Have you fallen for the myth of the fiddle leaf fig being easy to care for? Like any houseplant, it is only easy when you understand its needs. Without knowing the speciality care requirements, get one thing wrong and the results may leave you feeling like your fiddle leaf fig is dying.
The two biggest concerns are sunlight and drainage. Put them in direct sunlight, the leaves will burn. Sit the roots in standing water for too long, the roots will rot.
Something worth noting is that these plants do not like being moved. They will respond negatively. There is a bit of history to these being used in showrooms, one of which was the Casper mattresses offices.
When the interior designer put in these plants, it took them eleven tries to get the plants to survive. The key was indirect sunlight and keeping them away from radiators. Direct sunlight and direct heat are not a good combination.
If it looks like your fiddle leaf fig is dying, check out these 7 causes to fix it:
1 – Potting or Re-Potting a Fiddle Leaf Fig
The pot you use has a dramatic effect on the health of your plant. The reason being, the fiddle leaf fig is highly susceptible to root rot. No matter how much you care for the leaves, if the roots get sick, the plant will die.
One of largest factors for a fiddle leaf fig dying is using the wrong type of pot. Decorative pots are no use. They only dress the bottom of the plant. They do nothing to care for the roots because relatively few decorative planters have drainage holes. And the plastic planters’ nurseries use isn’t much good either. In nurseries, planters often have multiple drainage holes on the sides.
The reason for this is because in stores, staff water the plants daily. They need those extra holes on the side to protect against root rot.
You won’t see root rot directly because the roots are covered by soil. The signs are noticeable though. The early sign to look for is leaf discoloration. Brown leaves on a fiddle leaf fig can indicate sick roots.
Drainage holes help the soil dry out faster. When you get your plant home, it’s unlikely you’ll be watering daily so the soil will be moist.
How long it remains moist depends on how much water you feed your plant and the drainage ability of the soil you use, as well as the planter having that hole in the base for excess moisture to escape.
Do not neglect repotting your fiddle leaf fig. The earlier this is done the better.
If you have your eye on a planter that would suit your interior decor but it lacks the drainage hole that the root ball needs, you have two options. Either drill a hole into the base of a decorative planter, or if that’s not possible or you’d just rather not, an alternative is to double pot your fiddle leaf fig.
To double pot a fiddle leaf fig, you’d pot the plant in the pot with the drainage hole, then add a base layer of gravel to the decorative planter for the excess water to soak into. The water then evaporates from the gravel, raising the humidity level for the plant.
Fiddle figs love higher humidity so double potting is beneficial.
2 – Perfecting the Soil for Fiddle Leaf Figs
Houseplant soil is difficult to get right. Most are categorized as all-purpose indoor potting soil. Out of the box or bag it comes in, it is not ready for use with a fiddle leaf fig. It needs to be amended to be suitable for the fast-draining requirements of this plant.
Two factors in play in potting soil for houseplants are water drainage and soil aeration. Soil compacts when wet, reducing oxygen around the roots.
Lacking oxygen, roots will rot. Soil amendments to increase aeration and speed up drainage is to mix in some quality compost.
If you don’t have any ready, you can swap that for organic debris like bark, or even a 50:50 mix of houseplant potting soil with cacti potting soil. The purpose is to alter the coarseness of the soil, which in turn increases oxygen pockets.
Alternatively, if you don’t mind paying premium prices for specialist readily formulated soil, buy specialist soil for fiddle leaf fig plants.
3 – Careful Hydration
The Ficus Lyrata can last a lifetime (25 to 50 years) with proper care. Inadequate watering is the number one reason for the fiddle leaf fig dying. When you notice fiddle leaf fig leaves drooping, that is a sign of a watering problem.
Even if you have the soil perfect, pour in too much water, it will surely drown. Don’t water it enough, it’ll die of dehydration.
As with most houseplants, it is ideal to add water when the top two to four inches of soil is dry to the touch. The problem with the fiddle leaf fig is that the root ball is larger than most standard houseplants.
