Do you have an indoor space you’d like to appoint with a head-turning plant? One with a bold profile and striking leaves? If so, the Fiddle Leaf Fig is a winning choice! When you mimic the tropical setting it likes, your reward is glorious beauty. This guide for taking care of fiddle leaf figs will ensure your plant is a happy camper.
- What is a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree?
- Why Should You Buy a Fiddle Leaf Fig?
- Fiddle Leaf Fig Care
- Resolving Care Problems
- Fit as a Fiddle
What is a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree?
Favored by interior decorators, the Fiddle Leaf Fig belongs to the Ficus family. This stately plant has immense foliage, shaped like a violin, as seen below. For this reason, it’s also called the banjo fig. In its native habitat, the African rainforest, it blooms and produces figs.
There it thrives, basking in the dazzling sunshine and steamy air. While the plant loves the jungle, it can flourish indoors. Its primary needs are bright light, moderate humidity, and judicious watering.
There are two types of Fiddle Leaf Fig (FLF) — the “standard” and “bush.” Most widely sold is the standard, growing into a willowy tree. Its trunk is slender, crowned with profuse, glossy leaves. Less common is the shorter, compact bush.
While they differ in size and shape, their growing conditions are identical. So is their botanical name — Ficus lyrata.
The tree takes about three years to become a gorgeous specimen and 10 years to mature. At that point, it reaches its lofty indoor height of 10 to 15 feet.
Check out the two photos below, contrasting the bush with the standard banjo fig.
For the rest of this post, I refer to the tree since it’s readily available.
Why Should You Buy a Fiddle Leaf Fig?
The banjo fig has many virtues! From a decorating standpoint, it brings freshness to indoor spaces. Its graceful form suits all design styles. Moreover, its aura speaks of luxury.
Meanwhile, the plant is a zealous air cleaner, absorbing pollutants through its foliage and roots. Mature leaves can measure up to a foot long and 5 inches wide.
Plus, the plant has a stout, uplifting presence. While gazing at its splendor, you’re obliged to feel joyful and inspired.
In short, a healthy Fiddle Leaf Fig has tremendous value. On that note, let’s discuss the care needs of the Fiddle Leaf Fig.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Care
If possible, choose a location offering at least six hours of filtered sun daily. Avoid full sunlight, as this will burn the plant’s foliage. Optimal spots are before eastern or western windows. Another option is near a south-facing window. With all three exposures, use sheer curtains to protect your tree from sun damage.
Then, once a week, rotate your plant to encourage straight, balanced growth. Otherwise, the trunk will curve from reaching toward the light.
If you don’t have a sunny location, bright artificial lighting can work. Frequently, stores and offices with banjo figs use this type of illumination.
For your plant’s safety, choose fluorescent or LED lights. They bestow the red and blue wavelengths your plant needs while emitting low heat. “Grow lights” are perfect. Their full-spectrum wavelengths resemble those of sunlight.
Ideally, place your FLF directly below the light source. At a minimum, keep it on for eight hours daily.
What if a tree won’t fit beneath your intended lamp? In that case, buy a tall light fixture that accepts a grow light bulb. Note that its wattage must conform to the fixture rating. Otherwise, the bulb can overheat, posing a fire risk.
Temp and Humidity
The FLF is sensitive to drafts, spurring foliage loss. Therefore, locate your plant away from air conditioning and heating vents. If air is leaking from nearby windows, seal them before situating your tree.
Balmy temps are preferable, ranging from 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Plus, the banjo fig savors humidity. If your indoor air is dry, here are three options for boosting its moisture level.
- Each morning, mist the tree with warm water from a spray bottle.
- During the day, run a humidifier in the room housing your plant.
- Place your tree inside a deep tray on a layer of pebbles. Then, fill the tray with water, keeping it below the pot base.
Like jungle rainfall, the FLF likes a good soaking followed by a dry stint. When the soil feels dry to a 2-inch depth, give your tree a generous drink, using lukewarm water.
A pot with drainage holes helps to prevent root rot. When watering, use a light hand, sparing your plant from soggy soil.
From spring through fall, you may find yourself watering on a schedule. During the winter months, water less often, adapting to the weaker sunlight and shorter days. Some FLFs go dormant in winter, not growing at all. Generally, this occurs in a less hospitable setting.
Banjo figs take three to six weeks to acclimate to a new home. While your tree adapts, it will likely shed some leaves. After a month, if your plant isn’t stabilizing, assess your care. You may need to modify the plant’s light source or your watering method.
