I imagine the title should say, “How Brandon cares for our Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees,” because all credit does go to him. He’s the master at it and I’m just the admirer. I asked him many months ago to share how he takes care of them and he wrote me a literal book on the matter. It has taken me all this time just to muster up the energy to break down what he said and put it into simple terms, but I finally did it! So if you want to know his tricks on making our Fiddle Leaf Figs lush and beautiful, then read on, my friends.
But first, who was around back in 2014 when Brandon and I drove four hours to Charlotte, NC just to buy our first Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree? (AKA Ficus Lyrata to those who want to know the technical name.) They were really hard to find back then, but I wanted one so badly that it was worth the eight hour round trip drive.
The tree we picked was seven feet tall and full—boy was it full—and did I mention we were in my tiny sports car I had at the time? You should have seen us trying to get that giant plant in there. We laid the back seat down and the tree stretched from the rear of the trunk all the way to the windshield. Brandon and I drove four hours back home without being able to see each other at all because the tree was taking up all the space between us!
Back then, there was very little information on the internet about how to care for them, and what was out there just said to water them very little. After a couple of months of following these online instructions, most all of the leaves had either fallen off or were turning brown. We spent $117 on this plant, which was absolutely mind blowing to us to spend on a plant at that time, so Brandon became determined to keep it alive. Over the next couple of years, he started experimenting with the quantity and frequency of watering it and he moved it around the house to see how it responded to various amounts of light.
Though the tree was spindly and not very pretty, it did end up growing new leaves and it gained a whole new life. This gave Brandon a lot of confidence in caring for Fiddle Leaf Figs, so we have since added a few more to our home—one in 2016, and then two more in 2017. And I’m so happy to say that there have been zero casualties and all of them are doing really well!
All that to say, Brandon has some tips to share, but may I first interject one common theme? Consistency. Whatever you take from the tips below (and trust me, everyone has different advice, but this is what works well for us), just be sure to be consistent with the care you see that works for you. Fiddle Leaf Figs love a schedule and that’s where you’ll see them start to grow new leaves and really thrive.
HOW TO PLANT THEM
For us personally, each of ours trees have been kept planted in the same black plastic container we bought them in. These are great because they have holes in the bottom allowing water to drain out. You definitely want your planter to have holes in the bottom like this so that water doesn’t pool at the bottom of the root systems, which could make the plant sick.
At all times, we keep the big containers set on top of plastic saucers to collect any runoff when watering them. This plastic saucer is super important if you don’t want to ruin your floors!
Then we put each saucer and container into a decorative basket. For a really pretty look, you can then top the plant’s soil with sheet moss, which looks super fresh and green (and keeps babies and toddlers away from dirt), or top it with spanish moss, which we love because it is local to our area. I wouldn’t grab it straight from trees though, because red bugs live in moss. That’s why I always choose to buy preserved moss from places like hobby lobby or amazon. It’s cheap and easy!
The first and foremost is watering. Get on a consistent watering schedule because these plants like consistency.
How often? I water about every five to seven days. A good rule of thumb is that if the surface soil looks/feels damp, it doesn’t need water. If the surface soil looks/feels dry and it doesn’t stick to your finger when you push on it, then it needs to be watered.
How much? I use a large, clear pitcher that has measuring lines on the side of it so I know just how much water I’m giving the trees. I use somewhere between one and two liters per tree per watering, but know that every plant will be different based on its size. Here’s a good way to learn how much water your plant will need:
When learning how much to water to give the plant, water it in small amounts over a period of a few minutes. Add a little, then wait. Add a little more, then wait. But be sure to record how much water you’re adding in. Once you’ve added enough water that you start to see it coming out the bottom of the pot, you know that you’ve watered it enough. THAT is the amount of water you want to give your Fiddle Leaf Fig. Then watch the soil over the next few days to see when it’s dry and needs to be watered again. THAT period of days is how often you need to be watering your Fiddle Leaf Fig—and do it consistently! Over a few weeks, you will learn how much water it takes and how often it needs it.
