I have someone new in my life.
Her name is Freddie. She has already filled my days with colour and is a breath of fresh air. Freddie is a Ficus Lyrata, aka, a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree.
She’s one of the cool kids, but don’t hold that against her- it’s not her fault. You may find her contemporaries gracing the pages of glossy magazines, and apartment design blogs. Freddie graces my humble bedroom corner. And I don’t even get the vibe from her that she’d prefer to be in a New York penthouse. She’s very non-judgemental like that.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees like Freddie have become all the rage lately in the world of indoor plants, and it’s not hard to see why. They have large thick, rich green leaves, they can be pruned to all manner of gorgeous shapes, are relatively easy to grow and are fantastic at cleaning indoor air. #workingaroundtheclock
Given the current boom in Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree ownership, I figured many of you out there would want to know how on earth you’re meant to care for one of these beauties, should you choose to bring one into your life.
I’ll admit I was a little intimidated when bringing Freddie home. The main question on my mind was the big one: would I kill her?
I’m happy to report that she is flourishing living at home with me, and I’ve even propagated a Freddie Junior (more on that below).
Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree Basics
What is a Ficus Lyrata?
Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees are evergreens native to tropical Africa and can, unchecked, grow to 30 meters in height (not necessarily what you’re aiming for in your suburban abode).
They are sold either as a standard tree (meaning they have one trunk with leafy foliage at the top) or a multi-branched tree (which, you guessed it, has multiple branches). It’s important to consider how you’ll want your Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree to look as it matures before purchasing. If you want that Insta-worthy spindly single trunk with bushy foliage at the top, make sure you go for a standard tree. I think of these ones as Dr. Seuss trees- like the Trufula Tree from The Lorax. Freddie, however, is a multi-branched tree, and has a ‘bushier’ look from bottom to top.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees are perfect for your home for a few reasons:
- They’re pretty. We all like pretty things.
- While not the easiest indoor plant to care for, they aren’t too high on the ‘difficulty’ scale, so are good for newbies.
- They’re impressive. After a few years of love, your Fiddle can reach a size and shape that will capture the attention of every guest in your home.
- They’re have beautiful thick and often large leaves that are just gorgeous.
- They don’t need to be watered too often!
What does a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree need to survive?
Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees need plenty of bright light to thrive, but don’t necessarily love living in direct sunlight. In temperate to cooler climates (I sound like I’m the host of a gardening show now), they need to live indoors- they love warmth!
One of the most important things to know about growing a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree is that it doesn’t need to be watered very often. Please don’t drown the poor thing! The first time I ventured into the world of indoor plants, I killed every.single.one. Just from over-watering. There is such a thing as too much love! As a result, I didn’t try my hand at indoor gardening for a while, but my second venture has been much more successful. Just by putting down the watering can.
Where can I buy a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree?
Most local nurseries should be able to supply you with one of these trees. I actually got mine from my local West Elm, but I’ve had friends purchase them from markets and local growers as well.
When you’re ready to purchase, look for a tree with rich green leaves with no discolouration or infection, a strong trunk(s) and a fairly even distribution of leaves. This plant is going to be the newest addition to your home, so make sure you’re happy with the one you buy!
Maintaining my Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
Where should my Fiddle Leaf live?
Light, light, light! Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree love light! They don’t, however, love strong sunlight burning into their little leaves. This means you should give them a home near a light-filled window. For most people, an East-facing window is ideal as it receives a good amount of sun, but nothing too strong or direct. I actually rotate my Fiddle Leaf every so often, so that it is receiving fairly equal light to all sides of the plant.
When I first brought my tree home, she was a little sad from sitting in the lightless shop for a few weeks. I would now definitely recommend buying one that has been enjoying fresh outdoor air! However, it was only a matter of days before she had perked up and was growing impressively fast. A more light-filled position was a huge contributor to this turn-around.
It’s also important to keep your Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree away from drafty spots where they are exposed to cold air, or dry spots (e.g. next to a heater). Your tree will not appreciate these continual shifts in temperature or humidity- the more consistent the better.
How often do I water my Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree?
