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Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata) Plant Care Guide

Fiddle Leaf Fig. Ficus Lyrata. Nicknamed 'the most popular houseplant in the world'. That's a lot to live up to! No pressure. This handsome chap is a must-have for many a collector. A statement plant  with those huge, lush, green leaves. He gets a medium care rating from us of 2.5 out of 5. A little trickier than the more rigid leafed Ficus Elastica but once you know his needs, you'll be able to keep your dream plant happy and healthy. Here's how...

 

The big green leaves of a Ficus Lyrata or Fidde Leaf Fig growing indoors leaning towards the light from a window


Light

Bright, indirect light if the way to your FLF's heart. The more the better. Avoid direct light, or if you can't avoid it together, a little morning light is better than the stronger afternoon sun. Low light will soon cause issues. So will direct sun. Give him a turn every fortnight or so to keep that growth even. Over time if there's a strong light source in one direction, he'll otherwise bend towards the light. 

Soil

We use a free draining mix of about 3/4 potting soil and 1/2 perlite for ours. You could mix in a bit of bark as a replacement for perlite. Mix it together well so excess water drains out (there's no point just putting a layer of bark in the bottom, that's a myth that actually increases the risk of root rot).

Avoid repotting your FLF unless he needs it. When little, about once a year is normal. As he gets bigger, he'll typically be fine for longer, and may just need the top layer of soil topped up. They're slow growers and do okay being a little squished, plus transplant stress can be a killer for these sometimes finicky chaps.

Temperature

Ficus Lyrata like it relatively warm. About the same range we're comfortable in. Aim for between 15 and 24 degrees ideally. Lower than 12 is best avoided.


Water

Lightly, evenly moist is the sweet spot you're aiming for. Over-watering is much worse than under-watering, so if in doubt, don't water. Wait till the top soil is dry to the touch. Not bone dry. Just stick a finger down and  wait to water when the top 2 to 3cms are dry. It's much easier to fix under-watering them over-watering!

Wipe those huge leaves down every month or so with a soft damp cloth to avoid dust building up, blocking light and pores (called stomata), preventing them 'breathing' easily. Stomata are what your FLF uses to control water loss and exchange carbon dioxide. 

Fertiliser

Although slow growers, those glorious leaves still benefit from a feed. From the start of Spring we do half-strength-feeds each time we water. They don't need much. We stop feeding around mid-Summer. Keep in mind a plant's growth is limited by the mineral they need the LEAST of (yes, the least, not the most), so not feeding at all can inhibit growth and health of those new leaves.

It's also important to start feeding early in the growing season, as by the time new growth has appeared, some mineral deficiencies have already occurred (calcium being a common one), some you can't fix later. We don't feed our boys over Autumn and Winter.

Go for a complete NPK type fertiliser with a nice long list of minerals, including the all-important calcium, and ideally one that avoids urea-based nitrogen to avoid the risk of fertiliser burn.

 

Two hands holding a Fiddle Leaf Fig also called Ficus Lyrata in a white pot up high above the persons head

 

Fiddle Leaf Fig pro tips & problem solving


Growing really slowly

Yep, that's an FLF for you. Give him time. If you dreamed of a tree taking over your room and touching the roof, hold on to those dreams, and be patient. He'll get there in time. It can take years for a Fiddle Leaf Fig to reach full height, longer when indoors. In the meantime, coming up to Spring, half-strength-feed with a good quality complete fertiliser. That way when he does put out more precious leaves, they'll be as big and healthy as possible.

Leaf not growing in to a plant

If you've tried to propagate a leaf, it will likely grow roots and give you hope. But it won't do much else. Congratulations, you own... a Fiddle Leaf leaf. To successfully grow a new Fiddle Leaf Fig, you need to start with a tip cutting. Trim off a tip with a stem around 15cms long attached to a leaf. Now you're growing.

No leaves down low

Over time your FLF might be bushy on top and bare down below. If you give him a chop it can cause new growth further down the trunk. Apply a bit of Urban Botanist or Crazy Keiki cloning paste to nodes further down to give him a boost at the same time. Or you could embrace his tree vibes. A healthy FLF that has a bare trunk and those giant leaves on top can be a beautiful thing. 

Brown husks down the trunk

I tend to leave those brown husks alone as they could be protecting new growth. If you do need to remove them and find a bud or node underneath, apply a pea-sized dab of cloning paste and you may be rewarded with a new leaf or branch. Otherwise I'd leave them be and new growth might appear come Spring.

Browning leaves with dry edges

Allow soil to dry out too much, especially if coupled with low humidity, and those glorious lush green leaves can become brown and dry. If the soil's really dry, give him a good drench, and keep watering more consistently going forwards. But if your watering is fine, it can also be due to dry air (maybe you have air con or heater running). Consider investing in a humidifier. Rather than prune off the entire leaf, we just trim the crispy edges off. 

Losing lots of leaves all of a sudden

You will lose old leaves one by one over time due to age but a lot all at once is more cause for concern. If your Fig's had a change in environment - whether it's a change in sun, wind or cold or a whole move to a new location - he may protest with sudden leaf loss. If you correct the cause and keep him happy going forwards, you may lose a few leaves but with patience, next Spring should see him bounce back. FLF's aren't fast growers. If there hasn't been a change in environment, then another common cause for high leaf loss is over-watering. 


Soft leaves with brown patches

Unlike dry, browning leaves, soft leaves with growing brown patches is usually a sign of over-watering. Drops in temperatures can cause this too. If the soil's really wet, you may have to repot in to new, dry soil before you lose the whole plant. It depends how bad it is. In the meantime you can also increase the temperature to help warm him back up and draw more moisture out of the soil into the air.

 

Pet safe?

No sorry, the Fiddle Leaf Fig or Ficus Lyrata is another on the long list of plants not safe for pets or kids to eat. If you damage your fig, like other Ficus, you want to avoid the sap that will come oozing out. If you get some on you, give your hands a good wash. Best kept out of reach of curoius pets and kids. 


LTLC Rating (Love That Leaf Care Rating)

We give the handsome Fiddle Leaf Fig a 2.5 out of 5. Or a 3 if you don't have a green thumb. Don't over-water this chap. Given him a warm spot with bright, indirect light, out of pesky breezes, and you should be rewarded with those big, green leaves and a lush plant for years to come. Nowhere near as easy as a ZZ Plant (1 out of 5), but a bit harder than a Ficus Elastica (2 out of 5). 
 

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