If you’re wondering how to propagate a Fiddle Leaf Fig, this post will give you three methods to try.
Propagating is when you take a section or cutting of a plant to grow a new plant from. It’s a popular way to share plants and double your collection, without having to spend money at the nursery.
If you’ve got a plant that needs pruning, a healthy plant you’d like to replicate or just want more plants in general, propagating is for you!
Propagating generally has three stages: Separating a section off the main plant, nurturing the cutting until it grows its own root system, then replanting it. In this post I’m sharing three ways to propagate a Fiddle Leaf Fig, starting with the method I think is easiest and gets the most success. You can actually use these methods for most plants, but I’m using a Fiddle Leaf Fig as the example. These three methods include water propagation, soil propagation and air layering.
For all these propagation methods, you’ll need a pair of sharp, clean cutters. Sharp cutters will cut the neatest. As diseases can be transferred between plants via the sap, it’s best to use a clean pair. If you’re unsure if your cutters are clean, I like to run them under boiled water for a few seconds. Wait for the blades to cool before using them.
In my opinion, water propagation is the easiest way to propagate a Fiddle Leaf Fig! You will need a pair of cutters and a jar of water. For water propagation, it’s best to use a small plant section that is 6 inches or less long.
While the roots are developing, you don’t want the plant putting energy into keeping so many leaves or length of stem alive. This is why you may see some people cut leaves in half, to lessen the energy used by the plant. If you only have a small propagation piece, you shouldn’t need to worry about cutting extra leaves off.
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Here’s the steps to take:
- Cut a small section of stem on a diagonal, ensuring there is 1-2 inches of bare stem at the bottom. Any extra leaves can be removed from the bottom if need be. Wipe off any excess sap from the main plant wound.
- You can dip the end of the cutting in a rooting gel to help stimulate growth if you like. Then place the cutting in a jar of room temperature water. Tap water is perfectly fine. The water does not need to be distilled or purified.
- Make sure no part of the cutting’s leaves are sitting in water, otherwise they will rot. Only the stem should touch the water.
- Place the jar in a warm, well-lit position. I placed mine on a windowsill that gets some direct morning sun.
- Keep an eye on the jar to ensure the water doesn’t evaporate and expose the stem. Some people recommend changing the water every few days, however I don’t do this and they’ve still grown well.
- Within 1-2 weeks, you should start to see small white dots appear towards the base of the stem. These will eventually grow into roots.
- It may take 2-6 weeks to grow enough roots to plant your cutting. Aim to have roots that are a couple inches long, with some smaller roots growing out of larger ones for the best success at planting in soil.
- When there’s enough roots, plant your cutting in a small pot. Generally FLFs like to mostly dry out before being watered. But as the roots are used to being in water 24/7, you’ll want to keep the soil more moist than normal, just for the first few weeks.
Soil Propagation is similar to the above steps, except instead of putting the cutting in water, it will go straight into soil. This method is in my opinion a little trickier for Fiddles, as you’ll need to make sure the soil stays damp while new roots are forming.
With soil propagation you won’t be able to see the roots as they form, but you also won’t need to worry about transferring the cutting until it eventually grows out of the pot.
- Similar to above, take a cutting of stem of the diagonal, with a sharp pair of cutters.
- Dip the cutting into rooting hormone. This helps promote growth and keeps the wound healthy.
- Place the end of the cutting into a pot with a pre-dug hole (so as to not disturb the rooting hormone on the end of the cutting). Aim to have 1-2 inches of stem under the soil. Make sure that no part of the leaves are touching the soil, as this will cause them to rot.
- Pat down the soil around the cutting to ensure it’s touching the end of the cutting. Lightly water it and keep the water damp until the plant is established. You may need to steady the cutting so that it stays upright, with a small stake.
After around a month, try gently wiggling the cutting. You will be able to tell that roots are forming if it stays put in the pot.
Air layering is a method of growing roots with a stem or branch that is still attached to the main plant. This is a good method to use if the section you’d like to propagate is quite large (as large cuttings don’t do as well with water or soil propagation). Ficus varieties generally take well to air layering, which is good news for Fiddle Leaf Figs!
Air layering is more of an intermediate level of propagation and it may take six weeks or more before you can pot it. See the photos for reference on setting up your air layer. I used a regular Fig variety as an example but this method works well for all Figs (including Fiddle Leafs).
- Determine the section of plant you’d like to propagate. Ensure there is a section of at least four inches of bare stem to use for air layering (or remove some leaves to make space). A good sized stem would be a bit thicker than your little finger.
- Under a node (these look like a raised ring on the stem), create a ‘wound’ on the stem with a sharp knife or cutters. This will look like slashing a section of stem upwards, like a tongue. Place damp sphagnum moss in the wound, and around the stem.
- Cover the area in clear plastic or a bottle and seal off the ends with electrical tape.
- Check the area from two weeks to see if there are roots developing. It may take up to a couple of months. The clear cover will allow you to check progress without disturbing the growth.
- When there’s an abundance of roots, cut the stem below the air-layered section and remove the plastic. Be careful not to disturb the sphagnum moss, as the roots will be delicate. Plant the cutting in a pot without removing the sphagnum moss.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Propagation FAQs
Can I propagate a Fiddle Leaf Fig from a Single Leaf?
While some gardeners swear they’ve been able to grow a Fiddle Leaf Fig from a single leaf cutting, science tells us we need the DNA stored in the stem of the plant for propagation to be successful. A single leaf will often grow roots when placed in water, but it is highly unlikely new growth will form from the leaf.
Another issue with this method is that there’s actually nowhere for the new growth to sprout from. New growth starts in dormant buds that are positioned on the stem of the plant, close to where a leaf joins the stem (called the petiole). When a single leaf is cut off to be ‘propagated’, there’s no dormant buds on the petiole that can grow into a plant.
Can I propagate what I have pruned off my Fiddle Leaf Fig?
Of course! Pruning is a great opportunity to grow more plants. This ensures there’s no waste from pruning your plant, and the cuttings can be gifted to friends and family.
If you’d like to prune large amounts off your plant, be sure to cut the pruned sections down to a manageable size first. For example, if you have a pruned section of stem around a foot long, cut it into two or three pieces. Take the steps above to ensure there’s not too many leaves on each section and that there’s enough bare stem at the bottom of each cutting to root successfully.
Why isn’t my propagated cutting growing?
For some time after you propagate your Fiddle Leaf Fig, most of the plant’s energy will be going into establishing it’s root system. Don’t be too alarmed if it doesn’t show new growth. As long as the plant looks healthy it should starting growing again when it’s ready.
When should I start fertilizing my propagated plant?
Fertilizer can be too strong for newly formed root systems. It’s best not to fertilize a cutting until it’s potted and you notice new growth. This is a sign that your cutting is ready for some extra nutrients! For the first time I would recommend fertilizing at half-strength. Read more on what fertilizer to use for Fiddle Leaf Figs.
What method of propagating Fiddle Leaf Figs have you tried? Was it successful? This is my first attempt at air layering so it will be fun to see the results. It’s a great way to start a new, sizeable plant from a large, mature one.
If you’re new to propagating, I would suggest starting with water propagation and going from there. It’s also a great way to see progress with your cutting – having it in water means you can watch the new roots grow!
PS- the pot in this post is a DIY! Read the tutorial on making your own mudcloth-inspired planters.