5 Tips for Caring for Fiddle Leaf Figs

I am sure you all have heard of the fiddle leaf fig tree (also known as the ficus lyrata). They have a reputation of being beautiful and also quite difficult to keep alive. A dying or dead fiddle leaf can leave you a bit heartbroken. Those beautiful leaves start to drop and it’s a pitiful process to witness. If you’ve had one die or you’re just too intimidated to get one then I hope this post helps. Many plant enthusiasts have some tried and true tricks for this particular plant. I love hearing about what other people do to keep their fiddle leaf alive and thriving. I wanted to share five of my favorite tried and true fiddle leaf tips with you all. Potting: You bring a gorgeous fiddle leaf home … now what? Most of these trees come in thin/cheap plastic containers when you first purchase them. I like to take my tree out of these suckers as soon as I get home. For pots, I use good ol’ terracotta pots.

My mom taught me to never use plastic pots but use clay/earthenware because it allows the soil to “breathe.” If you get an earthenware pot, make sure it has a hole (this is huge!) for drainage. Drainage is vital to a fiddle leaf. If you don’t have a hole at the bottom of your pot, then the water can pool inside and cause the roots to rot, which can kill your plant. Fiddle leaves don’t like to stay soggy. I will get a pot that is not much bigger than the original pot that it came in. The roots like to be somewhat snug in the pot.

Next, fill the bottom of the pot with some small stones (you can buy them at most plant shops) about 1.5-2 inches high. These stones aid with drainage and also help the dirt not drain out when you are watering it. Pour dirt all around the sides, making sure your tree stays straight. Once the sides are filled with dirt, I put my hand down along the sides and make sure the dirt is pushed down all the way. My favorite potting mix is actually a cactus/palm mix found at local hardware stores. The potting mix has sand in it which helps keep the soil loose and also helps with drainage. I’ve used this mix for five years and love it!

Light: This thing loves the light!! If you get a fiddle leaf, then find a window with ample light. Be sure that it is bright, indirect light. Don’t stick it in a corner away from the sunlight (if you can help it). Its leaves love to drink up the light so keep it in a bright, sunny spot in your home. Since the tree thrives on bright light, it is very important to keep the leaves clean from dust and dirt. If the leaves get too dusty, they can actually “suffocate” when they don’t have a clean surface. Thanks, photosynthesis!

Every week or so, I wipe the leaves with a wet cloth and get all of the dirt and dust removed. After the leaves are cleaned, I use a leaf shine spray to make them extra glossy.

Since this tree loves drinking up the light, it will eventually start leaning towards the sun. Rotate the tree slightly (some people do every time they water or once a month) and this will help keep the tree straight and balanced.

Placement: The fiddle leaf is not a huge fan of being moved around. It loves stability and moving it around your house can actually cause the leaves to drop. You can take it to the sink to water it, but moving it for extended periods of time can cause problems. I never really believed this until I tried it and my fiddle leaf did indeed drop leaves. Another tip is to not have your tree in a drafty area. Near a door (especially during winter) or a vent can really irritate the tree. Find a spot in your home that’s not near a door or vent and has loads of sunshine!

Watering: Overwatering your tree can be deadly and waiting too long to water it (when it is bone dry) can cause the leaves to brown and drop. I typically water mine once a week, but always check to see if it is ready to be watered. Sometimes I wait two weeks (depending on weather conditions that affect moisture levels). To gauge whether it is ready to be watered, I stick my finger in the dirt about 3-4 inches to see if it feels dry. If I feel any moisture then I’ll wait a couple of days and check again. I’ll also lift the pot to feel if it is still heavy from the last watering. If it feels like it has dried out then it’s ready for water. I like to water mine in the sink (although this gets difficult with large plants).

Some people like to use filtered water for their plants, but I use the good old tap water and it’s been fine for me! Run lukewarm water in the pot and really soak the whole top area of the soil. I fill the pot with water, let the water drain down and then fill it again, really soaking it. I leave it in the sink to drain completely (it takes an hour or so) and then return it back to its spot. If you have a huge fiddle leaf and you cannot carry it to the sink, you can still give it a good watering. I once had a giant tree (elevated on a plant stand) and I would stick a big bowl under the plant so that I could water it really well and let the excess water drain into the bowl. Eventually, I put the tree on Craigslist because our ceilings were too short for it and I didn’t have the knowledge to prune it down. That brings me to the next tip … which can be a little intimidating but I promise that it is not!

