Using a moisture meter to know when to water your fiddle leaf fig plant can save you a lot of headaches and keep your plant healthy. The biggest problems with fiddle leaf fig plants are too much or too little water. If you’re a fiddle leaf fig owner, you’ve probably been confused when you read about caring for your plant, because it’s hard to tell if problems are coming from too much or too little water. For fiddle leaf fig owners who want to be totally confident in watering their plant, a moisture meter is a fantastic tool.
What is a Moisture Meter?
Soil moisture meters estimate the water content of soil by using electrical resistance. They’re cheap, easy to use, and don’t even need a battery. You can get a moisture meter only or you can get a three-in-one moisture, pH, and light meter, which can be helpful to rule out other issues with your fiddle leaf fig. Either type of meter will cost less than $13 at home depot or on Amazon. This is the three-in-one moisture meter that I recommend on Amazon.
How to Use a Moisture Meter with a Fiddle Leaf Fig
To use your moisture meter, make sure it’s clean and don’t leave it in the soil between readings, as this can damage the tool. After you take each reading, clean your meter, and put it in a safe place.
Your moisture meter will have a gauge that shows the water content on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being “wet.” It may even come with a handy reference that shows the name of many common houseplants and the point at which you should water. Don’t take this information too seriously, as most moisture meter manufacturers list fiddle leaf fig (ficus lyrata) at a 1, meaning you should let the plant completely dry out between waterings. I find that this would take weeks for my plants and leave them damaged from lack of water.
Where to Take Your Reading
Of course, it matters a great deal how you take the reading. You can see that if you take a reading at the top two inches of the plant, it will read dry. If you stick the probe halfway down, it reads moist. All the way at the bottom, it reads wet. This is the nature of gravity and water.
Your readings will also differ if you measure close to the center of the plant, where the soil is wetter or towards the outside of the container, where soil tends to be dryer. So where is the right place to take an accurate reading? Be sure to take your reading at the same place each time for consistency. I recommend measuring halfway between the center of your plant and the container, then halfway between the top and bottom of your soil.
A Word of Caution for Fiddle Leaf Fig Plants from Home Depot
Pay attention to your particular plant’s root ball here. Some plants from Home Depot have very dense root balls that do not integrate well with surrounding soil. This means that the surrounding soil could be very moist, but your plant’s root ball may still be bone dry and your plant may be dying of thirst. If it seems like your plant has a very compact root ball, take the measurement inside the edge of the root ball so you’re measuring the actual moisture content of the soil that has contact with the roots.
Stick the probe halfway between the center of the plant and the edge of the container, then go halfway down the soil. This will give you a consistent moisture reading where most of the important roots of your plant are below the probe. At this location, your moisture meter should read just between moist and dry before you water. I recommend waiting until your plant’s soil is at a moisture level of 3 to 4 at this depth before you water.
Water Completely, Then Let Dry Out Again
The way you water in conjunction with your moisture meter readings is important here. You would not want to water a little bit every day to keep your plant at a moisture reading of 4. This would risk root rot and not allow your plant’s roots to ever get a deep watering.
You’ll want to fully water your plant so that 5-10% of the water comes out the drainage holes to make sure all of the soil gets wet and the roots get a good soak. Then, you’ll want to wait a week or more for your plant to dry out again.
Monitor Your Fiddle Leaf Fig’s Moisture to Learn More About Your Plant
It can be helpful to take a moisture reading a few days after you water to understand how your plant is using its water supply. Large plants use more water, but large containers retain more water, so how fast your fiddle leaf fig uses water depends on the size of your container and the size of your plant. Of course, dry environments and more sunlight cause your plant to use water more quickly and fiddle leaf figs use more water in summer when there is more light.
Don’t Forget to Feed Your Plant
Watering your fiddle leaf fig properly is only half the battle. You’ll want to make sure it has proper sunlight and that you’re feeding it each time you water with a good liquid fertilizer for fiddle leaf fig plants.
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