The fiddle leaf fig tree has taken the world by storm in recent years, establishing an omnipresence on social media feeds and professional interior design guides alike. If the iconic houseplant is on your homeowner wish list, you're not alone. Before purchasing a fiddle leaf fig plant of your own, though, it's imperative that you familiarise yourself with all necessary information.
By the end of this guide, you'll know everything you could ever need ahead of the fiddle leaf fig purchase. Let's get started.
Table of Contents
- I. The Basics Of Fiddle Leaf Figs
- II. Fiddle Leaf Fig Biology
- III. Fiddle Leaf Fig Considerations
- IV. Fiddle Leaf Fig Care
- V. Fiddle Leaf Fig Warnings
- VI. Fiddle Leaf Fig FAQs
I. The Basics Of Fiddle Leaf Figs
Scientifically known as the ficus lyrata, the fiddle leaf fig tree is a flowering plant that originates from western Africa, most commonly found in Cameroon and Sierra Leone. It can be grown as an ornamental tree or as a houseplant variant.
The fiddle leaf fig is instantly recognisable thanks to the violin-shaped leaves that it takes its name from. The leaves themselves can grow up to 18” long and 12” wide, providing a distinct aesthetic that grabs the attention in stunning style. Even on the same plant, an individual leaf can grow at a different rate to others.
While the fiddle leaf fig is a houseplant seen in many countries across the globe, it is particularly suited to Australian households thanks to the climate. The captivatingly bold green plant can inject fresh energy into the dullest of rooms, which goes some way to explaining their popularity.
II. Fiddle Leaf Fig Biology
The fiddle leaf fig is a member of the Moraceae mulberry family, as a Urostigma subgenus of the Ficus genus. Its iconic oval leaves are commonly broad at the apex and much thinner in the middle while the household variants found in Australia can grow up to a maximum height of 3m. The ornamental houseplants do not reach full maturity for 15 years but display the attractive upwardly cascading leaves after just three.
Fiddle leaf figs traditionally live for between 25 and 50 years depending on the level of care they are given and are characterised by several key aspects, with the most prominent being;
- The leaves, which are more prominent towards the top of the tree rather than the trunk, tend to boast a leathery touch and glossy look. Aside from their 'violin' shape, they are known to have very prominent veins that appear through the central region of the leaf and out towards the edges.
- The trunk, which is very strong despite its long and thin characteristics. The trunk itself is brown while the markings can vary greatly from one houseplant to the next. The individual branches may break off into separate sections.
- The lack of flowering. While wild fiddle leaf figs produce green fig fruits up to 1.25” in diameter, it is very rare for the houseplants in Australia (or other countries) to produce the fig fruit due to the contrasts in climate.
In most cases, the leaves of the houseplant commonly grow upwards to produce a tall, slender overall aesthetic. Nonetheless, it is possible for the leaves to stretch outwardly instead, giving it a much broader appearance.
A. Natural Environment
Wild fiddle leaf figs in western Africa most commonly grow as epiphytes that grow on top of trees, much in the same way that mistletoe and orchids grow. However, they are also known to grow up to 15m tall as standalone trees.
However, this rapid growth is helped by the tropical climates that can reach temperatures of 34°C and enjoy up to 200cm of rainfall each year. While household fiddle leaf figs do not grow to the same heights as wild ficus lyrata, homeowners must try to replicate the setting to keep their plants in great health.
III. Fiddle Leaf Fig Considerations
The fiddle leaf fig is one of the most attractive houseplants on the market, and instantly establishes itself as one the key design features of any living space. Allowing your eyes to fall in love with the tree will give you the desire to buy it, but you must go the extra mile to confirm that it is a suitable investment.
There are many contributing factors that should influence your consumer decisions, as well as how the fiddle leaf fig is utilised in your home. The following questions should point you towards the right purchase:
A. Where Will It Go?
The location within your home is one of the most important considerations when planning to buy a fiddle leaf fig, and not only for aesthetic reasons. Despite the temperature enjoyed by the wild variants, the houseplant needs to be kept at temperatures of 15°C to 24°C while direct sunlight should be limited.
Your plant will not thrive in a dark basement, for example. Conservatories, patios, and lounges are the most popular destinations. Once you have found a suitable space, however, it should remain there. Otherwise, the climate variances between one room and the next will cause problems.
B. Do I Have The Time?
Many popular houseplants require very little care and maintenance. They can be watered once per fortnight and left to grow. The west African Moraceae is not one of them. While its suitable habitat isn't overly restricted, ill health will surface very quickly if the plant is not kept in those preferred conditions.
Before purchasing a fiddle leaf fig, then, it's vital that you answer this question honestly. There is little point in buying a houseplant that will die on you within a matter of weeks or months. It's a waste of time, money, and effort. It's not fair on the plant either.