Pruning and Propagating: Did you know you can make new fiddle leaf babies from cutting a branch off of your tree? I love this about the fiddle leaf tree. It’s the plant that keeps on giving! Pruning your tree will promote horizontal growth. The tree will actually grow more when you prune it. I didn’t believe this until a local nursery worker showed me how and then showed the results. The spot where you cut will split into two new growths. If your tree is looking a little spindly or top heavy, then it might be time for a trim!

To prune, find where a leaf connects to the tree (also called a node) and cut right above the leaf. I like to have my cuttings have at least 3-4 inches of bare branch on the bottom and a few leaves in the top. Once you cut if off, stick the cutting in water and place in sunlight. Throughout the weeks, the branch will start growing roots. It’s an amazing process! You can pot your cutting once the roots have grown a little bit (I like the roots to be at least 3-4 inches long before I pot it). This process can take a month or longer, so be patient. Change the water about once a week so it stays fresh. Follow the same potting process noted above and you should have lots and lots of fiddle babies!

If you haven’t given this plant a try then I hope that you will! It adds a bit of whimsy and happiness to any space it’s in. Let me know any tips and tricks you guys might have in the comments below! xo. Janae

Credits // Author and Photography: Janae Hardy. Photos edited with the ACS for Desktop presets.
  • I really love the fiddle leaf fig! I’ve given one to a friend for her birthday a few weeks ago and still regret not buying the second one they had at the store for myself, haha! But now that I’ve read your advice on pruning, I might just convince her to let me have one of the cuttings. 😉

  • Wow! I’d never heard of this plant before. Yours looks so healthy and beautiful, it has definitely made me want to give it a go.
    Unfortunately, my flat is relatively dark, so I don’t know how I’d get on. I could put it in my little room where there is more light, but that room can get a bit cold.
    I’ll have to have a think and see what I can do.
    Thanks for this great post, packed with heaps of advice 🙂
    Love, Debs @ tiger-mint.com

  • You read my mind! I was googling how to prune a fiddle leaf just this weekend. Thinking of up-potting mine now that it’s warming up, and maybe looking to see if I should attempt some pruning. It’s so scary though!

  • What a great post! I haven’t ever heard of this plant before, I want to do some more research on and I think I’m gonna make the plunge and get one! Yours looks great!

  • I recognize that pink pot—it’s from Anthropologie, right? I have a green one just like it. It does not have a hole or any kind of drainage, which I thought was needed … how did you get around that. I figure drilling would break it.

    • You’re right, they are from Anthropologie and they don’t have a drainage holes. I plant the fiddle leaves in terra-cotta pots and then stick them inside of a decorative one. I’ll take the terra-cotta planter out to water it and place it back inside the decorative pot once it has drained! 🙂

  • Such a helpful post on taking care of plants. Please continue to share posts like these! I’m don’t really have a green thumb, but I’d love to learn more.

  • You said that it needs to drain completely and you offered some advice on if its a big tree and can’t move it. But if it is not high enough to have a bowl put under it, how do you drain it?
    Thanks

    • I have two of these figs! I love them. I’ve had success with mine with just putting plenty of rocks in the bottom of the pot, no drainage holes!

    • Hi Liesel,
      If you have a saucer/dish under your pot then watering it shouldn’t be a problem. Once you give it a good watering, soak up any excess water that is in the saucer (I use a towel). The plant doesn’t like sitting in water for long periods of time so as long as you do that you should be ok! 🙂

  • I’ve never thought of doing cuttings from these! I’ll have to try it. I have two different plants and one of them is going crazy. It has probably doubled its height in the last year (it’s about 5.5 feet tall now and FULL of leaves).

  • My sweet fiddle leaf fig (Cordelia) has been with me for years, but I can’t seem to figure out how to strengthen her trunk! I finally had to stabilize her with a bamboo rod. I might re-pot so her roots can spread, but otherwise I’ve been at a loss. It’s odd, her trunk is so long with all her big, beautiful leaves concentrated at the top – haven’t had the heart to cut them all off.

  • Fiddle is my favorite plant. I got mine from Leon and George. They are not pet safe according to their website.

  • I love a fiddle leaf fig plant, and yes am very intimidated by them. I had one in my office before and was so sad as the leaves dropped and I couldn’t figure out what i was doing wrong. I feel more confident now though. I’m pinning this in case I decide to take the plunge again!

