nature, and this shower method mimics the large surface area but small contact points of rain.
After I thoroughly shower my fig, I let it stay in the shower, even overnight sometimes. It will continue absorbing the humidity and the next morning, you will find it standing tall and happy after a proper drink of water. This will also help wash salts and minerals that are clogging the roots and keeping them from absorbing nutrients, down. Then, I just put it back in its decorative pot.
Another habit I’ve gotten into is giving the trunk of the fig a good shake after watering it in the shower. I do this because in nature, plants are exposed to the elements: wind, rain, storms, etc. They don’t sit idle with low airflow like they do inside our houses. Giving it a good shake every now and then helps to reinforce the sturdiness and keep your trunk stable and strong. This is also great if you ever plan on transitioning your plant outdoors after having been indoors.
When I replace the fig in its decorate pot, I rotate it 180 degrees from where it was before to allow it access to even sunlight and growth all around the circumference of the plant.
Make sure to let it dry out between waterings to prevent root rot and to diminish soil compaction. Also, remember that in winter or non-growing seasons, you water a little less anyway because there is generally less sunlight and less photosynthesis.
Lower light will cause lower leaves that are getting less exposure, to get yellow/brown and weak. You can increase the light or just pull off those leaves! Losing leaves is completely fine. There are a handful of reasons your leaves could be turning brown, most of them benign. Yellow or dead leaves at the bottom are just the circle of life. Think of it like trimming the dead ends when you get a haircut, or filing your nails and shedding that keratin. What’s much worse for your fiddle than plucking a few dead leaves, is freaking out over their appearance and over-loving your plant (often by over watering or changing the environment in a way that shocks it) to the point where you cause a further problem.
So, if the leaves are dropping only at the bottom, just pluck them off! If the leaves are dropping and turning brown/yellow climbing the plant, it may be time to pull the plant out, check on the roots, clean them up and possibly repot into a bigger pot, or into a soil with better aeration.
Fertilizer is more relevant during the growing season (May-September where I am), but usually I fertilize every two weeks in the spring and summer. You want to ensure you’re using a 3-1-2 NPK ratio, because high foliage plants need a lot of nitrogen.
Though they do enjoy a humidity of 40-60%, a humidifier is not a necessity. However, if you happen to invest in one, since they’re great for humans too, having it nearby the fig wouldn’t be a bad idea. Misting it does help a bit, but once that water evaporates, it can leave the plant even more dry, especially if it’s getting direct sunlight by accident. An inexpensive alternative to a humidifier is a pebble tray. Just make sure you’re sticking to the infrequent but thorough watering schedule as well.
Overall, these beautiful plants aren’t dramatic intentionally. They just don’t like change. It’s common for your fig to be a little overwhelmed when adjusting to a new environment. But, once they’re adjusted they’re pretty low-maintenance. Keep them near bright, indirect light and give it thorough, but infrequent watering. And listen to the leaves. Just remember, they droop when they’re thirsty, scorch when too much sunlight, and have brown tips when there’s root rot. Give it a shower when you notice the leaves dropping, or about once every 20 showers you take. Finally, if you find a spot that works for them, don’t move it if you can! They are creatures of habit.