Not too long ago I ordered what is basically a mystery box of plants. The Sill has a “Plant Parent” starter set and it’s a “you get what you get and you don’t get upset” type of situation.
I was really surprised when I got my Plant Parent set that there was a table-top sized Fiddle Leaf Fig plant included. I’ve always thought they were pretty finicky and not very easy to care for.
But, now I am the proud owner of a Fiddle Leaf Fig, so I’ve been doing some learning about how to keep a fiddle leaf fig plant alive.
Let’s Learn About the Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant
The Fiddle Leaf Fig plant somehow became the darling of the lifestyle blog world not to long ago. It was all over instagram and it seems that everyone fell in love with this big, bold houseplant.
I get it. It’s very striking with its giant green leaves. Plus it’s basically a tree if you get a big one and having a tree in your living room is kind of cool, right?
The Fiddle Leaf Fig is not from typical living room climates, though. It’s a tropical rainforest plant.
It’s actually kind of pushy in the wild. It grows on top of other plants so that it can get the sunlight. Its seeds will land on top of another tree and it will grow there. And it will grow up to 50 feet tall.
Eventually whatever poor tree it was growing on top of will die.
They do not behave so badly in your home, unless you count its Goldilocks like penchant for “just right”.
Fiddle Leaf Figs like moisture, but not too moist! They love sunlight, but watch out for sunburn! Oh and it’s one of the plants that likes to be misted. And it’s leaves are going to need to be dusted.
It’s definitely more high maintenance than your average Pothos that will take pretty much whatever you throw at it without complaining.
But even our high maintenance plants are fun to take care of, right?
How to Keep a Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant Alive
Ok, here are the essentials: water, light, soil and fertilizer so that you can make it just right for your new plant.
Like every plant, it’s hard to say, “Water your Fiddle Leaf once a week and it will be happy”. Frequency is going to depend on the conditions in your home.
Instead, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty. Well, at least one finger is going to get dirty.
You want to water your Fiddle Leaf Fig when the top 2-4 inches of soil is dry. So, stick your finger in about a couple (or more) inches down and see how things feel.
If it’s dry, then you can give the plant a good soaking. If it’s in a saucer, make sure to drain the saucer of any excess water that collects there.
If you stick your finger in the soil and you’re still just not sure whether or not water, check out the leaves. If they look different, kind of droopy and limp, then that’s a good sign that the Fiddle Leaf Fig needs some water.
If you start to see brown spots on the leaves, it’s a sign that you are over-watering, so cut back on the water.
If you don’t have a drainage hole in the pot your Fiddle Leaf is in, first of all, get a drainage hole, but if you can’t do that, you’ll probably be watering less frequently.
If you’re worried that you’re under-watering your Fiddle Leaf Fig, you’ll know because the new leaves will be smaller than the old ones, leaves are dropping and/or the edges of the leaves are brown and curling.
Since the Fiddle Leaf is native to tropical rainforests, they do like humidity. Misting will really not do much to add to humidity, but mist away if that’s something you enjoy. You can also try leaving a saucer of water near the plant or go all in and get a humidifier.
When I opened my Plant Parent Set and extracted the Fiddle Leaf Fig from its brown wrapping, I wish I’d had someone to take a picture of my face.
It was a “Oh. That’s not good” kind of face.
Because I never would have brought a Fiddle Leaf Fig into my house because I know they can be finicky, but, also, I know they like light.
I have some south(east) facing windows, but I also live beneath a canopy of pine trees, so I am worried about this plant.
You remember what we said about the Fiddle Leaf growing on top of other trees? That was so that it could get to the sunlight that they so desperately need.
If you’ve got a bright, east facing window, that should do the trick, but consider a sheer curtain because that filtered light will be less likely to burn the leaves.
I told you this thing is a little fickle! Give me SUN! But not so much!
Sunburn will look like pale brown spots on the leaves that almost look like they’ve been bleached. Which is basically what the sun does, so it makes sense.
If this happens, you can cut off the damaged leaves and you will definitely need to find a new place to keep your Fiddle Leaf Fig. Either a different window that doesn’t get direct light or you may even try a sheer curtain.
If you notice that your plant is starting to grow in the direction of the sun, then you will want to start rotating it so that it grows straighter.
Oy. This is going to be a fun trip to keep this thing happy, I think.
Your Fiddle Leaf Fig is not a cactus so you can use regular potting soil for it. But, if you find that you are having a problem with overwatering, you could consider using some cactus/succulent potting soil because it will help with drainage.