Getting your watering schedule down to an art is so important for ensuring your tree thrives. Let’s not repeat my indoor-plant massacre of 2015, shall we? The most important thing to remember about watering your plant, is that there are plenty of variables involved: the season (yes, even indoors), the size of the plant, the size of the pot, the humidity of your climate, etc. etc.
It might take a little bit of time to gauge exactly how often you should be watering your Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree, but a general rule of thumb is a little bit (maybe half a cup) at most once a week. Do this for a while and monitor whether your tree is loving it or not. The best way to gauge whether or not your tree needs a drink, is by sticking your finger in the soil of the pot. If the top few centimetres of the soil is dry, but below that is moist, it’s time to water. Factors like the time of year (whether the heater or air con is on in your home etc), and humidity in your home will affect how often the soil dries out. After a few weeks, you will establish a pattern, but know that this will change as the seasons do.
Fiddle Leaves prefer humid environment over dry environments, and if you feel like your tree is struggling a little, monitor your watering habits.
In complete honesty, I have Freddie in fairly moist soil and only water her once every 3-4 weeks. She is growing at an alarming rate, so this frequency seems to be working for her. It’s a matter of erring on the side of under-watering, but monitoring what your plant likes.
It is also a good idea to keep the leaves free of dust or dirt. Simply gently wipe the leaves with a damp soft cloth. This helps prevent infections or bacteria growth which can be an issue for most plants. If you’re super keen, you can give your tree a good clean every year or so by showering it in lukewarm water, just to rid the leaves of any remnants.
What do I plant my Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree in?
When I brought home my tree, she was in one of those generic black plastic (boooo plastic) pots. As she was quite large compared to the pot she was in, I re-planted her straight away (see next point below). However, I didn’t want a boring lifeless pot on display in my room, so I’ve put this pot within its own pretty basket. There are plenty of gorgeous baskets and planters out there to suit the style of your home.
How to repot a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
As mentioned above, not long after bringing Freddie home, it was time to repot her. Roots were already creeping out from the bottom of the pot she was in, and you could tell she was just about to burst! Re-potting is a simple process.
- A new pot a few inches larger than the current pot
- fresh potting soil
How to repot:
- Lay your Fiddle Leaf down on its side gently, ideally not squashing any leaves.
- Gently pull off the pot from the root ball. If the pot isn’t budging, tap around the pot until the roots dislodge. Don’t force the pot off- we don’t want to break any roots!
- Fill your new pot with potting soil up to the point where the tree can sit on top of the soil, and the base of it’s trunk is just above the rim of the pot.
- Gently break apart the bottom 10% of the root ball, place back in the new pot, and fill around the sides with soil.
- Give your tree a small water to settle it into the new soil.
I swear, within days of repotting Freddie, she had a new glow about her. A ‘look at me in my pretty new pot’ glow. The kind of glow I might get after buying a lovely new summer dress to twirl around in.
If however, you’ve had your Fiddle Leaf tree for a while, it might plenty big enough, thank you very much. We aren’t aiming for a re-enactment of Jumanji.
In this instance, you can keep your Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree in it’s current pot, but stagnate growth a bit by root pruning. How do I do that, I hear you ask?
Well, it’s also super simple. Remove your tree from it’s pot, and stand it upright. Take a pruning saw or an old knife (not the one from your kitchen), and cut off about 3cm from the all sides of the roots. As long as you don’t remove more than 20% of the root mass, your tree will be fine. Place your tree back in its pot, and fill with fresh potting soil. You can do this about once a year to prevent your tree from growing too much.
Troubleshooting your Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
As with any plant, a few things can go wrong from time to time with Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees. This is normal, and does not mean you’re a hopeless plant-grower. So don’t give up at the first sign of discolouration or limpness.
Ideally, your Fiddle Leaf should:
- have rich deep green shiny leaves
- not be dropping their leaves
- not have any discolouration on their leaves- brown spots, yellowing and pale leaves are all signs that something isn’t quite right.
- not have floppy, sagging leaves.
So, let’s run through a few symptoms and what they can mean. Be aware, though, that it’s not always easy at first to determine what’s causing your tree’s issue, and it can take a bit of trial and error to find out.
This can be caused be a few things, but it generally comes down to your environment not mimicking your Fiddle Leaf’s natural environment. Over or under watering, or a temperature that is too hot or cold are the primary culprits. The first thing to do is check it’s environment, and make sure it’s not sitting near any heater or draft spots. If the environment seems ok, monitor your watering (as above).
