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Fiddle Leaf Fig Care

Fiddle leaf fig or Ficus lyrata belongs in the Moraceae family and is native to West Africa, growing naturally in low-lying tropical regions. 

This is an evergreen tree that grows rapidly, with shiny green leaves that can grow up to 15in. long and 10in. wide. It grows very tall outdoors, while only growing to around 6 feet high when cultivated indoors.

The “Fiddle” in its name comes from the unique shape of its leaves and reaches maturity after about 10 years or so. When grown outdoors, it produces a green-colored fig about an inch in size but seldom flowers or produces fruit indoors.

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There are several different varieties but the ficus lyrata is most commonly grown as an ornamental houseplant, although it is not an easy plant to grow.

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Sunlight

It prefers indirect bright light and a window on the east side of the house is perfect for it to get the necessary sunlight without worrying about leaf burn. It doesn’t tolerate low lighting conditions as this will be harmful to the plant’s growth.

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Water

It requires watering once a week or more depending on its growing conditions, needing more watering in hot and arid conditions than when grown in colder or more humid conditions. Make sure that the topsoil is just a bit moist before watering it again. 

Always use water at room temperature as the roots can get burnt if the water is too hot and suffer from shock if the water is too cold. Be sure to avoid over-watering the plant as this leads to root rot If the plant loses leaves or the leaves turn yellow or brown spots are signs of overwatering.

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Humidity

Remember that this plant grows in humid jungles in its natural habitat and needs plenty of humidity when grown indoors. The best humidity level for this plant ranges from 30% to 65%.

You might have to offer more humidity by regular misting, using a humidifier, closely surrounding it with many plants, or a pebble tray if the humidity is low inside the home. 

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Temperature

Prefers temperatures of between 65° to 75°F. Never allow the temperature to drop below 50°F as this might cause some damage to the plant.

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Soil

The plant requires soil that is well-draining and aerated. Poor aeration will not provide oxygen to the roots leading to infection and root rot. Loamy soil mixed well with organic matter and sand is best.

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Repotting

Always repot the plant into a larger pot yearly, making sure to use fresh soil. It likes to grow big and needs space for its roots to spread.

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Propagation

This is not as easy as propagating other plants since plants with wooden stems are harder to propagate. However, it is possible to propagate the plant either from cuttings or air layering.

It’s better to use cuttings if the stems are thin rather than air layering. While leaves might produce roots when put into water, a new plant will not successfully grow from this method. 

Take about a 5-inch cutting, cutting below a node, and cut off all the leaves except a few at the tip. Put the cutting in moist potting soil and make a plastic tent over the pot to maintain humidity and stop the soil from becoming dry.

Monitor the soil to make sure it’s still moist, watering if it isn’t. Rooting will begin after about two weeks. The plastic can be removed once new shoots start appearing.

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The beauty of air layering a plant is that a new plant can be propagated on the mother plant itself. 

Select a branch near to the stem, making sure it has several leaves at the tip. Cut the bark around the whole branch and another one at least 2 inches away.

Remove the bark from the cut area – this prevents nutrients from going to the leaves while promoting root growth in the cut area. Apply rooting powder to the exposed bit to prevent fungus growth and to help roots form. 

Take the plastic wrap with some moss and enclose the cut area, tying it to the branch. Roots should start growing in about two weeks. Check the moss to see if it’s damp; If Is not, carefully remove the plastic wrap and water the moss.

Make sure that lots of roots have grown before cutting off the branch. Remove the plastic and put it in a pot prepped with fresh soil and water it well. Follow your regular watering schedule afterward.

Additional Care

The best fertilizer should have a ratio of 30 percent nitrogen, 20 percent phosphorus, and 10 percent potassium – use a liquid fertilizer as it is fast and relatively easy to use.

This ratio will help the plant grow well and keep it healthy. Do not feed the plant in winter, only feeding it once in two weeks in the warmer months when it is actively growing.

The plant doesn’t like to be moved around frequently as this might cause stress.

Always prune the plant in the warmer months because the plant is in its growing phase. Young plants growing outdoors need pruning to prevent the plant from growing too spindly and prone to damage from strong winds as it grows older. 

Pruning a plant growing indoors is usually to control unruly growth and keep it from growing too tall by cutting off the tip of the plant. Branches are also pruned to make the plant aesthetically pleasing. 

Make sure to rotate the plant every couple of months so that the foliage will grow evenly.

Common Problems

Brown spots might appear due to various causes. It is somewhat easy to identify the cause by judging where the spots appear on the plant. Over-watering is likely the culprit if brown spots appear on the leaves near the soil, suggesting root rot has attacked the plant.

This can be further confirmed if it is accompanied by black spots and falling leaves. The spots will begin to spread upwards and affect the whole plant if action isn’t taken immediately.

Brown spots can also result from bacterial infection afflicting the plant, however, these are usually lighter in color and spread across the entire leaf, eventually affecting all the leaves on the plant. This can also result in leaves falling off, usually at the top of the plant.

Root rot and bacterial infections can spread fast and are a grave threat to the plant. Hence, it is important to spot and identify the cause as soon as possible.

Root rot is treated by removing all the soil and examining the roots, removing away any soft, brown roots. Wash the roots thoroughly, disinfect the trimmed areas with cinnamon powder and repot with fresh soil after disinfecting the pot. 

Bacterial infection can be avoided by not allowing the leaves to get wet when watering and removing any dead leaves that fall into the pot. If the plant has already been infected, remove the infected leaves fast. However, if it has already spread onto multiple leaves, it might be too late to save the plant and it should be disposed of. 

Over-watering is preventable by proper monitoring of the watering schedule as well as the dampness of the soil. It’s easy to be fooled as the soil will appear to be the same when under-watering. Leaves turning yellow are another indication of over-watering. 

Under-watering will be indicated by curling leaves, leaf drops, and brown spots on leaves

are likely to be attacked by pests like mealybugs, aphids, mites, and scale. Usually, keeping the plant healthy and cared for generally helps fight off pests.

However, sometimes stronger measures are needed – Wipe pests off with a cloth or remove them with a cotton swab dunked in rubbing alcohol. Repeat it after a fortnight to ensure that these pests are completely gone. These insects can be removed with neem oil.

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Fiddle Leaf Fig Care
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