The fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) is a popular indoor specimen plant featuring very large, heavily veined, violin-shaped leaves that grow upright. These plants are native to tropical parts of Africa, where they thrive in very warm and wet conditions. This makes them somewhat challenging for the home grower, who is likely to have trouble duplicating these steamy conditions. However, they are relatively tough plants that can withstand a less-than-perfect environment for a fairly long time.
Fiddle-leaf figs are perfect as focal points of a room if you can situate them in a floor-standing container where the plant is allowed to grow to at least 6 feet. (Most indoor specimens reach around 10 feet tall.) They’re fairly fast growers and can be potted at any point in the year if you're like most gardeners acquiring a nursery plant to keep indoors.
|Botanical Name||Ficus lyrata|
|Common Name||Fiddle-leaf fig, banjo fig|
|Plant Type||Broadleaf evergreen|
|Mature Size||50 feet tall (outdoors), 10 feet tall (indoors)|
|Sun Exposure||Part shade|
|Soil Type||Loamy, medium moisture, well-draining|
|Soil pH||6 to 7|
|Bloom Time||Rarely flowers outside of its native area|
|Hardiness Zones||10 to 12|
|Native Area||Tropical western Africa|
How to Grow Fiddle-Leaf Fig
Fiddle-leaf figs are not especially demanding plants as long as you can get their growing conditions right. When grown as a houseplant, be prepared to rotate your fiddle-leaf fig every few days so a different part faces the light source. That way, it will grow evenly, rather than lean toward the light.
Also, every week or two dust the leaves with a damp cloth. Not only does this make the leaves appear shinier and more appealing, but it also allows more sunlight to hit the leaves for photosynthesis. Moreover, you can trim off any damaged or dead leaves as they arise, as they no longer benefit the plant. And if you wish, you can prune off the top of the main stem for a bushier growth habit.
Fiddle-leaf figs require bright, filtered light to grow and look their best. Direct sunlight can burn the leaves, especially exposure to hot afternoon sun. And plants that are kept in very low light conditions will fail to grow rapidly.
Any quality indoor plant potting mix should be suitable for a fiddle-leaf fig. Ensure that the soil drains well.
Fiddle-leaf figs like a moderate amount of moisture in the soil. If the plant doesn’t get enough water, its leaves will wilt and lose their bright green color. And if it gets too much water, the plant might drop its leaves and suffer from root rot, which ultimately can kill it. During the growing season (spring to fall), water your fiddle-leaf fig when the top inch of soil feels dry. And over the winter months, water slightly less.
Furthermore, these plants are sensitive to high salt levels in the soil. So it's ideal to flush the soil until water comes out the bottom of the pot at least monthly. This helps to prevent salt build-up.
Temperature and Humidity
Fiddle-leaf figs don’t like extreme temperature fluctuations. A room that’s between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit is typically fine, though you must position the plant away from drafty areas, as well as air-conditioning and heating vents. These can cause sudden temperature shifts.
Aim for a humidity level between 30% and 65%. If you need to supplement humidity, mist your plant with clean water in a spray bottle daily. Or you can place it on a tray of pebbles filled with water, as long as the bottom of the pot isn’t touching the water. Plus, fiddle-leaf figs can benefit from being in a room with a humidifier.
Fertilize throughout the growing season with a high-nitrogen plant food, following label instructions. There are fertilizers specially made for fiddle-leaf figs available. You generally won’t have to feed your plant over the winter.
Potting and Repotting
Plan to repot a young fiddle-leaf fig annually every spring. Select a sturdy container that is roughly 2 inches larger in diameter than the existing one. Gently loosen the plant from its current pot, lift it out while supporting its base, and place it in the new pot. Fill in the spaces around the plant with potting mix.
Once the plant is mature, it likely will be too large to repot. In that case, remove the first few inches of soil each spring and replace it with fresh soil.
Moreover, if you will be doing the potting work outdoors, do so when the temperature is at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything colder can cause too much stress for the fiddle-leaf fig.
Common Pests and Diseases
These plants don’t have serious pest or disease issues, but they can be prone to spider mites, scale, and bacterial or fungal diseases. With these issues, you might notice leaf damage, such as spots or dark patches, as well as small bugs on the leaves. Treat the issue as soon as possible with an appropriate fungicide, pesticide, or other remedy. And make sure your plant has adequate air circulation and isn’t sitting in overly damp conditions, which can help to prevent future problems.
Varieties of Fiddle-Leaf Fig
The main species, Ficus lyrata, is the most common fiddle-leaf fig plant that gardeners grow. But there are several cultivars available as well, including:
- Ficus lyrata ‘Bambino’: This is a dwarf variety that only reaches a few feet tall.
- Ficus lyrata ‘Compacta’: This variety can reach up to 5 feet tall and features smaller, more bunched leaves than the main species.
- Ficus lyrata ‘Variegata’: This is an uncommon variety with showy leaves that are a mix of green and cream.