fiddle leaf fig in a pot

How To Care For A Ficus Lyrata – Fiddle Leaf Fig

fiddle leaf fig in a pot

It is rarely the case that social media creates a star that is all-natural. But, surprisingly enough, that is just what happened with the Ficus Lyrata. Due to its stunning beauty and simplicity, it was featured on many design blogs and other outlets.

Also commonly known as the fiddle leaf fig, its design screams modernity. Since the majority of indoor design and decorations are slim and painted in neutral colors, this plant fits right in. It has leaves that are very large, with a waxy texture and a hypnotic shape that just steals your attention again and again. The same can be said about its elongated, bone-like trunk that just slithers down into the pot.

So how do you care for a fiddle leaf fig? They like moderately moist soil, which is good draining soil, sunlight that is bright but not direct. They can thrive on room temperatures all over the world. The same can be said about humidity, it likes normal room humidity. Make sure that you feed them properly during the growing season. Repotting will be necessary as they are rapid and aggressive growers. Keep dogs and cats away from them, since its sap is toxic to them.

Overview of Ficus Lyrata

This member of the Ficus family is also known by the name Fiddle Leaf Fig or by its scientific name Ficus Pandurata. They are plants that grow aggressively and rapidly. They have big, luscious leaves color dark green. The leaves have a sort of wax like appearance.

In the ideal conditions, they can grow up to 10 feet or 3 meters high. They are the natives of West Africa, most commonly found in Cameroon and Sierra Leone.

But their tropic roots don’t mean that they won’t thrive in other conditions. It’s quite the contrary infact. They like a wide span of temperatures and are most likely to grow in room temperature, just remember to keep them out of direct sunlight

One of the main watchouts though is due to their size and texture. The leaves can get really dusty. Be sure to clean them often enough so that the plant can get enough nutrients from the sun.

Ficus Lyrata Care Summary

Scientific Name Ficus Pandurata
Common Name Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
Origin Western Africa, mainly Cameroon and Sierra Leone
Light Requirements Indirect sunlight
Watering Doesn’t need much water. Water only if the soil is dry. Sitting water should be taken care of in a day or two
Soil Good Draining Soil
Temperature Between 12C and 24C (55F to 85F)
Fertilizer Mild watery fertilizer, used once or twice a year depending on the soil
Humidity Room level of humidity, apart from winter when it can use more
Flowering Unlikely indoors, just like the small fig fruits
Pruning as soon as you notice deteriorating leaves
Propagation Done via stem tip cutting, but not advisable
Re-Potting Once a year until it reaches the desired size
Pests and Diseases quite many, from mites and aphids to fungal
Toxicity Yes. And especially for cats, dogs, and horses
Maximum Growth 3 meters or 10 feet

Varieties

People all over the world are trying hard to create the next best thing. The same is true with the ficus plant family in general, but also with the Ficus Lyrata as well. In the case of this plant, growers are focusing on plants that have even bigger, lusher leaves. But they are also trying to breed a plant that has ideal compactness. While the Ficus Lyrata is still the most likely member of this subspecies that you will encounter, there are now new subtypes of this plant. There two subtypes that are the product of the want and need for bigger leaves and more compactness are the Compacta and the Suncoast. This plant will need between 10 and 15 years until it reaches full maturity.

Light Requirements

As with any other plant, if you don’t get the light just perfect, it could turn from something that rests your eyes to something that is an eyesore. Less is more when it comes to this plant. It thrives when you put it near a window that is not directly in the sunlight. Direct sunlight can only hinder its development and cause problems.

How serious could the problems be? Well if you are not careful, direct sunlight can even kill this plant. So remember, bright indirect light or filtered light. Too much darkness can be as harmful as too much light. But don’t worry if it catches a bit of direct sunlight every now and then. It can be helpful. Direct sunlight to this plant is like red wine to people. A bit every day improves health, while a lot destroys us both.

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Watering Requirements

It takes a bit of testing to conclude if your Ficus Lyrata needs to be watered. There are no hard or set rules when watering it. You have to press into the soil with your fingers and see if the first few inches of soil are moist enough. If the first layer of soil is still wet, don’t water it, because it might harm your fiddle leaf fig. 

Water it gently only if the first few inches of its soil is indeed dry. Also, make sure that the water you are using is lukewarm or similar to the air temperature in your home. This plant doesn’t like big temperature swings. 

