The Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree plant is a highly-desired ficus variety for its wide, green leaves and clean aesthetic. These houseplants look lovely in home decor photos in magazines, Pinterest boards, and Instagram, but they're also known for leaving their caregivers in heartbreak.
But, are they really that hard to please?
Ask any plant nursery or plant shop, and they'll tell you that the Fiddle-Leaf Fig tree is their most "killed" houseplant. Have a look on Reddit and you'll discover tons of posts requesting HELP for their Fiddle-Leaf Fig tree.
The truth is, your beloved plant's love language isn't so hard to learn. Read on for a few tips to help you out...
Are Fiddle-Leaf Fig trees hard to care for?
Like any tree or houseplant, the Fiddle-Leaf developed in the wild, in a specific region and climate, over countless years. What we're saying is, it's got preferences, a "type", so to speak. Consequently, making it commit to living in your home inside a pot takes just a tiny bit of charm.
The love story usually happens this way: You bring home your perfectly curated Fiddle-Leaf tree and the honeymoon begins. Weeks later, to your dismay, she shows signs of breaking up with you—her leaves start turning brown, yellow, spotting, drooping, or falling off. To fix the problem, you overreact and possibly end up making the problems worse.
To back into her good graces, you'll need to know her love language. Once you meet those needs, you'll find that keeping her happy is super easy and rewarding.
In the steps below, we'll touch on key points to keeping these trees alive, as well as how to go further to get these trees to fall in love with you!
What Does a Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree Need to Survive?
Here are the basics when it comes to keeping your Ficus lyrata alive:
1. Bright, indirect light.
Let the phrase, "nobody puts baby in a corner" guide you when finding the right spot for your precious plant. The number one reason why many Fiddles don't survive is due to inadequate light—low light leads to a host of problems and always ends in eventual death.
Always place these trees near a brightly lit window—but not glaring direct sunlight (unless it's less than an hour or two). This is absolutely vital for keeping the romance alive with your Fiddle. We never know the journey these plants traveled before you discovered them in the store or plant shop, so providing proper light is the first step to helping them resist the shock of relocation.
If good natural lighting isn't an option, get yourself a good grow light. If you're not able or willing to do either, just get yourself a low-light plant, like a Raven ZZ or a snake plant instead.
2. Water only when the soil feels dry, not on an arbitrary schedule.
You've heard that your Fiddle-Leaf Fig tree is a moisture loving plant, but you should only provide water when needed. She'll tell you she's ready for more water when the top 30%-50% of her soil feels completely dry (we prefer the chopstick method, see image below). For a number of reasons, we don't recommend moisture meters, but if that's your thing... you do you.
After a number of weeks, you'll get into a consistent pattern and will simply know approximately how long it takes for her top layer of soil to dry up, and that will be your schedule.
The frequency of watering will depend on a number of factors, including her specific environment and soil media. For some, their trees are ready for more water every 7-8 days. For others, they know their Fiddle-Leaf Fig tree needs water about every 12-14 days. There's really no set schedule for every plant given the different types of environments and soil media.
Conversely, this method will also protect you from under-watering your tree.
Now that you know when your tree needs water, add a ton of water to completely saturate the soil, and, keep going until the water is draining out the bottom. Yep! There's no such thing as "too much water", just "too often water."
This leads us to our next point...
3. Drainage. Drainage. Drainage.
We can't emphasize enough this point about drainage. If the water you pour into your soil isn't allowed to escape, you can expect leaf discoloration, leaf drop, root rot, and disease in a matter of time. There is NO EXCEPTION to this.
What is proper drainage, you ask? Proper drainage looks like visible water flowing out the plants bottom. If your Fiddle-Leaf is in a decorative pot, remove it when you water (if it's in a liner pot). Or, if your Fiddle-Leaf is in a pot with no drainage, better make some holes on the bottom, and soon, or she will hate you.
The image below is a tricky example of NOT proper drainage. The pot here appears to have drainage, but in practicality, the water will simply be trapped at the bottom of the pot, and likely still saturating the bottom layers of soil. Your Fiddle-Leaf plant is susceptible to root rot, disease, and eventually death in this scenario.
3. Don't move your tree.
Common sense tells us that trees don't prefer to be moved around. They are, in fact, stationary objects that acclimate to their existing environment. When we hear someone tell us they occasionally put their Fiddle out in the sun for a couple hours, we cringe bigly.
If you want your Fiddle to be an outdoor, direct sun kinda gal, there are ways to get her there. But if you're hoping for a pleasant houseplant, just find her a good spot and tell her she's pretty every day.
Now that you know how to keep these fickle Fiddles alive, let's learn how to get them to thrive—Pretty soon you'll be living happily ever after!
What Does a Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree Need to Thrive?
Congratulations! If you've read this far, you're now ready to take this relationship to the next level—getting your Fiddle-Leaf Fig tree to thrive. It's time to wine and dine her and get her to absolutely fall in love with you!
Here are the basics when it comes to getting your Ficus lyrata to thrive:
Just because your plant is alive doesn't mean she's pretty. If you want her to put out (leaves) and grow nicely, you'll have to feed her.
You can spot a hangry (hungry/angry) tree just by looking at her, she just won't look great. Just like a malnourished animal or human, an unfed or malnourished Fiddle-Leaf will have poor growth. Small and sparse foliage is a key indicator of a tree in need of fertilizer.
Further, these trees are prone to disease and infections if they don't have access to the nutrients they need to flourish.
The best type of fertilizer for Fiddle-Leaf Fig Trees are constant, gentle, water-soluble plant foods, like Fiddle Leaf Treats. For a number of reasons, we don't recommend plant spikes, slow-release, or tablet fertilizers, but we won't get into that here. Instead, we'll tell you why we love Fiddle Leaf Treats...
Why is Fiddle Leaf Treats so great?
Fiddle Leaf Treats is a totally unique, gourmet food for your favorite gal. It provides a perfect balance naturally-derived macro-nutrients for your Ficus, plus, a special blend of organically bonded trace minerals and botanical sea kelp.
The benefits of these features means that this fertilizer will:
- Feed soil microbes to support plant immunity
- Provide streamlined nutrient uptake
- Never build up in the soil or create toxic compounds (which kills plants over time)
- Never destabilize or react with air and water
- Maintain compatibility regardless of water hardness or temperature
Further, each small bag of Fiddle Leaf Treats comes in a resealable pouch to protect the dry ingredients for months longer than liquid fertilizers. One pouch will treat 22 gallons of water.
2. Routine Leaf Care
Routine leaf care will keep your fiddle in tip-top shape. Even in the best environments and circumstances, your Fiddle can fall victim to mites and pests. At the very least, your fiddle-shaped leaves will definitely get covered in dust.
Once a week, take a feather duster and gently remove debris and dust from settling on her leaves. Be sure to periodically check for webbing and signs of pests. Know that clean leaves help your Fiddle's resilience, and absorb more light for photosynthesis, they also look way better in your fancy home.
As needed, spray her down with some Big Leaf Energy®. Big Leaf Energy® is a multi-purpose, enhanced neem oil spray. It will naturally shine up leaves, as well as support against pest infestations and disease. It's a great way to revive and strengthen your plant. Plus, you can even spray her soil for fungus and mildew control and provide systemic benefits through her roots.
And there you have it! Now you and your Fiddle-Leaf Fig tree are a match made in heaven!