...because home doesn't happen overnight.

fiddle leaf fig 1

It’s been over two months since Mr. Fig came into my life. From the get-go I made a promise to myself to share whatever became of him – good or bad. I’ve read a bunch of stories of homeowners bringing home fiddle leaf figs but can’t find as much in the way of follow-ups. What’s going well? What went wrong? Rather than reading a list of care tips from a gardening website, I think it’s more helpful to see how real people care (properly or improperly) for their fiddle leaf figs.

fiddle leaf fig 2

So when new growth appeared at the top of my fig several weeks ago, I thought it might help to share how I’ve been caring for it. I am no expert. It used to be that everything green I touched turned brown but lately I’ve been able to keep all of my houseplants alive. What’s going on?! Many of things I’m doing aren’t secrets. In fact, many of the tips I’m utilizing were kindly offered up in the comments section of this post. Thank you!! (Mr. Fig thanks you as well.)

First up is location. Fiddle leaf figs love bright indirect light. My tree sits just inside a set of french doors and below two skylights on the north side of my house. This area is always bright but the sun’s rays never hit the plant directly.

The planter sits on a stand with casters so I can roll it out of the way to open the doors. The doors lead to a grilling patio which has seen absolutely zero action over the last six months. Now that the weather is getting warmer, we’ll probably be scooting the tree out of the way more often. I’ve thought about relocating it to the living room but it seems to really like this spot and I’m nervous about switching things up. More than likely, I’ll roll the tree outside when the weather is nice. While the tree is small, this setup will work but when / if this guy grows much, much larger I may have to rethink the location. I don’t rotate the tree regularly but it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea.

fiddle leaf fig 3

The other big thing about fiddle leaf figs is watering without over- or under-watering. When I first brought the tree home, I was giving it a splash of water every 3-5 days but then someone mentioned that I should be flooding it then letting it dry out in between waterings. So that’s what I’m doing now. I pay attention to how the leaves are oriented and when things start looking droopy I wait another day or so to water. I also implement the lift test. When the leaves are droopy I lift the plastic planter out of the ceramic one. If the tree feels relatively light, then it’s time to water. That equates to watering every 7-14 days. From what I’ve heard, it’s better to under-water than over-water so when in doubt I err on the side of waiting it out a little longer in between waterings.

fiddle leaf fig 4

To water, I carry the tree over to the kitchen sink and set it inside. (Reason #99 why I love a single basin sink.) If the dirt seems extra dry, hard or compacted, I use a pencil and stab it into the dirt over and over to break things up and allow the water to reach the roots. I use the pull-down faucet to flood the planter with lukewarm water. I add water until I see it running through the bottom of the planter.

fiddle leaf fig 5

Then I let the tree sit in the sink while the water drains until it’s no longer dripping. I think it was a reader who told me not to immediately place the tree back in the ceramic (non-draining) planter. Apparently, letting the tree sit in a pool of water can cause root rot.

I fully realize that if the tree continues to grow (grow, grow little tree!) this method of watering isn’t going to work forever. I guess that’s when I start rolling the tree to the bathroom and giving it a shower? Forget finishing the second bathroom for the kids. It’s going to be the fiddle leaf fig bathroom. Hee-hee.

fiddle leaf fig 6

About once a month I wipe the leaves with a soft, damp cloth to remove dust and images of photosynthesis diagrams flash in my brain. Oh Calvin cycle, how I love thee.

I recently spray painted the rolling stand gold. (Yay for spray painting weather!) Not sure how this impacts the health of the tree but I’ve heard plants like to be courted. Singing to them, talking to them, displaying them on gold thrones…it can’t hurt.

And that’s how I’m not killing my beloved Mr. Fig. He isn’t the lowest maintenance guy but I don’t mind. I’m so happy he seems to like it here! I plan on fertilizing him this summer. And eventually I’m going to have to repot. I’ll keep you posted. Literally.

Do you have a fiddle leaf fig? How’s it going? Do you want a fiddle leaf fig? I would have bet money on the demise of any fig tree in my house knowing my reputation with houseplants. But trying out a small, inexpensive one has been successful! I hope I can keep it up.