Overly moist soil is what your Fiddle Leaf will hate the most, so if the soil drains really well, you’ll have less chance of those roots sitting in moisture and getting root rot.
Dossier also recommends a DIY Fiddle Leaf potting mix if you’re into DIY’s.
When it comes time to repot your Fiddle Leaf, either because it’s outgrown its pot or become root-bound or just needs some new soil, make sure you do it in Spring Summer when it’s growing instead of Fall or Winter when it is resting.
Caring for the Leaves
The Fiddle Leaf Fig has beautiful giant leaves and those are very important. Those leaves are helping with photosynthesis so it’s actually important that they are clean beyond just the fact that they look nicer when they are clean.
There’s nothing complicated here, you can give them a spritz of water and a gentle wipe with a microfiber cloth so that you remove the dust and whatever else might be on those handsome leaves. You can dry them off as well.
It will be worth the effort when you’re Instagram feed blows up because you have a stunning Fiddle Leaf Fig in the corner of the living room.
You can fertilize your Fiddle Leaf Fig using a fertilizer that is labeled is labeled with an NPK ratio of 3-1-2 or use this fertilizer specifically formulated for the Fiddle Leaf Fig.
You only need to fertilize once in the spring at the start of the growing season and then about once a month through the summer. Just like with repotting, you don’t want to disturb the plant with fertilizer when it’s resting in Fall & Winter.
Other Things To Watch Out for If You Want To Keep a Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant Alive
Oh, yes, there’s more that you will need to keep an eye on with this plant. I know it probably seems a little intimidating, but honestly, the more I learn about this plant, the more interesting it is to me.
It’s like a whole new character has moved in to my home!
If you notice that your Fiddle Leaf Fig is dropping leaves and you’re confident that you are not overwatering or under-watering it, then it might be due to temperature fluctuations.
The Fiddle Leaf Fig does not like drafts, so if it’s near a window that’s drafty or an air conditioning vent, you’ll need to find a solution for that. Either seal up the window or close off the vent if you can.
Notice I didn’t say move the plant away from the draft? That’s because Fiddle Leaf Figs might also drop their leaves after you move them. I swear, it’s actually kind of comical, isn’t it?
I’m just picturing this plant temper tantrum in my head.
#3. Root Rot
This can be a problem with any plant, so it’s important to learn about root rot if you are going to be a plant parent.
Root rot happens when the roots are sitting in water. This is why my mother’s adage of “When in doubt, do without” is so helpful with watering.
It’s much easier to help a plant that is under watered than it is to help a plant that is over watered and now has root rot.
For your Fiddle Leaf Fig, if you notice brown spots on the dark green leaves and you suspect it may be from over watering, you may want to check the roots.
You can gently remove the plant from its pot (this is all assuming you have a small one like me, if you have a giant Fiddle Leaf Fig tree, this is going to be far more complicated!) and look at the roots.
If they are brown and mushy, well that’s what the fungal infection called Root Rot looks like.
You have two choices. If there aren’t a LOT of brown spots, you can let the soil dry out completely over a couple of weeks or so and give the roots some time to recover.
If there are a LOT Of brown spots, then you’ll want to cut away the mushy brown roots and the leaves with the brown spots and hope for the best.
And stop overwatering. 🙂
(side note, if your leaves are turning pale and getting dark brown spots, that’s likely a different problem, a bacterial infection which is much more difficult to care for. It might not be fixable, sadly. You can try repotting it with some clean, fresh soil).
#3. Curling Leaves
If you notice the edges of your Fiddle Leaf Fig are “curling” or getting sort of a ruffle look, then you are probably under-watering.
You might also notice the edges turning brown. This is a pretty simple fix.
Water the plant more often (remember, we’re watering when the soil is dried 2-4 inches down) and if it’s near a heating vent or some other source of heat you might want to move it away.
Also, the Fiddle Leaf Fig does love humidity so if you’re seeing these signs of it being generally dry, then start misting, try the saucer of water near the plant or adding a humidifier to the room.
Now You’ve Learned How to Keep A Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant Alive!
Remember this is a bit of a fussy one, but I bet you enjoy a challenge, right? I love a Pothos for how forgiving it is, but this Fiddle Leaf is going to give me a run for my money, I think and I’m ok with that!
This won’t be as easy as keeping an Aloe Vera plant alive, but they do both love light, so they can be fussy together!