Fiddle leaf fig is a popular indoor houseplant for its stunning colour and lovely composition. Their maintenance needs are specific, but not extensive.
22 August 2022
Fiddle leaf fig, also known as Ficus lyrata, is a common houseplant originally native to the tropical rainforests of western Africa. Fiddle leaf figs grew beneath the forest canopy, making them well adapted to lower light conditions and therefore perfect for indoors. Fiddle-leaf fig is named for the distinctive shape of its leaves, which resemble violins (aka ‘fiddles).
These leaves are also a huge part of what makes the Fiddle leaf fig so effective at living beneath the forest canopy. The surface of the leaves are broad and flat, allowing them to catch the maximum amount of sunlight for photosynthesis. This also gives the fiddle-leaf fig excellent air purifying capabilities, as they are more efficient at filtering out toxins during the photosynthetic process.
Fiddle-leaf figs have been proven to effectively filter out harmful chemicals and toxins like dioxins, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and benzene. Figs in general are superstars in the natural world of air filtration, with the rubber fig and weeping fig also displaying heightened purifying abilities.
However, many people around the world opt for fiddle leaf figs as their primary houseplant due to their aesthetic appeal alone – for the busy individual who may not be around often enough to take care of a fiddle leaf, an artificial fiddle leaf fig is a common compromise.
Fiddle leaf fig care
Remember that fiddle leaf plants are native to the tropics. As such, they need a lot of water and thrive in high humidity. Fiddle leaf figs should be thoroughly watered about once a week, or once the surface of the soil (down to approximately two inches) has sufficiently dried.
Fiddle leaf fig trees may be tolerant of some low light, but this does not mean they will thrive in any conditions. The best sunlight conditions for a fiddle leaf fig to grow is bright, indirect light. Specifically, fiddle-leaf figs will be at their healthiest if placed in a sunny area which receives bright, direct sunlight once a day (ideally during the morning or the afternoon).
This often plays into the placement of fiddle leaf figs within a room. Because they are ideally suited to bright sunlight for a limited time, this makes them the perfect candidates for unobstructed eastern or southern windows. Interestingly, this actually plays into some of the concepts of Feng Shui, which dictates that plants placed in the Eastern, Southern, or Southeastern points of a home promote positive energy flow and encourage the acquisition of lasting wealth.
Potting and re-potting
The growth rate of a fiddle leaf fig is about one foot per year. This varies depending on what stage of life the fiddle leaf plant is in. When it is young (2-3 years old) it will grow very slowly. After three years, it will begin to reach the height of a standard ornamental tree. Fiddle leaf figs take about a decade (sometimes fifteen years) to reach their full height indoors. Inside, the tallest that a fiddle tree fig will grow is up to 10 feet – which is nothing compared to the staggering 50 feet that it can reach outdoors. Dwarf figs are also popular for indoors as they only grow to about one metre.
You can tell when a fiddle leaf fig needs to be repotted by the roots. If your fiddle leaf appears ‘root bound,’ this means it is time to go up a pot size. Root bound plants are easily identifiable because you will be able to see the roots of the plant curling around the outer edge of the pot, coming out of the bottom drainage holes, or showing on the surface.
Repotting a fiddle leaf fig is not as difficult as you might think. Make sure that you get in early, especially if you have only just purchased the fig. You should repot into a permanent pot with proper drainage as soon as you have the fig at home. This is because the plastic pots that most fiddle leaf figs are sold in can cause permanent damage to the plant in just a few days. Make sure you buy an appropriate pot and soil before (or at least at the same time as) you purchase the plant.
How to re-pot
To re-pot the fiddle leaf fig, fill the new container with a bottom layer (about 4 inches worth) of nutrient rich soil. Then, carefully remove the plant from its current pot – making sure to keep the roots intact – and place it into the new pot.
Fill in the pot with soil until the fig can stay upright on its own. Once the new pot is full of soil, gently compact the soil to ensure that it is not too loose. Make sure not to over compact as the plant will need some breathing room to grow. After a month, fertilize the fig with an appropriate fig-friendly mixture.
Propagation of fiddle leaf figs is possible. However, fiddle leaf fig leaves will never grow into a full plant. Instead, they will create something called Zombie leaves. Zombie leaves are cuttings from a plant which can live healthily for years, but are incapable of growth or change.
Certain Zombie leaves might produce a stem, but this would be the result of a dormant bud being torn in the original cutting. Propagation is possible by placing the cutting in water or in a mix of water and soil.
Dropping or drooping leaves usually indicates that there is a problem with a plant’s watering. For fiddle leaf figs, it can mean that they are getting either too much water or not enough. Check the soil quality – it should be slightly moist, but never soggy. Hold off on watering unless the soil is dry and see how this affects the plant’s leaves.
Another factor which could cause a fiddle leaf fig to drop leaves is rapid temperature changes. Make sure that the plant is kept somewhere sheltered from air conditioning units, heaters, vents, and even simply areas of strong wind.
Yellow leaves are a very bad sign for plant health. This likely indicates some kind of infection, often bacterial or fungal. Prune the affected leaves as early as possible and quickly switch the plant to new soil. If the infection is bad enough that you can see visible signs, it may be too late to save the plant.
Brown leaves or brown spots on the surface of leaves is a telltale sign of root rot. This is caused by insufficient water drainage. If the plant is left to sit in too much water, the roots will rot and become mushy. To save the plant, you will need to check the roots and cut away the rotted mushy parts – as well as pruning the diseased leaves.
This could also be a temperature change issue, so remember to keep the plant sheltered from air conditioning units, heaters, drafty areas and vents. Try to move the plant to a warmer location.
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