Sitting water can also be harmful to the plant. If you notice sitting water, get rid of it in a day or two to avoid potential harm. You should also reduce the amount of watering in the winter to prevent this. Winter is the time when the biggest damage is done to this plant, as most often that happens due to over-watering. Dry soil is easy to fix, but if you overdo it with water, the effects are both hard to fix and severely frustrating.

If you notice that leaves are falling off more often than they do usually, the reason could be that the plant lacks water. So check the soil more often and regulate the way you water the plant. But the first sign that your plant lacks water is the discoloring of the leaves. If it lacks water, a bigger and bigger area of the leaves will become brown, deteriorate and finally dry up and fall off.

Keep in mind that this plant can be prone to attacks by fungus. For that reason, you would be better of watering it during the morning. The water will be more readily absorbed with the help of the indirect, but strong sunlight. This way it is far less likely that it will sit in the pot and create problems. Plus allowing water to sit in the pot during the night is just asking for trouble.

The Ideal Type of Soil

The type of soil that is ideally suited for Ficus Lyrata is some sort of draining potting soil. Make sure that the soil is of the best quality you can get. We would suggest you invest in a type of soil that has a mixture of part bark and perlite.

Ideal Temperature

Unlike some plants, the Ficus Lyrata has a wider range of temperatures that fit it. But since it has tropical roots, that temperature range is still considered warm or mild. It can grow in a temperature range between 12C and 24C. In Fahrenheit that is between 55F and 85F. Any temperature below or under that range will only slowly but surely destroy this stunning green wonder. Another key piece of advice, never position them near some sort of air conditioner or ventilation vent.

If you are experiencing leaves that are much softer than it is in its usual form, the plant is probably suffering from a temperature that is too low for it to thrive.

Make sure that you do not open the window close to the plant during winter. Any sudden shift in temperature, especially if its a draft of sudden, icy, dry winter air will severely damage it.

Picking the Fertilizer

It does not require a lot of fertilization. In the face of Ficus Lyrata care, fertilization is needed once or perhaps even twice a year. If the soil you have planted it in is of a rich, and well-drained variety it will probably need to be fertilized twice per year. The ideal kind of fertilizer is any sort of mild, watery fertilizer. But, if the plant is still young and growing you might want to add more fertilizer. In most cases, for a young plant, you want a diluted water fertilizer used every month or two during spring and summer.

The Right Amount of Humidity

Because of its tropical, West African roots the plant might be better suited with a bit more humidity than your average plant. In most living conditions, the normal, room humidity is enough. But if you live in a climate that requires a lot of heating during autumn and winter, be sure to move the plant to a room that is not going to fluctuate in temperature too much.

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Also be sure to add more humidity if you keep the Ficus Lyrata in a heavily heated room during winter or late autumn. The simplest way to go about that is to mist the leaves with water that is close to room temperature.

If the humidity levels are not high enough, the leaves will change color, become brown and start to dry off. Of course, too much can also bring its problems. If the levels are too high you might get mold like problems in the soil and root of the plant itself.

Flowering

While this kind of plant produces both flowers and fruits in the wild, it rarely happens indoors. But in the case that you take especially great care of this stunning plant might surprise you in the shape of white flowers. Each flower has five to six petals as white as snow. In some cases, the petals can also have a second dye of color. The second color is usually yellow. If you manage to flower yours, be sure to tag us on instagram to show off your gardening skills with the hashtag #IndoorHomeGarden.

Propagation

While it is possible to propagate this plant with stem tip cutting it isn’t really advisable. It is a difficult process and it would be far better to just buy a plant. The vast majority of people who consider themselves commercial growers use a method called tissue culture. In a way, it is as close to cloning a plant that you will get. This ensures that the plants that they create are far more superior to what your average, at-home amateur grower would be able to create. 

So if you are in the dilemma between buying and propagating, we would advise you to buy, because it is highly unlikely that you will create a plant as good as the ones that you can get at your flower market.

But if you see it as a challenge you would like the try and conquer this is how you should go about propagating the Ficus Lyrata. Cut the stem tip cuttings. Add rooting hormone to the cut pieces. Replant to another pot. To increase the chances of the new plant and its growing you will need to heat the pot from the bottom.

Air layering is another type of propagation used to create new Ficus Lyrata plants. But that might be a challenge too hard even for the best indoor, amateur grower.