C. What Are The Surroundings?
When looking at prospective houseplants, you shouldn't just think about how great it will look on Instagram or Snapchat. You also need to consider its appearance within the home. Fiddle leaf figs come in various shapes and sizes, which is why it's necessary to conduct your research ahead of any purchase to guarantee suitability.
All fiddle leaf figs will deliver a touch of green and brown to the home but the styling of a slim plant can work wonders when dealing with slimline ornaments and décor. Conversely, a traditional bushy plant will suit rooms with bigger statement pieces. Of course, this will influence the choice of pot.
D. Should I Choose A Cluster?
Fiddle leaf figs do vary greatly from one plant to the next. While they can be separated and classified in a variety of ways, the most obvious differentiator during infancy is whether there is a single trunk or a cluster of trunks. The latter will take a bushy form as they mature while the former can grow into the more slender plants with fewer branches.
The easiest way to confirm which type of fiddle leaf fig you're looking at is to pull back the leaves and inspect the trunk. When buying the houseplant online or via telephone, you can simply ask the seller to find you the right selection for the setup you require.
E. What About Fiddle Leaf Figs & Pets?
When investing in a fiddle leaf fig, you shouldn't only consider the health of the plant. You also need to consider the impacts that it may have on your household. The oval leaves aren't particularly sharp, and should not pose a threat in this sense. However, their toxicity can cause sickness to children and animals alike.
The insoluble calcium oxalates will lead to vomiting, nausea, and oral irritations ranging from burning sensations to uncontrollable drooling. The symptoms are present in cats, dogs, and even horses. Pet owners should, therefore, think carefully about their purchase.
IV. Fiddle Leaf Fig Care
The fiddle leaf fig tree is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful houseplants available. Even so, anyone looking to purchase one should be prepared to encounter more ongoing maintenance than would be necessary for other houseplants.
Focusing on the six key features below should enable you to keep the fiddle leaf fig in great health for many years to come, thus ensuring that it remains Instagram ready and a central focus of your home design.
Watering the plant is unquestionably the backbone of good fiddle leaf fig management. This should come as very little surprise given that it originates from the rainforests of Cameroon and Sierra Leone. This is the one area of ongoing care where the houseplant is very sensitive. Both over-watering and under-watering the plant will cause it to die.
Seasonal changes and contrasts in humidity levels mean that the watering requirements are a little higher in the warmer months. However, the week-to-week routines are something you'll probably get the hang of in a fairly short space of time.
The telltale sign is when the top inch of the soil becomes dry. Pour enough water on the plant until it is fully saturated and water starts to pour out of the plant pot's bottom. While it can be tempting to let your fiddle leaf fig sit in a pool of water, it's necessary to avoid this at all costs. Once again, too much saturation is just as dangerous as a drought.
You can use untreated water from a cold tap to complete the process. They will drink up a lot of water, which is why regular watering is needed. However, you do not need to keep a strict or rigid daily schedule where you water them at the same time each day. Instead, you simply need to keep an eye on the soil to see when it has dried out to the point where a top-up is required.
As mentioned above, the location of your houseplant will have a telling influence on its overall health. Ultimately, plant owners will need to replicate the situation that would be experienced in the rainforest. Neither too much nor too little sunlight will do the fiddle leaf fig any favours.
In the wild, the tree would receive strong sunlight, but only through the canopies. Therefore, you need to limit direct sunlight exposure One of the most effective solutions is to rotate the tree throughout the day so that each of the oval leaves only receives the required level of sunlight. Otherwise, they could dry out or become discoloured before eventually falling off.
If possible, the mid-afternoon sun should be avoided. If you have kept your houseplant by a big window or patio doors, shutting the blinds or using other sun-blocking devices will serve you well. The natural light can be supplemented by internal electrical lighting. There is no need to fashion a lightbox or any similar device.
Essentially, the houseplant is best suited to limited sunlight that reflects the situation it would experience in the wild. While complete darkness will kill the plant, it can grow and remain healthy without increased sunlight requirements. Just be sure to keep the temperature at the desired level of around 20°C (give or take 5°C) at all times.
C. Soil & Fertilization
While the plant requires a lot of water to stay healthy, its food requirements are minimal. In fact, over-fertilisation is one of the biggest dangers to your fiddle leaf fig. The use of a diluted fertilizer on a monthly basis during the spring and autumn should suffice. During the other seasons, watering alone is more than adequate.
The soil itself will require a little additional care. Premium grade, aerated indoor potting mixes are the most suitable solution for promoting a healthy plant. It should deliver a good balance of fast drainage (to avoid over saturation) and efficient moisture retainment. Choosing part bark and perlite solutions will also make your ongoing maintenance tasks a little easier to manage.
