Fiddle Leaf Fig Care: History, Care, Problems, Tips, and Tricks
The fiddle leaf fig tree is one of the most popular houseplants out there! You probably see it all the time on Instagram, in stock photos, on TV, and in garden and home magazines.
These beautiful trees look striking in just about any setting, with their large, glossy, fiddle-shaped leaves and iconic lollipop shape (though some fiddle owners like to leave their trees a little bushier, and we think that’s great too!).
How did the fiddle leaf fig tree rise to its current status as queen of houseplants? What is the best place to buy one? How do you take care of it when you bring one home?
We’ll cover all of that in this post and connect you to even more resources so you can become a fiddle leaf fig tree expert in no time!
A Brief History of the Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
The fiddle leaf fig tree, also called ficus lyrata, originally comes from the tropical rain forests on the western coast of Africa.
We think of these trees as beautiful and graceful indoors, but in the wild, these plants are known as epiphytes, or plants that grow on other plants like parasites. Fiddles actually grow on the tops of other trees to compete for the bright sunlight, and their roots may even strangle their host tree!
Fiddles gained popularity as houseplants in the early 2010s because they photograph beautifully, and that’s about the same time that Pinterest launched! Users began sharing and pinning home design pictures featuring fiddles around the same time home improvement stores started selling them at affordable prices. Soon everyone was buying fiddles!
The Top 5 Places to Buy a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree Online
You can find fiddle leaf fig trees at large chain stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and IKEA, as well as at smaller local nurseries. But one of our favorite ways to buy fiddles is online!
Here are some of our favorite resources:
- Houseplantshop.com (Use code FIDDLE to save 10%!)
You can also find fiddles on eBay or your local Craigslist.
What to Do When You Get it Home
When you bring home your new fiddle leaf fig tree, your number-one priority is to let it settle into its new home. Fiddles love consistency, and moving homes is a big change, so you don’t want to introduce any more change than you need to.
When you get it home, leave it in the pot it came in for at least a month unless the grower’s pot has too many drainage holes and you can’t keep it watered. Put it in a bright place that gets plenty of indirect sunlight, like an east-facing or even south-facing window.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Care: The Basics
Here’s where the fun begins! The basics of fiddle leaf fig will go a long way in ensuring the health and beauty of your tree, so don’t skimp on any of these items! This is what your fiddle needs to be strong and healthy.
Potting and soil
When you first bring home your fiddle leaf fig tree, don’t repot it for about a month afterward. This will give it time to adjust to its new home!
When you do choose to repot, make sure to choose a pot with great drainage that’s no more than 2-3 inches larger than the root ball. Fiddles like to be fairly snug in their pots, and this will prevent the pot from holding onto more water than the tree can use, which prevents over-watering issues (we’ll get to those later).
You’ll also want to choose a light, fast-draining soil so your fiddle’s roots are never sitting in water. We recommend our Premium Fiddle Leaf Fig Potting Soil, or a 50/50 blend of regular indoor potting soil and cactus mix.
You’ll probably need to repot your fiddle leaf fig tree every two years or so, or when you notice roots coming out the top and the drainage hole, or if your soil is very compacted.
Fiddle leaf fig trees LOVE bright, indirect sunlight. You can even acclimate them to full sun!
Place your tree in or near a bright window, but don’t let the tree sit in direct sunlight. Otherwise, you risk scorching the leaves!
As a rule, your fiddle should never cast a shadow. An east-facing window works best, and south-facing may also work. A west-facing window may receive too much bright afternoon light that can burn the leaves, and a north-facing window may not provide enough light.
If you don’t have enough light in your home, you may want to supplement with a grow light. If your fiddle leaf fig tree isn’t getting enough light, its health will suffer! Here are the signs that it isn’t getting enough light.
When it comes to water, fiddle leaf fig trees know what they want—and what they don’t.
Fiddles don’t like to sit in water, but they also don’t like to be too dry. Their watering needs can also vary depending on the season, temperature, humidity, and light conditions of their environment.
You’ll usually hear about two methods for watering: the soak and drain method or the cup watering method. Depending on your tree’s preferences, both can work!
When you do water, you can try either method. It’s better to slightly over-water than under-water, so we recommend starting with the cup method and increasing if your tree shows signs of under-watering.
Here’s a rundown on the cup watering method:
To determine how much water to give your fiddle leaf fig tree, measure your tree from the soil to the top of the tallest leaves.
- If your tree measures less than 2 feet tall, give it 1 cup of water each week.
- If your tree measures between 2 and 3 feet tall, give it 2 cups of water each week.
- If your tree measures between 3 and 6 feet tall, give it 3 cups of water each week.
- If it’s more than 6 feet tall, give it 4 cups each week, or just enough so that it starts to drain.
If you notice signs of under-watering like drooping or if the soil feels very dry days before it’s time to water, try giving it a little more water, but stick to the same schedule. Remember, fiddles love consistency, so your fiddle leaf fig care must be consistent.
If you live in a dry, warm area and your tree gets lots of light, you might be better off with the soak and drain method or even a shower!
