Things nobody tells you about fiddle leaf fig trees

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October 8, 2019

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This article is part of a mini-series we’re doing about how to grow house plants in your home. We’ve asked a few mamas to share their best tips and tricks, so whether your thumb is black or green, we’ve got you covered.

We know you’ve seen them—those gorgeous fiddle leaf fig trees with their signature oversized, violin-shaped leaves, looking ever so green and full in bright corners of homes in magazines and all over Instagram.

Fiddle leaf figs are THE popular plant right now, and they have been for years, but they have a reputation, too, for being finicky and time-consuming as houseplants. They look amazing, we agree, but are they worth the work? 

If you’ve been eyeing one, but wondering if this is a plant you can handle, read on. According to one mom of two toddlers, they just might be more doable than you think. 

Meet Lara

We first met Lara when we collaborated with her for an Instagram home tour. As she walked us around, her whole home was beautiful and functional, but her fig tree knocked us dead. It’s a whopping 13 luscious feet tall—and she has two toddlers, so you know she can’t devote all day to caring for a tree! 

We had to find out more, so in this exclusive interview we got the scoop on Lara’s top tips for growing fig trees and whether or not she’d recommend them to other moms of little ones.

How did you decide you wanted a live fiddle leaf fig tree in your home? 

My mother-in-law had a couple of fiddle leaf fig trees that caught my eye a few years ago. But they were small, and she told me about how finicky they can be and I was a bit scared off. I did love the way they looked, though — I’m sure I was also “influenced” by Instagram and home decor blogs at the time. 

I had an empty corner in my living room, and my mom has a terrific green thumb. She encouraged me to get one, and for my 30th birthday in 2015, I asked for a fig tree! She spent about $100 at a nursery and gifted me a 5-foot tree.

This was my very first fiddle leaf fig, and it currently stands at least 13 feet tall, which means I’ve grown it 8 feet in 4 years! During that time we’ve moved it to two different homes, and multiple locations around each home.

When we moved about 45 minutes away from one destination we had to get a pickup truck to move it. I was terrified to drive on the freeway. We went very slowly and we did lose a couple of leaves, but it eventually recovered!

Have you always been good at growing houseplants?

I am NOT great at other houseplants, but for some reason, the fiddle leaf resonates with me, and we do well together. The other types of plants I have in my home (which I have many), are plants that are low maintenance and need watering as often or less often than my fiddle leafs (so I water all at once), or succulents. 

Fig trees are notorious for being finicky, as you mentioned, and difficult to grow. What are your top tips for such beautiful healthy trees? 

  1. Filtered water ONLY!!! I do about 1-2 liters once per week. Check that it is not too wet or too dry at least once a week. If it’s dry, load it up with at least 2 liters right away and check it again the next day if it needs another liter. If it is damp, but not wet, you can add water once per week.
  2. If you don’t have a pot that drains (I personally do not for my largest tree) you need to watch that water doesn’t build up in the bottom of the pot. If it does, you need to find a way to safely dump it. We run into this issue about once a year. 
  3. Find the perfect amount of light! We now have three fiddle leafs in my home.
    • The one in the living room is in a window corner, but there are shutters that I keep about 1/3 open. You can’t have too much light or allow it to get hot (they burn!) so a direct window without shade is not healthy for the tree. But it also can’t be too far from light. 
    • My second largest tree (about 9″) is in our bedroom that has decent light anyway, and the tree is about 10 feet away from the main window, but because the room gets good light, it does well.
    • Our third tree is shorter (about 4 1/2 feet) and sits in a corner where there is one window and one wall. That window doesn’t provide too much direct sunlight so I don’t need to have a shade. 
  4. Rotate your tree every so often (every month or two) so the light can hit it at different directions.
  5. Dust your leaves!
  6. Pull off any brown or yellowed leaves. They are taking nutrients from the tree that can be used elsewhere. If they are spotted brown or yellow you don’t have to remove, but if they are mostly brown or yellow, it is likely they are not coming back to life! Usually, they break off pretty easily too.
  7. Replace the dirt every so often. I’ve changed out the dirt once or twice in its lifetime. If it gets smelly, time to get new dirt! 
  8. Check that the roots have room to grow. Sometimes plants won’t grow because we put them in pots too small for them to grow!

My last two are going to sound funny, but I swear this works!

9. Celebrate baby leaves, it’s really exciting when they bud!

10. Talk or sing to your tree and tell her she is PRETTY often!

How do you find the time to regularly care for your tree while caring for toddlers, too? 

Ha! Before kids, I was so on top of making sure my trees were healthy and abundant. I do keep a careful eye on them, but these days I rely on my mom to help me a lot! She generally waters them for me when she is over.

My mom also changes the dirt in my plants about once a year (and she plants them all too). I take a few minutes on Sundays to check how my fiddle leafs are doing, and make that a part of my prep for the week forward. 

Would you recommend this plant to another mom of little ones?

My one-year-old loves the tree, and has since he was about 9 months old. When he starts digging into it I just tell him no, and at this point, my 2-year-old clearly understands and tells me when the one-year-old is getting into it. However, I remind myself it’s only a season where they really want to interact with the tree in this way 😉 so I just keep a close eye on them, and my vacuum nearby! 

If I can grow a fiddle leaf fig, you can too! It’s more about following my tips above to a T, than treating it like another child. Proper sunlight and water are the most important.

Have you ever seen a faux fiddle leaf fig that comes close to the real thing? 

Yes! My husband really wanted fiddle leafs in his office, but he has a TERRIBLE green thumb. We tried, but they didn’t thrive in his environment so I brought them back to life and they are now in our home. When he moved offices we invested in these from World Market and they look great! 

If we’re ready to start growing, where do you recommend buying a fiddle leaf fig? 

Costco has them every now and then for $25, and they’re really big beautiful ones. And, you can’t go wrong with a starter baby fig from Home Depot for $15. At that price, it’s a low risk investment, and you never know what you’ll be able to do unless you try! 

To read more about Lara, follow her on Instagram or check out her mom podcast, Generation.Mom!

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