Fiddle Leaf Fig Care: Getting Your Tree to Fall in Love With You

Fiddle Leaf Fig Care: Getting Your Tree to Fall in Love With You

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 struggling in heartbreak.

But, are they really that hard to care for?

Fiddle leaf fig care may seem complicated if you read the posts online. Have a look on Reddit and you'll discover tons of posts requesting HELP for their suddenly dying, leaning, drooping, or have yellowing or browning leaves. Ask any plant nursery or plant shop, and they'll tell you that the Fiddle leaf fig (aka Ficus lyrata) is their most killed houseplant. Buy why?

The truth is, proper care of fiddle leaf fig trees is not that complicated. Your beloved plant's love language is actually easy to learn. Read on for a few tips to save your FLF from breaking up with you...

Expert care for fiddle leaf fig tree plant

Fiddle leaf fig care, is it really that hard?

Understanding that the FLF developed in the wild, in a specific region and climate, over countless years may help. 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 and empathy.

The FLF Love Story

The love story usually happens this way: You bring home your perfectly curated green loved one 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 completely. Then to save your struggling fiddle leaf fig, you overreact and begin the love-bombing. Maybe you start giving her extra water, or moving her outside for more sunlight, or fertilizing. All these well-intentioned actions can end up making the problem worse.

To back into her good graces, you'll need to know what she needs for good care. Once you meet those needs, you'll find that keeping your plant happy is super easy and rewarding.

fiddle leaf fig tree requirements

In the steps below, we'll touch on key points to keeping these plants alive, as well as how to go further to get these trees to fall in love with you!

Fiddle leaf fig care basics : Survival

Here are the basics when it comes to keeping these potted girls alive, and by the way, this applies to pretty much the whole ficus family:

1. Non-negotiable: 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 Fiddle Leaf Figs don't survive, or start dropping leaves, is due to inadequate light—low light leads to a host of problems and always ends in eventual death.

These plants need a LOT of light and that's sometimes hard to provide inside our homes. Supplement with an artificial grow light if necessary.

Always place these trees near a brightly lit window (south facing preferred)—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 plant. If the light is excessive, consider filtering it with some sheer curtains.

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 possible 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 tolerant plant, like a Raven ZZ or a Snake Plant instead.

2. Water only when the soil feels dry, not on a schedule.

You've heard that your leafy lover is a moisture desiring, tropical plant, but, you should only provide water when needed! Overwatering is a top killer to the romance.

So, when is the best time to water? When the top 60-70% of her soil feels completely dry that's when it's time to water. It's recommended to use a  moisture meter or use the easy-peasy chopstick method for determining the moisture level of the potting soil (see image below).

After a number of weeks, you'll notice a consistent watering care pattern and you'll simply know approximately how long it takes for her top layer of potting soil to dry up. That will be your schedule. Keep in mind, though, this schedule will likely change with the seasons.

The frequency of watering will depend on a number of factors, including her specific environment and the type of soil in the pot. For some, their trees are ready for more water every 7-8 days. For others, they know their houseplant needs water about every 12-14 days. There's really no set schedule for every plant given the different types of environments and soils.

Conversely, this strategy will protect you from under-watering your tree as well.

Now that you know when to do it, add a TON OF WATER to completely saturate the potting 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...

When to water a fiddle leaf fig tree

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 is key to good care and healthy houseplants. It’s characterized by water freely flowing out from the bottom of the pot. Here’s how to ensure your plants have the drainage they need:

  • For Decorative Pots Without Drainage Holes:
    • If your plant is in a decorative pot lacking drainage holes, it's crucial to use a liner pot inside. When watering, remove the plant in its liner pot, water thoroughly, and only return it to the decorative pot after all excess water has drained away.
  • Making Drainage Holes:
    • If your pot doesn’t have drainage holes, consider drilling some at the bottom. This simple step can prevent water from pooling at the root level, which could lead to root rot and ultimately harm your plant.
  • Using Liner Pots:
    • When your plant is in a liner pot within a decorative pot, always remove it from the decorative pot for watering. This allows you to water the plant thoroughly without worrying about excess water. Ensure all excess water drains out before placing the plant back into the decorative pot.

