Recently, I read that the fiddle-leaf fig is the plant for this decade. It is considered the trendiest plant for inside sun rooms and outside patios.

As a tree

What exactly is the fiddle-leaf fig? It is an evergreen in the ficus family (Ficus lyrata) that is native to African rain forests. As trees, the fiddle-leaf fig can grow up to 50 feet tall with a slightly smaller spread. It can be too large for many yards.

In the United States, fiddle-leaf fig trees only grow well in Southern California and Southern Florida.

As a plant

As plants, they thrive in very warm and wet conditions. These optimal growing environments can be difficult for home growers. However, fiddle-leaf figs are relatively resilient plants that can withstand imperfect conditions for quite a long time.

Statement-making plant

Fiddle-leaf fig plants are statement-making plants. They are large and perfect for floor-standing containers where the plant can grow 6 feet or more. With their huge, heavily-veined and violin-shaped leaves, these plants are distinctive and elegant.

  • Finicky in location
  • Nevertheless, they can be finicky and rather “diva-like.” For example, they don’t like to be moved. It is important to place them where they get enough bright light. If placed where they get morning sun and filtered light in the afternoon, they will do fine.

    If a fiddle-leaf fig doesn’t get enough light, its growth will be stunted. Also the leaves may develop brown spots, turn yellow and/or drop off. With too much light, its leaves will burn and turn brown. In either of these situations, move it to a new location and be prepared for an adjustment period.

  • “Just right” watering
  • Just like light, watering fiddle-leaf figs has to be “just right.” If you overwater, the roots will suffocate because they cannot breathe in soggy soil. The leaves will turn brown in the middle and at the edges. In this case, let the soil dry before watering again.

    As a general rule, this plant likes warm soil and humidity. Water the fiddle-leaf fig regularly and feed it every two weeks, while it is growing in the spring and summer. Water it when the top inch of soil feels dry. Reduce the watering schedule during the fall and winter.

  • Consistent temperature
  • The fiddle-leaf fig does not like temperature variations. Keep the temperature at 60-80 degrees and avoid drafts. This type of climate control can be easier inside than outside.

    When the temperature drops to 50 degrees or there is a steady draft, like below an air vent, leaves will turn brown and may drop off. If the climate is too warm, their leaves can turn brown. Misting the plant regularly will increase ambient humidity.

    Planting and repotting

    Plant the fiddle-leaf fig in a good-quality and fast-draining potting soil. Be sure to fertilize it with a diluted fertilizer throughout the growing season.

    As your plant grows, you can repot it by increasing the pot size an inch or two. When the plant has reached the desired size in a large container, every spring you can scrape of the top few inches of soil and replace it with fresh potting soil. If done annually, the fiddle-leaf fig will have more nutrients to stay healthy.

    Pruning

    Spring and summer during active growing season are the best times for pruning. Use a sharp, clean pair of pruning shears and a drop-cloth to cover the floor around the plant. You can save healthy clippings and root them in water for one or two months. Then they are ready to be planted in small pots.

    Scorched or tattered leaves or diseased branches may be snipped off with pruning shears. Fiddle-leaf figs have either leaf-covered or bare trunks. To develop the tree-like look, remove the older lower leaves on the trunk. Do not cut off the top of the plant.

    If the fiddle-leaf fig is too leggy or tall, look for where the node attaches to a branch. At the desired height, make a cut slightly above one of those nodes. Continue this process for any outward branches that may be too long. New growth will develop below where you were pruning the plant.

    If the fiddle-leaf fig is the right height for its space, pinch out new leaves that appear at the top of its main stem. This process will help deter lower leaf drop and encourage branching near the pinching points.

    Perfect addition to plant collection

    No wonder the fiddle-leaf fig plant is so popular. It is distinctive, attractive, resilient and unique.

    To me, it’s the perfect addition to a plant lover’s collection. Its violin or fiddle-like leaves may very well add musical ambiance to a setting.

    The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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