plant care
Image: Bloomscape

How To Keep Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree Alive, According To An Expert

Bloomscape's resident plant mom and founder's actual mom, Joyce Mast, gives us the tricks to keep this incredible plant healthy.

It seems as if everyone and their mother is taking up a new hobby during this pandemic. Housing new plants in the apartment seem to be growing increasingly popular as we wait to return to a new “normal”. But becoming a new plant parent is not the easiest of tasks to accomplish. This process takes time, effort, and care. In the vast variety of plants you can purchase, the Fiddle Fig is one of the most popular to gravitate towards. But Fiddles are tricky and hard to take care of. That is precisely why we brought in an expert.

Joyce Mast, Plant Mom and Director of Plant Programs at Bloomscape answered some questions for us about general plant care and how to tackle the Fiddle Leaf. She is the founder’s actual mom and has over 40+ years of horticulture experience! Keep reading for more knowledge about the wonderful world of plant parenthood!

plant care
Image: Bloomscape

Bloomscape’s Joyce Mast Gives Us the 101 on Fiddle Leaf Fig Care

1) What’s the best “starter kit” for a new plant mom?

A few handy tools for new plant moms are a mister, a watering can, and garden scissors. Misting is a real treat for your plant and you don’t have to worry about overdoing it. I like to use a watering can with a long spout to direct where the water is actually flowing. Garden scissors can be handy to remove any dead or dying leaves and trim away brown edges to keep your plant looking its best. I also only recommend pots with drainage holes which will help from overwatering your plants.

Something to keep in mind, specifically for a new Fiddle Leaf Fig plant parent, is that Fiddle Leaf Figs (aka Ficus lyrata) do not like to be moved. If necessary to move your plant, be prepared for some leaf drop until it is acclimated again in approximately 2-3 weeks.

2) How often should you be watering your Fiddle Leaf Fig?

I suggest you let your plant “tell” you when it needs water. Different variants in an indoor environment (temperature, humidity, placement) make it difficult to schedule watering. I recommend the touch test: push your finger into the soil until it reaches your middle knuckle. When you remove your finger and see soil clinging to it, that indicates the plant still has enough moisture and you can check again in a couple of days. If the soil feels dry when you remove your finger, this is a good time to water.

3) Depending on size, how much water should you be giving your Fiddle Leaf?

You should thoroughly drench your Fiddle Leaf Fig until water drains into the saucer–this amount will differ with the size of your plant. Empty the saucer so as not to drown the roots. Your plant will let you know if it is not getting enough water when its leaves become limp and floppy, eventually turning a light brown and becoming crispy before falling off. If you see dark brown spots or areas ringed in yellow, this can indicate that your plant is getting too much water and the roots are becoming unhealthy. With pots that do not have drainage holes, water will often collect at the bottom and deprive the roots of oxygen to take in nutrients, eventually causing them to die.

4) What is the correct protocol for when you start to see your plant wither a little?

Your Fiddle Leaf Fig may begin to wither if it has incredibly dry soil or is not receiving enough humidity. If you are underwatering or accidentally let the soil dry out completely, you may see branches go limp or leave crisp up. A good solution is to soak-water your plant. I recommend this to get the water where the roots generally reside towards the bottom of the pot by following the steps below:

  1. Place your Fiddle Leaf in your sink or tub without the saucer. Fill up the tub with about 3 inches of water. Make sure the water isn’t hot but lukewarm.

  2. Allow your plant to soak up water through the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot for at least 45 – 60 minutes.

  3. I like to take this opportunity to shower the leaves with the sprayer to clean off any dust that accumulates on the larger leaves of a Fiddle Leaf.

  4. Feel the top of the soil after your plant has been soaking to gauge whether the water reached the top 2 – 3 inches of soil.

  5. If not all the soil feels saturated, water your Fiddle Leaf slightly from the top to help speed up the saturation.

  6. When your plant’s soil is evenly damp, drain the tub and allow the plant to rest while it drains thoroughly. Place the plant back on its saucer and in its proper spot.

Another point to keep in mind is that when the soil goes from bone-dry to saturated, it can cause stress for your Fiddle Leaf and may cause leaves to drop. Give it some time to adjust. To increase humidity around your Fiddle Leaf you can mist it on a regular basis, use a pebble tray, or move a humidifier nearby.

plant care
Image: Bloomscape

5) Are there any special products you recommend to have that can revive a plant or help it grow more?

I recommend feeding your Fiddle Leaf Fig fertilizer once during the spring and monthly during the summer to encourage growth and root health. A little goes a long way and always make sure the soil is damp BEFORE applying any type of fertilizer. Over-fertilization can cause your plant to grow leggy and can even kill it. No fertilizer is necessary during the winter when plant growth naturally slows.

6) What is the typical life span of a Fiddle Leaf? How long does it take to grow?

In its native tropical West African environment a Fiddle Leaf Fig can live between 25-50 years outdoors.  When properly cared for indoors it can take 10-15 years before it reaches full maturity. Generally, the Fiddle Leaf Fig is a slow-growing plant that needs about 3-4 years before it can be purchased as a large indoor houseplant, approximately 42” tall. Once in your home (given the optimum growing conditions and bright filtered light), it can grow between 6”-12” per year.

7) When is it time to re-pot a plant?

If roots are creeping up along the top of the soil or you can see roots growing through the drainage holes, your plant is root-bound and needs more space. You can also tell when it is time to re-pot when water rushes through the drainage holes when you water. This shows the roots are taking up too much room in the current pot and there is not enough soil to root ratio. However, if you place your Fiddle Leaf Fig in a pot that is too big it will not be happy, so when selecting a new pot do not increase the size more than two inches from its current pot.

8) Is it ever time to give up on a plant?

Some of the reasons you may decide to give up on a plant are the following. If you are unable to provide the proper environment or time needed for a specific plant (i.e. lighting, watering, etc.). You may want to give this plant to someone who does have the time or right conditions. The plant has a disease or a pest infestation that doesn’t seem to be going away and there is a possibility of infecting your other plants. The plant’s roots are no longer viable and dead. Once this happens the plant will not be able to take up water and nutrients, causing the plant to die.

9) What is Bloomscape and how does it differ from the competition?

Bloomscape is the modern online garden center delivering the largest variety of quality houseplants directly from the greenhouse. As such, our plants are larger and healthier, unlike the plants that larger stores sell that are stored in a warehouse with fluorescent lights in lieu of natural sunlight. Bloomscape’s plants are cared for by plant experts and are kept in optimal conditions at our greenhouse where they’re shipped directly to you, ensuring that your plant arrives healthy and already thriving.

Shop Bloomscape’s wonderful variety of plants here. Learn more about the best indoor plants that can actually help fight a cold. 

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