The New York Times declared it the It plant of the design world. Open any copy of Elle Decor or Architectural
Digest and you’ll likely see one.
We’re talking, of course, about the fiddle leaf fig tree, the fashion-forward plant of the decade.
Some people love it, some people can’t stand it, but either way, no one can stop talking about it.
Looking for some greenery in a neglected corner of your house? Looking to flex your green thumb? We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about this fashionable houseplant.
What is a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree?
What makes it so popular among design circles? Most people credit the big, floppy round leaves of the tree, shaped like violins. These are often equated to the big eyes of babies–people anthropomorphize the plant in a way that makes them want to take care of it.
Of course, most designers would also tell you that the plant is highly photogenic, which definitely helps.
Growing a Fiddle Leaf Fig
Anyone who’s ever tried to grow a fiddle leaf fig may well have wailed about our projected lifespan and launched into a laundry list of stories about the fig trees they tried and failed to nurture.
Remember: the fig tree is tropical. And if it’s not living in a tropical environment, it’s going to need a bit of tender love and care to thrive.
If you decide to plant a fig tree outside, you should first do a realistic assessment of your home climate.
Fiddle leaf figs are native to the lowland rainforests of West Africa. That means they’re used to heat, but more than that, they like humidity. If your climate is dry or cold, your fig plant will die quickly.
We recommend leaving your ficus lyrata in a pot on a lanai, patio or porch where it can be brought inside in the event of a cold front. If the weather gets to 45 degrees or less than your plant will not survive.
Another reason we recommend keeping your plant in a pot, fiddle leaf figs can get massive. Think up to 50 feet tall with a spread only slightly smaller than that. Trunks can grow several feet thick.
If you have a small garden, this is probably too much for your garden to handle.
If you decide to go ahead, try to plant the tree in a location with lots of sunlight, preferably one that’s also protected from the wind.
If you live in a cooler climate, you should grow the ficus indoors. However, you should still have enough humidity and light for the plant to be comfortable.
It should be in a place with direct light exposure. There is a chance that intense direct light may burn the leaves, so keep an eye to ensure you are providing the optimal light level.
It’s a good idea to choose a spot for the plant before you buy it–moving the plant around too much will stress out the plant (we’re not kidding, it’s kind of a drama queen that way).
How to Care for a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
You would think that a plant that’s so popular would be easy to grow.
Not the case with the fiddle leaf fig.
Some people would have you believe it’s a hardy plant. Ignore them. If anything, it’s a highly emotional plant that doesn’t like change that much and is decidedly fussy about the conditions it grows in.
On the flipside, when you can get one to survive and thrive, it’s like being handed a gift from the gods. The plant becomes something magical, something you’re emotionally attached to, almost like a dog or a child.
With that in mind, let’s talk about what you need to do to keep your fussy new housemate happy.
Let’s start with the basics: pot size.
The size of all houseplants depends on the size of the pot they’re planted in. If the roots have more space to spread, the plant will get larger.
This is why you’re always told to be careful of buying a pot that’s too small for your plant–it’s like putting your foot in a shoe that’s too small. It cramps your toes and leaves you uncomfortable all day.
Except for your fig, that shoe is its house.
On the flipside, you shouldn’t plant your fig in a pot that’s too big, either. The plant will get…well, freaked out, for lack of a better word.
Luckily for you our plant care specialists have chosen grow pot sizes for you to maintain the happy life of your plant. There is no need to repot your plant when it arrives. We recommend against repotting as it can shock your plant in a way that will be detrimental to its survival.
You also need a planter that will offer plenty of drainage.
Remember: fiddle leaf figs are fussy. They like humidity, but they don’t like being wet all the time. If they’re too wet, you run the risk of root rot.
We ship all of our plants in pots with plenty of drainage holes and have custom designed a wicking system to ensure your soil wetness can be easily maintained, with your proper care.
To Water or Not to Water?
To water, or not to water?
That is the question.
Or rather, the real question is how often are you supposed to water your fiddle leaf fig?
Some sources tell you to water your fig regularly, others will tell you to treat it like a cat or a cactus and just ignore it.
Either way, it doesn’t like to sit in water, so you want to make sure that it doesn’t throw a tantrum over water buildup.
