How to Grow Fiddle-Leaf Fig

A fiddle-leaf fig plant with green leaves

Bogdan Kurylo / Getty Images

The fiddle-leaf fig has enchanted houseplant lovers and designers alike in recent years. But, unlike the easygoing monstera or unfussy Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides), this must-have houseplant can be incredibly frustrating to grow when the right conditions aren’t met. Luckily, your fiddle-leaf fig can be a lush, verdant source of beauty in your space with a few simple care steps.  

The fiddle-leaf fig, or Ficus lyrata, is related to the rubber tree, the weeping fig tree, and other members of the Ficus family, which also includes the common fig grown for its fruit, Ficus carica. This species gets its name from the violin-like shape of its green, leathery, wavy-edged 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 because they grow up rather than branching out, making for a striking showpiece in a roomy space. 

  • Botanical Name: Ficus lyrata
  • Common Name: Fiddle-leaf fig
  • Plant Type: Tree
  • Mature Size: 6 feet indoors; 30–50 feet outdoors
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light, and some direct sun
  • Soil Type: Well-drained, indoor potting mix
  • Soil pH: 6.0–7.0
  • Toxicity: Toxic

Plant Care

Plant your fiddle-leaf fig in a well-draining, all-purpose potting mix with peat moss 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.

Fertilize your fiddle-leaf fig no more than every six months, or else it may grow too large too fast. If the roots are growing from holes in the bottom of the plant pot, it’s time to repot with fresh soil in a container one size larger. Repot every three or so years until the plant is your ideal size or has become too large to handle easily.

Since fiddle-leaf figs prefer light from multiple sources, it’s a good idea to turn the container once it has started to grow toward the light source to balance things out. If your plant's large, shiny leaves collect dust, clean them periodically by wiping them carefully with a damp cloth.

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. 

Best Growing Conditions for Fiddle-Leaf Fig

Even moisture in the soil is best for fiddle-leaf figs to grow large and lush. It’s fine if your potting mixture dries out a bit between watering; just make sure it's watered if the top two inches of soil feel dry. To ensure the soil drains properly, choose a pot with drainage holes on the bottom (and don’t forget to place a tray underneath to protect surfaces in your home from water).

Sun exposure is an essential requirement. 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. South-facing and west-facing windows will provide bright, direct light, while east-facing windows let in the weaker morning light if you live in a particularly sunny area.

You’ll get the best results if you choose a space without drafts or sudden temperature changes. Daytime temperatures in the 70-degree range and nights no lower than the high 60s are ideal for your fig. It helps to ensure that windows are properly sealed and to avoid placing your plant near an air conditioning vent. Since these jungle plants prefer a humid environment, it’s best to keep fiddle-leaf figs away from your heater as well. 

How to Propagate Fiddle-Leaf Fig

While it takes time, you can propagate fiddle-leaf figs with 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, to give as gifts, or to put healthy pruned leaves and 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 in our how-to for its cousin, the rubber plant.

How to Propagate Fiddle-Leaf Fig with Leaf Cuttings

Step 1: Prepare a small pot with all-purpose potting soil, and then add water to moisten the soil. You can also use a small jar, filled halfway with water, as your propagation container.

Step 2: Using a clean, sharp blade, trim a leaf off (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. Cover the cuttings with a clear plastic bag, placing chopsticks or twigs into the soil to keep the bag from touching the leaves. Mist daily, and tuck the bag around the pot. If using water, simply submerge the stems in the jar, and ensure that no leaves are 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 grow 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’ll benefit from increased humidity (so a bathroom window is ideal if it gets enough sunlight).

Common Growing Problems

Too much or too little water can also cause your fiddle-leaf fig to drop leaves, so do your best to be consistent. 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.

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

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 leaves. If you see any, gently rub the spots with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Check back every few days to ensure 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. Dispose of it in a plastic bag outside, away from your other houseplants, and clean your cutting blade or pruning shears with rubbing alcohol to avoid spreading the infestation.

small fiddle-leaf fig in plastic terra cotta pot against white and gray background
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Is Fiddle-Leaf Fig Toxic?

Despite its popularity, the fiddle-leaf fig is quite toxic to children and pets and could cause irritation to the eyes and skin. Consider your household and lifestyle before choosing to invest in a fiddle-leaf fig.

Article Sources
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  1. Ficus Lyrata. Gardeners' World.

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