One of the best features of the fiddle leaf fig tree is the fact that you can individualize it. Based on your goals, you can purposely grow it upward or outward. You can pot it a vast variety of ways, experiment with its environment, propagate it into baby fiddles, separate multiple trunks to create single trees, and even decorate it for different seasons!
I’ve loved trying new things with this species — customizations that simply aren’t possible with other plants.
However, there’s a time to refrain from all that. In fact, there are 5.
Here they are.
If you’ve just brought your plant home from the store, let it acclimate to its new location before repotting, separating trunks, removing healthy leaves, or making other cosmetic changes.
If you’d like to use a decorative planter pot, simply choose one in which your nursery pot can fit.
This rule goes for times when you move your plant around the house, too. Don’t try to combine an in-home relocation with pruning or repotting, for example.
Root shock is a condition that occurs when the root system of a tree has been disturbed. The plant temporarily stops producing and goes into survival mode. In severe cases, some of the plant’s leaves droop, indicating root distress.
In mild cases, however, the plant simply stops producing new growth. Many new fiddle leaf fig owners get worried when their plant doesn’t put out new growth. Likely, its previous caregiver treated or otherwise disturbed the root system before selling the plant.
Other ficus lyrata owners destabilize the root system themselves by repotting, re-soiling, inspecting for root rot, separating trunks, treating for insects, root pruning, or otherwise agitating the substrate.
It’s so tempting to mess with your plant when it seems dormant, but now is not the time. Instead, let it recover from whatever treatment it has already experienced.
After a Cold Night Outside
There’s nothing my fiddle leaf fig loves more than summertime outside.
Unfortunately, though, every spring and autumn, temperatures dip at night, surprising both me and my plant. Cold and darkness are the two things this species hates most.
If you’re considering chopping, pinching, notching, or removing leaves from your plant, first be sure it hasn’t just spent a night outside in any temperature less than 70°. To clarify, this plant can survive down to 55° at night, but not if you combine it with an invasive treatment.
Other experts may encourage you to interfere with your plant’s natural growth in winter, but I don’t. Shorter days, colder temperatures, and dry air all contribute to a lowered rate of success when modifying a fiddle.
You might be able to get away with minor manipulations, like the altering of its watering routine or incremental move toward brighter sources of light, but my warning stands: go easy.
Watering should be done a few days before and then again after any treatments, not directly before. This ensures your plant is hydrated but not sopping wet during whatever procedure it’s about to endure.
Again, you can nurture your fiddle to be tall and stately, or you can keep it short and squat. But the right treatment at the wrong time can harm or even kill your prized plant.
A general rule is to resist combining treatments and adjustments. For example, if you start fertilizing, don’t relocate at the same time. Or if you re-soil your tree, don’t prune it the same day.
And so on.
So when should you fiddle with your fiddle? Good question. Pruning, repotting and propagating should be done when your fiddle leaf fig is obviously healthy, happy, and growing. The counterintuitive truth is most plant owners are tempted to disturb their plants when the plants are in shock, dormancy, or recovery instead of being patient.
To be clear, an intervention is often necessary when your plant is suffering from neglect or disease. We’re not discussing interventions here but instead, manipulations. If your plant needs your intervention to be healthy, then you should intervene. Sometimes, though, it needs to be left alone to do the invisible work of botanical life. Your job is to know the difference.
If ever you’re in doubt, ask our helpful online community of fellow ficus lyrata enthusiasts on Facebook called the Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant Resource Group. We can’t wait to meet you and your plant, and advise you on when — and when not — to perturb it.
For more information, get a copy of Claire Akin’s The Fiddle Leaf Fig Expert. It’s your guide to growing a healthy, beautiful ficus lyrata plant.