As a rule, water only when the soil is dry to the touch. The best way to check the soil dampness is to use a Soil Sleuth. A Soil Sleuth is a tool that every plant owner needs. It allows you to test the water level of your soil at 5 different depths within your plant without disrupting the roots of your plant. Just touching the top soil will not tell you how much water is down below where the roots are and can cause over or under watering as a result. At each of the 5 levels on your soil sleuth, you’ll know it’s dry if the soil doesn’t stick to your finger when you touch it. When you do water it, water just until water starts to drain into the saucer underneath and then let it dry out.
This brings us to our next topic: soil.
We make sure to pot your plant in soil that has the right balance of nutrients for your plant to thrive. There is no reason to repot your plant just slide the grow pot we provide into your decorative planter. For more instruction on how to care for your plant once it arrives click here.
You should also regularly check the soil, especially if your plant is struggling. If you have no idea what aeration means or what soil checks even entail, try these 10 tests. Repotting may be necessary down the road but be careful as this can be a dramatic process for your plant.
As with everything related to fiddle leaf figs, people argue back and forth about the merits of pruning.
Some people say it’s good for the health of the plant, other people say you’re creating open wounds that will make your plant stage a soap opera death.
The key is to prune properly.
If you need to prune off a couple brown leaves, please do so carefully. If you see brown husks, don’t touch those either–they may be protecting new growth.
A good rule of thumb is to check the health of the branch–if it’s shriveled up, it’s too far gone to save. A branch that looks pathetic but feels healthy can still make a comeback if left to its own devices.
Why Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Looks Dreadful
With all of that in mind, let’s talk about a few common mistakes that could make your fiddle leaf fig look like a desiccated husk (or, at least, a sad example of a houseplant crying for help).
Overwatering and Underwatering
Watering is one of the hardest things to get right with any houseplant. This is especially true of a temperamental plant like the fiddle leaf fig.
In its native climate, the fiddle leaf fig gets ample water from rainfall but is never soaking.
Alternately, too little water produces an equally sad plant.
The key is to maintain a happy medium of relatively consistent moisture.
To combat this, make sure you have soil and a pot with good drainage, and only water the plant when the top two notches of your soil sleuth have dry soil.
Too Much Light
You might think that tropical equals lots of sunlight, right?
Well, you’re right, this plant loves the sun, but keep an eye on it and if you see the leaves are getting burned, make sure to pull the plant back from the window a little.
The good news is that many houses and apartments naturally provide the level of light that figs like best–not excessively bright, not too dark, not too much and not too little.
We recommend placing your plant in a south, east, or west window in direct sunlight. This will provide for a happy home for your fiddle leaf fig.
You should also make sure to buy your tree from a reputable seller to avoid the opposite problem–many people buy fig trees that are already on the decline after sitting in the dark for too long.
You might like it tepid, but the fiddle leaf fig is a native jungle dweller, which means this tree likes it hot.
That said, fiddle leaf figs will generally do alright in normal indoor temperatures. They’re not used to anything resembling cold, though, so they shouldn’t be left outdoors if you experience temperature drops below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
It doesn’t like drafts either, which is a problem because some of the best light for figs is often found in the number one spots for drafts (near big porch doors and windows).
Plus, drafts have a nasty habit of drying out rooms, which takes your home habitat even further away from the sticky heat that fiddle leaf figs love so much.
During the winter, it’s a good idea to mist your fig tree to make up for lost moisture in the air. And before you ever go out and buy a fig, take some time to find the right place in your home or apartment.
Even with all your best efforts, fiddle leaf figs are notoriously temperamental, so there’s a fair chance you’ll run into issues from time to time. We’re breaking down a few common ones.
Brown leaves are by far the most common issue with fiddle leaf fig trees, which is frustrating because they’re also one of the least aesthetically-appealing.
Brown spots could indicate any number of issues. In general, it’s often related to your watering habits. Whether you’re overwatering or underwatering, you’re putting your plant at risk of disease.
Start by diagnosing the issue to make sure whether your problem is overwatering or underwatering. From there, adjust your watering schedule to keep your plant happy. From there, brown spots should resolve themselves.
Another common problem is your fig dropping leaves.
Again, leaf dropping is usually related to your watering habits, though it can also be the result of too much cold air to too much warm air.
If your tree is dropping leaves, start by moving it somewhere else and see if that resolves the problem. Try to find somewhere with consistent temperatures throughout the day.
Order Your Fig Plant Today
Like we said, the fiddle leaf fig tree is a fussy plant to cultivate. But once you’ve gotten one to flourish, it’s as if you accomplished a particularly difficult magic trick.