How to Care for (and Propagate) Your Fiddle-Leaf Fig

All the tips you need to grow this stunning, must-have houseplant.

Updated 10/01/19
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Perhaps no species has enchanted houseplant lovers in recent years as much as the fiddle-leaf fig. But unlike relatively easygoing monstera or unfussy Pilea peperomioides, few other must-have houseplants can be as frustrating to grow when the right conditions aren’t met. Luckily, your fiddle-leaf fig can be a lush, green source of beauty and pride in your space with proper care.  

Fiddle-leaf figs, or Ficus lyrata, are related to rubber trees, weeping fig trees, and other members of the Ficus family—which also includes the common fig grown for its fruit, Ficus carica

The species gets its name from the violin-like shape of its leathery, wavy-edged green leaves, which show tan veining on a matte underside and can grow up to two feet long. Fiddle-leaf figs can also get very tall with the right care—five to ten feet in height—as they grow up rather than branching out, making for a striking showpiece in a roomy space. 

Best Growing Conditions for Your Fiddle-leaf Fig

Plant your fiddle-leaf fig in a well-draining, all-purpose potting mix with peat added. These plants only thrive when they have lots of bright filtered light, ideally from multiple directions, so choose a spot no more than six feet or so from a sunny window for your plant to live.

This is pretty much an essential requirement—so if you’re unsure if you have enough light in your home, it might be best to go with low-light plants instead. It's still possible to give your fiddle-leaf fig too much direct sunlight, which can cause sunburn in the form of brown splotches on the leaves. East-facing windows work well, as they allow weaker morning light to shine in, while the light from a south-facing or west-facing window may be too strong.

When it comes to long-term success with your fiddle-leaf fig, location is key. Changes in conditions, like light or temperature, can cause leaf drop, the primary pitfall with this plant. 

You’ll get the best results if you choose a space with days in the 70-degree range and nighttime temperatures no lower than the high 60s—ideally one with no drafts or sudden temperature changes—to display your fig. It helps to ensure that windows are properly sealed and to avoid keeping your plant near an air conditioning vent. Since these jungle plants prefer a humid environment, it’s best to keep them away from your heater as well. 

How to Care for Your Fiddle-leaf Fig

Keep an eye on your fig’s soil moisture and water when the soil becomes dry to the touch. How often you’ll need to water depends on how much light and warmth the plant gets in your space, so monitor closely until you get into a good rhythm, taking care to adjust as the seasons change and your fig needs less water. Too much or too little water can also cause your fiddle-leaf fig to drop leaves, so do your best to be consistent. 

Fiddle-leaf figs need humidity. If your space is particularly dry, it’s a good idea to mist your fig’s leaves occasionally to keep humidity levels up.

Fertilize your fiddle-leaf fig no more than every six months, or else it may grow too large too fast. Check periodically to see if the roots are growing out of the hole in the bottom of the pot. When you see this, it’s time to repot with fresh soil in a container one size larger. Repot every three or so years until the plant is the size you’re looking for or has become too large to handle easily.

Since fiddle-leaf figs prefer to have light from multiple sources, it’s a good idea to turn the container once it has started to grow towards the light source to balance things out. Your fiddle-leaf fig’s large, shiny leaves may collect dust. Clean them periodically by wiping them carefully with a soft, damp cloth.

In addition to their finicky temperature, light, and moisture needs, fiddle-leaf figs may be more susceptible to pests and diseases than other common houseplants. Keep an eye out for scale insects, which look like flat, brown, oval-shaped spots smaller than a grain of rice on the surface of the leaves. They can be removed easily by gently rubbing the spots a cotton swab or cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol. Check back every few days as you treat an infestation to ensure that the pests haven’t returned. 

If one of your fig’s branches has heavy scale infestation, it may be best to simply prune off the branch and remove the remaining insects on the plant. Immediately tie up the infested branch in a plastic trash bag and dispose of it outside, away from your other houseplants, and clean your cutting blade or pruning shears with rubbing alcohol after pruning to avoid spreading the infestation.

How to Propagate Your Fiddle-Leaf Fig

While it takes time, you can propagate fiddle-leaf figs via a few different methods: stem or leaf cuttings and air layering. The former can be done to create new, small plants to add to your collection or give as gifts or to put healthy pruned leaves or branches to good use. 

The latter technique comes in handy when you’re hoping to rescue and repot a fiddle-leaf fig that has experienced leaf drop, with all of its growth clustered at the top of a tall, bare stem. See instructions for air layering a leggy fiddle-leaf fig at the bottom of our how-to for its cousin, the rubber tree plant.

How to Propagate Your Fiddle-Leaf Fig Via Cuttings

Step 1: Prepare a small pot with all-purpose potting soil, then water to moisten the soil. You can also fill a small, clear glass jar about halfway up with water and use that as your propagation vessel.

Step 2: Using a clean, sharp blade, trim a leaf off as close to where it meets the stem if possible. If you’re propagating many cuttings from a pruned-off branch, simply cut the branch into short segments with a leaf or two on each one. 

Step 3: Plant the base of one or two cuttings in the container of moistened soil, if using. Cover the cuttings with a clear plastic bag, sticking chopsticks or twigs into the soil to help keep the bag from touching the leaves, then tuck the plastic bag inside the rim of the pot. If using water, simply submerge the stems in water, keeping the bottom of the leaves from being submerged. 

Step 4: Place your cuttings in a sunny window and keep an eye on them for any signs of rot. Roots should start to grown from the stem within six to eight weeks. 

Step 5: Repot your rooted cuttings in small containers and care for them as usual. While the plants are young, they will benefit from increased humidity. 

small fiddle-leaf fig in plastic terra cotta pot against white and gray background
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