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Fiddle Leaf Fig Care

This article shares all about my experience with fiddle leaf fig care!

Today it’s all about the fiddle leaf fig

Pretty amped to talk fiddle leaf figs today…a plant that experienced a huge surge in popularity a few years ago but that also truly remains a classic. Their uniquely shaped leaves and ability to grow to great heights make them an excellent choice to add to your collection of staple plants.

While I would say that the fiddle leaf fig is not necessarily an entry-level plant, I also don’t think it is super difficult to keep alive. The key is getting into a care routine and finding a spot where the plant is happy. Then leaving it there. Shall we jump in?

Fiddle leaf fig care overview

  • The fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) is native to West Africa’s tropical rainforests; known for its large, glossy, violin-shaped leaves.
  • Prefer bright, indirect light; direct sunlight can damage the leaves, but they can acclimate to some direct sun.
  • For plants near a window, rotate them periodically to promote even growth.
  • Water when the top few inches of soil are dry; overwatering can lead to root rot, while underwatering can cause leaves to droop and yellow.
  • Plant using a well-draining indoor potting mix in a pot with drainage holes.
  • Ideal temperatures range is 60-85 degrees F with humidity levels of 40-60%; sudden changes in temperature or humidity can stress the plant, causing leaf drop.
  • Convert a fiddle leaf fig bush into a tree over time through careful pruning.
  • Propagation can be done using stem cuttings in a variety of mediums.
  • Toxic to pets if ingested.
fiddle leaf fig leaf

Background on this plant

Before we get too deep into fiddle leaf fig care, let’s chat about where the plant is from. Its full name is ficus lyrata, and it is native to the tropical rainforests of West Africa. The fiddle leaf fig is part of the genus ficus, which is in the family moraceae.

The species name is lyrata, which is derived from the Latin word “lyra” meaning “lyre” or “violin,” referring to the shape of the leaves. And it’s known for its large, glossy, violin-shaped (or fiddle-shaped) leaves that can grow up to a foot long.

The leaves have a leathery look and texture, as well as very prominent veining. They kind of look a bit crinkly, too. Keep in mind that it isn’t the same as a fig tree—and no, the fiddle leaf fig probably is not going to grow figs in your house (though in nature it does grow green fig fruit).

large fiddle leaf fig in a nursery

Fiddle leaf fig tree vs. bush

While browsing fiddle leaf figs, you may notice that the plants can look quite different from one another. Ficus lyrata can be referred to as a “fiddle leaf fig tree” or a “fiddle leaf fig bush.” These both refer to the same type of plant—a ficus lyrata.

But ficus lyrata can be trained and pruned to grow as a tree that has a central trunk and branches that grow from the top of the trunk. This is likely the type you’ve seen pictures of. Its signature look is a tall, thin (sometimes braided) single trunk with a beautiful bunch of leaves at the top.

On the other hand, a fiddle leaf fig bush refers to a form of the plant that has multiple trunks that grow from the base of the plant, rather than a central trunk. This form of the plant is typically smaller than the tree form and can be used to create a fuller, bushier plant.

I have owned both forms of the plant, and both can be grown indoors as houseplants. The difference is in the way they are pruned, trained, and shaped. I tend to prefer the tree-like form of the plant as I think it is a more striking look.

trunks on a fiddle leaf fig bush
Multiple stems on a fiddle leaf fig bush
large fiddle leaf fig tree
Fiddle leaf fig pruned over time into a tree

Do fiddle leaf figs like full sun?

Fiddle leaf figs do not need full sun to thrive. In fact, they prefer bright, indirect light. If you’re growing yours indoors, by a sunny window is great. If the main source of light for your plant is to one side—like a window—I recommend rotating the plant every few weeks or so.

This will help the plant grow evenly and not toward the light. If you do notice some leaning, you can correct this with a bamboo stake and some vinyl plant tape. And if you place it in front of a super sunny west- or south-facing window, keep an eye on it to make sure the light isn’t too intense.

Too much direct sunlight can damage the leaves and cause them to turn yellow or brown. In my personal experience, though, fiddle leaf figs can acclimate to a good amount of direct sun. But if you’re bringing a plant outside from indoors, don’t put it immediately in bright sunlight. Give it some time to slowly acclimate or else the leaves can burn quickly (see browning in the first pic below).

My large fiddle leaf fig bush ex-plod-ed with growth the first summer I brought it outside. I bought it at Home Depot, where it was already outside and getting some direct sun. So I immediately threw it out on the patio, which was covered by a top deck. However, it was on the front corner, which gets a lot of direct light all day (see second pic below).

Scorching on a fiddle leaf fig leaf
Scorching on a fiddle leaf fig leaf
plants on a gorgeous small patio
FLF on the front corner of my patio

Can a fiddle leaf fig live in low light?

Fiddle leaf figs can tolerate lower light levels, but they will grow slower and may not produce as many new leaves. The leaves may also appear smaller, less glossy, and may turn yellow or brown. If you don’t have a location in your home that provides enough light, you may need to supplement with a grow light to provide the plant with the light it needs.

