How to grow and care for a fiddle leaf fig

With lustrous, wide, violin-shaped leaves and prominent veins, this upright leafy tree will create a graceful backdrop of luxurious fresh foliage in your home or garden. But to keep it in the best health and appearance, there are some tips and tricks that you need to know.

What you need to know about a fiddle-leaf fig

Name: fiddle-leaf fig, banjo fig, Ficus lyrata

Height: 10–12m tall. Dwarf forms are now available, such as F. lyrata “Bambino”

Foliage: large green undulate, fiddle-shaped leaves with prominent veins.

Climate: prefers a warm-temperate or tropical growing environment outdoors, but will grow in indoor environments.

Soil: a premium potting mix should always be used indoors.  A moist, humus-rich but well-drained soil is preferred outdoors.

Position: full sun to partially shaded position outside, or bright indirect light indoors.

Flowering and fruiting: long green figs are produced, but are usually hidden beneath the leaves.

Feeding: use a controlled-release fertiliser in spring and a water-soluble fertiliser every month from spring to late summer.

Watering: allow the potting mix or soil to dry out between each watering.

Appearance and characteristics of a fiddle-leaf fig

Fiddle-leaf figs are large spreading evergreen trees that can reach between 15 and 30m tall in tropical climates. Undulate, fiddle-shaped glossy leaves up to 40cm long and 30cm wide form a bushy dome of foliage on top of an upright growing trunk or stem. The fiddle-leaf fig is popular as an indoor potted plant and is often used in interior design and styling. It is used as a large specimen plant, growing between 2–3m tall or until it reaches ceiling height.

Fiddle-leaf figs originate in the Central and West African tropical regions, growing naturally in lowland rainforest. They produce fruits on mature plants: long green figs that are usually hidden beneath the large coarse leaves. These are rarely seen on plants grown inside, except in warm glasshouses. The fiddle-leaf fig is best grown in partial shade outdoors in most tropical and warm-temperate climates, but it will take full sun when established.

Indoors, the fiddle-leaf fig will grow in most temperate and tropical climates but requires a bright light or morning sun position, such as eastern-facing windows only, to avoid scorching of the foliage.

How to plant and grow a fiddle-leaf fig

Most garden soils are suitable, but the fiddle-leaf fig favours a moist, humus-rich but well-drained soil. The soil pH should be in the range of around 6–7 for healthy development, which can be easily monitored with a pH kit. Allow the soil or potting mix to dry out between each watering to avoid leaf drop and root rot, as this plant is quite tolerant of drought and dry conditions.

Your fiddle-leaf fig will require a premium standard potting mix when planted indoors.  Use a large, sturdy pot or container, as the plant can get quite large and heavy. Re-pot every two years to maintain health and vigour.

Re-potting your fiddle-leaf fig

Don’t wait to re-pot your fiddle-leaf fig after buying—do this immediately.

1.Select a slightly bigger pot or planter with good drainage, as the fiddle-leaf fig is susceptible to root rot.

2. Fill the new container with 4in of potting mix. Remove the plant from its old pot, being careful not to damage the roots.

3. Place the plant in the new container and fill the sides with soil.

4. Water your plant and let it drain.

5. Fertilise after a month with a water-soluble fertiliser.

fiddle leaf fig

Caring for a fiddle-leaf fig

Apply a controlled-release fertiliser when potting up indoor plants. A water-soluble liquid fertiliser should be applied every month during spring and summer.

 

How and when to prune a fiddle-leaf fig

Tall or straggly plants can be pruned to encourage bushiness by removing the tip growth. They can be trained as a standard by removing the lower leaves and shaping into a ball. Growers sometimes plant two or three young plants together and then plait the flexible stems as they grow, to form interesting trunk patterns. Remove old or yellowing leaves close to the main stem or branch.

Fiddle-leaf fig problems

Overwatering is the most common problem with a fiddle-leaf fig in cool or low-light conditions. This usually shows up as yellowing leaves or leaf drop. To address this, place the plant in a brighter spot and reduce the amount of watering to nurse it back to health.

Dry air or people brushing past the plant may cause brown tips on the leaf edges. To increase humidity, mist the leaves regularly and move the plant so that it will not be in the way of people walking past.  Wipe dull or dusty leaves with a clean damp cloth using water only, and allow them to dry. To enhance the look and gloss of the leaves, apply leaf shine products to the upper surface of mature leaves. Scale, mites and mealy bug are commonly encountered pests, which may be controlled with an insecticide.

How to propagate a fiddle-leaf fig

Ficus can be easily propagated using tip cuttings taken during spring or early summer.

  1. Choose firm tip growth with at least two leaves around 10–12cm long.
  2. Place them in a 130mm pot with seed and cutting mix, or 50:50 peat and coarse propagating sand or perlite.
  3. Large ficus leaves can be reduced by cutting them in half to reduce transpiration.
  4. Dip the bottom of the stem in rooting hormone and place in a propagator or pot covered with a clear 2L bottle top and position in partial shade.
  5. In around 6–8 weeks the cuttings should have taken root.

Larger plants can be obtained by aerial layering, although this is quite slow and can take 6–12 months before they are established.

In warmer areas, fresh fig seed can be obtained and sown in spring or summer. This will germinate with a little bottom heat in a heated propagator.

If you like this then try

Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa): a handsome evergreen tropical climbing plant with large, glossy perforated leaves. Grown as an indoor plant, or outside in warm sheltered areas.

Devil’s ivy (Epipremnum pinnatum): a climbing or sprawling evergreen tropical plant with heart-shaped foliage, usually splashed with yellow or white. Suitable for growing in low-light conditions indoors.

Air-cleaning plants: indoor plants that remove harmful levels of air pollution from our homes and offices. 

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