One very important—and often overlooked—part of caring for fiddle leaf figs and other plants is quality soil. After all, the soil is where a fiddle leaf fig’s root system lives. Your fiddle absorbs much of its water and nutrients from the soil. Knowing how to improve soil fertility can make or break the health of your fiddle leaf fig!
So what goes into healthy, fertile soil?
A soil that allows a fiddle leaf fig to thrive must retain the right amount of moisture, meaning that it doesn’t stay too wet or dry out too quickly. The soil must also contain the right nutrients that support a fiddle’s growth, and also allow the fiddle to actually absorb those nutrients. (In reality, nutrient content and soil fertility are different sides of the same coin. Just because the nutrients are present doesn’t necessarily mean your fiddle can absorb them!)
In this article, we’ll explain the factors that contribute to a soil’s fertility, and how to improve soil fertility for the health of your fiddle!
Why Do Fiddle Leaf Figs Need Fertile Soil?
Why does soil fertility matter? Why can’t you just buy any old bag of soil at the gardening store? Why can’t you just leave your fiddle in its soil until the roots start popping out of the pot?
In nature, fiddle leaf figs grow in the ground and enjoy a steady supply of nutrients from organic material that breaks down into the soil, as well as an abundance of healthy microbes that aid in nutrient absorption.
A rich, fertile soil provides all the nutrients your fiddle leaf fig needs to grow as well as the conditions that allow your fiddle to absorb those nutrients. A barren, low-quality soil that contains no nutrients, the wrong pH level, or low levels of beneficial microbes will inhibit your fiddle’s growth—or worse, harm your plant’s health and cause it to starve!
How to Check the Fertility of Your Soil
There are several ways to check whether your soil is fertile and nutritionally dense, and they’re actually quite simple.
Testing the pH Level in Soil
pH levels are crucial for plant health. Soil with an appropriate pH level for a particular plant will provide the right conditions for the plant to absorb water and essential nutrients from the soil.
Haven’t thought about pH since high school chemistry? Here’s a quick review:
The pH scale runs from 0 to 14 (though soils typically range from 3 to 10), with 7 being neutral. Anything above 7 is alkaline and anything below 7 is acidic. Most plants prefer fairly neutral soil, but there are a few out there that grow better in slightly acidic or alkaline soil. pH affects the solubility of certain nutrients in water, and therefore the nutrients that can be absorbed by plants. Soils that are too acidic can also kill off helpful bacteria that improve plant health and affect nutrient uptake.
That’s why plants require a certain pH level in order to absorb the particular nutrients they need.
pH is a big deal! Luckily, it’s easy to test. We like to use this 3-in-1 soil meter to test soil pH levels as well as moisture content and light quality! It’s easy to use and can provide great insight to the health and fertility of your soil.
Adjusting Soil pH for Houseplants
So what happens if you suspect your soil’s pH is off? In general, sulfur is said to increase a soil’s acidity while lime can make it more alkaline. Alkaline water drops can also help balance a soil that’s too acidic.
However, we find adding sulfur and lime to be a lot of work for houseplants like potted fiddle leaf figs. This technique is better suited to outdoor gardening. If your soil’s pH is causing problems, we recommend repotting your fiddle into a more appropriate soil, such as our Premium Fiddle Leaf Fig Potting Soil.
Do Your Plants Look Healthy?
One of the best ways to determine whether your soil is healthy and fertile or not is to evaluate the health of your plant! If your fiddle’s light and humidity setup seem okay but you’re noticing slow growth or discoloration of the leaves, stems, or veins, it’s very likely that something with the soil is off.
If you suspect the soil might be the problem, use a pH meter to test it! That can confirm or rule out inappropriate pH levels.
It’s also helpful to consider how old the soil is. If the plant has been in the same soil for more than a year, it’s probably time to repot to refresh nutrients and give the roots more room to grow. There are also several things you can do to improve your soil’s health without repotting (which can come in handy if you haven’t hit that year mark or if you aren’t able to repot just yet), but after a year or so, you’re probably better off changing the soil and moving up a pot size anyway.
How to Improve Soil Fertility
Of course, repotting isn’t the only way to improve your fiddle’s soil conditions. And since fiddles don’t love to be repotted because they’re prone to shock, it’s a good idea to maintain your soil between repottings and keep your fiddle happy and healthy in its soil for as long as possible.
Here are a few simple ways to improve soil fertility.
Probiotic Supplements for Plants
Beneficial microbes in the soil can improve the availability of certain nutrients; however, these microbes can gradually die off, which decreases soil fertility over time.
Adding probiotics to the soil can refresh these bacterial populations and help your fiddle absorb essential nutrients. We love this supplement because it’s all-natural, easy to use, and super effective!
Adding Rich Organic Material
Adding nutrient-dense material to soil can also improve its nutritional content. After all, all the microbial supplements and perfect pH in the world won’t do much good if there are no nutrients to absorb!
Some houseplant owners like to occasionally add a handful of compost from their compost piles or tabletop composters to improve soil nutrient content.
We like to use organic green compost in our Premium Fiddle Leaf Fig Potting Mix for ideal nutrient balance.
High-quality fertilizer is also an excellent option for maintaining the nutritional content of your soil! Fiddles need lots of nutrients to grow those big, beautiful leaves and strong roots and stems to support them, so it’s a good idea to fertilize regularly with a liquid fertilizer that contains a 3-1-2 NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) ratio.
We highly recommend our Fiddle Leaf Fig Food because it’s specifically designed for fiddles and other ficus trees, and it’s gentle enough to use with each watering. This takes all the guesswork out of fertilizing!
Benefits of Boosting Soil Fertility
There are several benefits to maintaining your soil fertility rather than simply switching out the soil.
Extend Life of Potting Soil
Let’s face it: repotting can be a pain, especially if your fiddle leaf fig is large or has several stems! Keeping your soil well-aerated and fertile means you’ll have to repot your tree less often, which is less work for you and less stress for your fiddle!
Supercharge Your Plant’s Vitality
Consistently fertile and nutrient-rich soil means your fiddle will be able to grow consistently. When a plant experiences a nutrient deficiency, it can take some time to recover and start growing again. With a steady supply of nutrients and the right conditions to absorb them, your fiddle can grow uninhibited!
Minimizing the Risk of Disease
Healthy, fertile soil is also less likely to succumb to pests or pathogens that could harm your fiddle. No plant owner likes to deal with bacterial infections or pest infestations, so healthy soil can save you a lot of work in the long run!
Final Thoughts: How to Improve Soil Fertility
If you’re serious about growing a beautiful, healthy fiddle leaf fig, maintaining the health and fertility of your soil should be part of your care routine!
Make sure you’re fertilizing regularly, and consider adding a probiotic supplement to your regimen. When you water your fiddle, take a few moments to inspect the appearance of the leaves, stems, and soil surface so you can detect soil problems early and solve them before they become major issues. It’s also not a bad idea to test the soil pH occasionally!
Soil care is just part of houseplant care, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. It will save you so much time and headache if you stay consistent!