Proper drainage is not just about watering correctly; it's about giving excess water a place to go, ensuring your plants remain healthy and happy.

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 Ficus is susceptible to root rot, disease, and eventually death in this scenario.

not proper drainage for fiddle leaf

3. Fiddle leaf fig plants don't like to be moved.

Common sense tells us that trees don't prefer to be moved around, yet we move them all the time. These wooded wonders are, in fact, stationary objects that acclimate to their existing environment. When we hear someone tell us they occasionally put their plant 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.

The most moving you'll ever want to do with these plants is to turn them one-quarter per week while keeping her in the same spot. By rotating your plant just a little each week, you allow the sun to hit more of the plant and prevent growth leaning in one direction.

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!

Advanced Fiddle Leaf Fig care : Tips for thriving plants

Congratulations! If you've read this far, you're now ready to take this relationship to the next level—getting your finicky plant to thrive. It's time to wine and dine her and get her to absolutely fall in love with you!

There are just two basic steps when it comes to getting your Ficus lyrata to thrive:

  1. Fertilizer your FLF
  2. Regular leaf care

Let's break these two aspects down to get a better connection in the relationship—

1. Get that giant growth with fertilizer

Just because your plant is alive doesn't mean she's pretty. If you want your FLF to put out (leaves) and grow nice, big leaves, 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 fig will have poor growth. Small and sparse foliage, or yellowing leaves is a key indicator of a tree in need of plant food. Adding fertilizer to your plant care routine will give you leaf growth bigger than your own head.

fiddle leaf fig dying

The best Fiddle leaf fig plant food has a specific recipe. These plants have precise nutritional needs to flourish. For a number of reasons, we don't recommend fertilizer spikes, slow-release, or tablet fertilizers.

Read: The problem with most houseplant fertilizers

What is the best plant food for the fiddle leaf fig tree?

Fiddle Leaf Treats® is a totally unique, gourmet food for your favorite gal. It provides a perfect balance naturally-derived macronutrients (3-1-2 NPK) for your Ficus, plus, a special blend of organically bonded trace minerals and botanical sea kelp. No other plant food offers this level of quality.

The benefits of our fiddle leaf fig plant food:

  1. Supports your plant's immune system: Fiddle Leaf Treats® delivers organic compounds that feed soil microbes. The plant microbiome is the foundation of your plant's immune defenses.
  2. Fuels bigger, greener leaf growth: Fiddle Leaf Fig leaves require a lot of nutrition to grow. The organically-bonded minerals are more readily available for absorption to fuel big, green leaf growth.
  3. Maintains healthy soil: Fiddle Leaf Treats® keeps soil healthy by using top-notch ingredients that won't pile up in the soil. Other plant foods often use low-quality minerals that seem to work at first. But over time, these can turn into harmful buildup, making the soil toxic. Fiddle Leaf Treats™ avoids this problem, keeping your soil safe and good for plants..
  4. Remains stable: Unlike liquid plant foods that often destabilize in a matter of weeks, our fiddle leaf fig plant food remains viable for up to 3 years.

Each small bag of Fiddle Leaf Treats® comes in a resealable pouch to protect the dry ingredients for months longer than liquid fertilizers.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant Starter Kit

This fiddle leaf fig plant care starter kit includes plant food, leaf wellness spray and microfiber gloves at 15% off the regular price.

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 which interferes with photosynthesis. Plus, clean leaves look way better in your fancy home.

Once a week, take a feather duster or some handy microfiber gloves and gently remove debris and dust from settling on her leaves. Be sure to periodically check for webbing and signs of pests.

As needed, spray her down with some Big Leaf Energy®. Big Leaf Energy® is a multipurpose, enhanced neem oil spray. Don't worry, it doesn't stink. 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!

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