I’ll be back later today with a regular Made Me Smile post. TGIF!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

45 Comments

11.April.2014

If you’re already wiping down the leaves, I have had very good experience wiping down leaves with a little bit of mayonnaise (instead of a damp cloth, a cloth with a tiny amount of mayonnaise, rubbing the mayo gently into the leaf surface). This is a tip I picked up from Martha Stewart years and years ago, and plants seem to love it. It leaves the leaves super-glossy and nourished. I maybe do this every other month or just when the plant seems to need some extra special attention.

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11.April.2014

Oh – how I want one of these! I tried to get one at IKEA, but they all had some sort of mold on them. I may have to see if Pike Nurseries or Home Depot has them this weekend. And thanks for the follow-up post!

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11.April.2014

I also bought a fiddle leaf fig from Ikea at the end of last year and I had my doubts about how successful it would be. We have it up in our bedroom, where it gets bright but not direct light. I only water once a month or so, when I let it stand in the shower for quite a while and then drain in there overnight before I put it back in our room. It seems to love it and we have quite a bit of new growth. What I haven’t done is rotate it, and we have quite the lean going on. I’m trying to rectify that.

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11.April.2014

I just got my fiddle leaf fig (or ficus) tree from HomeDepot.com. It looks wonderful (so far!) and was very affordable (only $17). Thank you for blogging your tips for keeping Mr. Fig happy! Very helpful! :)

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11.April.2014

Hi Dana., your fig looks so great!

Totally off topic, but I’m feeling a bit frustrated. I seriously want a couple of bar stools like you have at your desk. Way fair carries over 6,000, yes 6,000, counter stools! I couldn’t find it and way fair couldn’t find it in their vast inventory without a name or manufacturer or sku number. Dana, would you b willing to provide this information to me? I even sent him to your blog to see it for himself. Lol!! Thank you for helping me. LOVE your blog. Jill

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replied on April 11th, 2014

Here’s the link…

http://www.wayfair.com/Blu-Dot-Knicker-Stool-KN1-BLD1113.html

I have the chalk color in the 35″ height.

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11.April.2014

I want one! But I’m worried it would die – the windows in our loft either let in a ton of light or pretty much no light. I’m going to try to convince my mom she needs one. What fig wouldn’t want to live in sunny South Florida?!

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NIIICE! Even though I have them happily growing outside our door…I dare to bring one in!

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11.April.2014

I’ve been wanting one, but am trying to decide if I could keep it alive / if we have the right kind of light. There are some pretty real looking faux ones I’ve considered, but can’t make the jump just quite yet. Do you know how fast they grow? I can’t seem to find any larger ones in my area and have also considered purchasing from home depot online, but those don’t seem to be the really tall ones, more like the size you have. I’d love a taller one, but would be willing to wait it out with a shorter one if it grows at a decent rate!

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11.April.2014

My new plant watering trick is working out awesome – Ice Cubes! You throw a bunch in the plant pot, they slowly melt allowing the plan to fully absorb the water and there is no spill over. I haven’t tried it with a fiddle leaf, but for smaller plants it has be great!

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I’m so glad to hear that it is possible to keep these things alive! I got one last fall at Home Depot. I did everything the same as you did. With one exception, I repotted it as soon as I brought it home. I’m pretty sure that was my downfall. I’m going to hop back up on that horse and give it another try! I just love them so much!! Thank you for the update!

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11.April.2014

Someday I will have a fiddle leaf fig when we have a house that is flooded with light :)
Love the planter you have it in! TGIF :)

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11.April.2014

Good job, Dana! It looks like it really likes you! I found one at Walmart, of all places and snatched it up faster than you can say fiddle leaf fig! It’s doing great after a couple months. I too just water it when it’s drooping, although I think I’ve waited too long sometimes because a few leaves have dropped off. Here’s to the longevity of our figs!

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11.April.2014

Unrelated to your fig but are the knots bleeding through on your ceiling?

I’ve had issues with knots bleeding in multiple applications (Ikea Rast hack, tongue and groove ceiling, new trim, etc) even though I used shellac, oil-based primer, and two coats of oil paint. Bane of my existance and no other bloggers seem to have these issues!