  • Thank you! My poor fiddle leaf which has always been such a beauty has been struggling lately. I think I accidentally overwatered it and I’m hoping it’s making a slow comeback but the leaves are yellowing toward the bottom. I hope she makes it!!

  • I love the look! Yet I have heard they are not good for animals- and my cat loves to snack on plants. So bummed. Also wondering if this is a true fact….

  • I’m totally feeling confident that I can keep a fiddle alive after reading this! Plus I have found the joy in propogating my plants (we do this with our two big jade plants and now have like 20 baby jades) so I’m definitely going to be adding a fiddle to my plant family soon.

  • I just bought my first fiddle leaf fig plant yesterday!
    I have been watching it like a hawk trying to keep it in a happy sunny non-drafty area without moving it too much.
    My friend also cut me off a clipping of her outside ficus and I have it sitting in water.
    This post couldn’t have come at a better time! Thank you!

  • This post inspired me to prune my tall fiddle leaf fig in our dining room! I trimmed off an awkward side branch and cut it into four pieces that are now in glass jars filled with water. Fingers crossed they will grow roots!

  • I had a Fiddle Leaf Fig once. Poor Fred. He sure didn’t last long. It came from the store with little hidden creatures in the soil and they really enjoyed the heck out of that tree. One of these days I will be brave enough to trying owning one again.

    Stefani | Dreams of Nyssa

  • I have one that I think is in need of a pruning! I’ve been so scared, but I might brave it now. I’d love a blog post with instructions for propagating different kinds of plants. I love to make plant babies but know I don’t know exactly what I’m doing. 🙂

  • I always feel that they are the same as orchids. You have to be a little bit mean to them! I Water my orchids and my fig the same day. Can’t believe people water their plants with filtered water! WOW I must be out of the loop.

  • I have a healthy, thriving fiddle leaf in a non-terra cotta pot, without a drainage hole – it IS possible! The trick – in addition to river rock at the bottom of the pot, I added a layer of lava rock to soak up any excess moisture. I also find that I don’t have to drench my soil – it does just fine with a small watering can of water, once per week. I live in the Midwest – our winters are very dry – so I also spritz my fiddle’s leaves with water once a week from a spray bottle, which it seems to love. This also helps to clean the leaves, which I agree, is very important to the overall health of the plant. I also know of several people with healthy fiddle leaf plants who use a moisture meter. These can be purchased from Amazon, you stick them right into the soil, and based on your geographic location, it tells you exactly when to add water!

  • I am very fond of home decors. Fiddle Leaf Fig is one of them as a decorative piece in the home. Really these tips help a lot to make my Fiddle Leaf Fig alive. Thanks for these tips

  • I’ve been wanting to get a fiddle so bad! My two year old is currently in the “I like to eat dirt phase” so I am settling on faux plants for the time being. I have found that having beautiful little pieces of nature in my home really helps with my anxiety!
    I just have to keep my plants where my little one cant reach them which rules out any bigger floor plants !http://thegracefulolive.com/about/plants-for-anxiety/

    I love your tips on the type of planters to use though. I have lots of outdoor plants in plastic pots and I never would have thought about the roots need to breathe!!

  • I was given a 6ft tall, two stem fiddle fern, How can I shorten it or prune it without ruining it. The leaves are all up at the top. Thank you Mary

  • I hope they’re not just a “trend” and people don’t start dumping them once some other plant becomes trendy.

  • Brooke, I couldn’t agree more with your comment…. Seems as if they are the “it” plant right now…. some people just purchase them before doing any kind of research and then are all of sudden so shocked when they die. When purchasing a plant, do it because you want to, and not because it’s the latest trend. Anyhow, Fiddle Leaf Figs are gorgeous plants….. I currently don’t have enough light in my small apartment for one. Happy planting!

  • I’m wondering if it’s better to use a stick or string for support. The bamboo stick it came with seemed to have the poor thing in bondage. I cut her loose and have her secured to the wall so she seems more natural. Her leaves perked up over night. I call her Peaches.

  • I brought one home about 6 weeks ago and love it but I’m not sure it loves me. It has dropped 3 leaves already. I moved it to a brighter spot but will it stop dropping leaves if it is happy or is there no turning back once the drops start?

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