How to Care for a Fiddle Leaf Fig

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Fiddle leaf figs are popular and generally easy to care for, making them a great fit for anyone looking to add some green to their home

Fiddle leaf figs are one of the most aesthetically pleasing and popular indoor plants, according to gardening researcher Madison Moulton from All About Gardening. Their large fleshy leaves make fiddle leaf figs an attractive option for your home—and as tall indoor plants, they’re fun for decorating. Fiddle leaf figs are fairly low-maintenance houseplants if you’re willing to follow a few simple growing tips, so they can thrive indoors.

First things first: Are fiddle leaf figs trees or plants? Technically, they’re both, depending on the variety and how you prune and train them to grow. Fiddle leaf figs are members of the Ficus genus, with the species name Ficus lyrata. Though you likely won’t see any flowers when they’re grown indoors, they’re classified as flowering plants from the Moraceae family. You’ll likely recognize their close relation to other indoor trees like the rubber tree (Ficus elastica) and the traditional fig tree as well. Fiddle leaf figs can grow well beyond 40 feet in outdoor conditions and grow best in tropical and subtropical climates. But don’t worry, in your home, they won’t grow to more than about 10 feet (for the standard variety), depending on the size of the pot you put yours in and how often you transplant it. The dwarf varieties vary between 2 and 5 feet.

Be aware that fiddle leaf figs produce a milky sap that contains tiny but sharp calcium oxalate crystals. They’re toxic to pets and humans when ingested, but in general, you don’t need to wear gloves when moving your fiddle leaf fig from one part of the house to another. If you have sensitive skin, though, make sure to wear gloves when pruning, repotting or propagating your fiddle leaf fig, since the sap can cause irritation.

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Botanical name Ficus lyrata
Height 10 feet (indoors), 40-plus feet (outdoors)
Sun exposure Bright indirect light all day (or direct morning sun with afternoon shade)
Soil type Well-draining soil with medium moisture
Soil pH 6 to 7
Toxicity to pets Yes, if ingested

Where to put a fiddle leaf fig?

Fiddle leaf figs need warmth and high humidity to thrive. By keeping them indoors, they will be protected from extreme temperatures, but they grow best outdoors in their native tropical growing conditions. To achieve their maximum indoor growth, they need a full day of indirect bright sunlight, Moulton says. A south-facing window works best, where your fiddle leaf fig will get a full day of sunlight. Fiddle leaf figs can handle a few hours of direct morning sunlight, as long as they are introduced to these conditions slowly. For direct morning sunlight (if you’re pulling up the blinds or putting it on a front porch or patio), it’s best to opt for an east-facing window or area. Care tip: You want to avoid scorching the leaves, so if you notice the leaves have a light brown cast to them, decrease their exposure to direct sunlight.

Fiddle leaf fig care

Soil

Fiddle leaf figs need medium to fast-draining soil and will do well planted with a well-draining, airy potting mix that’s designed for houseplants. These mixtures contain amendments like perlite to improve drainage; it allows air to flow more freely around the roots. Fiddle leaf figs need soil with a pH between six and seven. Because you want to avoid the soil getting too acidic, which happens over time as soil breaks down, you may want to monitor it with a pH meter. Find out what white fungus balls mean in your soil.

Water

Watering times differ depending on the size of the plant and its pot, along with environmental conditions. Moulton advises testing the soil with your finger every couple of days instead of watering on a schedule. You should water your fiddle leaf fig when the top half of the soil in the pot has dried out completely (in a small pot, aim for testing the top inch of soil). Don’t be afraid of under-watering your fiddle leaf fig. By following this tip, you’ll avoid potential problems with overwatering, which could result in fiddle leaf fig brown spots or premature leaf drop. Moulton points out that while these plants love humid conditions, you should avoid misting them with a spray bottle, as it could cause potential problems with growth.

Fertilizer

Fiddle leaf figs benefit from a regular fertilizing schedule during the spring and summer months. Moulton advises a fertilizer that’s slightly higher in nitrogen to promote strong leaf and stem growth and one that contains phosphorus and potassium. Follow the instructions on the packaging to avoid overfertilizing. For the best fiddle leaf fig care, you will need to transplant your fiddle leaf fig over time to give it room to grow (make sure to adjust the amounts of fertilizer based on your new pot). Transplanting once a year is ideal.

Types of fiddle leaf figs

The standard fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) is the most common option and the easiest one to find, explains Moulton. But if you’re looking for something more compact, check out the smaller Bambino variety, which reaches only 2 to 4 feet tall. There are also variegated varieties available, such as the Variegata with green- and cream-colored leaves, though they are trickier to find and are often more expensive.

Common pests

Fiddle leaf figs are prone to a few common indoor pest problems. The main houseplant pests you’ll encounter are mealybugs, spider mites and scale. According to Moulton, these pests attach themselves to the plant and feed on the leaves and stems, causing growth problems. When this happens, you’ll notice discolored marks. The best solution is to isolate your fiddle leaf fig and remove the pests with natural sprays or horticultural oil, depending on the level of infestation. Pest tip: You will likely need to repeat this process a few times for the best results.

How to propagate fiddle leaf figs

Propagating a fiddle leaf fig works best during the spring and summer months. As woody plants or indoor trees (depending on which variety you buy and how you prune it), fiddle leaf figs are best propagated from branch cuttings. Because new soft green growth is the most likely to root, Moulton advises using a rooting hormone, which is generally available where plants are sold. First, remove the leaves on the bottom half and cut the top leaves in half horizontally. “This stops them from growing and directs the plant’s energy toward the root development,” Moulton explains. “Although many try to propagate from individual leaves, these cuttings will never develop into full plants,” she adds. While a small amount of stem tissue on the end of a leaf may develop roots to survive on its own in water or soil, this method won’t work for growing a brand-new plant. Check out more tips on how to propagate plants and a few for reviving a dead or dying plant.

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Dianne Bright
Dianne Bright is a southern California-based writer and a regular contributor with RD.com, where she writes about the environment, nutrition, finance, pets, and books. She also contributes to TheHealthy.com. Her work has appeared in Scholastic's Parent & Child magazine and blog, I Love Cats magazine, and Christianity Today, among other publications. Bright's book of parenting reflections: MOMS KICK BUTT, comes out in February, 2021. Her M.A. is in Spanish American Literature. Follow Dianne on Twitter @dibright, Facebook @AuthorDianneBright, and Instagram @authordiannebright.