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replied on April 12th, 2014

Yes! There are lightly visible knots on the ceiling. We also used a shellac primer specifically for raw knots. It’s the same stuff we used on the horizontal planking in the mudroom and on the TV wall where no knots are showing. We can’t figure out why! Luckily, the knots are light and not very noticeable. Plus, I think they sorta add to the character of the tongue and groove. We purposefully chose not to caulk the seams or crannies for a natural look. Still, it’s disappointing when you take extra steps to avoid something and it happens anyway.

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11.April.2014

The good thing about living in florida is we can leave them outside to fend for themselves.And they grow like weeds.

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11.April.2014

He looks so cute in the sink getting watered. The pot is beautiful. I had one that grew much taller than me from the size of yours on my front porch. Then a freeze came, he was too heavy and big to move, I blanketed him the best I could. And he died. I had to ask my husband for help to remove his remains recently. Living vicariously through yours now. :)

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12.April.2014

Your bravery to grow Mr. Fig gave me the confidence to whisk one up at Ikea. And it had 2 plants in 1 pot: score! Last weekend I separated them into 2 pots, they haven’t died yet either! Yours looks full like mine did, I bet it has more than 1 stuffed in there….

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replied on April 12th, 2014

Yep, two stems.

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12.April.2014

My fiddle leaf fig has been holding up pretty well for ~ a year. About a couple of months ago I had two new leaves, and now there’s two more! I usually water my fig every other week, but I think the Swedish Spring extended light has done wonders! I would have loved a two stem, but there were only one stem figs available at my local IKEA in Stockholm, which happens to be the largest in the world. :) Or at least that’s what I’ve heard.

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12.April.2014

I have three! Two that were already taller…more like trees…and one that is more “plant” like. One of my tall ones is doing AWESOME…the other I thought was on the outs…but is coming back around…and my small one…well…we are working on it. We live in ATL and it is finally warm so I moved him outside on the deck this week hoping that will help. Not sure what the tricks are but I am the plant KILLER…so the fact that I even have one that is doing well is a flat out miracle! HA!

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Next fall I am going to be all about inviting plant life into our house. I love these bigger plants but I am scared to death of killing them all.

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I immediately had to read this post based off of its title alone! I had a fig leaf plant last year and despite my best efforts (I used a lot of the same tips you shared) it just didn’t make it. I’d love to try again though—I just love these plants!

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15.April.2014

I love fiddle leaf figs! I have one in my bedroom, which faces east and it is doing really well. About a month after I brought it home the plant went through a big growth spurt (would one even call it that?!) and got four new leaves. Then it just stopped! Out of nowhere. Hoping to fertilize it soon to promote more new growth. They add such great drama and architecture to a room : )

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17.April.2014

Hi! Can I ask where that beautiful rug sitting under the fig leaf tree is form? Thank you so much!

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replied on April 17th, 2014

Etsy! Search “kilim rug.”

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17.May.2014

Hi, just stumbled upon your blog after snatching up the only fiddle leaf fig I could find (at home depot) in about 100 mile radius! I think I will be be reading your entire blog this weekend! haha. Anyhow, where did you find the lovely pot your fig is in? I love it so much more than the pots I seem to find at the big box home stores. Suggestions?

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replied on May 18th, 2014

I found the planter at an estate sale!

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12.August.2014

[…] *http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/04/11/how-im-not-killing-my-fiddle-leaf-fig/ […]

27.September.2014

I love your posts about your fig tree. I finally purchased one today and can’t wait to see how he/she grows. I haven’t decided on a name :) but I’m curious on learning more about your fabulous rugs you have around your home! Do you have a post on them? Thank you for the plant inspiration!

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replied on September 27th, 2014

If you’re asking about the various vintage rugs in our home, check out this post…

http://www.housetweaking.com/2014/06/09/8-reasons-why-you-should-consider-vintage-rugs/

Good luck with your fig! (I’m still not sure what I’m doing right with mine.)

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[…] House Tweaking / photo by Dana Miller […]

26.December.2014

very helpful tips!
I love to read updates on your fiddle leaf!

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04.January.2015

I have a fiddle leaf fig that is in a spot under a skylight in my apartment and has been dropping leaves for the past few months. It gets filtered light from the skylight there, but I have to say it’s not too bright. The other place I could put it would be in front of our bay windows, where it would definitely get better light, but those windows are quite drafty (even after our landlord came and tried to seal them), and we’re in Brooklyn in the winter, so the drafts are not what you would call rainforest-friendly. We now only have 11 leaves left on the tree. It could have been overwatering (we were watering when the top soil was dry, about 1x/week, but are now going to let it completely dry out).

