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Care Guide for the Fiddle-Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata) Houseplant

Introducing the Fiddle-Leaf Fig

A popular and sought after houseplant the Fiddle-Leaf Fig or Ficus Lyrata, is another indoor plant that makes an impression in any home where it's grown.

Interior designers love it. With its Fiddle shaped dark green leaves and tactile veining on every leaf, it's pretty easy to see why.

It's versatile too, providing you give it the proper care you can choose to grow it as a tall tree or keep it more compact on a window ledge.

Fiddle-Leaf Fig being grown as a houseplant in a corner surrounded by white walls

Fiddle-Leaf Figs are beautiful plants that make great houseplants.

Its cousins, the Rubber Tree and Weeping Fig are also grown as houseplants. Whilst it has the majestic nature of the Rubber Tree, growing tall and strong, it's inherited the Weeping Fig's fussy nature.

The Fiddle-Leaf Fig is definitely one of those indoor plants that you must cater to, otherwise you'll going to end up with a mound of leaves on the floor and a bare stem looking very sorry for itself.

It's not an overly tricky houseplant, at least in my experience, but you do need to give it the proper attention it craves for a really outstanding and good looking plant. Avoiding the common mistakes is the best way to keep it happy.

How do you pronounce Ficus Lyrata correctly? Say:
FYE-kuss lye-RAY-tuh

Don't worry. We've got you covered. Our article will teach you everything you need to know to keep your Fiddle-Leaf healthy and attractive looking while avoiding the mistakes we've made with our plants.

The How to Care Guide is just a few scrolls below, but we'll quickly run through the different varieties available because it's important to first establish what type you have.

Buying Fiddle-Leaf Fig Plants and Varieties

A few years ago, the Fiddle-Leaf Fig was almost impossible to get hold of for a reasonable price. Its demand outstripped availability and sellers could charge whatever they wanted.

Today that pressure has eased up massively, and you should be able to pick up a plant for a fair price at most stores that sell houseplants.

Buy big or start small?
Even though prices have fallen, mature tall Fiddle Leaf Fig trees will still cost a lot. Unless you're experienced with houseplants or Fiddle leaf Figs in general, we'd recommend going for a cheaper smaller one as a starter plant.

Strictly speaking, there are three different varieties you can buy. Although in general it's likely most stores and sellers will only be selling either the "original" Ficus Lyrata, or Ficus lyrata 'Bambino' which might also be sold as a "Dwarf Fiddle Leaf Fig".

Variegated Fiddle Leaf Fig is the third variety. And you know what? Most people won't own one of these (yet). Why not you ask? The answer is simply - the cost.

Yes, if you want a Variegated Fiddle Leaf, you're going to have to fork out a lot. Like seriously big bucks a lot. But watch this space, in a few years they could be just as popular.

What's the difference between a regular Fiddle-Leaf Fig and a Dwarf / Bambino

When both plants are small it can be be tricky to identify what you have. It's normally easiest to start with the visual differences.

Below is a photo with a Bambino on the left and a Regular Fiddle Leaf on the right.

Ficus lyrata Bambino and a standard Ficus lyrata side by side

Ficus lyrata Bambino and a standard Ficus lyrata side by side

So as you can hopefully see, the Bambino is generally much more slender and less imposing than a regular Ficus lyrata.

Which is best?
Both varieties make for excellent houseplants so really it comes down to personal choice. The Bambino in particular will suit a home with limited space or less attentive parents. Whereas the Regular Fiddle Leaf looks stunning in a larger space.

Whilst both types have similar dark green leaves and the familiar striking veining, the leaves on the Bambino are smaller and more rounded at the edges. You can see that the fiddle shape barely exists.

Bambino's grow happier in small pots, are a little less fussy overall and therefore less likely to drop leaves. They also max out in height at around 1.5m (5ft). They'll be less inclined to "branch" out (more on that later) and grow a little slower.

In contrast the regular Fiddle leaf Fig will need bigger containers, and lots of space to grow. You can get them to branch easily and in perfect conditions, they'll be reaching for the ceilings in most homes after only a couple of years.

The care requirements for both are pretty similar and I'll be covering all of that next. Where there are differences I'll point it out as we go.

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Fiddle-Leaf Fig Photos

Fiddle-Leaf Fig Care and Growing Guide

Light

In their native home of western Africa these plants are used to a tropical climate complete with lots of light including some sunshine. In comparison our homes are more like caves than the bright skies they're adapted to growing under.

