This post shares all about how to care for a fiddle leaf fig or Ficus lyrata plant! From watering to light, temperature, repotting, pruning, the difference between a fiddle leaf fig tree and bush, and more.
How do you care for a potted 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. They are beautiful plants, and 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. 🙂
I’m updating this post as of early 2023, but I originally published it in 2018 or 2019. At the time, I had been sitting on the post for a while, jotting down notes in bits and pieces as I gained more experience working with this plant in a variety of conditions: indoors, outdoors, big plants, small plants, propagating it, etc.
Years later, I still have the same plant I originally shared as part of this post! So I’m excited to update with some more lessons learned and thoughts on fiddle leaf fig care. Shall we jump in?
Table of contents
Below is a table of contents for this post. Want to jump to a specific section? Have at it here! Just click the link to go to that section.
- Fiddle leaf fig background
- Fiddle leaf fig tree vs. fiddle leaf fig bush
- Do fiddle leaf figs need full sun?
- Can a fiddle leaf fig live in low light?
- How often do you water a fiddle leaf fig?
- How do you know when a fiddle fig needs water?
- How can you tell if a fiddle fig is overwatered?
- Do fiddle leaf figs need pots with drainage holes?
- Should I bottom water my fiddle leaf fig?
- What is the best soil?
- Temperature & humidity needs
- Should I mist my fiddle leaf?
- Growth rate & repotting needs
- What season should I repot a fiddle leaf fig?
- Turning a fiddle leaf fig bush into a tree
- Why do you shake fiddle leaf figs?
- How to propagate a fiddle leaf fig
- Other fiddle leaf fig FAQs
- What are the tiny reddish-brown spots on my fiddle leaf fig?
- Why are my fiddle leaf fig’s leaves turning brown and mushy?
- Why does my fiddle leaf fig plant have brown crispy leaves?
- Should I cut off brown leaves on fiddle leaf fig?
- Where is the best place to put my fiddle leaf fig?
- Why is my fiddle leaf fig dropping leaves?
- Should you wipe fiddle leaf fig leaves?
Fiddle leaf fig background
Before we start talking about how to care for a fiddle leaf fig, I want to chat a bit about where the plant is from. The full name of the fiddle leaf fig is ficus lyrata. It has a few other names, but these are the two I most commonly see it referred to.
It is native to the tropical rainforests of West Africa, where it can grow nearly 50 feet tall. And it’s known for its large, glossy, violin-shaped leaves (or fiddle-shaped leaves) that can grow up to a foot long. These unique leaves make it a popular choice as a houseplant.
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.
Its leaves have a leathery look and texture, as well as very prominent veining. They kind of look crinkly to me, 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).
Fiddle leaf figs have been grown as houseplants for quite some time, but they have more recently gained popularity as a trendy and stylish indoor plant. They started to become more popular as houseplants in the early 2010s and have continued to gain popularity since then. A large branching fiddle leaf fig like the one below still takes my breath away!
Fiddle leaf fig tree vs. fiddle leaf fig bush
While browsing pics online—and browsing pics in this post—you may notice that fiddle leaf ficus 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 come in two different forms. It 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 that comes out of the soil. It then has 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 mainly in the way they are pruned, trained and shaped to suit the desired form, whether it is a tree or bush.
I tend to prefer the tree-like form of the plant as I think it is a more striking look. I don’t think I am alone in this, either—it seems to be the trendier form. So I’ve been training a propagation from the fiddle leaf fig bush I had years ago to grow into a tree.
IN my original post about fiddle leaf fig care, I said I was starting this experiment and would report back in 3 years as a joke. Well, it’s over three years now, so I think it’s about time! I’ll talk more about this in the pruning section of this post.
Do fiddle leaf figs need full sun?
Whatever type of fiddle leaf fig you have, the rest of this post will apply just fine. 🙂 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 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, fiddle leaf figs can acclimate to a good amount of direct sun, though. If you’re bringing a fiddle leaf fig 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 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.
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.
Can a fiddle leaf fig live in low light?
They 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 even turn yellow or brown.
If you want your fiddle leaf fig to thrive, it’s best to provide it with bright, indirect light. 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.
How often do you water a fiddle leaf fig?
