The Fiddle Leaf Fig. It's a love hate story.
Some might say that the Ficus lyrata, or Fiddle Leaf Fig as it is commonly known, single-handedly revitalised the indoor plant craze of the mid 2010's. And why not! It's beauty and sheer presence is alluring and captivating at the least. However gorgeous as it may be, this Fiddle surely broke just as many hearts as it won and only the true plantscaping enthusiasts continued to fork out money to try cultivating it a second time. Or third. Or Fourth.
I remember the first time I met a fiddle leaf, although I didn't quite know what it was at the time. It was inherited from a friends workplace, where they were selling off office items for an upcoming office move. Its double stems were lanky and bending and its leaves were scarce and sad. So I bought it. Not quite knowing what I was getting myself into.
Of course that fiddle died shortly after. Who knows why. Probably just out of spite, or perhaps due to some horrible environmental conditions I naively subjected it to, More likely it was half dead before I bought it.
It would be years before I tried again, but surely enough as I was swept up into this decades Instagram plant craze that still leads my life today, I bought another one for a new apartment I had just moved into. And for a while, all was going well. The apartment was a gorgeous light filled space that was warm and mostly east facing. We lived happily for a period, until it was once again time to move homes.
4 weeks later I was burying my second ficus child in the black abyss on bin night. It would seem that it didn't like it's new home, nor the lack of light that failed to embrace my living space. Once again I pledged to never allow another one back into my life!
And then my friend bought me one for my birthday. I smiled excitedly upon accepting the gift, because secretly I was glad I had one again, even though inside I was terrified for its fate and for my sanity. It was the smallest one i'd ever had, which allowed me to place it on a table near a bright window in my study. It sat there gracefully and appeared to be living its best life for quite a few months. I then took a stupid gamble and decided to move it into my brighter light filled bedroom, where it sat on top of a drawer commanding my attention. Thankfully, it didn't spite me for moving it and for risking its life just so I could view it more regularly. Instead, it lived on happily, even sending up new leaves in Spring.
Finally, I thought! I had made it past the first 12 months. We would be friends forever!
And then I decided to move overseas. So we parted ways once more, but this time there was no wake that followed. Instead, I rushed out and bought another one for my new place, where natural light graced my home once more. This stunner was a double stem with huge dramatic leaves and I was positive I knew how to raise this one to its fullest life!. Well, half of it maybe.
Just a few weeks ago, one of the stems start to die. Its leaves dropped and the top of the stem got soft, while the bottom leaves started falling off. Of course I panicked and read everything I knew about the plant again just to be sure. There was no sign of pests. Its watering regime was consistent and adequate, its light levels were maybe questionable but the second stem was performing perfectly and showed no signs like its sibling stem. To be safe, I decided to cut back the stem hard, not wanting it's depressing stance to encourage the healthy stem to follow. I moved the whole plant to the brightest spot in the house, even though it risked being chewed by the cat.
So now I find myself anxiously waiting again, to see if my heart will break once more with the sad tunes of the fiddle, fading away into the darkness. Two weeks on and all looks fine.
Perhaps this time I will win. Or maybe I wont. But I do know one thing is for sure - I life without a fiddle would be boring. If not for the challenge it presents, then for its ability to capture our hearts (and our wallets!), again and again, like a mischievous puppy that piddles in your shoes, but looks way too cute to be angry with. It's a love hate story.
For those silly enough to allow a Fiddle Leaf into their lives, here's a guide in attempting to keep one happy.
Origin: Western Africa
Climate: Native to the tropics
Common Name: Fiddle Leaf Fig
Flowers: While fully grown trees will flower and fruit, indoor varieties are highly unlikely to reach this point
Foliage: Large upright leaves with heavy veins and "fiddle" shaped
Size: Can reach 30m when grown in the wild. 2-3m is the general size achieved for indoor plants and can be controlled by the size of pot and by punning.
Hardiness: Frost Tender. Doesn’t do well with drafts or cold home environments.
Care & Maintenance
A warm, bright in-direct light. An east facing window with some morning sun is best. Second to this would be North facing. Avoid south facing windows which will be too dark, and West facing windows which may scorch the leaves in hot afternoon
Well drained, high quality potting mix.
Keep moist but don’t allow to sit in water as the leaves will brown and fall off. Water once the top 2.5cm of the soil is dry. Be consistent and reduce watering frequency in winter. If oyu normally water once a fortnight, water once a month.
Feed annually in Spring with a general all purpose fertiliser. Then feed every month with a weak liquid fertiliser during the growing season.
Required only for shape, if desired. Pruning the main stem 1/2 inch above a leaf node will force the plant to produce up to two new stem shoots. Do this in Spring, at the first signs of new growth. Make the cut at about 20-30cms below the eye level you wish the plant height to reach as new shoots won't show leaves until about 20cms
Pests / Disease:
Watch for aphids, mealy bugs, mites, scale, and white fly. Root rot is a problem if over-watered or in poorly drained
Difficult but can be done by stem cuttings. Generally cloned through tissue culture by commercial growers