Ah, the fiddle leaf fig. So beautiful, so unique, yet the most temperamental and picky of houseplants. I swear, this plant has given me more anxiety than my neurosurgery sales quota, and THAT is saying something.
Fiddle leaf figs, or ficus lyrata, have become very trendy in recent years. Their large, oblong leaves are super attractive and add an element of spunk to any room. They can be pruned to be bushy up top with a skinny trunk, or left unpruned with leaves growing down the entire stem.
It’s hard not to fall in love with the ficus lyrata because of how unique it looks. But what people don’t know is that they can be very finicky and picky about their care. I’m amazed by how many websites online list the fiddle leaf fig as a “low maintenance, easy to grow houseplant for lower light households.” Are you kidding me? No. Don’t be fooled!
I’m by no means an expert here, but I’ve managed to keep my fiddle leaf fig alive for almost a full year (cue happy dance). And given the fact that for several months I experienced the dreaded leaf drop, this is a big achievement that I’m quite proud of!
Being that they’re slow growers and such a trendy houseplant today, they come at a pretty penny…sometimes close to $200! And of course they’re oftentimes exempt from nursery warranty programs because they can be tough to care for. I have friends and family who splurged on beautiful fiddle leaf figs only to have them die within a few months. Some of them received poor care instructions from nursery employees, and let’s not talk about the plethora of false information online that many, including myself, got trapped into following.
So through some trial and error, endless nursery conversations and pleas for advice, I’ve managed to find what works for my fiddle and I’m here to share the love!
First things first: lighting. Ficus lyrata like bright, indirect light. What does that mean? Don’t put your fiddle in an area where the sunlight streams through, producing that bright patch of light on the ground where your pet loves to take a snooze. DO put your fiddle by a window, ideally south facing, where the sunlight is filtered and consistent, but never directly shines on the leaves. Direct sunlight is too intense and can produce sun spots on the leaves. In my home, lighting has always been an issue because my living room windows face north, leaving it a little dimmer than ideal. So I maximize light exposure by putting my fiddle in front of a glass door where it receives unobstructed light.
Ficus lyrata also love humidity. Native to western Africa, they grow in lowland tropical rainforests. The conditions indoors can often be dry, which is not ideal for the fiddle leaf fig. Even more important, make sure they are far from drafts. They cannot handle changes in temperature, #dramatic. To combat dry conditions, I mist and foliar feed my plant using a spray bottle with a mixture of water and a diluted fertilizer. This helps add moisture and nutrients that the plant takes up directly into the leaves. It leaves them beautifully green too…see what I did there? I do this a couple times a week.
Next is watering. Watering trips up most people when it comes to plants in general. We have a tendency to overwater because let’s be real, how much does it suck to be really thirsty? What we don’t realize is that less is more. When in doubt, wait a day and then water. 9 times out 10 you’ll be fine. Plants can tolerate underwatering more than they can tolerate overwatering, which is a large part of why my fiddle leaf fig is still with us.
For months I unknowingly underwatered my fiddle leaf fig. After overwatering initially and experiencing my first leaf drop, I panicked and decided that my fiddle leaf hated water. The leaves continued to develop brown spots and drop once every few weeks from the bottom of the plant, but 95% of the leaves still looked healthy. However, over 9 months it never sprouted a new leaf, which as a home gardener I knew was a sign that it was surviving, but not thriving.
I visited my favorite nursery and got reprimanded for underwatering my fiddle leaf fig. I was also told they’re heavy feeders and that because it had been in the same pot for some time, it needed a good dose of fertilizer. In short, I’m a terrible mother and my poor plant was hungry, thirsty, and had been barely surviving in starvation mode for months. So I took a gentle granular fertilizer and worked it into the soil before watering. Despite everything I read online that swore by “1 cup of water a week”, I said a prayer and gave it a good soak with some water and additional sea based liquid fertilizer with more NPK. I watered in increments until I saw a little drain out of the bottom and then stopped. I planned to do this once every other week, or when the soil dried out.
About 2 weeks later, I noticed that for the first time since I brought it home, my fiddle leaf fig was sprouting a new leaf. I screamed and immediately called my mom and sister, both of whom had been coping with their own fiddle woes.
Now I have my fiddle leaf on an intuitive feeding and watering schedule. Rather than water the same day every week with the same amount of water like I did previously, I check the soil weekly and water accordingly. Each time I water, I do so incrementally, letting the water soak down until I see the first drops drain out of the bottom. I feed with liquid fertilizer every other watering so my plant has the nutrients it needs to generate new growth. This is the fertilizer I use.
So there you have it! This has worked great for my fiddle and I hope it helps yours too! If you have fiddle leaf fig tips, please share the love in the comments!
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