Fiddle-leaf-fig

Caring for fiddle-leafs & other indoor figs

By Jennifer Stackhouse

Tags: container, Ficus lyrata, Fiddle-leaf fig, house plant, indoor plant, ornamental fig, ornamental plant, pot plant

Fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) is a stylish and desirable indoor plant.

This ornamental fig grows well in a large container positioned in a brightly-lit spot in your home. While it is important for the plant to have lots of light, don’t allow it to sit in hot, direct sunlight, which can burn the leaves. Also keep the plant away from air-conditioners and heaters, which can also damage foliage.

These are ultimately big trees growing 2 to 3 metres indoors (and more than 9 metres high and wide in its native rainforest habitat). Regularly transplant indoor plants into a larger container as the tree grows. Indicators that the plant needs to be moved into a bigger pot include that it becomes unstable and can easily tip over and that it dries out quickly. Select a broad and deep container with drainage holes. A wide top makes it easy to plant and replant the fig without damaging either the plant or the container. Use a good quality indoor potting mix.

Once the fig becomes too big to easily transplant, it is possible to keep it in a large container by topping up the potting mix or lifting the plant out of the container, gently trimming its roots and replanting it into fresh mix.

 

Watering

Overwatering can harm these plants, which like to have well drained but moist soil. They also react badly to a lack of water. Signs of under and over watering include floppy or wilting leaves and yellow or brown spots on the leaf or leaf edges.

If the potting mix feels wet, cut back on watering and check that the pot can drain. If the mix feels dry and the pot is light to lift, it has dried out. If possible, soak the pot in a large container of water or take the plant outside and thoroughly re-wet. If the potting mix is hard to wet, apply a soil wetting agent, or repot the plant in fresh potting mix.

As a rule of thumb, only water when the top 2-3cm of the potting mix begins to feel dry (monitor soil moisture with your finger), then saturate the mix and allow it to gradually dry out. This may be once a week when it’s warm (late spring to early autumn) but only every two to four weeks in cooler parts of the year. Don’t let the pot sit in water. If it is standing in a drip tray to avoid water stains on the floor, make sure it is elevated on pot feet to allow the water to drain from the pot into the tray. From time to time, check that the drainage holes are allowing water to drain and are not blocked by roots. If they are blocked, it’s time to repot.

 

Fertiliser & care

Apply a liquid fertiliser monthly during warm weather when the plant is growing (late spring to late summer) but not at other times.

Those large leaves can get very dusty so at least once a week, dust the leaves with a soft cloth. While dusting, carefully check for any signs of pests such as mealy bug or scale. Cut off any damaged, brown, or pest-affected leaves to improve the overall appearance of the plant. Treat pests with an insecticide such as PestOil or an organic spray such as a soap spray (Natrasoap) or Eco-Neem applied to the foliage and twigs.

These plants rarely need pruning other than to remove damaged growth.

 

Other figs

The fiddle-leaf fig is one of several ornamental figs grown as indoor plants. One of the easiest to grow is the rubber plant (Ficus elastica). This hard-to-kill fig has large shiny green or brown-tinged leaves. It thrives with the same care as the fiddle-leaf but tolerates almost total neglect.

Also popular, both as an indoor plant and as a patio plant, is the weeping fig (F. benjamina). This particular fig has small leaves and is sensitive to changes in light levels. It may defoliate if moved into a different spot however it should regrow its leaves. It also drops leaves if it is allowed to dry out or if it is overwatered. Recovery may be patchy after watering problems.

 

Brown spots on leaves & leaves falling off

When a fiddle-leaf fig has brown spots on its leaves or drops its leaves it’s usually because it’s getting too much or too little water. Or it could be because it’s exposed to a cold draught or too much warm air, from a heater for example. Try the aforementioned watering advice or move it to a different location to see if that helps.

 

Warning

These plants are all long-lived indoor potted plants. Never plant them outdoors, especially in a small garden, as they rapidly become very large trees with invasive roots.

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Jennifer Stackhouse

Jennifer Stackhouse

Horticulturist, garden writer, blogger & editor.