Temperature and humidity
Fiddle leaf figs trees are tropical plants, so they prefer warm, humid conditions. They’ll enjoy temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% humidity or more. If you live in a very dry climate, you may want to set up a humidifier near your tree or put a smaller fiddle on a pebble tray.
Keep them well away from drafting windows and A/C or heating vents, or you’ll wind up with dry, damaged leaves.
Fiddle leaf fig trees need the right nutrients to grow tall with shiny green leaves and a healthy root system! You’ll want to use a liquid fertilizer with a 3-1-2 NPK ratio during the spring and summer, diluted according to the ingredients on the bottle.
However, I prefer Fiddle Leaf Fig Food because it’s designed to be used year-round with every watering. This way, you don’t have to remember a watering schedule!
Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree Propagation
You can also propagate your fiddle leaf fig tree to get more fiddles or to give them away! I love to do this when I prune my fiddles so that I’m not wasting perfectly good cuttings.
Here are the basics of fiddle leaf fig propagation with cuttings:
Step 1: Pick the right time. Fiddles grow in the spring and summer, so this is the best time to propagate!
Step 2: Prep your container. Fill a clean glass or jar with chlorine-free tap water (you can leave tap water out overnight to let the chlorine evaporate) or distilled water.
Step 3: Take your cutting. Choose a healthy stem with 2-3 leaves on it and cut about 3 inches down with a sharp knife or pruning shears. (Note: You may want to wear gloves so the fiddle’s sap doesn’t irritate your skin!)
Step 4: Dip the stem in a rooting hormone like Houseplant Propagation Promoter. This will encourage root growth and protect your cutting from infection!
Step 5: Put the container in a bright place. Make sure it gets plenty of bright, indirect light to support photosynthesis! Change the water a few times a week or whenever it looks dirty.
Step 6: Plant your cutting! When the roots on your cutting are about an inch long (this can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months), you can plant it in soil. Make sure your pot and soil drain well (see our notes on soil) and place the pot in bright, indirect sunlight.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree Problems: Warning Signs and Treatment
Like most houseplants, fiddle leaf fig trees can develop issues if their environment isn’t quite right. Here are the most common fiddle leaf fig tree problems and how to treat them.
Over-watering and root rot
This is one of the most common problems fiddle leaf fig tree owners struggle with!
When fiddles are over-watered, they develop dark brown or black spots around the edges or veins of the lower leaves. Sometimes it’s just mild over-watering that you can solve by easing up a bit with the watering can. Other times, fungal root rot has set in and you’ll have to act fast to save your tree!
If you notice this spotting on your tree, here’s what to do:
Give it more light. Often, over-watering is caused by a lack of light, not too much water. Without the proper lighting conditions, fiddles cannot use water efficiently and may start to rot instead. Make sure your tree gets several hours of bright, indirect sunlight per day. If you can’t give it any more natural light, add a grow light.
Use a root supplement. This will help heal roots from fungal or bacterial root rot as well as fortify them against infections.
If the spots continue to spread, it’s time to step up your treatment.
Repot. Gently remove the tree from its pot and inspect the roots. If you notice any black, mushy, or smelly roots, carefully trim them with shears and remove as much of the old soil as you can.
Repot the tree into a clean pot with drainage (clean out the old pot or use a new one) with a fast-draining soil like Fiddle Leaf Fig Potting Soil or cactus mix.
Give the tree plenty of light, a little less water, and Root Supplement to help it heal.
Yellowing is usually caused by one or a combination of three things: too much water, not enough light, or a lack of nutrients.
Start by giving the tree more light and scaling back on the water. If you aren’t able to provide more natural light, try a grow light.
If you’ve had the tree for more than a few months and you’ve never fertilized (and it’s summer or spring), you may want to try fertilizing to provide your tree with more nutrients.
Lack of light
This can actually lead to a whole host of problems, so we decided to include it separately!
If your tree is not getting enough light, it may:
- Develop brown spots
- Drop leaves
- Develop yellow leaves
- Become infested with insects
Basically, if your tree isn’t sunburned, giving it more light is a good way to help with just about any problem!
While fiddle leaf fig trees don’t like to be over-watered, they also don’t like to be under-watered! When a tree is under-watered, it may droop, drop leaves, and/or develop dry, crispy, light brown spots on leaves all over the tree.
This is also why it’s important to keep a close eye on your fiddle’s soil so you don’t accidentally let it dry out.
In general, you want to water when your meter reads at 3 or 4, or when the soil feels dry 2-3 inches down.
Here’s more about under-watering and how to distinguish it from over-watering (because they can look similar sometimes!).
Like many plants, fiddle leaf fig trees are susceptible to indoor pests such as mealybugs, spider mites, fungus gnats, and scale.
Signs of insects:
- Brown speckles on the undersides of the leaves
- Cottony webbing
- Clear, sticky goo on the leaves (this is called honeydew)
- Holes in leaves
- Hard brown bumps on the leaves, stems, and trunk (this is actually an insect called scale)
It’s a good idea to give your tree a once-over every time you water to see if any insects have moved in. The earlier you catch an infestation, the easier it is to treat!
