from the garden of Beth DiGioia, Resident Gardener
Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree (Ficus lyrata)
You can’t pick up a shelter magazine lately without seeing this tall, columnar and sculptural house plant. This plant is hot! Named for its large, violin-shaped leaves, the Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree has thick, dark green, shiny, waxy green foliage. It grows to 6 feet or taller, but there are varieties that don’t grow as tall and are bushier, such as ‘Suncoast’ and ‘Compacta’.
If you’re planning to purchase a Fiddle Leaf Fig, make sure that you schedule the shopping trip for a warm day (above 65 degrees). Because their natural climate is tropical, exposing the plant to even a few minutes of cold air will set it back substantially and possibly kill it.
You’re going to want to transplant it immediately, so measure the size of the plastic pot that it’s currently residing in and go on another shopping trip to find a pot to transplant the fig into. Ideally, it should be made of a substantial material like ceramic, stoneware or terra cotta (this is a heavy plant) and should be no larger than 2-3” then the existing pot. The pot doesn’t have to have drainage holes as long as a 3” layer of lava rock is placed in the bottom.
Choose a soil mixture that is light and free draining; the addition of perlite and/or vermiculite will help create air pockets that will ensure that plants’ root have enough oxygen for healthy growth.
How much light a plant needs is the most important factor in its health. Fiddle Leaf Figs require bright light but not direct sun. This means siting it no more than a foot away from a window (eastern exposure is best). When choosing a location, make sure there aren’t any cold drafts from windows, doors or air conditioning vents; this will cause the leaves to dry out and drop.
How much water the plant will need will depend on how much light it receives, but you want to allow the soil mixture to slightly dry out before watering again. Your finger poked into the soil will tell you when it’s time (you want the soil to be dry up to your first knuckle), or you can purchase a water meter. Also keep in mind that indoor plants need less water during the winter months.
Like most plants in the Ficus genus, Fiddle Leaf Figs take time to settle into their new home. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t see new growth right away; these are slow growing plants. As long as the leaves are deep green it’s healthy.
If you want to pamper your Fiddle Leaf Fig, mist it once a week to increase humidity or place the pot on a gravel filled tray and keep the tray filled with water. They also appreciate a sip of water soluble fertilizer once a month in the summer. And don’t forget to rotate the plant occasionally so that it grows straight and tall.
Sound like too much effort? I have to confess that I saw some pretty good looking artificial Fiddle Leaf Figs at Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma. I won’t judge …
For more of Beth’s Gardening tips, visit our McKinney Gardens page.