- Fiddle-leaf figs are one of the most high-maintenance — yet popular — houseplants.
- They are well known for their height and large, lush leaves that resemble a violin.
- A humidifier can be helpful since fiddle leaf figs prefer a humid, tropical environment.
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You may have heard that fiddle-leaf figs (Ficus lyrata) are the drama queens of plants — stunning and opulent yet notoriously high maintenance and finicky.
Their height and large, violin-shaped leaves make them statement pieces in any interior setting, but the specific water, light, and humidity requirements mean your plant may not thrive in just any spot around your home or office.
Author and plant expert Linda Ly of Garden Betty shares her best tips on how to properly care for a fiddle-leaf fig so it can reward you with its lushness and beauty.
Identifying a fiddle-leaf fig
If you’ve scrolled through Instagram or flipped the pages of any interior design magazine, you’ve seen this elegant houseplant. Fiddle-leaf figs can be easily identified by their long, thin trunks blooming with large and slightly waxy-looking leaves.
“As a houseplant, fiddle-leaf figs can grow 6 to 10 feet tall, but there are shorter, bushier varieties (like Compacta and Bambino) that work better in small spaces,” says Ly. “Most people grow the main species (Ficus lyrata), though there are several varieties available, including a variegated type.”
Unlike many houseplants that can thrive on a weekly sip of water, fiddle-leaf figs prefer just the right amount of consistent moisture.
“Soak it thoroughly at least once a week until the water drains out, so the top two inches of soil are consistently moist,” says Ly. “If those two inches are dry, it’s time to water.”
Lightly misting the leaves and soil or using a humidifier is also recommended to maintain the moisture levels your fiddle-leaf fig prefers. “As a rainforest plant, more humid environments are most beneficial to the fiddle-leaf fig, ” says Ly.
The most common sign of overwatering or inadequate drainage of fiddle-leaf figs are dry, brown spots on the leaves. If this is the case, let your fig dry out, then get back to a consistent watering schedule.
Potting and fertilizer
Repotting your fiddle-leaf fig every one to two years is essential to its health and growth. This fast-growing houseplant can easily outgrow its pot, which is easily noticeable when roots come out through the drainage hole or can be seen growing out the surface of the soil.
To fertilize your fiddle-leaf fig, choose a fertilizer with an NPK 3:1:2 ratio — that’s nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium — and fertilize in the growing season during spring and summer following the instructions on the label.
Because fiddle-leaf figs are native to western Africa, they prefer a more tropical and humid climate above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. A stable temperature is one of the fiddle-leaf fig’s most demanding factors that make it a finicky houseplant.
“They need stable environments that don’t fluctuate too much in temperature,” says Ly. “They don’t like too much sun, not enough sun, soil that’s too wet, soil that’s too dry, cold drafts, or dry air.”
The perfect amount of light is another sensitive requirement of the fiddle-leaf fig. This houseplant prefers just a few hours of bright light, rotating it weekly so all the leaves get access to sunlight.
“They like morning or afternoon light directly in front of an east, south, or west-facing window,” says Ly. “The larger the plant is, the more sun it needs.”
One of the most common signs of trouble with a fiddle-leaf fig is dropping leaves. One or two is no cause for alarm, but if your fig is starting to look naked, there could be an underlying cause. Shock (if you constantly move your fig around the house), dry conditions (if your fig is by an open window or under the AC), and root rot are the most common causes of leaf drop.
As for pests, Ly reminds that fiddle leaf figs can be susceptible to spider mites and scale. The best way to prevent pests is to keep your fig’s large, waxy leaves clean of dust by using cotton gloves or a slightly damp paper towel to wipe them down weekly and maintain a consistent watering schedule.
Many houseplants can be easily propagated through a leaf cutting, but the fiddle leaf fig requires a different approach.
“Start with a stem cutting at least six inches long that’s attached to two to three healthy leaves,” says Ly. “You can root this cutting in a vase of water. When the roots reach one to two inches long, plant the cutting in a one-gallon pot filled with fresh potting soil.”
Consistency is the key to a healthy fiddle-leaf fig. This Goldilocks of houseplants is worth the high maintenance care routine, which is why it has become such a photogenic and beloved plant. With just the right amount of water and light, a temperate climate, and a whole lot of love, your fiddle leaf fig can thrive for years to come.