Fiddle-leaf Fig Frenzy

Fiddle-leaf fig plantRiding high on the list of trendy indoor houseplants for two years running is the Fiddle-leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata or Ficus pandurata) which continues to be the darling of garden pros and houseplant newbies alike. According to a September article in the Washington Post, it has achieved "Holy Grail status" on Instagram amongst the "plant-obsessed".

This dramatic ornamental, a tree native to the tropical rainforests of West Africa, has gained popularity due to its sculptural qualities. A typical Ficus lyrata specimen stands 6 to 15 feet tall, but can grow much taller. Its large, puckered leaves are shaped like a violin, hence its name.

While the Fiddle-leaf Fig makes an excellent indoor houseplant, it is happiest when growing conditions mimic those of its homeland. Unfortunately, the typical house or apartment is not always moist or temperate enough to simulate the tropical conditions necessary for it to thrive. The internet abounds with stories of yellowed or browned leaves and dying trees. But this plant is not finicky -- it just knows what it likes!

Ficus lyrata care

The Fiddle-leaf Fig tree craves bright light. The key is bright, indirect light, like that provided by a sky light, upper story window or filtered by curtains. Limit direct sunlight exposure to just an hour or two a day, such as that provided by an east-facing window.

Since the tree cranes for light, a quarter turn of its pot will balance out its growth. Clip off crowded or dead leaves as they appear, but be careful of the milky sap, which is caustic. It is natural for lower leaves to drop off periodically, creating a papery texture on the trunk and new growth at the top.

Most houseplants do not like to sit in constantly moist soil, and this fig is no exception. Water it when the top two inches of soil in the pot become dry. Make sure that there is a drainage hole in the bottom of the pot to prevent trapped water from rotting the roots. Water evenly, all the way around the perimeter of the pot, not just where it is easiest to reach.

Fiddle-leaf fig interiorscaping installation

A thorough soaking every now and then can help to rinse out salts that become trapped in the soil. Distilled or tepid tap water are always preferred. Water with an indoor all-purpose fertilizer every other watering during the growing season, May through October.

Ficus lyrata is truly happiest in warm, wet tropical conditions. Cold drafts can cause adverse reactions such as dropped or drooping leaves. A lack of humidity can often cause crispy, brown leaf edges. Easy remedies for this include misting with water and a good soak of the entire pot.

While the leaves of the fiddle-leaf are convoluted and somewhat brittle, washing or dusting them regularly will keep them pest free. They should be shiny, not velvety. Be aware that the thick leaves of this tree bruise easily when bent or manhandled which can cause brown spots. Leaves can also exhibit brown spots due to scorching caused by direct sunlight. So be mindful of extreme sun exposure both in the house and during transport.

Fiddle leaf fig bruising and brown spots

Whether gracing the pages of the latest architectural magazine, or in your home or place of business, Ficus lyrata is well worth the trouble.  Although the tree takes some time to become acclimated, once established, it can give many years of enjoyment.

The Fiddle-leaf Fig is also a popular component of many commercial interior plantscaping installations. The Inside Out Services Interiorscaping team can help design an custom installation for your facility and then our experienced plantscaping techs can make sure that your Fiddle-leaf figs and all the other plants in your interiorscape are kept happy and looking their best!



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