Get to know your fiddle leaf plant
If you’ve flipped through home and lifestyle magazines or browsed through interior design websites, you may have noticed a very hip-looking plant in the backdrop. This plant resembles a violin, or a fiddle, and is in just about every Pinterest-worthy photo worth checking out.
If you’re the proud owner of a ficus lyrata, then you must know what I’m talking about. More popularly known as the fiddle leaf fig, ficus lyrata is the plant’s scientific name and can be used interchangeably with ‘fiddle leaf’, ‘fiddle leaf fig’ or ‘fiddle leaf fig tree’.
I have two fiddle leaf figs at home named Tim and Tam, and these babies are equally lovable. I’ve raised them since they were just less than 1m tall, and now they’ve almost reached 3m and are now planted in bigger pots.
Call me an obsessed plant parent, but you won’t be able to resist adding a fiddle leaf to your plant collection. It may be infamous for its low stress tolerance, but like human babies, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be rewarded with an irreplaceable addition to your home.
If you think it’s practically impossible to take care of these plants, keep calm and read on. Consider this your baby book on everything you need to know about one of the most attractive indoor plants around.
Is fiddle leaf fig a good indoor plant?
The fiddle leaf fig is an excellent choice for an indoor plant. Many home decorators and owners choose it because of its beautifully formed leaves and graceful trunk. Not only does it make an attractive architectural backdrop for any room or WFH office, it’s also among the most effective air-purifying indoor plants you can find.
Wild fiddle leaf figs are native epiphytes in West African jungles and can reach up to a whopping 12m in height. Indoors, your domesticated plant can grow up to a height of 3m. Even if smaller than the wild variety, they will definitely need a bigger room space than your usual indoor air plants and succulents.
How well do fiddle leaf figs clean the air?
You can say that all plants clean the air by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, but fiddle leaf fig trees may be in the top tier when it comes to air-purifying properties. This is due to their large leaf surface area, high transpiration rate, and high soil surface area.
People who suffer from Sick Building Syndrome symptoms such as sore throat, brain fog, headache, and fatigue are recommended to put air-purfiying plants in their homes. Air-purifying plants are effective in detoxifying because they remove benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia and other chemicals in the air. If you’re living in an enclosed space but are not keen on getting an electric air-purifier, placing a fiddle leaf fig or two in a room can help give you fresh air.
Why is transpiration important for fiddle leaf figs?
Transpiration is a metabolic process a plant undergoes when it’s releasing water vapor into the air. This process serves two purposes: to help cool the plant and to drive water and minerals to the leaves for photosynthesis.
For fiddle leaf figs, this is particularly important because of their large leaves. The large leaf surface area makes this plant’s leaves prone to dust blockage. This can hamper the fiddle leaf’s cooling process and intake of water and minerals into the leaves, which can cause your ficus to become unhealthy. A bright, firm green leaf is an indicator that your plant is growing well.
How do you care for a fiddle leaf fig plant?
The ficus lyrata may have earned the reputation that it’s difficult to maintain, but the truth is, it’s fairly easy to take care of them. Here’s everything you need to know about fiddle leaf fig care.
Go for natural light
When it comes to fiddle leaf fig care, medium to bright indirect sunlight is the best nourishment for your plant. A position near the window facing the rising sun will give your plant the best advantage. Morning sun has the right amount of light and heat to keep your plant healthy without burning or scorching the leaves.
While these plants love being watered, it’s important to let the soil dry in between watering. Let the soil soak in the water, then let it drain before proceeding to your next watering. Take care not to wet your leaves while doing this.
When you see brown spots on the leaves, this may be a sign of overwatering – you may have to cut back a little on your watering to allow your plant time to recover. Your fiddle leaf fig will benefit from being watered more in spring and summer months, and less during winter.
Clean the leaves
Wipe the dust gently from the leaves of your fiddle leaf plant to allow it to breathe and absorb sunlight well. Cleaning the leaves removes dust and other particles that may be blocking the pores of your plant.
Make sure not to put any wax or oil-based shiner on the leaves, as this can prevent air and light from being absorbed by your fiddle leaf fig. Doing this can also hamper their transpiration process. Gently wiping the leaves of your plant with a smooth cloth and lukewarm water will do.
Fertilise your plant with a slow-release fertiliser in spring. This should last you about 6 months. A monthly feeding of nitrosol will give you that healthy green foliage by boosting the growth of your plant’s leaves.
When you see brown or discoloured leaves on your plant, simply prune them an inch away from the trunk with a pair of sharp secateurs. Take care not to snip off any buds, as these may grow into new leaves. These are the small brown swellings you’ll find on the stem, and will become new leaves if your plant is healthy and happy in its position.
Fiddle leaf figs have a white sap that can cause mild skin irritation or dermatitis. Make sure to wear gloves when pruning your plants to protect your hands. Cover cuttings and keep pets and children away from them when you’re pruning to prevent ingestion.
Your fiddle leaf plant can grow to almost one metre a year and will need a pot that has drainage holes to prevent the roots from getting soggy. It’s time to repot when you notice roots sticking out from your pot. You may have to go for the next-sized pot when you transfer your plant. For example, if you’re currently holding your plant in a 20 cm diameter pot, you can transfer it to a 30 cm diameter pot.
To repot, fill the pot up to ⅓ full with potting mix, loosen and tease out your plant from its former container, then transfer to the new pot and cover with additional potting mix. Fiddle leaf figs love soil that’s neither too acidic or basic. A soil ph that’s 6-7 is just right. Water your newly repotted plant to let it settle into its new home.
Avoid sudden movements
Very much like a sleeping baby, sudden movements can cause stress to your fiddle leaf plant. Drooping leaves are a sign that your fiddle leaf has gone into shock, or is dehydrated. Avoid moving your plant around as soon as you have chosen a position for it in your home to prevent this from happening.
How do I propagate a fiddle leaf?
If you plan to propagate a fiddle leaf, simply get a leaf or stem cutting and place it in water in an area with indirect sunlight. Put the cutting in an upright position and change the water weekly until you see roots start to appear in about a month. By then, you can transfer it to moist soil to continue its growth.
How much light does a fiddle leaf fig tree need?
Fiddle leaf figs thrive in a bright sunny environment. Filtered light by the window facing the morning sun is best for your fiddle leaf fig. Avoid direct sunlight, as this may scorch the leaves of your plant.
Are fiddle leaf plants safe for dogs?
When you’re a fiddle leaf fig plant parent, you may have to put extra safety measures in place for your furbabies. Fiddle leaf plants are mildly toxic and can cause mouth and gastrointestinal irritation to your cats and dogs. Symptoms like excessive drooling, oral irritation, and vomiting are signs that your furbabies have ingested fiddle leaf figs.
While accidentally eating fiddle leaf fig leaves won’t cause death, it’s still helpful to take extra care in keeping babies and pets away from your plants – especially when you’re pruning them.
Becoming a fiddle leaf fig owner
The fiddle leaf fig may have a reputation for being high-maintenance, but don’t let this stop you from enjoying its benefits. A fiddle leaf in your home can bring you endless possibilities, and you’ll be quite thankful that you got yourself one.
If you’re still having second thoughts about having a fiddle leaf plant, you can ask your local gardening professionals to help in the maintenance and care of your plant baby. Not only will they give you expert advice, they also have the right tools and products to ensure that your plant will grow healthy and be in tiptop shape.