I am sure you all have heard of the fiddle leaf fig tree (also known as the ficus lyrata). They have a reputation of being beautiful and also quite difficult to keep alive. A dying or dead fiddle leaf can leave you a bit heartbroken. Those beautiful leaves start to drop and it’s a pitiful process to witness. If you’ve had one die or you’re just too intimidated to get one then I hope this post helps. Many plant enthusiasts have some tried and true tricks for this particular plant. I love hearing about what other people do to keep their fiddle leaf alive and thriving. I wanted to share five of my favorite tried and true fiddle leaf tips with you all. Potting: You bring a gorgeous fiddle leaf home … now what? Most of these trees come in thin/cheap plastic containers when you first purchase them. I like to take my tree out of these suckers as soon as I get home. For pots, I use good ol’ terracotta pots.
My mom taught me to never use plastic pots but use clay/earthenware because it allows the soil to “breathe.” If you get an earthenware pot, make sure it has a hole (this is huge!) for drainage. Drainage is vital to a fiddle leaf. If you don’t have a hole at the bottom of your pot, then the water can pool inside and cause the roots to rot, which can kill your plant. Fiddle leaves don’t like to stay soggy. I will get a pot that is not much bigger than the original pot that it came in. The roots like to be somewhat snug in the pot.
Next, fill the bottom of the pot with some small stones (you can buy them at most plant shops) about 1.5-2 inches high. These stones aid with drainage and also help the dirt not drain out when you are watering it. Pour dirt all around the sides, making sure your tree stays straight. Once the sides are filled with dirt, I put my hand down along the sides and make sure the dirt is pushed down all the way. My favorite potting mix is actually a cactus/palm mix found at local hardware stores. The potting mix has sand in it which helps keep the soil loose and also helps with drainage. I’ve used this mix for five years and love it!
Light: This thing loves the light!! If you get a fiddle leaf, then find a window with ample light. Be sure that it is bright, indirect light. Don’t stick it in a corner away from the sunlight (if you can help it). Its leaves love to drink up the light so keep it in a bright, sunny spot in your home. Since the tree thrives on bright light, it is very important to keep the leaves clean from dust and dirt. If the leaves get too dusty, they can actually “suffocate” when they don’t have a clean surface. Thanks, photosynthesis!
Every week or so, I wipe the leaves with a wet cloth and get all of the dirt and dust removed. After the leaves are cleaned, I use a leaf shine spray to make them extra glossy.
Since this tree loves drinking up the light, it will eventually start leaning towards the sun. Rotate the tree slightly (some people do every time they water or once a month) and this will help keep the tree straight and balanced.
Placement: The fiddle leaf is not a huge fan of being moved around. It loves stability and moving it around your house can actually cause the leaves to drop. You can take it to the sink to water it, but moving it for extended periods of time can cause problems. I never really believed this until I tried it and my fiddle leaf did indeed drop leaves. Another tip is to not have your tree in a drafty area. Near a door (especially during winter) or a vent can really irritate the tree. Find a spot in your home that’s not near a door or vent and has loads of sunshine!
Watering: Overwatering your tree can be deadly and waiting too long to water it (when it is bone dry) can cause the leaves to brown and drop. I typically water mine once a week, but always check to see if it is ready to be watered. Sometimes I wait two weeks (depending on weather conditions that affect moisture levels). To gauge whether it is ready to be watered, I stick my finger in the dirt about 3-4 inches to see if it feels dry. If I feel any moisture then I’ll wait a couple of days and check again. I’ll also lift the pot to feel if it is still heavy from the last watering. If it feels like it has dried out then it’s ready for water. I like to water mine in the sink (although this gets difficult with large plants).
Some people like to use filtered water for their plants, but I use the good old tap water and it’s been fine for me! Run lukewarm water in the pot and really soak the whole top area of the soil. I fill the pot with water, let the water drain down and then fill it again, really soaking it. I leave it in the sink to drain completely (it takes an hour or so) and then return it back to its spot. If you have a huge fiddle leaf and you cannot carry it to the sink, you can still give it a good watering. I once had a giant tree (elevated on a plant stand) and I would stick a big bowl under the plant so that I could water it really well and let the excess water drain into the bowl. Eventually, I put the tree on Craigslist because our ceilings were too short for it and I didn’t have the knowledge to prune it down. That brings me to the next tip … which can be a little intimidating but I promise that it is not!
Pruning and Propagating: Did you know you can make new fiddle leaf babies from cutting a branch off of your tree? I love this about the fiddle leaf tree. It’s the plant that keeps on giving! Pruning your tree will promote horizontal growth. The tree will actually grow more when you prune it. I didn’t believe this until a local nursery worker showed me how and then showed the results. The spot where you cut will split into two new growths. If your tree is looking a little spindly or top heavy, then it might be time for a trim!
To prune, find where a leaf connects to the tree (also called a node) and cut right above the leaf. I like to have my cuttings have at least 3-4 inches of bare branch on the bottom and a few leaves in the top. Once you cut if off, stick the cutting in water and place in sunlight. Throughout the weeks, the branch will start growing roots. It’s an amazing process! You can pot your cutting once the roots have grown a little bit (I like the roots to be at least 3-4 inches long before I pot it). This process can take a month or longer, so be patient. Change the water about once a week so it stays fresh. Follow the same potting process noted above and you should have lots and lots of fiddle babies!
If you haven’t given this plant a try then I hope that you will! It adds a bit of whimsy and happiness to any space it’s in. Let me know any tips and tricks you guys might have in the comments below! xo. Janae
Credits // Author and Photography: Janae Hardy. Photos edited with the ACS for Desktop presets.
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