Fiddle Leaf Fig tree is a wonderful houseplant

September 11, 2019

We often fiddle with new plants, only to give up and yell “fiddlesticks!” There is a large houseplant, a tree actually, the aptly named Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata), with huge 18-inch-long and 12-inch-wide violin-shaped leaves. These bold leaves are a waxy dark green that contrasts well with the tall, sculptural stems to add elegance to any tight corner. These  non-fruiting trees are tough plants that actually adapt to the home environment and flourish. They will grow to around six to eight  feet tall in your house or office. Try clustering smaller tropical plants around the fig tree for a tropical garden effect during summers on a patio or deck.

If a giant tree is not for you, there are smaller varieties of fiddle leaf fig, such as Compacta and Suncoast.

These indoor plants grow best in bright, filtered light. The direct sun from a south-facing or west-facing window will be too strong. Remember that it is perfectly natural for older leaves to turn yellow and fall off, leaving the fiddle leaf fig more tree-like. All plants adapt to existing light levels by dropping off a number of leaves, and increasing the spacing between the remaining leaves on the branch.

If your tree is too tall, prune off the upper part of the main stem just above a leaf, and your tree will grow shorter and bushier. To keep the plant well-shaped, turn the pot every few months as it naturally grows and leans toward the sunlight. Fiddle leaf figs grew up in the still, warm, humid air of tropical rainforests, so cold drafts will dry out the leaves and cause them to drop off.

Pot them up in rich potting soil that drains easily. Fertilize regularly with a good liquid organic houseplant food meant for foliage plants. Only water your fiddle leaf fig when the soil feels dry to the touch. When you water, be sure to thoroughly soak the soil until you see water drain out of the bottom of the pot. Let the soil dry out before you water again. You will need to water more often in spring and summer when growth is highest, and less in the winter. Don't go too long without water, however, or the new leaves will turn brown and fall off.  If the older leaves turn brown and drop, you are probably overwatering. Never let the plant stand in a saucer of water or its roots will rot.

These plants are usually not bothered by any significant pests or diseases, though they may become infected with aphids, mites and white flies. If you spot any bugs, you can kill them by wiping down the leaves with a mixture of half a teaspoon dish detergent and one gallon of water.

The Fiddle Leaf Fig tree is a wonderful, easy-to-grow houseplant, and its enormous leaves bring just the right touch to your home. When moved outdoors in summer it lends a tropical look to your deck or patio. You will have a plant as fit as a fiddle, or even a  fiddler under the roof.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.