How to Care for Ficus Lyrata A.K.A the Fiddle Leaf Fig
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Whether you are a seasoned gardener or just a newbie, chances are, you might have already heard of Ficus Lyrata. It is pretty hard to miss this “it” plant. You can see plenty about it featured in magazines, blogs, and social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.
Well, this comes as no surprise!
Ficus lyrata, or better known as fiddle leaf fig, is a popular indoor plant for a good reason. The fiddle leaf fig simply looks gorgeous! It has minimalist and modern features that can easily spruce up a neutral living space. A plant as beautiful and stylish as this is indeed worthy of the spotlight.
On the flip side, the fiddle leaf fig is also quite known to be a finicky type of plant. Demanding, probably yes. But, definitely not impossible to manage.
In this article, we will teach you how to properly take care of your ficus lyrata plant to keep it alive and thriving. We will cover everything from lighting to watering, soil requirements, fertilizing, and more. So, worry not. We’ve got your back!
Basic Characteristics of Ficus lyrata
The ficus lyrata originated in the tropical climates of Western Africa. On that note, this plant is naturally inclined to thrive in a warm and humid environment. Makes sense, right? This is also the main reason why it is quite challenging to grow the fiddle leaf fig in an indoor setting. As you may know, it is not that favorable to persistently expose your house to too much moisture.
The plant features huge, violin-shaped evergreen leaves. Hence, it is being named after a type of violin called a fiddle. Each of these leaves is distinctly marked with veins which further adds to its beautiful character.
Although ficus lyrata is a slow-growing plant, be prepared to provide it enough space to grow. A mature fiddle leaf fig can grow as tall as 6 to 10 feet indoors. Nevertheless, it can even reach as high as 50 feet when grown spontaneously outdoors.
As mentioned, fiddle leaf figs are relatively slow growers. It can take about 10 to 15 years for it to reach its full maturity. However, you do not have to literally wait that long to appreciate its beauty. After 3 to 4 years of healthy growth, the plant already takes good shape and is ready to be set as an ornamental houseplant.
Fiddle Leaf Care Guide & Tips
The fiddle leaf fig prefers to be under bright yet filtered lighting to thrive. Yes, it should also be indirect, as too much sun exposure can scorch its leaves. So, keep it away from the hot afternoon sun especially.
When growing indoors, it is best to place the plant near a south or west-facing window. These spots tend to receive plenty of ambient lighting. You can adjust the distance of the plant from the window as deemed necessary.
One thing is for sure, though, fiddle leaf fig is not compatible with low lighting conditions. The lack of sunlight will inhibit its normal metabolic processes, stunt its growth, and even worse, it can kill the plant. To prevent such scenarios from unfolding, it is ideal to use grow lights instead. The use of an artificial lighting system will help supplement the need for sunlight.
There are plenty of options for grow lights available in the market today. But LED bulbs seem to favor most gardeners. This type of grow light is more energy-efficient than the typical fluorescent bulbs. By that, it means LEDs consume less energy thus friendlier on the environment and your budget too.
Our top picks for grow lights:
Quick tip: Do not forget to rotate the positioning of the fiddle leaf fig. This is essential to ensure all sides of the plant receive enough amounts of lighting. A telltale sign that your ficus needs rotation is when one side starts to lean toward an area with the most light. A once-a-month rotation will do the trick.
Fiddle leaf fig will do just fine with an all-purpose potting soil mix as long as it is well-draining. Nevertheless, it would also be beneficial to add bark and perlite into the mix to improve the quality.
Pine bark helps the soil retain some water to keep the moisture level well balanced. Moreover, it also provides soil insulation. Thus, protecting the roots from freezing or drying up during extreme weather conditions.
On the other hand, perlite is used as an amendment to keep the soil loose. Hence, promoting better aeration and drainage at the same time. As a result, it prevents the soil from getting soggy and waterlogged.