For a while, I had one of my fiddle leaf figs in our bedroom on the corner of my nightstand. This room got morning sun only, and it wasn’t super close to a window. The plant did fine, but I did notice that growth slowed. It definitely picked up the pace when we moved and I had a sunroom for the plant to live in.

fiddle leaf fig

How often do you water a fiddle leaf fig?

A good rule of thumb is to wait until at least the top few inches of soil are dry before watering again. I usually stick my finger in the soil to check, but I also have a good idea of how often it needs water based on the stable environment I have it in.

Indoors during late spring, summer, and early fall, I water mine once a week. Through the winter while they are hibernating during the cooler temps and shorter days—once every 10-14 days. Outdoors in the summer? Nearly daily if it’s super hot and doesn’t rain, which is often in Maryland. 

When you do water, I recommend doing so thoroughly until the water runs out of the bottom of the pot (make sure to plant in a pot with drainage holes!) This not only helps to ensure that the entire root ball is moistened, but it also helps to flush out the soil. Make sure all of the excess water drains from the pot before putting the plant back.

In general, it’s better to underwater a fiddle leaf fig than overwater it. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other issues, so it’s important to be mindful of the moisture level in the soil and to adjust watering as necessary.

fiddle leaf fig leaf

How do you know when a fiddle fig needs water?

The best way to tell if a fiddle leaf fig needs water is that the soil is dry farther than a few inches down. If it is completely dry and the pot is super light when you pick it up, act fast! Watch for soil shrinkage, too. If you notice the soil becoming hard and compact and “shrinking” away from the inside of your planter, it’s too dry.

Don’t water it as is. Instead, use your fingers or a fork to gently break up the soil a bit. If you don’t break up the soil, your water will just run down the sides of the planter (on the inside), avoiding the root ball all together.

You may also notice that the leaves on your plant are beginning to droop. One of the older leaves could also begin to yellow. I have had this happen, and the plant was not beyond saving! I broke off the yellowing leaf, gave the plant a good drink, and it rebounded quickly.

drooping fiddle leaf fig
Drooping fiddle leaf fig in need of water

How can you tell if a fiddle fig is overwatered?

First, check the soil. I recommend this because many things can be a sign of both overwatering and underwatering. For example, overwatered fiddle leaf figs may have yellowing or browning leaves that fall off easily. The leaves might also appear wilted or limp and can be soft to the touch.

If the soil is bone dry, these things are likely signs of underwatering. If the soil is wet or has been consistently wet for a while, it’s probably overwatering. It could also be a sign that your soil is too heavy or the plant is throwing a fit from temperature fluctuations.

If the stem of a fiddle leaf fig is soft, mushy, or discolored, it can be a sign that the plant is overwatered. Overwatering can lead to root rot, which can cause the roots to turn brown or black and begin to decompose. This is a serious problem, and if left untreated, it can be a killer

large bushy fiddle leaf fig

What are the reddish-brown spots on fiddle leaf fig leaves?

If your newest leaves are emerging with tiny reddish-brown spots on them, it’s likely an indication of moisture stress. It’s a form of edema (source: Wisconsin Horticulture). If a plant is over-watered and the leaves absorb too much of it, the overfilled cells can cause these tiny reddish-brown spots.

It’s common while the plant is going through a growth spurt and getting more water. I don’t stress about it as long as the rest of the plant is doing fine otherwise. The spots tend to dissipate as the leaves grow, but they are a sign that you should audit your watering routine. Make sure you aren’t giving the plant so much water that it will lead to root rot.

reddish-brown edema on an overwatered fiddle leaf fig

For more ficus plants, check out my guides on Rubber Plant Care, Ficus Audrey Care, and Ficus Umbellata Care!

What is the best soil?

The best soil for a fiddle leaf fig is any well-draining indoor potting mix. Don’t overthink it! Just head to your local nursery and pick something up that’s labeled for houseplants or indoor plants. These mixes come with things like coco coir for lightweight moisture retention and perlite for enhancing drainage.

If you think your soil is too heavy, you can always add mix in an extra handful of perlite or coco coir. I generally keep those on hand, along with orchid bark, to mix things up a bit if necessary.

ficus lyrata

Temperature & humidity needs

The ideal range for a fiddle leaf fig is 60-85 degrees Fahrenheit. They can tolerate some fluctuation, but sudden changes can cause stress and may lead to leaf drop. Try to keep your fiddle leaf fig away from exterior doors, heating vents, and drafty windows. It’s what leads people to say these plants are drama queens. But all you need to do is find somewhere it is happy and leave it there.

The ideal humidity range is between 40 and 60 percent. They prefer a consistent level of humidity and can tolerate lower humidity levels but can become stressed if the humidity levels drops too low. Crispy, browning edges on your leaves can be a sign of low humidity. Consider adding a humidifier.