Rotate the pot
The leaves and stem will always grow and slightly turn towards the light source. Unless you're growing it under a skylight the growth will start to look lopsided over time as it reaches towards your windows.

Help balance the overall look by rotating the entire plant and pot by 1/4 turn every couple of weeks.

Really hear me, when I say it's essential you find a bright space in your home if you want to grow one of these plants successfully. Setting it back far from a window or trying to grow it in anything that resembles "low light" will start to give you a sickly looking plant within a few months as they're not getting enough light for new growth.

Sit it close to a bright window as an absolute minimum. The best results will come from those grown in East, South or West facing aspects.

The Bambino variety will put up with a little less light and still look acceptable so it could be suitable for a north facing window (assuming you live in the northern hemisphere somewhere. If you're in the southern hemisphere, it's the other way around).

Watering

I briefly mentioned above that these plants are used to a tropical climate. As an indoor plant this roughly translates into liking water. They can be thirsty plants and it's important you try and keep up with this demand.

After watering your plant, leave it alone until the surface has dried out. This is your first sign it might need to be watered again. The second test is to feel just below the surface. If it's dry then water it, if it feels damp, wait a couple more days and test again.

The container does not have to dry out completely, nor does it need to be constantly moist.

Soil moisture sensor
If this probing and poking seems too difficult / time consuming, you can invest in a water sensor meter.

These are inserted into the pot and indicate when the surrounding growing medium has dried out. This is an example one on Amazon. (Affiliate link).

Plants grown in sunny warm spots with smallish pots will need more frequent watering. Those growing in cooler, less bright locations or in a much bigger container are going to need less frequent visits with the watering can.

In the height of summer I can be watering my plant three times a week. It drops down to no more than once every 10 days over Winter. Your routine will vary to mine and that's okay. Just follow the tips above and observe what your Fiddle Leaf needs.

Significant mistakes with over or underwatering will result in leaf drop so really put effort into getting this right.

I've personally found the Bambino to be perfectly fine even after the entire root ball has died out fully. The regular Fiddle-Leaf Fig is a little more temperamental, but both plants would rather be dry than have their roots completely saturated and immersed in water.

Overwatering needs to be avoided. Pots with no drainage holes and inexperienced owners are a recipe for disaster. Take care you're not overdoing it and if after half an hour you can see that there is water swishing around in the pot or around the roots, pour the excess away.

Humidity

Is Misting Worthwhile?
The effects of misting are limited. It will only benefit the plant up until all the moisture has dried from the leaves. Perhaps a few hours at most.

For short term use, perhaps during a heat wave, it's a great low cost idea. Misting will also help keep the dust off the leaves and it's better than nothing.

If you have year round low humidity, you're better off finding a more long term automated solution.

They prefer a more humid situation, but most homes will have a humidity level that will be accepted without much fuss. This means the majority of owners won't need to do anything special.

Anything from 40% and up should be fine. If you live in a place with fairly high levels of humidity like England (UK) or the state of Florida (USA) then your plant will probably be fine without any intervention from you.

On the other hand, if you live in a place with naturally lower humidity levels such as Nevada (USA) or a Middle Eastern country, then the low humidity levels in these areas might be too low and require you to provide some additional support

Open fires, wood burning stoves, radiators and even air con units can be really drying. Keep on an eye on humidity and bear this in mind when choosing where to position your plant.

Feeding

They're not the most hungry of houseplants, but they're still "up there". The leaves are large and in good light with ample water and heat they'll be growing quickly. Some degree of feeding is therefore essential.

A balanced plant fertiliser every month will help your plant to stay healthy and better ward off any pests or diseases. Obviously the primary reason people fertilize plants, is that regular feeding will help to fuel growth. So if you're looking for this to happen be sure you create a feeding routine.

I use one that has a NPK ratio of roughly 6:2:1. This is an all-purpose feed that I use for most of my foliage plants and it works great.

If you can't get that exact ratio don't worry about it. As long as you're giving a feed with a higher first value (Nitrogen), it will encourage strong leafy growth. If this has gone over your head or you need a refresher, check out our feeding article.

Temperature

Fiddle-Leaf Figs want warmer temperatures over cooler ones. The ideal range you want to try and grow it in is somewhere between 15°C (60°F) and 26°C (79°F).