In addition to choosing the right type of soil, you need to ensure that the plant is potted so that it sticks up straight. The potting mix should ideally be poured around the sides too while you need enough soil to cover the full root bulb. This includes leaving enough space around the sides and bottom of the root, allowing enough space for growth.
The top soil should be replaced annually, although repotting may be required (see below) while the plant is still growing to full maturity. When your fiddle leaf fig tree is supported by the right soil, along with the right levels of light and water, its long-term health will be in a far better condition.
D. Pruning & Maintenance
Given that fiddle leaf figs don't hit full maturity for 15 years, you will be required to cut back the branches and complete pruning tasks. This will prevent the plant from outgrowing your property while it additionally forms a crucial step in maintaining the health of your plant in both the immediate and long-term future.
Pruning the top keeps your plant at the desired height while branches should be cut back when they become straggly. It's important to remove leaves as soon as they show signs of deterioration to prevent any ill health from spreading to other parts of the plant. Thankfully, pruning actually helps new leaves grow back in a fuller fashion, which can actively enhance the health and aesthetic of the houseplant.
When pruning the tree, you should make the cut above the leaf, leaving a few centimeters of bare branch underneath. This will often split the branch into two, which may result in the need for further pruning later down the line if you decide that the new styling isn't quite right.
Any leaves that fall from the tree should be discarded immediately, as should any cuttings that won't be used for propagation purposes. If you are planning to propagate, the cutting should be left to grow for several weeks. Unlike the main fiddle leaf fig plant itself, the new root cutting should be placed in a vessel of water while left in direct sunlight.
E. Misting & Cleaning
In addition to gaining the right level of moisture from the soil and through the roots, it's necessary to protect the leaves. Misting is, therefore, an essential part of the ongoing care. A standard spray bottle filled with cold to lukewarm water should be more than adequate for the task at hand. Depending on the surroundings, this may take place once per month or every few days.
Either way, half a dozen sprays should be enough to cover a standard-sized fiddle leaf fig. Spraying shortly after rotating the plant for sunlight purposes can be a very smart move too as it places less stress on the plant during this moment.
Keeping the leaves moist is one thing, but you also need to prevent them from accumulating large volumes of dust. Aside from promoting general health, it can be a key step to fighting the threat of insects. Most owners will find that a monthly clean will suffice, but some may require weekly cleaning depending on air quality and where they are situated within the home.
Cleaning can be achieved by using a sponge and water to lightly rub the dust away. Alternatively, the plant may be placed under a tap, as long as the water is running at a low flow. When taking this approach, though, it's absolutely vital that you avoid any unnecessary trauma. With the right cleaning routines, the leaves should retain their glossy surface and aesthetic.
Assuming that it is looked after in the right manner, your fiddle leaf fig will naturally outgrow its pot. A lot of growth happens in a relatively short space of time under the surface. In most cases, you'll need to repot or trim the root once every 12-24 months.
You can check whether repotting is required through several quick and easy tests. If the roots are sticking out of the potholes, it's likely that action is required. Meanwhile, noticing that the root ball is touching the bottom of your plant pot is another clear indication that you need to trim the root or move to a bigger pot.
Fiddle leaf figs need to be housed in a pot with good drainage, which comes from having a hole in the bottom of it. Otherwise, excess moisture will lead to root rotting and the subsequent death of the plant. Once again, you must remember that bark and materials used to support the health of your soil are essential.
When deciding whether to repot the plant or simply trim the root ball, the key is to consider the growth. If your plant is still yet to reach full maturity and you want it to keep growing, it will need a bigger pot. The new pot should be at least a couple of inches larger than the previous one. When you are happy with the height of the plant, trimming the root is a good way to slow further growth.
V. Fiddle Leaf Fig Warnings
After taking the right precautions before purchasing the houseplant and implementing a good plant care strategy, you may expect your fiddle leaf fig to stay in perfect health. Unfortunately, this plant is susceptible to an array of problems due to its general life cycle and the contrasts from its natural habitat.
There are several problematic symptoms that require your attention, the most telling are;
A. Leaves breaking off of the main plant
While leaves towards the lower part of the trunk will naturally drop off from time to time as part of the plant's natural cycle, as to make way for new leaves, the loss of multiple leaves in a short space of time is a cause for concern.
The fiddle leaf fig is a fairly sensitive plant when it has been relocated, and this could be the root cause if you've recently moved it to another part of the home. Alternative causes include cold drafts and low humidity levels. Finally, a prolonged lack of water will cause leaves to die and fall away. However, other symptoms are likely to show before this happens.
