How to Make Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Happy

How to Make Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Happy
iStock/Crystal Bolin Photography

While amateur plant enthusiasts and home decorators love fiddle leaf figs, these plants have a bit of a bad reputation.

They’re known as fickle. Finicky. And hard to care for.

But we think they don’t deserve this bad name. Or, at least they deserve another chance.

Keeping fiddle leaf figs happy, simply depends on their environment. “In the right place, a fiddle leaf fig will thrive and grow quickly, without losing too many leaves,” says Jon VanZile, author of “Houseplants for a Healthy Home.” “On the other hand, a poorly situated plant will have brown leaves and begin to drop leaves.”

But these big, beautiful plants add a serious wow factor to a space.

“They are very dramatic plants with large and striking foliage,” VanZile says. “They’re great plants for people who are looking for something dramatic and tropical, like an elephant ear. But they are easier to grow in most indoor environments than some of the more exotic tropical plants.”

Move over succulents. It’s time to go big with your houseplants.

10 Tips to Care for Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Like a Pro

Your fiddle leaf fig will tell you if it isn’t happy. Start by looking out for dropping leaves. When those pretty violin-shaped leaves (hence the name!) drop to the floor, it’s a strong signal something is wrong.

“The main problem with fiddle leaf figs for most people is lack of light and humidity, coupled with cold drafts,” VanZile says. “In these conditions, the leaves will begin to turn brown and drop, leaving an exposed stem.”

Whether you’ve killed a fiddle leaf fig in the past and are afraid to try again or are new to these plants, don’t let their reputation deter you. With a few pro tips, you can keep your fiddle leaf going strong.

1. Mimic its natural environment

If you want to keep your fiddle leaf fig happy, then make it feel at home.

“With any plant, a good rule of thumb is to try to replicate their native environment as closely as possible,” VanZile says. “Fiddle leaf figs are native to tropical Africa, where they grow in subtropical or tropical biomes.”

Tips to make your home a haven for your fiddle leaf fig:
Water it regularly throughout the growing season and reduce watering during winter
Keep it in an area with high humidity (avoid drafty, cold corners)
Don’t let it sit in water

2. Restrict its roots

When you get your fiddle leaf fig home, repot it straight away. You want a sturdier container than the plastic pot it came in.

Fiddle leaf figs like tight spaces. So, choose a pot the same size as the container it came in. And make sure it has a hole for drainage.

“I like to use a heavier clay pot that won’t tip over and will keep the plant’s roots a little constricted,” VanZile says. “This encourages the plant to grow faster and put more energy into its roots.”

3. Give it the right soil

When you pot your fiddle leaf fig, give it a high-quality organic potting soil. “Never use garden soil or outdoor soil in a potted plant,” VanZile says.

4. Avoid drafts and cold

Fiddle leaf figs hate cold, drafty environments. “The main problem with fiddle leaf figs for most people is lack of light and humidity, coupled with cold drafts,” VanZile says. “In these conditions, the leaves will begin to turn brown and drop, leaving an exposed stem.”

So, if you’re keeping your fiddle leaf fig in a chilly corner near the door in the winter, consider moving it close to a vent or in a better-insulated room.

5. Give it the right light

Fiddle leaf figs love bright, filtered light. “In more northern climates, where the sun is less intense and, at least during the winter months, has a shorter day-period, try positioning them close to a window that gets full sun for at least part of the day,” VanZile says. “In warmer, more southern climates, look for dappled sunlight.”

6. Learn the trick to keep it growing upright

You don’t want your fiddle leaf fig to start leaning. “To keep your plant growing upright and maintain its structural appeal, rotate the plant a quarter turn every few weeks or so,” VanZile recommends.

7. Move it to the right spots

Relocate your fiddle leaf fig outside for the summer. “Move the plant outside to a shady or dappled part of your patio or deck,” VanZile says. “It will appreciate the warmer temperatures and higher humidity.”

8. Water it well

Water your fiddle leaf fig consistently and regularly.

“Watering mistakes are by far the most common killer of all houseplants,” VanZile says. “People tend to overwater and let their plants sit in water. Or, they are inconsistent with watering and let the plant suffer from prolonged periods of drought.”

Pay attention to the color of your fiddle leaf fig’s leaves. The color will tell you if you’re watering right. Yellowed leaves often mean you’re overwatering your plant or making it sit in water. Remember to always dump the saucer after watering to prevent root rot.

9. Keep bugs at bay

Nobody likes to think about bugs on their houseplants. But it’s not just a problem for outdoor plants.

“Fiddle leaf figs are also susceptible to numerous pests, including whiteflies, spider mites, and mealybugs,” VanZile says. “Pay attention to your plants and check for pests. If you see webs or actual bugs, treat the plant to kill the pests.”

10. Watch out for growth spurts

Happy fiddle leaf figs will want to grow and grow until they hit your ceiling.
“A well-grown fiddle leaf fig will want to grow much larger than a standard room would allow,” VanZile says. “When the plant reaches the height you want, trim the top off. This will also encourage branching below, so the plant will become fuller and more beautiful.”

VanZile also recommends choosing a smaller plant to start. “Buy a smaller plant so it will acclimate to your environment, then let it grow larger,” he says.

The Takeaway

You can easily make your fiddle leaf fig the star of the room. Don’t ignore your plant. But don’t overthink it either.

“Find a good place, cultivate good habits, pay attention to the plant, and enjoy it,” VanZile says.

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