The fiddle-leaf fig is a wildly popular houseplant famous for its diva-like behavior if it doesn’t get exactly what it wants. Tack on their high price tag, these plants can feel very intimidating to bring into your home. However, their beauty makes them irresistible, and we don’t blame you for wanting to take on the odds and try to care for this stunning plant. So here is a complete guide to help you on your journey.
What is the fiddle-leaf fig?
Native to Western Africa, the fiddle-leaf fig starts its life in the branches of a host tree, then eventually sends its roots down to the soil and strangles the host tree to death. What a lovely plant! Putting aside their morbid beginnings, these plants are a show-stopping beauty that you’ll love to have in your home. The leaves are often described as violin-shaped, and their dark green color stands out against the light-colored veins. These trees can grow up to six feet tall or more if cared for properly indoors.
As with any plant, overwatering is the number one way we plant lovers kill our plants. Although native to rainforest conditions, this plant doesn’t like its soil to stay moist for long periods. Instead, allow the soil to soak up as much water as possible when you water it, so the water can flow through until it comes out the bottom. Then let it drip and put it back on its tray. Don’t water again until the soil dries out completely.
To ensure you know when to water your fiddle leaf fig, we recommend buying a moisture meter. These affordable devices allow you to check the condition of the soil down to the roots, and you can get a much more accurate reading on when to water your plants. While sticking your fingers in the soil works okay, the meter is much more accurate.
The fiddle fig needs lots of light. Bright indirect light is ideal. This can be challenging because while the plant loves light, it hates drafty windows, and it can be hard to find a sunny enough spot that isn’t next to a potentially drafty window.
This plant is picky in all areas of its care, and feedings are no different. You’ll want to find a fertilizer that’s 3:1:2 NPK. That sounds intimidating, but you can purchase a fiddle-leaf fig specific feeder here. Use this once a month during the spring and summer; since the plant will go dormant in fall and winter, you don’t need to fertilize during these times.
The average home temperature between 60 and 75 degrees will keep your fiddle-leaf fig happy. Just be sure to avoid putting it next to drafty doors, windows, and vents — there’s nothing a fiddle-leaf hates more than fluctuating temperatures.
Since these plants are native to rainforest environments, they prefer humid conditions, but the average home sits around 40 percent humidity and the fiddle-leaf fig seems to tolerate this level of humidity just fine. If you’d like to give the plant a bit more, you can invest in a humidifier and place it near the plant or mist it every morning and night.
This plant is mildly toxic to cats and dogs if they ingest it. It can cause vomiting, excessive drooling, and oral irritation. While most of these cases aren’t fatal, you might want to avoid putting this plant in a spot where your furry friends can reach it.
Shaping and pruning
You’ve probably seen multiple shapes of fiddle-leaf figs. This is because some growers prefer the tree look where there are a bunch of leaves at the top and none on the bottom, while others like the bushier look. This is easily achieved through pruning. Make sure to start this process in early spring, so the plant has an entire growing season to recover. Using disinfected sheers, cut off the leaves that you don’t want, but be sure not to remove more than five to 10 leaves at a time. Pruning too much off the plant can send it into shock and might kill your plant.
It’s best to prune leaves when you notice they’re turning brown or yellow. This keeps those leaves from sucking valuable nutrients away from healthier leaves and keeps your plant looking its best.
You’ll want to rotate the plant weekly to ensure that it grows as straight as possible. These plants tend to lean to find the light rather quickly, and within two weeks, they might lean far enough to topple out of their pot.
Cleaning the leaves of your plants typically means taking them into the shower with you and giving them a good rinse. Most plants tolerate this method very well and enjoy it and will perk up after a good shower. Unfortunately, simply moving the fiddle leaf to the shower and back might cause it to again go into shock and need another adjustment period. So instead, we recommend grabbing a damp microfiber cloth and cleaning off the leaves one at a time. This is very important to the health of this plant.
The moving process from the store to your home might send your new fiddle leaf into shock, even if it was a short drive. However, you might not see the results of this shock for another month or two. So if you’re seeing signs of stress on your plant during this adjustment period, be sure you haven’t over or under-watered it, and if everything else looks fine, give it some time and love and hope that it soon adjusts and regulates itself.
Do not move your fiddle fig around; once they’re acclimated to a spot, moving them can cause irreversible damage. When we say this plant is a diva, we mean it!
Don’t repot your new fiddle fig when you bring it home. The adjusting stage is a long process, and repotting this plant might be its undoing. In general, these plants don’t mind being a bit root-bound and will likely be perfectly happy in the pot you bought it in for a year or two. Slip the nursery pot into a decorative one so you can still have an aesthetically pleasing plant experience.
There’s a lot to take in when learning to care for this stunning but finicky plant. Take our guide with you as you care for this plant, and we promise it will make life easier for you and your new expensive and whiny plant baby.
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