“Anyone else’s houseplants going crazy?” Asked a frantic member of a local online community group. It was January, and she had expected her fiddle leaf fig to go dormant all winter. After a month of slowed growth, though, her tree had begun sprouting new leaves. A chorus of fellow confused indoor gardeners agreed with her, claiming their plants had continued growing as well. “What gives?” they begged.
The ficus lyrata — when kept indoors — is known for skipping winter dormancy, or at most simply “slowing down a bit” during the colder months.
So you may see slowed activity for a while, then a new leaf or two, followed by a surge of dramatic winter maturation. Especially if your fiddle leaf fig is less than a year old.
Older indoor trees tend to grow steadily year round, giving their caregivers more peace of mind and predictability than their younger, more confusing counterparts.
Let’s take a closer look.
What is winter dormancy?
When a tree is in its natural outdoor environment, a seasonal slowdown is healthy. “Dormancy is a mechanism vital to plant survival,” writes Scott Vogt about outdoor plants on behalf of the Dyck Arboretum in Hesston, Kansas.
That’s because usually, its growing season is more dramatic than an indoor tree’s is, and the plant must conserve energy for the coming spurt.
According to University of California Master Gardener Val Whitmyre, it’s best to trust these outdoor beauties… and leave them alone. “[Outdoor plants] are healthy and will remain so if allowed to remain dormant for winter,” she writes. “Fertilizing plants with nitrogen, which encourages new growth, is not recommended now because [outdoor] plants need to rest. The plant will survive without fertilizer because it has stored carbohydrates to maintain low-level respiration during dormancy.”
In other words, when you observe an outdoor tree that looks dead in winter, it knows what it’s doing. We needn’t fear for its wellbeing.
But what about indoor trees?
Now that you know what natural winter dormancy means for outdoor trees, you’ll understand a bit more about what’s going on with your indoor fiddle leaf fig in cold months, and how best to nurture it.
Since houseplants are indoors, they don’t experience the dormant cycle the same way they would if they lived outdoors in their cold, natural habitat.
In fact, some of your plant’s most prolific weeks may end up being in the “dead of winter.”
Winter Care For Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees
Your job is to compensate for conventional seasonal climate control measures like dry forced furnace air and fires in the fireplace. Simply run a warm mist humidifier within 5 feet of (but not directly onto) your fiddle leaf fig to replace the airborne moisture your heater saps.
Next, recommit to using your moisture meter to determine exactly when to water (https://fiddleleaffigplant.com/moisture-meter/), since dry winter (indoor) air may parch your plant — while on the other hand, partial, sporadic slowdowns may equal a less thirsty tree. These conflicting winter variables can not be trusted, and only the true moisture content of your root ball can convey the plant’s water needs.
Continue to feed your plant the nutrients it needs. It’ll need the support to thrive. Check out fiddle leaf fig plant food here.
Then, watch and wait. If brown spots appear, diagnose them and treat them promptly. Refrain from repotting, cutting back, or relocating.
Another way to care for your fiddle leaf fig in winter is to read up on how to care for a fiddle leaf fig tree in the more obvious “growing seasons”.
The best resource for exactly that is The Fiddle Leaf Fig Expert: Your Guide to Growing Healthy Ficus Lyrata Plants. Grab a copy now so you’re ready for whatever surprises each new season brings.
Meg S. Miller is an influential speaker and multiple award-winning author with nearly a decade of writing experience. In her latest book, Benefit of the Debt (April 28, 2018), Miller offers a unique perspective that gives fresh insight into common sources of brokenness within Christian marriages. Miller, her husband, Joe, and their three children live near Washington, DC, where they own and operate an organic farm. When not writing, Miller loves doting on her six prized fiddle leaf fig trees. Learn more about Meg at www.benefitofthedebt.com.
Extra unused sources:
Another example of a fiddle leaf fig owner who questioned why her plant is still growing in winter: https://www.houzz.com/discussions/4447474/fiddle-leaf-fig-new-growth-in-winter-help
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