In general, fiddle leaf figs prefer consistent moisture, but not to be constantly wet. A good rule of thumb is to wait until 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.
So how often do I water mine? Indoors during late spring, summer, and early fall, once a week. Through the winter while they are hibernating—once every few weeks. Outdoors in the summer? Nearly daily when it gets super hot, which it does here in Maryland.
When you do water, I recommend you water thoroughly until the water runs out of the bottom of the pot. 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.
I have heard that you should avoid watering the leaves because it can lead to fungal diseases. However, I have always rinsed down the leaves on my plants when I water them. They are dust magnets, and this is a quick way to clean them off.
How do you know when a fiddle fig needs water?
The first 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!
Keep vigilant for soil shrinkage, too. This happens when you underwater a plant and can be a nice canary in a coal mine before the plant is affected. 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 make 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.
It’s best not to make a habit of this. But speaking from personal experience, it wasn’t the end of the world! I’ve done worse things to my plants by accident 🙂
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, this is likely a sign 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
For more ficus plants, check out my posts on Rubber Plant Care and Variegated Rubber Plant Care, Ficus Audrey Care, Ficus Umbellata Care, and Ficus Umbellata Care!
Do fiddle leaf figs need pots with drainage holes?
Yes, absolutely. Planting your ficus lyrata in a pot without a drainage hole can be a one-way ticket to a dead plant via the root rot express. It’s best to have drainage holes so that you can completely soak the soil when you water the plant, letting all of the excess water drain out.
However, this is when I share some knowledge about what a big ol’ hypocrite I am. For a very long time, I had my fiddle leaf fig propagation potted in a pot with ZERO drainage holes. I just took care not to give it too much water. And guess what? It thrived for YEARS.
When I finally did take it out of its pot to refresh the soil, I used my drill to drill a hole in the bottom of the pot. Now I have less guilt and water more freely. I am officially recommening drainage holes 😉
Should I bottom water my fiddle leaf fig?
Bottom watering is a method of watering where you put a plant in a tray or saucer filled with water. The roots then absorb water through the drainage holes in the bottom of the plant’s pot. This can be a great option for some plants like string of hearts plants and hoya carnosa compacta plants.
However, it works best on plants with sensitive foliage. You do not need to bottom water a fiddle leaf fig. Instead, wait until the top several inches of soil dry out and then thoroughly soak the plant’s soil using traditional top watering. (Read more about bottom watering here if you’re curious.)
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 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!
Temperature & humidity needs
The ideal temperature range for a fiddle leaf fig is between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. They can tolerate some fluctuation in temperature, but sudden changes can cause stress to the plant and may cause the leaves to drop.
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. You can add a humidifier if your home isn’t terribly humid.
It’s also important to note that fiddle leaf figs are sensitive to sudden changes in temperature and humidity. It’s this characteristic that leads people to say these plants are drama queens. However, all you need to do is find somewhere the plant is happy and leave it there.
Keep your fiddle leaf fig away from exterior doors, air conditioning and heating vents, and drafty windows, which can cause the leaves to dry out or drop. I can say from firsthand experience that this is no joke. The plant will drop its leaves in a fit if it’s too drafty!
Should I mist my fiddle leaf?
Misting your fiddle leaf fig can help to increase humidity around the plant, but it’s important to do it properly and not over-mist the plant. Misting also only provides a temporary increase in moisture around the plant—a humidifier is a better option.
When misting, use a fine mister, and do so in the morning when the plant has a full day of light ahead of it. If you mist too often or too heavily, water could begin to pool on the leaves and damage them.
Growth rate & repotting needs
In general, they 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.
What season should I repot a fiddle leaf fig?
It might surprise you that 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. Repotting during the dormant season can minimize the stress on the plant and help it recover more quickly.
During the active growing season (spring and summer), 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. A pot that is too large can hold too much soil, which can retain too much moisture and lead to root rot.
A pot that is too small can restrict the growth of the roots, causing the plant to become stunted. A general rule of thumb is to choose a pot that is about 1-2 inches bigger than the current pot.
Turning a fiddle leaf fig bush into a tree
I mentioned turning fiddle leaf fig bush into a tree earlier in this post. I have been working on mine for years now, and I have a lot to share about the process! You essentially do it through pruning.