What do you think we should do — both would probably be risks — keep it under the skylight where it has been dropping leaves and hope that cutting back on the watering will help, or move it to the much better lit but very drafty bay window area?

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replied on January 6th, 2015

I’d keep it where it is first and try watering less. I’ve found that our fig doesn’t need as much water during the winter months. Maybe once every 2 weeks.

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07.January.2015

[…] I bought a fiddle leaf fig and somehow managed to keep it alive. […]

22.January.2015

I just got a Fiddle leaf yesterday! It was a cutting from another larger tree. But I don’t know what happened! yesterday it was a beautiful tree, standing tall and perky and now the leaves are droopy! It was water yesterday and drained. It was in the morning sun just about all morning until the sun moved away. Could the problem be that it was in direct sun? If so, how do I give it a bunch of light if it can’t be right in front of the window/sun? Will it get light if it’s out of reach of the sun but still nearby? My room is pretty warm, could that be an issue? I really do not want this plant to die! Please Help!

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replied on January 23rd, 2015

I’m hardly a fiddle leaf fig expert. I keep mine in front of a french door that faces north. It gets a ton of indirect sunlight and is thriving. During warmer months, I water it thoroughly once every 7-10 days. During colder months, I only water it maybe once every few weeks. I fertilize once a year. Yours may just be in shock from being in a new place or being cut. Give it some time and see what happens. Good luck!

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26.January.2015

Oh goodness…we just got our fiddle leaf two weeks ago and all the leaves are drooping! I keep it right by a large window in my kitchen where it gets lost of natural light not directly on it. I watered and added fertilizer like the nursery guy said, but I’m reading online not to fertilize it so much. I also repotted into a new pot when we got home, and may have broken up the roots a bit when I did so. I think that might be what is killing it?! UGH! It came to me with some brown-ish leaves and some leaves falling off. I water it the same as you do. Any suggestions???

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23.March.2015

great posting!!!

i’ve had my fiddle leaf for over a year now. i call mine ‘figgy smalls’. i have a lot of house plants but figgy smalls is my favorite baby about 3ft currently. single trunk.

someone suggested way up there about polishing with mayo… i come from a family of florists… nooooo! never! mayo plugs up the pores of the plant.

i water the same as you and same lighting situation and cleaning method.
i use a fertilizer spike that last 3 or so months. i don’t know if it really helps but that’s what i use in all my plants.

i have started 4 new babies from water rooting leaves. they are sustaining and look very healthy but no top side new growth so far they are about 6 moths in soil now.

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05.September.2015

I’m wondering if you have suggestions for my brand new fiddle leaf fig. I’ve had it about 2 weeks and haven’t watered it once because the topsoil is not drying out. Now there’s a new leaf at the top that has drooped to the point of laying on the leaf below it. Do you know what is causing this?

Also, It needs to be repotted, it is root-bound. Do you know where I can find information on how to properly cut the root ball while repotting? I’d hate to damage this beauty.

Thanks!

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replied on September 8th, 2015

If the leaf is drooping and you haven’t watered it in >2 weeks, I would go ahead and water it. My FLF needs repotted, too. I haven’t had the guts to do it yet though. I’m too nervous I’ll kill it!

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replied on June 3rd, 2016

Housetweaking, sounds like you have Mealy bugs. Thoroughly wipe them off with soap/water and focus on the areas where the leaves start on the trunk. That’s where they lay their eggs. I’d also find an organic pesticide to spray it down. There are special kinds/brands that don’t harm the tree, etc. It’s an uphill battle. Also, the males have wings and can spread to your other plants in the house, so you definitely need to stay on top of it. I hope your tree makes it! Let us know how it goes! Fingers crossed!

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replied on June 3rd, 2016

Sorry. My last post was in response to Namegeorgia :)

08.April.2016

My new plant is doing great with new growth. But on the new leaves are these small white things . They wipe off but I’m wondering are they a disease or an insect or nothing to worry about. Right now plant looks very healthy.

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