As such, plants with a larger root ball are easier cared for by using a plant moisture meter. This is to measure the moisture level deeper than your finger can reach.
There is a possibility that the top soil is dry but a few inches deeper, there could be plenty of moisture. With a moisture meter, you can water the plant when the deepest level is dry.
4 – Let’s Talk Sunlight
Two phrases tossed around the plant sector constantly are direct sunlight and indirect sunlight. To the novice gardener trying to keep their first fiddle leaf fig alive, those are just infuriatingly difficult to understand.
Let’s simplify that.
The fiddle leaf fig prefers indirect sunlight and some direct sunlight. Never in the afternoons though. The best windows or patio doors to get that type of sunlight are east-facing.
Do note that this is assuming you live in the northern hemisphere. Sunlight from south-facing windows get the hottest afternoon sun.
Those are fine for cacti plants that survive in scorching direct sunlight. The fiddle leaf fig cannot cope with intense sunlight for long. The leaves will scorch.
Preferable is to place a fiddle leaf fig plant near an eastward facing window.
If like many, you aren’t sure of cardinal directions so struggle to know which windows face which direction, use your best judgment.
The hottest time of day is 3 pm. The ideal temperatures for fiddle leaf figs are 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (approx. 16 to 23 Celsius).
Check the temperature in the room in the afternoon when the sun is at its brightest. If it’s hotter than 75oF, it is too hot for the plant. Either move it back from the window, or use a window screen to filter the sunlight.
5 – Adapting New Fiddle Leaf Figs to Your Environment
When you first bring your plant into your home, shock is common. In particular, shock from receiving a different amount of light, and re-potting it.
The first month is the critical period to nurse your plant through the toughest of its time with you. It takes the plant two to four weeks to adapt to new growing conditions.
Within the first month, pay attention to the growing conditions and the soil moisture levels. You want to maintain these consistently so that the plant becomes trained to know what temperatures to expect, when, its watering frequency and drainage.
They are a plant of habit. When they are used to a one-week watering frequency, and consistent daily temperatures of 65 degrees Fahrenheit, they will adapt their feeding habits in response to the growing conditions you give the plant.
The key is maintaining consistency.
6 – Plant Rotation for Even Growth
Given that the fiddle leaf fig is reliant on photosynthesis on each of its leaves, it will need frequent rotating. Preferably, once a month, rotate by a quarter.
Without rotating the plant, you can expect to see uneven growth. Larger leaves growing towards the sunlight, with the leaves to the back of the plant looking dismal.
Rotate your plant frequently to expose all of the leaves to sunlight.
You don’t need to do this every day, but about once a month, give it a turn so that leaves that were not exposed to the sunlight, get some exposure.
This is something to be aware of if you think you need to move your fiddle fig plant. It may not be that it needs to be moved, but rather just rotated.
7 – Dust the Leaves So its Pores Don’t Get Blocked
You’d be surprised by the amount of dust that can accumulate on the large leaves on the fiddle leaf fig. The larger leaves can be upwards of 8-inches.
The pores on those leaves are what the plant uses to absorb the energy from sunlight and, being an air purifying plant, those pores are also used to take in carbon dioxide, which the plant then uses to release oxygen. It’s how it helps purify the air indoors.
It can only do that when the pores are kept clear. The simplest way to do that is to regularly wipe the leaves.
There are leaf shine products available that you can use to polish the plant’s leaves, but all that’s really needed is a quick wipe with a damp cloth to keep the pores from becoming blocked.
The key to reviving a sick fiddle leaf fig from near death is identifying what is wrong with its growing conditions, and putting fixes in place to correct it.
The above are starting points to identify what’s gone wrong and fix the conditions. The points outlined above are specific to the fiddle fig leaf plant.
If it’s none of the above, it is possible that the plant has succumbed to disease. Even if that is the case, you can still intervene by learning how to save a dying plant from some of the most common diseases most houseplants are affected by.