NOTE – To avoid severe plant trauma, buy your FLF when the outdoor temp exceeds 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dust-free foliage maximizes “photosynthesis.” Through this process, plant leaves absorb light, water, and carbon dioxide to make their food.
So, once weekly, gently wipe the leaves of your Ficus with a soft sponge. Clean both the top and underside of each leaf. Routine care will ensure shiny foliage and help to ward off pests.
Meanwhile, if any leaves are dead or mostly brown, remove them. If they stay on your tree, it will waste energy laboring to make repairs. Still, don’t detach more than five leaves at once. Otherwise, your plant will go into shock.
Prepare for leaf trimming by securing clean, sharp pruning shears. Put on gloves, protecting your skin from getting irritated by leaking sap. Then, spread a tarp or drop cloth around your tree to catch the drips.
To sever an unwanted leaf, snip the stem a half-inch from the trunk or other leaves. Cut cleanly, on an angle, not mashing or crushing the stem. With this technique, you’ll expedite plant healing while staving off infection.
Regular pruning will keep your Fiddle Leaf Fig from getting top-heavy. Spring is the best time for shaping. Using sharp pruning shears, clip the topmost bud. By doing this, you’ll activate the dormant buds below. Within 18 months, they’ll sprout new leaves.
If your tree gets spindly, cut off the new growth at the branch tips. Make each cut a half-inch above the “node,” meaning where the leaf joins the stem.
Also, trim your tree if it outgrows your allotted space. Give your plant 10 inches of clearance from the ceiling and any surrounding objects. Such “elbow room” will foster a balanced shape.
During spring and summer, your tree will relish monthly feedings. Skip fertilizing during winter. With your plant in a resting state, overfeeding can either damage or kill it.
Generally, vigorous banjo figs need annual repotting. One sign is seeing roots peeking from the drainage holes.
The new pot should be 2 inches wider than the current one. To promote good drainage, before adding any soil, place a layer of pebbles at the bottom.
The best times for repotting are during spring or summer. Since your plant is busy growing, the roots will love the roomier pot.
Rehousing a large tree can be cumbersome. Plus, while attempting to extract the root ball, you can injure the stems and leaves. Therefore, don’t even try. Instead, remove the top 2 inches of soil, replacing it with fresh potting mix.
If you have pets or children, keep your FLF beyond their reach. The sap is poisonous when ingested. Again, before pruning, spread a drop cloth on the floor. The barrier will shield your family from exposure to the toxic sap.
Resolving Care Problems
This is the most common cause of plant loss. Here’s a clue to overwatering. One or more fallen leaves are mostly green with browning along their central veins. After checking the foliage, feel the topsoil. Is it moist or wet? If so, before watering again, let the top 2 inches dry completely.
If knowing when to water is daunting, use a moisture meter. Then, hydrate your tree when the gauge approaches “dry.”
Healthy plant roots are white and firm. When roots are waterlogged and air-deprived, soil fungus gets a foothold.
As the fungus invades the roots, they turn brown and mushy. Eventually, they die. Other signs of root rot are yellow leaves and stunted growth.
Here’s one way to skirt this hazard. Keep your plant on a short pedestal, above a catch tray for water.
If you don’t have a suitable platform, sit the pot inside a saucer. Then, keep an eye on it, emptying any water that collects there.
When your plant is dehydrated, its message will be clear. The first sign is browning leaf tips, followed by drooping foliage.
If your plant is parched, its leaves may yellow. If it’s bone dry, it will shed brown, crispy leaves.
Do the leaves have brown spots? Or, do they show thinning, brown patches? If so, your plant probably needs more light.
Fiddle Leaf Figs are vulnerable to scale and spider mites. Weekly cleaning may avert infestations. However, if you see insects, remove them with a damp cloth. Then, treat your plant with an organic insecticide.
Fit as a Fiddle
The Fiddle Leaf Fig prefers six hours of bright, muted sunshine. It grows best when given balmy temps and humid air. When thirsty, the plant likes a deep drink of lukewarm water. Then, let its top 2 inches of soil dry out.
The plant’s enemies are drafts, pests, and drowning roots.
If you sponge the leaves weekly, their shine is breathtaking. Between spring and fall, feed your plant monthly. To sustain a vigorous grower, upgrade it to a larger pot each spring. Here’s an old school trick: moisten the sponge with milk and watch how fabulously the leaves gleam!
Try to indulge your plant with what it loves. It will surely be fit as a fiddle! What tricks do you have to keep your plants happy?