Our Complete Guide to Fiddle Leaf Fig Care
So, you’ve just purchased, or currently own, a Fiddle Leaf Fig. Now what?
The Fiddle Leaf Fig, also known as the Ficus lyrata, graces the covers and photos of many design publications, bringing drama and height, and tying entire rooms together with its tall stature and enormous, elegant leaves. What some people don’t realize is that Fiddle Leaf Figs need to be positioned directly in front of a window despite where you’ve seen them in photos. They can be tricky to take care of while the plant acclimates to your space, and until you learn their watering schedule. Read on to learn the ins and outs of ensuring your Fiddle Leaf Fig remains healthy and vibrant for years to come.
Fiddle Leaf Figs should be placed in front of a window that will receive direct morning or afternoon light. Ideally, what you’re aiming for is a window with a mostly unobstructed eastern, western, or southern exposure — you don’t want trees or close buildings shading the window. If the window is large enough and doesn’t have anything obstructing a clear view of the sky, a north facing exposure can also work if your Fiddle Leaf is placed directly in front of it. If you want to place your tree in front of a southern exposure, you’ll want to slowly acclimate it to being in many hours of direct sunlight — if they’re given too much direct sunlight too quickly, the leaves could burn and form brown scorch marks. Slowly increase the amount of time it spends in front of a southern window over the course of 1 - 2 weeks.
The size of your Fiddle Leaf Fig also plays a role in determining how much light it will need to stay happy. The larger the plant, the more light it will need. E.g. a 7’ tall tree would need a much taller window to accomodate its height compared to a 4’ tall tree.
Generally speaking, the more leaves your Fiddle Leaf Fig has, the more light it will need to maintain its leaves and continue to grow new ones. When a plant doesn’t receive enough light, it responds by dropping lower and interior leaves, communicating with us that it’s not getting enough light to sustain all of its leaves.
During the winter months, when natural light isn’t as abundant, it’s important to keep your plant in front of the window while still making sure it’s not getting any cold air from drafts that blow in. If you do have windows that are drafty, move your Fiddle Leaf anywhere from around 2 - 3 feet back from the window, and see how it responds. This distance is usually best, as it allows for plants to avoid any random bursts of cold air, while still receiving a similar amount of light. Continue reading for additional winter care tips.
To match their love for natural light, Fiddle Leaf Figs need to be thoroughly watered about once a week. Depending on the size of the plant — and therefore the size of the roots — you’ll want to adjust the amount you water. A good rule of thumb is to wait until the top 2 - 3 inches of the soil is dry, and then give the plant a thorough watering. If it’s in a planter with a drainage hole, this means watering until you notice water dripping out the bottom. However, don’t let the drip tray sit full of water for any extended lengths of time, as this allows root rot to set in easily. When you water, remember to do so slowly in a circular motion around the plant, making sure to cover all areas of the soil. This way, water reaches all of the roots and not just some.
One of the best tools to understand how often your Fiddle Leaf Fig needs water is through the use of a Sustee Aqua-meter. Since we have been using these in our shops, we have realized that there are certain times of the year where our plants are much more thirsty than usual. The Sustee turns blue when the soil is saturated with water, and then turns white once the soil’s water content is low enough that watering again won’t result in overwatering.
Like with all tropical plants, you want to water with room temperature water. Hot or frigidly cold water is a surefire way to cause a plant to go into shock the same way it would if it was exposed to either end of extreme temperatures while outside.
Like with most other plants, Fiddle Leaf Figs do require some general maintenance. One important routine you can do for your Fiddle Leaf happens to correspond to its most obvious feature: its leaves. With great leaves come great responsibility — in the form of habitual dusting. Since their leaves are so large, Fiddle Leaf Figs need to be dusted regularly. When dust accumulates on plant leaves, dust particles make it difficult for the plant to absorb sunlight and perform photosynthesis. Since Fiddle Leaf Figs love light so much, regular dusting goes a long way in helping your plant stay in top shape.
In addition to dusting leaves, it’s also a good idea to rotate your plant weekly or bi-weekly. Rotating your plant gives it even light exposure, meaning one side won’t be growing drastically more than another, leading to a sturdy and symmetrical Fiddle Leaf Fig.
If you’re wanting your Fiddle Leaf Fig (or any tree, for that matter) to begin to grow branches, you can do a couple of things. Try giving your plant more light first — trees naturally grow branches, and if they’re receiving a lot of natural light, they’ll have more energy to potentially spend on creating branches. Another way to encourage branching is to cut off the topmost point of growth on your plant. This will force the plant to stop growing directly upwards, and instead, it’ll begin to branch out from the sides. To learn more about pruning and branching check out our pruning journal post.
For those who don’t do so already, aerating the soil once every couple of months keeps the soil from becoming compacted. Compacted soil eventually creates small pockets of soil where water never reaches, which can negatively impact your plant’s ability to take in water, among other things. Aerating can be accomplished with a lot of different objects, whether it’s an official soil aerator, or something similar in size and shape, like chopsticks. Gently insert the aerator into the soil, slowly pushing it further in to avoid damaging too many roots. Do this in an assortment of spots around the soil, and it’ll help keep your plant healthy and happy by breaking up any spots where the soil has clumped together.
Lastly, our suggestion on fertilizing your Fiddle Leaf Fig and other houseplants is the ‘less is more’ approach. It’s best to not overwhelm your plants with additional nutrients all at once. We highly recommend using a slow release pellet fertilizer, such as the Osmocote Plus Indoor Smart-Release Plant Food in the spring and summer months by mixing them into the top layer of the plant’s soil. Typically, these pellet fertilizers last for several months.
With a noticeable lack of natural light and colder temperatures, winter is a tough time for indoor plants, Fiddle Leaf Figs included. While watching out for cold windows, as mentioned above, is a good starting point, there are some other things you can do to keep your Fiddle Leaf happy throughout the cold months.
Heating vents are a common issue people run into during the winter — it’s easy to forget they exist when they’re not turned on for more than half of the year. When it does come time for them to turn on, plan to move all of your plants away from any heating vents. The repeated blasts of hot air can burn leaves and dry your plants out quickly.
Before watering your plant during the winter, break up the soil slightly with your fingers. With the drier indoor air during wintertime, soil easily becomes clumped and compacted. Breaking it up lightly with your fingers will help the soil retain water instead of water falling straight through between the soil and sides of the planter.
It’s also worth mentioning that a humidifier can do wonders for Fiddle Leaf Figs and other tropical plants all year round, especially in the winter when indoor air becomes dry. The constant increase of moisture circulating in the air helps prevent browning leaf tips and lets your plants thrive as they would in a rainforest.
Fiddle Leaf Figs need a lot of natural light and do best when placed directly in front of a window.
Water thoroughly about once a week, allowing the top couple inches of soil to dry out before watering again.
If you have any questions regarding Fiddle Leaf Fig care, feel free to ask down below, visit one of our shops, or get in contact with us!
Written by: Egan Thorne
Photos by: Emily Kellett
Videos by: Brian Kellett