You may have heard about the finicky reputation of Ficus Lyrata, commonly known as a Fiddle Leaf Fig. These trees are native to the rainforests of central and western Africa. With a little patience and strategy, your Fiddle Leaf Fig will thrive and bolster some gorgeous giant leaves as it grows into a giant. Once acclimated into your home, the Fiddle tree grows to huge heights: Outdoors, up to 50 feet tall, indoors up to 15 feet (depending on space and lighting). Below are a few tricks that will make plant care easier and keep those gorgeous giant green leaves on the trunk of your Fiddle tree!
1. Regularly Wipe Down the Leaves & Be Proactive About Pest Prevention:
For optimal fiddle leaf fig care, wiping down a fiddle's leaves at least once a week or once every other week to keep them clean and dust free is essential to help the plant efficiently absorb more sunlight and photosynthesize. We use a diluted solution of neem oil and a dampened paper towel. We like using neem oil because it is a pest preventative and does not harm the plant. Wiping the leaves down is especially important for Fiddles since the large leaves are prone to dust! Do not use "leaf shine" products because they upset or "clog" the pores in the leaf. Plant leaves contain little pores called stomata and leaf shine blocks this with either oil or wax, which end up damaging your Fiddles leaves. You might be wondering about neem oil, can't that also clog the pores of the plant as well? It seems counterintuitive, but the answer is no, neem oil doesn't clog the pores of the plant. Just be aware that you should not use too much of the extract when making a neem oil mixture to clean your leaves. Follow the package instructions or only use about a pea-sized amount, mixed with a dab of dish soap, and fill the bottle with tap or distilled water.
Still not convinced about neem oil (also known as margosa oil)? Neem oil comes from the seeds of the neem tree and is a completely natural pesticide. Not only does it make your leaves look stunning, but it also is a proactive pest preventative measure! It keeps pests from infecting your plant. Interestingly enough, neem oil is often found in hair and skincare products and used to treat a number of ailments that humans suffer from as well! Crazy, right? The only down side of the product is that some people are averted by the smell. It has a bitter sulfur-orange like smell. Kind of hard to put that kind of smell into words, truly.
Unfortunately, because of it's classification as a pesticide, it is banned in Canada and the U.K. However, it is classified as a "botanical pesticide," completely free from harmful chemicals or additives, and does not have harmful chemical ingredients. Therefore, it is completely safe to use, won't clog plant pores, or cause any harm to you. Neem on!
2. Have a Consistent Watering Regiment:
Fiddles benefit from a consistent watering routine. When watering, make sure that you see water coming from the bottom of the pot. While Fiddles benefit from drying out between waterings, they actually require a good amount of water to keep their leaves happy. Underwatered Fiddles will drop leaves or get brown spots or damage along the edges of the leaves. Damage to the leaves is irreversible. Damaged leaves should be removed from the plant so that the plant uses its energy to create new healthy leaves. In many cases, the leaves eventually drop if the brown spots or other leaf damage is extensive (and even if it is not extensive sometimes). An underwatered Fiddle Leaf Fig's leaves will turn brown along the edges and eventually drop. Overwatered Fiddle Leaf Figs will have both dark brown spots on the leaf and also along the edges of its leaves. In cases of excessive overwatering, root rot may occur and usually a rancid smell emanates from the pot.
If you notice speckles of brown or red spots on your Fiddle, your Fiddle may have Edema. Edema sounds like a scary word, but really all this means is water retention in the leaves of your plant. Generally, Edema is a sign that you are over-watering your plant. Edema can occur on the new growth portions of your Fiddle's leaves or just about anywhere on the tree's leaves. But, don't fret, because as the tree matures and the leaves develop, these spots may disappear. Check the under-sides of your Fiddle's leaves for water-soaked areas.
3. Use Excellent Soil and Repot Fiddles Annually or Bi-Annually:
Because Fiddle leaf figs require nutrient-rich soil in order to support their large leaves and overall growth, repotting and refreshing the soil is important. Though, your Fiddle isn't ready to repot unless you see roots coming out of the bottom of the tree, or if you have excessive roots making absorption of water difficult for the plant. We have experienced this with one of our Fiddles where the roots had nearly taken over the soil in the pot. Surprisingly enough, this is common and can easily happen once your tree grows to a large size. Once or twice a year, it is a good idea to check the root ball of your Fiddle. If you do decide to repot, make sure to go up only one pot size or two. In other words, there should be no more than about one to three inches of space between the pot and the root ball for the new soil, depending on your root ball's size. Keep in mind that larger plants have a greater circumference and can handle more space for soil, while smaller plants require less space for soil. And finally, be sure your pot has many drainage holes, not just a few. Proper drainage is key!
