Focus on the Fiddle-Leaf
Care to Keep it Awesome
By Rob Sproule
Fiddle Leaf Figs (Ficus lyrata), are the designer’s “it” plant. Their dark green, cello-shaped leaves with pronounced cream veins have the graced the covers of magazines and home decorating shows for the past few years.
In the home, they bring bright, clean elegance. Classically, they’re best in large, bright rooms but will thrive anywhere they have enough light. In spring, once the nights, are well above freezing, they’ll love gracing the patio. Make sure to protect them from direct sun.
Fiddles love their light. They’re not meant for sprucing up the basement or adding design savvy to the walk-in closet. Give them a bright room, with adequate access to south and/or west facing windows, and they’ll thrive.
While they love bright light, keep them out of those scorching sunbeams. Windows act as a UV magnifier, so keep them back from the glass. If it’s not getting enough light, it will have a little tantrum by throwing its leaves on the ground. Figs are famous to aligning how many leaves they have with their light levels.
Once it’s acclimatized to a spot, try not to move it. The exception is if it’s getting all its light from one side (which it usually will). You’ll want to turn it every couple months or you’ll see it start to stretch across the room.
Water & Fertilizer:
Figs know what they want in this department. Luckily, that’s not hard to provide. It doesn’t want to be soggy, so wait until it’s dry to the touch (to the first knuckle), before watering again. When you do water, water thoroughly until it’s flowing freely from the bottom. This matters because it flushes the salts (from our tap water) out before they accumulate. Make sure to empty the dish when done.
Whether you water more or less will depend on how much light it’s getting (more= more), the size of its container (smaller =more), and if you’ve put it outside for the summer (more). After a few waterings you’ll get a feel for its rhythms.
From spring to fall, when it’s actively growing, fertilize monthly with an all-purpose at half strength. They aren’t big feeders but some nutrients will keep it at its best.
Your Fiddle will grow speedily in the right conditions. It’s common for house-Fiddles to cross 8 or 9′. So it’s bound to outgrow its pot. It will be pretty obvious. When the roots wrap around the inner edge of the pot, it’s time to transplant. Aim for the spring so the rambunctious roots quickly colonize the new soil. If roots start growing out the bottom drainage, transplant right away.
Only jump up one pot size (2″ diameter or so) at a time. More than that and the outer soil will stay wet and rot the fibrous roots.
Their big beefy leaves catch dust, which can impede photosynthesis if it builds up. Cleaning every few months with a clean damp cloth will keep its green glistening.
If the leaves get pale and spotty it’s probably either not enough light or it has a pest. The pest will be obvious on visual inspection, and if not enough light then move it into a brighter spot.