Cleaning

As with other plants that have big, dark leaves, with a sort of shiny, meaty look, you will need to clean them on a regular basis. Due to the size and texture of the leaves, they will collect dust like a vacuum machine. This is, of course, bad because that much dust accumulation can block out the indirect sunlight and rob the plant from a lot of key nutrients. The dustier your plant gets the less likely it is to grow to its full beauty and potential. Use a mildly damp cloth and clean every single leaf until they are completely dust-free. Depending on the amount of dust in your living space, be sure to clean the leaves once or twice every month.

Re-Potting Ficus Lyrata

The ficus plant family are all very aggressive root growers. And in general, this plant, if taken care of properly, grows very fast. That is why you will probably need to re-pot it every single year. Do so until you are happy with its size, or until you simply can’t afford, or lack the space for a bigger plant container.

When the plant becomes large, and you have re-potted it in the final, largest pot you can manage, be sure to take more care of the soil. When you stop repotting it, you will need to exchange the majority of the top layer of soil once every year. Considering the fact that this plant needs more than ten years to fully grow and become a mature plant, you better stack up on pots, because you will most certainly be needing them in the years to come. Spring is the ideal time for re-potting every year.

Most Important Planting Tips For The Ficus Lyrata

The first tip is to take it easy with your new plant. The plant doesn’t need much attention. That is especially the case the first few days after you buy it and take it back home with you. Don’t over trim or overwater the plant right away. Be patient with it and do things only when you have to. Learn as much as you can about this sensitive plant and use that knowledge accordingly. Never let your whims govern the way you treat a plant.

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Don’t re-pot it too quickly, or just because you dislike the pot in which you bought it.

Water and fertilizer are not the ultimate cure for the plant. If you experience some sort of problem with the plant, carefully consider all the possible causes and act accordingly. Adding or subtracting water and fertilizer on a whim, without knowing what the real problem with the plant really is, can only do more harm than good.

The plant does not need a lot of water, but don’t let the soil dry out too much. Soil that has been dried too much will not absorb water the way it should. This will make the Ficus Lyrata care much more taxing and demanding.

Diseases and Pests

The fiddle fig leaf tree can be attacked and damaged by the usual suspects. The pests that attack it are aphids, mealy bugs, scale, mites, whiteflies, but if you take proper care of your Ficus Lyrata the chances that you will have to deal with any of those troublesome pests is as close to zero as it could be.

If you do encounter them, treat them with a solution that is not as aggressive. The fewer chemicals the better since the plant itself is on the gentler, more sensitive side. If you want a natural solution, introducing ladybugs could be a great idea. They are safe, won’t harm the plant and kids love them.

For those unfamiliar, we will examine some of those pests and the negative effects that they have on your plant.

Aphids – They are small, usually red or pink insects that attack the sap of the plant. If your plant is growing at a slower rate, if it has leaves that are full of brown or golden yellow spots, or if there is a lot of leaves that are wilting, you are probably having problems with aphids.

Mealybugs – One of the smallest pests that can attack the Ficus Lyrata. They are more likely to attack the plant because they thrive in similar conditions. If you are prone to overwatering your plant and letting that water sit overnight then it is more likely that you will experience an attack by this pest on your plant. The surefire sign that they have infested your plant are yellow leaves that fall of the plant quickly.

Whiteflies – Smaller than aphids, but love to target the exact same part of the plant – the sap. They can be hard to get rid of. If left untreated, they will cause all the leaves of your ficus to fall off. The best way to get rid of them is with special traps or neem oil.

F.A.Q

How Much Light Does It Need?

The plants thrive in sunlight, but not in direct sunlight. A room full of sunlight, with the plant not facing it directly, is as close as you can get to its native conditions of West Africa.

Is Ficus Lyrata an Indoor Plant?

The Ficus Lyrata is not an indoor plant originally. But after a few generations of cultivating it is not steadily becoming one of the most popular indoor plants in the world. That is mostly due to its stylish looks that fit with all kinds of interior design.

Is Ficus Lyrata Poisonous to Cats?

Sadly yes. The plant can irritate both eyes and skin if you are exposed to it. It is also poisonous for humans.

Is Ficus Lyrata Poisonous to Dogs?

It is also poisonous to dogs, as well as a cat. Cats and dogs are always considered opposites, but when it comes to this plant, it can be potentially deadly to both of them. If a dog or a cat eats the sap of this plant they will probably be poisoned.

Is Ficus Lyrata Poisonous to Other Pets?

If you are keeping a pet bird, for example, it will be safe since the poison from the sap won’t have the same effect it had on the dog or cat. There are no concluding results if it affects horses or not.

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