Where to water and how quickly? Don’t concentrate the water in one place. This is something you might not think is important, but I water in the center of the planter, as well as all around the sides and everywhere in between. Also, the slower you apply the water, the better the absorption rate will be into the soil.
GET THE LIGHTING RIGHT
Put the tree somewhere with plenty of light. It likes light. You just don’t want it somewhere where it has direct sunlight for long periods, especially if outside. It will do fine in darker and shadier areas, but mine seem to have more growth with more light exposure. “Indirect” bright light is the best.
If you want the leaves and branches to keep a tighter structure (ie. be more densely packed together like shown above in Rosie’s room vs the longer branches that are more spread out from one another as shown below), make sure to rotate them on occasion, as the leaves will grow toward the sun or window where the light comes from.
Our favorite Fiddle Leaf Fig is one in the living room where we stopped rotating it a year ago and it has grown into its own sprawling shape filling in a large corner. For example, take a look at this blog post and see how different our tree in the corner looks there vs in the photo below! That’s simply because we stopped rotating it… and of course it has grown bigger over time. However, others we like to keep rotated so they keep more of a “ball of leaves” appearance at the top.
I fertilize these year round. I apply this slow release granular fertilizer every three months. There are fertilizers advertised specifically for Fiddle Leaf Figs, but I haven’t used them since my trees have responded very well to the Miracle-Gro, which can also be used on all of our other potted plants (except our palms). Just keeps things easy!
GIVE THEM AN OUTDOOR BATH
Twice per year on pretty days with temps in the 70s, (once per spring and fall), I bring the trees outside and do a heavy watering to flush any salt and toxin buildup from the soil. If the soil looks low to where roots are showing, I add some scoops of potting soil as well.
I also wash the leaves with a water hose and soft rag to remove dust and dirt to allow the leaves to breathe.
Want to really make your Fiddle Leaf Fig happy? After this washing, we leave the Fiddle Leaf Figs outside to dry completely and let them get some extra sunlight. Just make sure to keep them in a somewhat shady area because if they are not accustomed to being outside, they can quickly burn up in the sun. However, on a nice day, they totally thrive in a shady spot outside! It’s amazing the difference we can notice in just one day of outside time. Just make sure it’s not a 100 degree day. It needs to be done when the outside temp is almost equal to the indoor temp so that you don’t shock your Fiddle Leaf Fig(s).
CLEAN THEM UP OCCASIONALLY
After the leaves dry from washing them (as described above), I apply a leaf shine spray on the leaves to give it a clean look that will also help to repel dust. This stuff works wonders and makes your plant look like it just came from the nursery. And it takes just a few seconds.
If the leaves have brown edges, I trim the brown off with a pair of clean scissors.
If the branches are too long or I don’t want them growing any longer, I trim them back. This sometimes even encourages back-budding of leaves elsewhere on the tree, which will make your tree look fuller.
A FEW EXTRA QUESTIONS…
Q: What if my Fiddle Leaf Fig just looks awful? What is the rescue treatment to revive it?
A: If you have long branches with just a few leaves here and there… or if your tree just looks awful, I would suggest continuing watering it and fertilizing it until late spring and then doing a heavy trim where you cut back most or all of the branches very close to the trunk. Then set it outside in a shady area and water it regularly. It’ll be a whole new tree in a few months. If you do cut off some branches that have leaves on them, stick the stem of that cutting into some soil and keep it watered. These cuttings can take root and turn into a whole new tree over time.
Q: What if I want to move an indoor Fiddle Leaf Fig to my outdoor porch?
A: If you do want to keep one outside, it will acclimate easier if you do it in the spring time. It will be a shock to take an indoor tree to the outdoors when it’s 100 degrees outside. We have one fiddle leaf fig on our porch and near the end of the year, I bring it indoors once the temperatures start to drop into the 40s.
I linked everything I talked about in this post, along with some great decorative basket options and even some faux fiddle leaf figs in my amazon shop!
Links for everything above are right here!