Our top picks for soil mix and amendments:
Quick tip: Commercial growers or nurseries usually compact the soil to prevent the plant from moving in place during the transport. So, make sure to loosen up the soil a bit upon receipt. Doing so allows it to breathe and release excess moisture if any.
Ficus lyrata likes to keep its soil medium even and consistently moist. Nevertheless, it also requires some time to dry up a bit between watering sessions. Hence, it is ideal to assess the soil first before attempting to hydrate your plant.
The best way to do this is through the old-fashioned way. You have to poke your fingers right into the soil and feel for moisture. The top 2 inches should feel dry to touch. If so, this is a good time for you to water your plant. If it is still moist, don’t water it yet and try to reassess after a day or two.
However, if you don’t feel like digging your hands into the soil, you can opt to use a soil moisture meter instead. This simple probe comes with sensors that will measure out the moisture levels in the soil. It is super cheap and very convenient to use especially if you are not confident yet with your skills.
In terms of frequency, watering 2 to 3 times per week should be enough. Nevertheless, you should again always base it according to your actual soil assessment. That is because changes in weather conditions also affect your plant’s watering needs.
Furthermore, watering should be kept minimized during the winter season. By this time, the plant is likely to be inactive. Hence, it would not need plenty of hydration to sustain its growth.
Our top picks for soil moisture meters:
Quick tip: Fiddle leaf figs are quite sensitive to high salt levels. Thus, it is ideal to give your plant a good rinse at least once a month. When doing so, you should see excess water flow out freely from the drain holes. This will help flush out the salt build-up from fertilizers and regular watering.
The fiddle leaf fig is not exactly a big fan of changes in general. That holds very true as well for extreme fluctuations in temperatures. Ideally, ficus lyrata thrives well within the range of 60°F to 85°F. Significant exposure to levels beyond that parameter can cause stress to your plant.
On that note, it is wise to keep your fiddle leaf fig away from drafts. This well includes ventilation outlets from air conditioning and heating units. These spots are most likely to have abrupt shifts in temperature levels from time to time.
For proper monitoring, we highly suggest the use of an indoor temperature gauge. This thermostat device is a must-have for any type of garden settings. More so, it is especially beneficial for those areas experiencing different seasons. This tool will conveniently keep track of the fluctuations as the climate changes.
Our top picks for indoor temperature gauge:
Quick tip: The windows may be the perfect spot to gather light indoors. But, if your window is drafty, it may do your plant more harm than good. Thus, you have to ensure that these portals are properly sealed. You can use inexpensive quick fixes like weather strips and foam tapes. Or, hire a handyman to repair the structure itself if the budget permits.
As for the humidity, ficus lyrata prefers more balanced moisture in the atmosphere. Ideally, relative humidity between 30% to 65% will suit the plant best. This range is well within the average RH level in a typical indoor space.
However, there may be instances where you might need to give an extra boost of humidity. Misting is one simple and effective way to supplement moisture when the air is dryer than usual. All you need to have is a fine mist sprayer and water, of course.
Another method is to place your pot on top of a pebbled tray. Fill the tray with enough water that it won’t touch the bottom of the pot. As the water from the tray evaporates, it then helps to increase the humidity levels too.
If you have extra cash to spare, it would be a great idea to invest in a humidifier. This device will give you more stable control of your desired humidity levels at any time of the day.
Same with temperature, it would also be convenient to use a hygrometer device. This tool will help you monitor the current levels and as well as keeping track of significant fluctuations. Often, this device comes in a combo with thermometer functionality.
Our top picks for hygrometer:
Quick tip: Sometimes you don’t need any tool to help raise the humidity levels. All you might need after all is the company of its fellow plants. Yes, grouping them together aids in increasing moisture in the surroundings. Thanks to the plant’s natural process of transpiration. Just make sure, though, to group plants with the same humidity requirements.