In general, you can treat insect infestations by removing as many of the insects as you can find by hand, with a kitchen syringe, or even by showering your tree. Then treat your leaves with Leaf Armor to protect them against insects, dust, bacteria, etc. (You can also use this as a cleaner and preventative measure.)
It’s also a good idea to make sure your tree gets plenty of light and that you aren’t over-watering because most insects prefer dark, damp conditions.
If you’re still struggling with a certain type of insect, check out these resources:
- The Ultimate Guide to Fiddle Leaf Fig Insect Problems
- Surprisingly Invisible Places to Look for Mealybugs on a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
- How to Get Rid of Fungus Gnats on Fiddle Leaf Fig Plants
- How to Treat Scale on Fiddle Leaf Figs
- How to Get Rid of Spider Mites on your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Bacterial infections are caused when bacteria gets into the pot or on the tree and spreads throughout the leaves, stems, and root systems. This will usually show up as irregular, medium brown spots on leaves all over the tree.
If you notice this on your tree and you’ve ruled out root rot and under-watering, you’ll need to act fast.
If only a few leaves are affected, you can try removing them with clean hands and tools. If the spots continue to spread, you’ll need to repot your tree into a clean pot and fresh soil. Then make sure the tree gets plenty of light, and whatever you do, don’t over-water. You can also use Root Supplement to help your tree heal and prevent further issues.
Edema shows up as red, purple, or brown speckles on new fiddle leaf fig leaves. Luckily, these spots are generally harmless and fade as the leaves grow. However, it is a sign that your watering isn’t consistent, so you may want to dial in your routine!
Dry, cracking, or puckered leaves
These may be signs that your fiddle leaf fig tree has been exposed to a draft or blasts of dry air from an A/C vent, furnace, space heater, etc. It could also mean that your tree wants more humidity in general.
Remember, these are tropical plants, so they really enjoy humidity! If you notice these signs or if you live in a dry climate, a humidifier is a good investment.
Drooping leaves can mean several things. If only the bottom leaves are drooping, that’s normal! Older fiddle leaves will naturally droop and eventually fall off when the tree is done with them. This is healthy and not a cause for concern.
But if your entire tree is drooping, it could indicate a problem. Your tree may be under-watered (check the soil). Your tree may be cold (watch out for drafts and think about adjusting the thermostat). It might also mean that your tree isn’t getting enough light.
Tips for Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree Growth
Most fiddle leaf fig owners strive for that tall, lollipop shape we all know and love!
The foundation of growing a taller fiddle leaf fig tree, of course, is taking care of your tree. Make sure it gets lots of light, the right amount of water, and the correct nutrients. Use Fiddle Leaf Fig Food to support growth!
You may notice that your tree isn’t forming that lollipop shape you’re looking for. This is because you actually need to shape it, or it will just turn into a taller version of the plant you brought home!
Here’s how to do it:
To encourage branching, try notching and pinching your tree. Learn how to do that here.
You can also shape your tree by pruning the lower leaves to give it a nice, clean trunk with a cluster of leaves and branches at the top. Here’s how to prune your fiddle without sending it into shock!
Fiddle Leaf Fig Care Tips and Hacks
Try these tips and articles to make your fiddle leaf fig journey easier and a little more fun!
- Our Top 5 Fiddle Leaf Fig Hacks
- Beyond the Predictable: 5 Creative Places to Put a Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant
- Do’s and Don’ts for Shiny Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves
- Best Tips for Moving Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant
- Fiddle Leaf Fig Care Cheat Sheet
Congratulations, you’re now a fiddle leaf fig tree expert!
Caring for these beautiful trees takes a bit of work and practice, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out how resilient and hardy they actually are when given the proper care. And you’ll feel amazing when your tree rewards you with new growth and lots of baby leaves!
Whether you’re new to fiddle leaf fig tree care or if you’ve been growing them for years, you now have everything you need to grow the most beautiful fiddles around!
To learn more:
- Sign up for our free Fiddle Leaf Fig Care 101 Webinar or our free Fiddle Leaf Fig Course, and make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter.
- Download our free Propagation Guide
- Read The Fiddle Leaf Fig Expert, your complete guide to growing healthy fiddle leaf fig plants. The book is available in full-color paperback or Kindle edition on Amazon now!
- Join our Facebook Community and chat with other fiddle leaf fig lovers.
Grab the Essentials for Your Fiddle Leaf Fig:
- Premium Fiddle Leaf Fig Potting Soil
- Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant Food
- Root Rot Treatment
- Houseplant Leaf Armor to protect against insects, bacteria, and fungus (As an added bonus, it also cleans and adds shine to your plant’s leaves!)
- Moisture meter to always know when your plant is thirsty.
- Houseplant Propagation Promoter to propagate more quickly and with more success.
- Looking to shop for plants online? Our trusted partners at Houseplantshop.com grow high-quality plants here in California and ship directly to you. Shop online now!