B. Dry edges and brown appearance
When leaves turn brown towards the edges, followed by drying out, it's likely that the dry air caused by low humidity levels is the chief reason for those problems. Inadequate hydration is another contributing factor that may work in conjunction with the low humidity.
Increased watering frequency and improved climate control will naturally restore the houseplant to full health. However, it should be noted that it may be better to remove the affected leaves as the damage won't be reversed. Once you have got the situation under control, new leaves should start to rebuild the oval aesthetic.
C. Softening textures
The leathery texture is one of the key attributes of a fiddle leaf fig plant. Softening leaves, which are commonly exacerbated by brown patches, are perhaps the biggest indication that the plant needs help. When left untreated, death is inevitable.
Overwatering the plant is the most common reason for this problem, although low temperatures are another common cause. After all, the fiddle leaf fig is accustomed to temperatures in excess of 24°C at all times. Increasing the temperature and sunlight while also changing any saturated soil should correct the problems, allowing the plant's health to improve.
While the fiddle leaf fig is a fairly robust plant, the fact that it is out of its natural habitat makes it far more vulnerable than it would be in the wild. Thankfully, those warning signs should give you enough time to rectify the situation. If you notice any of the above, or generic issues such as discoloration, you must not ignore it.
VI. Fiddle Leaf Fig FAQs
By now, you should feel fairly confident about buying and taking care of a fiddle leaf fig plant. Nonetheless, there are several further unanswered questions that you may wish to ask. A selection of the best are listed below:
How Much Should I Expect To Pay For A Fiddle Leaf Fig?
When looking at the costs of buying a fiddle leaf fig, size matters. A small houseplant (under 200mm) that has yet to reach maturity may cost between $30-$50. However, bigger plants (over 400mm) commonly cost ten times that amount. Prices may also fluctuate depending on the exact age of the tree, expected maximum height, and choice of supplier.
How Can The Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree Be Topped?
The process of topping your fiddle leaf fig serves the purpose of preventing additional growth. As such, it should only be used once the plant has reached the height you desire it to be.
To complete the procedure, you will need to chop off the trunk from just above the highest branches that you wish to remain. If you are not confident about completing this task without causing damage or ruining the aesthetic, a gardening expert should be capable of doing it on your behalf.
Can I Grow A New Tree From A Leaf?
In a word: no. Unlike many trees, planting a rooted leaf will not result in the growth of a new tree. For successful propagation, you must take a tip cutting that is at least 6” long and attached to a leaf. Air layering, which uses a slanted cut to the stem with a view to encouraging new root development, may also be used to propagate a new plant.
What Diseases Should I Know About?
Like any other living being, fiddle leaf figs can encounter a range of diseases. While good maintenance reduces the threats, there is no way to prevent all fig diseases. The most likely culprits are;
- Fig rust, which is characterised by yellow or brown speckles on the leaves. This most commonly occurs in the late summer or early autumn. When treated early with neem oil, you can stop the issue from becoming fatal. You may also want to remove some of the infected leaves.
- Leaf blight, which is another fungus infestation that causes yellow spots on the leaves. The spots may also appear water soaked. As the issue progresses, holes may appear in the leaves, alongside dry patches. The infected leaves must be removed immediately.
- Pink blight, which is very similar to leaf blight but shows velvety pink spots instead. The spots may also appear white from time to time. When left untreated, the disease will spread until it kills the entire plant. Any infected branches must be cut out.
- Root knot nematodes, which are invisible roundworms causing declines in the general plant health. The chronic condition will impact the development of leaves while swollen galls will be revealed when investigating the roots.
- Fig mosaic, which is a virus causing yellow spots to appear on the infected leaves. This may progress to show yellow bands on the leaves. Unfortunately, there is no way to cure this, and the diseased plant will eventually die.
$149.00 The fiddle leaf fig is the perfect statement piece for any room or office as it naturally attracts the eye and looks immensely beautiful. These plants are known for their naturally large, violin-shaped leaves that grow in dramatic directions. With...read more
Fiddle Leaf Fig Large
The fiddle leaf fig is the perfect statement piece for any room or office as it naturally attracts the eye and looks immensely beautiful. These plants are known for their naturally large, violin-shaped leaves that grow in dramatic directions. With...read more
The unique appeal of the fiddle leaf fig isn't hard to see. Its distinct appearance and style, coupled with the fact that is has been heralded by such a large volume of influencers, ensure that the popularity is set to last for several years to come. Not least due to the plant's versatile ability to suit virtually any interior aesthetic.
Assuming that you have familiarised yourself with the various challenges of owning the plant and have confirmed that it is still a suitable plant for your requirements, it could be one of the best additions you'll ever make to the family home. After all, its beauty is almost unmatched.
For more information on the ficus lyrata and further assistance in finding the perfect houseplant for your home, get in touch with Bloomspace today!