Like most houseplants, ficus lyrata are best fertilized when they are actively growing. During spring to summer, you can feed your fiddle leaf fig with nitrogen-rich plant food. Nitrogen is a vital component in the synthesis of chlorophyll, amino acids, and other proteins and enzymes. In short, it acts as a fuel to sustain the plant’s daily activities.
At its active phase, feeding should be done every other week. Nevertheless, the frequency should be slowly tapered down during the fall season. As wintertime comes, feeding should be stopped as the plant goes into dormancy.
As for the preparation, liquid fertilizer is a much safer choice. A water-soluble formulation is easier for the plants to absorb. Hence, rendering it more efficient to use.
Our top picks for fertilizers:
Quick tip: As always, it is a must to follow the manufacturer’s recommended preparation. Dilute the solution accordingly to avoid under or overfertilization. More so, cause fertilizer burns to your plant. This applies to all types and forms of plant foods.
Once in a while, you might want to prune your fiddle leaf fig. Pruning gives you the chance to remove dead and unhealthy portions of the plant. Also, trimming off parts of its leaves allows you to keep the plant within your preferred shape and height.
If you wish to maintain bushier foliage but with lesser height, simply prune the top of the main stem. Make the cut at your preferred height. From this point is where new growth will eventually occur.
To create a tree-like form, you should wait until your plant reaches your desired height. By then, you can prune out the lower leaves to expose more of the trunk. The fullness of the top foliage plus the bareness of the lower stem then creates a silhouette that of a tree.
Pinching is another technique you can do to help make your fiddle leaf fig look more fuller. This process encourages branching by pinching off new growths at the tip of the branches. From there, you can make your cut just slightly above the node of the leaf. Doing so forces your plant to grow below that pinched area.
Our top picks for pruning shears:
Quick tip: Whichever way you wish to prune your ficus lyrata, it is important to use clean and sharp pruning shears. Always make sure to disinfect your gardening scissors before and after each use. This will prevent chances of cross-contamination between diseased plants. Moreover, well-sharpened pruning shears allow smoother and less traumatic cuttings.
Slow-growing as they may be, the fiddle leaf fig will eventually become big and outgrow its existing pot. Thus, requiring more space for its root system to further develop.
Repotting is also a good chance for you to change your growing medium with a fresh batch of potting soil. As time goes by, the soil is likely to get depleted from nutrients. Moreover, it also tends to dry up and harden. Hence, making it difficult for the soil to absorb moisture.
Ideally, repotting should be done once a year particularly during springtime. Make sure to choose a sturdy container with enough drain holes. In addition, the size should be at least 2 inches bigger in diameter. That allowance should provide enough room for future growth.
Our top picks for containers:
Quick tip: When repotting, always handle the plant with utmost care. Provide ample support to the base of the plant to minimize disturbance of the root systems. Remember, uprooting is stressful enough for your plants. So, the best thing we can do is to carry it out in the most cautious way possible to prevent it from going into shock.
The leaves of the fiddle leaf fig are quite huge. Thus, it is fairly easy for it to collect dirt and dust in no time. So as part of your maintenance, it is best to give it a good wipe every now and then. Regular cleaning ensures that your leaves will be able to optimally absorb sunlight and nutrients. Moreover, it also brings out the glossy finish of the leaves making them look much healthier.
You can use a damp cloth or soft sponge to clean your ficus. Do it as gently as possible to prevent damaging the leaves. This routine can be done at least once a month. Or, more often depending on how dusty your location is.
Any soft cloth or sponge will do perfectly fine for this task. So, I will no longer include product recommendations for this.
Quick tip: When the going gets tough, you can also try to give your fiddle leaf fig a quick shower. This should only be done when the pores of the leaves show signs of clogging.
The stunning Fiddle Leaf Fig is a beautiful addition to any home (and social media page), but how oh how to keep it alive? You know by now that we’ve got your back, which is why we’ve done the research and written this step-by-step guide so that you can only focus on where to photograph your pretty plant next.