Which soil should you purchase? There are a few considerations when you are thinking about purchasing soil or making your own soil. The soil mixture is a critical part of growing a healthy Fiddle Leaf Fig. It is essential to select a soil that has good drainage but can also hold and releases moisture to nourish your Fiddle. Use a potting mix that contains coconut coir, which helps soil retain enough moisture without becoming waterlogged. If you are uncertain about making your own soil, there are several big-box stores and online nurseries that sell various pre-made standard potting mixes or special Fiddle Leaf Fig potting mixes. Any of those places have selections would be suitable choices for repotting your Fiddle!
We recommend trying to make your own by mixing 50% indoor cactus potting mix and 50% indoor standard potting mix. The cactus potting mix contains more perlite and/or pumice, which increases the drainage in the soil. However, if you want to try making your own, try out this recipe: Soil, 20%; Compost, 20%; Bark, 15%; Coconut coir, 20%; Charcoal, 10%; Pumice or Perlite, 15%. Or, try this recipe: 70% indoor potting mix and 30% cactus potting mix for especially root bound plants. You may increase the ratios, depending on how root bound your plant is and how much fresh soil is needed. We have used 100% standard indoor potting when repotting a Fiddle, and it turned out to be a healthy, thriving tree with tons of new growth!
4. Fertilize Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Regularly:
Your choice of what to use for fertilizing your plant is a personal one. Because fertilizers can be organic and natural (like fish emulsion, worm castings, chelated iron or chemical in nature (the blue powdery stuff). Many experts out there recommend a fertilizer that contains a growth-boosting Nitrogen (N), development-supporting Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K). Using the proper balance of these nutrients encourages healthy root growth and maintains those giant gorgeous leaves. We prefer using an all purpose 20-20-20 fertilizer called "Jack's." We follow the package instructions for a "consistent fertilization" regiment. This means that every time we water, we fertilize with a diluted version of the fertilizer. Like we said, this is personal preference but you may use organic fertilizers that suit your lifestyle.
5. Use a Humidifier and Keep Your Fiddle Away From Drafts or Vents:
Another reason Fiddles drop leaves or get brown spots are due to low temperature or a lack of humidity. Fiddles are native to rain forests, so they thrive in warm, humid environments. If you place it near a drafty window or near an AC vent (where AC is blowing), the leaves drop. Brown spots also develop in situations where the leaves dry out, due to a lack of humidity. Fiddle Leaf Fig leaves may become brittle and in some cases crack or tear. Unfortunately, the tears in the leaves may turn into holes as the leaf grows. Fiddles love humidity of about 80% to 90%. While nurseries may be able to produce 80% to 90%, this high level isn't usually achievable in your home. Not to worry, because Fiddles will also thrive in humidity of about 50% to 70%, which is achievable in your home! We recommend a larger humidifier that has a timer and that fills from the top, making your plant care and maintenance a more enjoyable experience. We love our humidifiers that don't require refilling too often and make our plant care easier!
5. Don't Move Your Fiddle Too Often!
In order to encourage trunk strength and growth, emulate the wind by gently shaking your Fiddle's trunk. Shaking the trunk leads to increased trunk and root growth. Many experts caution Fiddle owners not move their Fiddle too often. These trees are particular about their environment and may experience shock and drop leaves when moved. With that said, it is important to continue to rotate your Fiddle so that it is getting enough sun on all sides of the tree. Obviously, this requires movement as you rotate the Fiddle Leaf Fig tree. Just be gentle and careful when moving it, and your Fiddle should remain happy! Keep in mind that you may have to slightly move your plant around when cleaning the leaves. But, don't fret, because healthy Fiddles generally do not drop leaves unless there are other stressful elements at play that are upsetting the tree's environment like over or underwatering, under-fertilization, pests, drafts, or problems with the other factors we mentioned above.
6. Place Your Fiddle in Proper Lighting:
It is essential to place your Fiddle Leaf Fig tree in bright indirect sunlight. A Fiddle needs about 6 hours of sunlight each day. If you don't know if you have enough light in your home, you can gauge this using a light meter. Or better yet, sit in the room that you want to place your Fiddle in and if you can read a book comfortably without needing to turn on a light, this is generally enough light for your tree. Just remember, the more indirect sunlight you give your Fiddle, the healthier it will be. On the other hand, if you place it in a south facing window with harsh direct sunlight, your leaves can become scorched or experience leaf-burn. We do not recommend placing it in a south facing window, unless you pull it back about 6 feet from the window. Your fiddle will benefit from an east-facing window where it can receive warm afternoon sunlight. A west-facing window could also work, just be vigilant of pulling it back so that it does not experience leaf burn. We do not recommend placing your plant in a north facing window or in any room where there is not enough sunlight, as Fiddle Leaf Figs do not survive in a low-light situations.
To avoid leaf drop, turn your Fiddle regularly (about once a week or bi-weekly) to ensure that all sides of your tree receive sunlight. Not only will this prevent your Fiddle from leaning, but it will also give your plant the sun-nutrition it needs to photosynthesize! We recommend purchasing a rolling plant caddie or plant stand with wheels. Using a plant caddie with wheels will make turning your Fiddle easy!