Brown Spots on the Leaves
Incorrect watering is the number one reason for brown spots on your Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree. Both over and under watering can lead to disease, so make sure you get your watering schedule down pat!
Sometimes brown spots are the result of a bacterial infection #annoying. Often your leaves will turn yellow as the spots appear when the cause is an infection. If you think an infection is the cause of your plant’s spots, again, check your watering habits and the temperature and humidity of its home. Carefully cut off all affected leaves and re-pot in fresh potting soil. Plant infections are notoriously hard to treat completely, however.
Overwatering is the most common cause of brown leaves. This happens from the roots drowning in water (I know you mean well, but remember- put your watering can down). You can work out if root rot is the cause of your tree’s brown leaves by removing the tree from the pot, and having a look at its roots. Are they mushy and brown? If yes, you’re half way to curing your little plant! Remove both the damaged roots and leaves, and repot in a well-draining container. And put your watering can down more often in the future.
As with all plants, your Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree might run into a few road bumps, but with a little TLC, almost all plants can be nursed back to health. If you’re really baffled by the symptoms, take some photos or cuttings down to your local nursery for some advice.
Propagating your Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
What is propagation? Basically, it is creating a new plant from an existing one. This can happen from seeds or cuttings. Why would you do this? A couple of reasons. First, is that it is a simple and cheap way of creating multiple plants from one. Fashionable Fiddle Leaf’s aren’t cheap to purchase- medium-sized ones run in the realm of $200! If you already have a tree, or know someone who does, it’s significantly cheaper to grow your own from a cutting. The next big reason is satisfaction! It feels amazing to know you’ve grown your own tree pretty much from scratch!
Recently, my dad decided to experiment with propagating cuttings of a small indoor plant that was growing way too fast. He took the cuttings, placed them in little jars of water and wandered off for a month. Four weeks later, his cuttings each had a mass of roots growing from the bottom of the stem, and were ready to replant in soil. Voile! Two new plants!
I looked at this, and thought, ‘if he can do it with that plant, surely I can do it with Freddie!’
My obvious port of call for further information on this was Pinterest (side note- you should join me on Pinterest- I have an entire board about indoor plants!). All indications from various Pinterest articles suggested that this would be super easy- just take a cutting, stick it in water, and hey presto! A new Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree!
So, was it that easy?
… yes. But there was one hard part to negotiate.
My patience levels. Or lack of.
What can I say? I just like immediate results. But, I was not going to get them when propagating a cutting from Freddie. However, when those first roots started to sprout, I danced around my room for a solid five minutes in celebration! Plant nerds unite!
What do I need to propagate a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree cutting?
You don’t need much equipment to successfully propagate a cutting:
- a healthy cutting from your (or your neighbour’s/ best friend’s/ aunty’s) FLFT.
- a clean glass jar or container
- filtered water
- small planting pot
- well-draining potting mix
How to propagate a Fiddle Leaf Cutting
- Firstly, take a healthy cutting from an existing and well-established Fiddle Leaf. Look for leaves that are rich in colour, and have no discolourations or signs of infection. I took my cutting from well-established but not overly-large new leaves. You want to have around 5cm of stem available below the leaves to grow a strong new plant.
- Use clean and sharp secateurs to take the cutting, and place immediately in a clean glass jar filled with filtered water. I ensured the stem sat about 1cm into the water- enough to submerge the end but not the entire stem.
- Place your cutting in conditions that mimic those of an established plant. Plenty of light but no strong direct light, and in a warm stable setting.
- Leave your cutting alone. For like, a month, at least. I think mine took between 5-6 weeks to start sprouting roots.
- Monitor the water level and replace the water if it gets cloudy.
Once your cutting has established strong roots, remove from the water and plant into a small pot with well-draining soil. Care for it like you would a larger plant, again monitoring it’s watering schedule. Repot as the plant begins to flourish.
I will keep this post updated as Freddie Junior continues to grow.
I’d love to know if you’ve had any success, road bumps or difficulties with your own Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree. They really are beautiful plants to look at, don’t require a huge amount of care, and do a brilliant job of freshening up indoor air!