The Fiddle leaf fig, Ficus lyrata, is a tropical plant native to the lowland rainforests of western Africa, from Cameroon to Sierra Leone. Though it can grow as a free-standing tree, F. lyrata is a banyan fig that typically begins its life as an epiphyte (a plant that grows on another plant) after a bird or other animal helps by depositing a seed in the trunk of another tree. The fig’s roots will grow downward, reaching the ground where it can begin to take in nourishment from the soil. During this growing period, the roots will begin to envelop the trunk of the host tree, eventually strangling it. At its full potential a fiddle leaf fig can grow up to 40-50 feet tall, with leaves as long as 18” and 12” wide. The leathery leaves, resembling a lyre or violin, are the inspiration behind the latin name “lyrata” and its common name, fiddle leaf. Although they rarely flower as indoor houseplants, in nature they produce a small, inedible green fig about 1¼” in diameter.
In the home, the fiddle leaf is a slow grower which means it won’t outgrow its space for years to come and the broad leaves make it a sculptural plant that can help structure space in large rooms. Depending on your taste, you can grow it as a tree-shape plant or a bushier specimen. To promote bushiness, prune off the top section of your ficus and two new buds should begin to form within a few weeks. If a tree-shape fits your space better, prune bottom leaves and let the ficus naturally grow upward. Bright to moderate indirect light is best, and even fluorescent lighting is sufficient. You’ll want to water your ficus regularly, keeping its soil lightly moist at all times. Any good, well draining tropical potting soil will do and amending it with peat moss is ideal. Keeping your plant well fed is key to its overall health so fertilize three times a year (spring, midsummer, and fall) with a high-nitrogen foliage plant food. And finally, wipe your fig’s leaves to keep them clean and polished. It not only keeps the plant looking nice, but will also keep it as healthy as possible.
LIGHT - bright to moderate indirect
TEMP - 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit
FERTILIZER - 3 times a year w/high-nitrogen foliage plant food
WATER - slightly moist at all times
SOIL - well draining potting soil amended w/peat moss
REPOT - every other year in spring, but keep plant in small pot to control size