To get started, I took a stem off of my fiddle leaf fig bush. The plant had dropped some leaves due to shock when I brought it inside for the spring and summer. So, I thought—great timing! Let’s get this experiment started.
First thing’s first—to get those long, sturdy trunks with the big beautiful leafy tops (those glorious bobble head plants), you need patience. Sure, 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 I potted my propagation up, I removed one of the bottom-most leaves. I then waited until the plant had produced 1-2 new leaves before removing another. Always removing it from the bottom.
This has worked out well for me, but it has been a long process. I wish I had a picture of when I first potted it up, but unfortunately it seems like it has been lost to time. If I can find it, I’ll update this post. The first photo below is from June 2022, and the second is from January 2023!
Why do 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. At least that’s what I read online.
I’m sure you’ve seen the videos of people recommending that you shake your fiddle leaf figs to help strengthen the trunk/stem. The reasoning is that shaking the plant gently from side to side simulates a gentle breeze.
I can’t speak to whether this helps or hurts the plant. Personally, I don’t do it. But it isn’t because it doesn’t work. It’s just because I don’t. And I’ve seen some big plant names who do opt to shake. I really don’t think you can go wrong either way, just make sure to do it gently 🙂
How to propagate a fiddle leaf fig
The best time to propagate a fiddle leaf fig plant is in the spring. Fiddle leaf fig cuttings can be propagated in water or soil. I have a whole post about fiddle leaf fig propagation, but here is quick overview.
To propagate in water, just dip a leaf or cutting into water and let it chill for a few weeks. 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.
Other fiddle leaf fig FAQs
I want to outline a few other things you might encounter while on your fiddle leaf fig care journey. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but I’ve tried to wrack my brain for everything I’ve learned!
What are the tiny reddish-brown spots on my fiddle leaf fig?
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. If a plant is over-watered while it is grown 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 bit of a growth spurt and getting more water. I don’t stress about it as long as the rest of the plant is doing swimmingly. The spots aren’t permanent and tend to dissipate as the leaves grown.
These spots are a sign that you should do an audit of your watering routine, though. Make sure you aren’t giving the plant so much water that it will lead to root rot.
Why are my fiddle leaf fig’s leaves turning brown and mushy?
You’re probably over-watering it, don’t have adequate drainage, or both. And you might be dealing with root rot. Grab a tarp and take your plant out of the pot. Does it smell? If so, I’m sorry. 🙁 It’s yucky, and you have to cut the bad roots away.
Snip them off, let the plant dry for an hour or so in the open air, and then repot with fresh soil. Trim the affected leaves and hope for the best!
Why does my fiddle leaf fig plant have brown crispy leaves?
It’s probably not getting enough water. I know, it’s a dangerous game, watering those fiddles. If it’s coupled with droopy leaves—yep, not enough water. Don’t open the floodgates on it, though. Then you’ll over-water. Loosen the soil a bit and then water as normal. Monitor for a week or so.
Should I cut off brown leaves on fiddle leaf fig?
You can! There are a few schools of thought on this. Some people say you should let a leaf die off completely before trimming it off. That’s fine. But if it’s really ugly and you’re tried of looking at it, you are probably safe to trim off a brown leaf.
Where is the best place to put my fiddle leaf fig?
The best place to put your fiddle leaf fig indoors is near a sunny window that gets plenty of bright, indirect light. Make sure the temperature in the space remains consistent; avoid cold drafts from windows or doors and heat/AC registers.
Shoot for higher humidity if you can. Indoors, this likely requires a humidifier no matter where in your home you put your plant. Once you find a spot with great light and a stable temperature, all you need is the right soil and amount of what. Your plant will do great!
Why is my fiddle leaf fig dropping leaves?
Check for drafts. If there are no other obvious signs of stress (prolonged dry or wet soil, pest issues, very low humidity), then it might be due to temperature fluctuations. Have you moved the plant recently? Has a heating vent kicked on for the season? That might be your answer.
Should you wipe fiddle leaf fig leaves?
Yes. I mentioned that 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 post on how to clean houseplant leaves for more.)
Are ficus lyrata toxic to pets?
Fiddle leaf figs are not known to be toxic to pets if ingested. However, the sap of the plant can cause skin irritation and an allergic reaction in some individuals. 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.