Misting your fiddle leaf fig can help to increase humidity around the plant, but it’s only a very temporary increase in humidity. And it’s important to do it properly and not over-mist the plant. When misting, do so in the morning when the plant has a full day of light ahead of it.

crispy brown edges on fiddle leaf fig leaves
Crispy browning fiddle leaf fig leaf
Dropped leaf on a fiddle leaf fig
Dropped leaf on a fiddle leaf fig

Growth rate & repotting needs

In general, fiddle leaf figs are considered to be slow-growing plants. They can grow up to 20 feet tall in their natural habitat, but they typically grow to around 6-9 feet tall when grown as a houseplant. Fiddle leaf figs typically produce new leaves once or twice a year.

Repotting is typically only necessary when the plant has outgrown its current pot. Fiddle leaf figs prefer to be slightly pot-bound, so they don’t need to be repotted very often. I recommend repotting your fiddle leaf fig every two to three years. Or when you notice the roots are growing out of the pot’s drainage holes.

The best time to repot a fiddle leaf fig is actually during the dormant season. This means fall or winter when the plant is not actively growing. This can minimize the stress on the plant. During the active growing season, the plant is expending energy on producing new leaves and growth, and repotting can cause stress and inhibit growth.

Fiddle leaf figs also don’t necessarily need large pots. Select one that is slightly larger than the current pot, but not too large—1 to 2 inches larger is a god rule of thumb. A pot that is too large can hold too much soil, which can retain too much moisture and lead to root rot.

fiddle leaf fig leaves

Turning a fiddle leaf fig bush into a tree

I mentioned turning fiddle leaf fig bush into a tree earlier in this article. I have been working on mine for years now. To get started, I took my fiddle leaf fig bush out of its pot and gently broke a stem off.

To get those long, sturdy trunks with the big beautiful leafy tops, you need patience. You could just strip the leaves from the stem. But yanking them prematurely can also weaken the trunk. And you need a strong trunk.

When it became time to pot my plant up, I removed one of the bottom-most leaves. I then waited until the plant had produced 1-2 new leaves before removing another from the bottom. This has worked out well for me, but it has been a long process.

fiddle leaf fig in a window
A few months after starting my experiment in 2019
stem with leaves removed on a fiddle leaf fig
Bare spots on the stem
woman holding a fiddle leaf fig
Me holding my plant in mid-2021
fiddle leaf fig in a sunroom with other plants
My plant as of late 2022

Should you shake fiddle leaf figs?

Shaking a fiddle leaf fig is a technique some people recommend to help distribute the plant’s energy more evenly throughout the canopy and promote bushier growth. Some people also say that shaking the plant gently from side to side simulates a gentle breeze, helping to slowly strengthen the stem/trunk.

Personally, I don’t do it. I don’t think it hurts the plant if you do it gently. But I have noticed my plant’s trunk gradually thickening as the plant grows and matures without me needing to shake it. So I will continue leaving mine alone 🙂

How to propagate a fiddle leaf fig

Fiddle leaf fig cuttings can be propagated in water or soil. I have a whole tutorial about fiddle leaf fig propagation, but here is quick overview. To propagate in water, just put a cutting into water. Roots will begin to develop if you put it in a place with bright, indirect light.

I love propagating in water because I love monitoring the root growth very closely. When the roots are a few inches long, plant in fresh soil and keep moist for a few weeks while the roots develop. You can tug gently on the cutting after a few weeks to monitor root development.

To propagate in soil, dip your cutting’s end (the part that will go in the soil) in rooting hormone and plant it. Keep it moist until roots begin to develop. Follow the same steps as above to monitor development.

roots growing on a fiddle leaf fig propagation
new root growth on a ficus lyrata propagation
small fiddle leaf fig propagation
ficus lyrata propagation

Should you wipe fiddle leaf fig leaves?

Yes. I generally rinse off my fiddle leaf fig’s leaves when I water the plant. But if you don’t want to do that, you can also wipe the leaves down. They are dust magnets, and keeping them clean will help to encourage a healthier, happier plant.

I recommend using a microfiber cleaning cloth. Just dampen the cloth with water and wipe down the tops and bottoms of the leaves. I don’t recommend using leaf shine products, but you can use a spritz of heavily diluted neem oil to help with routine pest prevention and a bit of extra sheen. (Read my tutorial on how to clean houseplant leaves for more.)

Are fiddle leaf figs toxic to pets?

Fiddle leaf figs are known to be toxic to pets if ingested, leading to potential for oral irritation, excessive drooling, and vomiting (source: NC State Extension). It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your pets when they are around any new plant and to consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns.

The plant’s sap can also cause skin irritation and an allergic reaction in some individuals. I recommend wearing protective gardening gloves with pruning or repotting your plant.

In conclusion…

To sum up, taking care of a fiddle leaf fig is a rewarding but nuanced task. For the best results, ensure they receive plenty of indirect sunlight, regular watering (but not too much!), and a well-draining soil mix. They thrive in environments with stable temperatures and humidity.

With a little care and attention, your fiddle leaf fig can become a beautiful focal point in your home. Have you had any personal experiences with these plants? Feel free to share your tips or ask questions about your own fiddle leaf fig journey. Happy planting!

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large fiddle leaf fig with text overlay that says how to care for the fiddle leaf fig plant

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