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10 Things Nobody Tells You About Fiddle-Leaf Fig Trees

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10 Things Nobody Tells You About Fiddle-Leaf Fig Trees

January 9, 2019

Fiddle-leaf fig trees are the “it” houseplant that refuses to go away. More than five years after our first post about the trend, #fiddleleaffig is still dominating social media (with 125,272 snapshots on Instagram as of yesterday).

By now you may think you know everything there is to know about this finicky tropical rainforest plant—which, contrary to Instagram, doesn’t love life as a houseplant. But there’s more than meets the eye with fiddle-leaf fig trees. You could say they have strong opinions about the world; read on to learn their likes and dislikes and to debunk a few myths you may have heard along the way.

Here are 10 things nobody tells you about the world’s most popular houseplant, the fiddle-leaf fig tree:

1. You cannot grow a new fiddle-leaf fig tree from a leaf.

Photograph via @ohiotropics.
Above: Photograph via @ohiotropics.

To successfully propagate a fiddle-leaf fig tree, you will need to start with a tip cutting—a stem that is preferably 6 inches or more long—attached to a leaf. (Without a stem, any roots that leaves may sprout are for decorative purposes only—a rooted leaf will not grow into a new tree.)

Air layering is another technique for propagating fiddle-leaf fig trees or other woody tropical plants. With this method, you will need to make a slanted cut on a stem to encourage new root development.

2. You can buy a fiddle-leaf fig tree for $12.99 from Ikea.

Above: Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.

How far we’ve come in a few years, from the days it cost $150 or more to buy a fiddle-leaf fig tree at a plant shop (if you could even find one).

From a baby Ficus Lyrata Bambino (12 inches tall) to a Ficus Lyrata (26 inches tall), you can buy a live fiddle-leaf fig tree online for from $12.99 to $19,99 from Ikea.

3. A tiny fiddle-leaf fig might suit your lifestyle better than a  tree.

Above: Ikea’s Ficus Lyrata Bambino, at 12 inches high, is happy to live on a windowsill (if you have bright, indirect light); $12.99.

The only thing worse than an unhappy fiddle-leaf fig tree that’s turning yellow or losing its leaves is a fiddle-leaf fig tree that’s too happy—and outgrows your home. Although it will never reach its mature outdoor height of 50 feet (thank God), a potted fiddle-leaf fig tree can grow as tall as 10 feet indoors.

4. A fiddle-leaf fig tree is even more finicky than you thought.

Above: Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.

You’ve heard this before, but have you really absorbed the truth? Fiddle-leaf fig trees don’t like: drafts, soil that is too wet, soil that is too dry, too much sun, not enough sun, dry air, or loud music. (OK, just kidding about that last one.) Good luck with your fiddle-leaf fig tree—for its birthday, you may want to get it a humidifier.

5. A fiddle-leaf fig tree houseplant will outgrow your house.

Above: A fiddle leaf fig tree grows happily in a sheltered spot outdoors in a large planter from @thebalconygarden. Photograph via @harrisonlandscaping.

See No. 3 above. The good news? If your fiddle-leaf fig tree outgrows your house, that means it’s really, really happy. Move it to a sheltered spot outdoors to protect it from wind, sunburn, cold temperatures, and soccer balls the neighbors’ children kick over the fence.

6. To revive a dying fiddle-leaf fig, chop off the top of the trunk.

Photograph by @dear_plants.
Above: Photograph by @dear_plants.

Looks bad, we know, but read on….

7. A fiddle-leaf fig tree will sprout from the trunk if you cut it back.

Photograph via @dear_plants.
Above: Photograph via @dear_plants.

With luck, it will sprout several new leaves and be bushier than when you started.

8. A spindly fiddle-leaf fit tree can look as good as a bushy one.

Fig and friend: &#8\2\20;So happy with this new little light blue pot that i found recently at @tradgardspaletten, and the plant too obviously! the shape is so funny, i&#8\2\17;m totally into these odd looking plants recently,&#8\2\2\1; writes @upleafting.
Above: Fig and friend: “So happy with this new little light blue pot that i found recently at @tradgardspaletten, and the plant too obviously! the shape is so funny, i’m totally into these odd looking plants recently,” writes @upleafting.

It’s all in the styling. Make a skinny fiddle-leaf fig tree look like a design statement rather than a mistake by pairing it with a slender euphorbia or other succulent plant.

9. A fiddle-leaf fig tree needs likes more humidity than you have indoors.

Above: Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.

Moist air—ideally with a humidity level of 65—will help your rainforest escapee thrive. Unfortunately, most indoor environments have humidity levels of 10. If your tree is looking fatigued or its leaves are browning, set up a humidifier nearby—or at least mist it.

10. If all else fails, you can fake it with a faux fiddle-leaf fig tree.

A 6 Foot Faux Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree has broad leaves, poseable branches, and textured &#8\2\20;bark.&#8\2\2\1; It is \$\179.99 at World Market.
Above: A 6 Foot Faux Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree has broad leaves, poseable branches, and textured “bark.” It is $179.99 at World Market.

Looks life-like, no? Just don’t check the undersides of those plastic leaves…

For more growing tips, see Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design in our curated design guides to Houseplants 101. Read more:

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