You must bring them indoors if the temperature starts to go anywhere close to 10°C (50°F) overnight. Anything lower than this will cause the leaves to take on a dark purple, almost black, hue caused by cold damage.

These plants stop growing when the temperature and light levels drop, so you might not see any growth over the Fall and Winter months. With this in mind, avoid drafty areas.

Large Fiddle Leaf Fig standing alone against a white balcony in a clothes store

A large (real!) Fiddle Leaf Fig standing alone against a white balcony in a popular clothes store.

Repotting

A lot of houseplants will do really well in small pots relative to their size above soil. The Fiddle-Leaf Fig is one of these. You'll be amazed at how much growth they produce while being grown in small containers.

What does this mean? Well it's good news mainly. Being fairly happy with smaller pots means you don't need to repot your plant too often. I've repotted mine once in four years of ownership and they're still heading upwards at a rapid pace.

You'll be amazed at how much growth they produce while being grown in small containers

It's even better news for those who own a huge and heavy Fiddle Leaf Tree and would struggle to get it outside to repot it. If you're in this position, simply scrape off the very top half inch of soil and replace with fresh compost every few years. This will refresh the plant with fresh nutrients.

If you have a more manageable sized plant, you should try and repot it completely every three or four years into a container a little bigger than the one it's currently in.

What kind of soil should I use?

A cactus or succulent mixture is often recommended because of how "open" they normally are.

Fiddles do well in quite a variety of soil types. They prefer a more free draining mix due to their dislike of sitting in saturated soil. A free draining soil will have more air pockets and better allow water to move through and around the roots.

You can also just buy a peat free mixture. Most of these have lots of different materials like coconut coir, worm castings and compost, all these materials are also different sizes to help bulk it out. This is perfect for Fiddle Leafs because it will provide that "open" structure they crave.

Avoid 100% peat mixes. As well as being environmentally damaging, it can degrade and compact down over time and suffocate the roots.

Propagation

People will often show off on Pinterest and Instagram that they have successfully "propagated" a Fiddle from a solo leaf.

Usually, the leaf is partly submerged in a vase of water. Sure you can see roots and the leaf looks healthy. But that's all that happens. Without a good chunk of stem to go with it, the leaf will stay exactly like that. A solo leaf with roots.

That's not to say you can't propagate a Fiddle leaf, you definitely can. And this is how you do it.

Just create a "stem cutting". Usually this takes the form of the top part of your plants growth which you chop off, and either pop it into a vase of water or straight into moist potting soil.

You don't need a colossal length of stem, anything from 10cm to 30cm is fine. A few leaves should remain attached too. If you have more than three attached, remove the leaves at the bottom of the cutting.

Propagating a fiddle leaf fig plant

Create a stem cutting by cutting the top of your plant. Cut between two leaf nodes as shown here and put it into a vase of water or pot of compost

I've found that the cutting will "take" well and start to grow new roots within a month, especially if you do this in Spring or Summer when it's warmer and there's more light around.

You can still try it during Fall and Winter, but expect less positive results.

In all cases you can further increase your chances by buying a rooting hormone like this one on Amazon*. (You don't have to buy it from Amazon, almost all garden centers will sell it. It lasts for years and is a great investment if you plan to propagate houseplants or outdoor plants).

*Our website is free because readers like you support it. Thank you. We'll sometimes earn a small commission when you buy something through the affiliate links on our site like the one above.

Speed of Growth

If you're providing good levels of light, warm temperatures, occasional feed and adequate water, then growth will be rapid and pretty obvious.

If you're not quite hitting one or more of these care needs, then growth will be either slow or non existent.

How big does the Fiddle-Leaf Fig get?

As mentioned right at the start of this article, the regular and bambino varieties each have slightly different growth styles. The Bambino won't grow much taller than 1.5m (5ft), whereas the regular Fiddle-Leaf can easily get to a mature height of 3m (10ft) or more in just a few years.

In terms of spread, Bambino will often stay more "together", slender and compact, where as the regular will easily branch and spread out like a tree. Both varieties can be controlled though so you pick the final look depending what you want yours to look like.

We'll going to cover how to control the look in a future article shortly. So watch this space.

Flowers

Plants in the Ficus family will normally grow small flowers, that go on to produce small fruits. Obviously, you can buy figs from grocery stores and they're delicious.

However you won't be eating any of your Fiddle-Leaf fruits. Here's why.

Firstly as a houseplant they rarely flower or fruit when grown indoors and secondly the fruits they produce, are not tasty. It's all about the leaves and growth habits that make them attractive as indoor plants.

Is the Fiddle-Leaf Fig safe around pets?

If cut, bruised or nibbled, the plant will ooze a white latex sap which is mildly toxic.

If it gets eaten or splashed on your skin in small amounts it's not going to cause serious issues. But it can be irritating, especially if it gets in eyes or mouth.

It will cause more serious side effects if large qualities are consumed. Fortunately it's not pleasant tasting and people or animals will easily be deterred after the first taste. However if you have a "not normal" pet (we've all owned at least one haven't we!) you need to take the usual precautions.

White sap dripping from a Fiddle Leaf Fig stem

White sap dripping from a Fiddle Leaf Fig stem

How do you get the plant to become bushy and full?

We're going to be covering how to create your dream Fiddle-Leaf Fig look in more detail shortly.

Anything Else?

Fiddle Leaf Fig care is easy to get right but any experienced owner will still encounter this common issue: dusty leaves.


Dust is common on many plants, but far worse on any that have large leaf surface areas like the Fiddle. The dust dulls the natural shine and reduces the amount of photosynthesis that takes place. Less photosynthesis means less growth and a less healthy houseplant.

The Solution
Clean or wash the leaves every couple of months.


How to Care for Ficus Lyrata Recap

  1. Anywhere from Indirect to Bright Light.

    They're tolerant plants, but need light at the upper levels to do really well. Some direct sunshine will be welcomed, but the intense full summer sun is normally too much.
  2. Moderate Watering.

    Water whenever the top of the growing medium has dried out. Avoid letting the roots sit in constantly wet soil to prevent root rot.
  3. Warm Temperatures.

    This plant thrives in average to warm room temperatures. Grow it somewhere 15°C (60°F) and 26°C (79°F) all year round. Not cold hardy so probably not suitable for unheated porches or garden rooms.
  4. Average Feeding.

    Try to feed once a month between early Spring and early Fall. None required in late fall or Winter.
  5. Too much water will cause rot.

    Avoid the soil from getting too soggy and wet. A damp or "just moist" growing medium is what you're looking for.
  6. Don't keep moving your plant from room to room.

    They hate "change". If you keep moving them around they'll get angry and start shedding leaves all over your floor.

Problems and Common Issues

If you're having a problem with your Fiddle Leaf Fig, we've got an article that explores all of the issues and common problems owners come across.

6 Fiddle leaf fig leaves all with problems

Fiddle Leaf Fig Problems and Common Issues

Our story with the Fiddle Leaf

I was scared of this plant and avoided it for years. True story,

They were expensive to buy and I kept reading time and time again how they were super fussy indoors. If you've spent anytime on this site already you'll know I own a looooot of houseplants and adding in a difficult one to a collection that already takes up a lot of my free time, wasn't overly appealing!

Evidently, I changed my mind (because one of our pledges to you, is that we only write about plants we've owned) and tentatively, I picked up a Dwarf plant less than a foot high and a regular Fiddle. Within two years the Dwarf was almost four foot and still climbing and the regular coming close to six foot. Both are beautiful and I love them.

I picked up a small plant less than a foot high. Within two years it's almost four foot and still climbing.

Have they been angels or lived up to the reputation as a fussy diva along the way? Honestly, it's the former. After settling in (where I lost a handful of leaves on each), I think I've only lost a a handful more over the last few years. That's it.

The secret to success? If you research what it needs in terms of care and you stick to that routine then it's a piece of cake.

Newly brought Fiddle Leaf Fig

This is a small Fiddle Leaf Fig plant now, but with good care will rapidly grow over the next couple of years.

I totally understand why some people struggle though. The emails and various comments we get, tend to have the owner trying to compromise on the required care. Normally a light issue (not giving enough) or a persistent watering mistake.

Many houseplants will grumble a little if the cares not quite right, but will still make do and you'll get by. The Fiddle-Leaf Fig is the same to an extent but as soon as you swing too far away from what it needs, failure isn't far behind. Stick to the rules and you shouldn't go too far wrong.


About the Author

Tom Knight

Tom Knight

Over the last 20 years, Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the .

Also on Ourhouseplants.com


(Gallery) Photo credit of the Ficus Lyrata next to a bright window by Emily May
(Article / Gallery) Photo credit of the Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree by Lauren Mancke


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