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. Below is an overview of the process, or you can check out my in-depth post on Air Layering a Fiddle Leaf Fig.
- 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.
when rooting in water, does the water stay clear,> my water is a light brown and i do see roots forming do i add water?
Hey Helen, if the water is turning brown you can change it for fresh water so that no algae or bacteria grows 🙂
Hi Emily! Is it normal for a cutting to wilt when you propagate it in water? Just pruned the top of my 7+ ft FLF and am propagating the cutting in water. It’s been a few hours and the cutting is wilting. One inch of the bottom stem is in water with no leaves touching the water. It is sitting in bright, indirect sunlight in my south-facing window.
That’s not really normal – although it might happen if the cutting is too large and cannot provide the energy to keep itself alive. You may need to cut it into a couple of pieces or remove some of the leaves.
I took a discarded FLF that had only one main stem that has a big bend making the stem at least 7ft if stretched straight with the top having about 15″ of leaves. I had it for about a year and it has recovered a lot from when I received it however it is way to long and lanky and I have to prop up the the stem where it starts to bend or else the weight of the top part will bend almost to the floor. In other words I need to cut off the top part of the mother plant to bring a proper height back to the FLF.
My question is what to do with the mother plant? Can I use air layering on removing the top of the plant even though it is the mother? The top part is at least 15″ long and I would probably remove a good portion of the bottom leaves and then make my cut. I am terrified to do this and have been putting it off too long and it just keeps on growing.
Hey Carolyn, I’m not quite sure what you mean by air layering the mother – if you mean the plant just has the one stem/trunk that you’d be air layering, this is totally fine. You can air layer a branch OR the main trunk just the same! Fingers crossed for you!
Hello! I just attempted to propagate my very large FLF (was 11 ft tall). I cut it into 2 main sections (4 ft and 5 ft) each with dozens of leaves. These long branches were healthy before, even recently growing leaves despite it being winter. These large propagations are now sitting in their own glass jars in a very well-lit area with some small amount of plant food in the water. My question: will these large propagations work? I’ve seen advice that only smaller ones work with 3-4 leaves.
Hey Connor. Yes unfortunately its likely that the large pieces you’ve cut will start to deteriorate as they will be too big for the cutting to maintain as well as grow roots for. You may want to cut them up into smaller cuttings and remove some leaves for a higher chance of success!
Bummer. If I were to cut it into smaller pieces, wouldn’t only the top piece grow? Each large propagation right now is one long stalk and new leaves are only growing out of the top node, so wouldn’t any ‘mid-sections’ not grow? Or is there a way to slice it up in such a way that each section is able to grow new leaves? Thank you for your help
It shouldn’t matter that the mid-sections you cut won’t have a visible growing point. Dormant buds lie in nodes all along the stems and branches, and should get activated to grow when the top growing point is cut off. (This is how pruning for branching actually works!) All the best.
I propagated a single leaf from my FLF, it has started to grow roots 🙌, will this grow into a plant?
Unless it is attached to a stem it’s unlikely. Cutting off a single leaf to propagate will grow roots but the leaf itself doesn’t contain the ability to grow into a new plant unfortunately! A node is needed, and these live on the stem of the plant.
Hi! I’ve been keeping my cutting in water for 8 weeks and no sign of roots appeared. Literally nothing changed 🙁 The cutting is big enough, with two leaves, and I cut off the other two leaves before putting it to the water. Should I wait more or this is the end? Thanks!
You can definitely wait! Sometimes they take longer but as long as it’s still alive and the end that’s in water isn’t rotten, there’s no harm in continuing.
My cutting took the better part of 4 months to root. Now it’s been planted and doing well! H+Just keep waiting….waiting…waiting…
Thanks to your blog, I’m trying to propagate my FLF in water. How much of the stem should be soaked in the water? Like above or below the nodes? Thanks!
Hi I’ve just found your site and love the info. I’m in London UK, I have a flf about 3′ tall with a single stem and new leaves. I have repotted once and feed regularly. I have just noticed 2 (possible more to come) growths from the soil. Currently about 2″ a pale yellow colour looking like a slim mushroom! Do you have any idea what it might be?
Hey Gill, it could very well be a type of mushroom! You can remove it if you like although it shouldn’t cause any issues for your plant. They can often grow in damp environments so just double check that you’re only watering when the top 2″ of soil is dry to touch 🙂
Is there a certain time of year that I am able to propagate or can I do it whenever I’m ready?! Thank you!
It should generally be successful at any time, although the process may take longer in the cooler months. Keep in mind that pruning off a cutting for propagation will generally result in branching on the main plant, however if it is not growing season then you may not get the best branching results! It’s always good to keep in mind how your main plant may look with branching at the spot you cut 🙂
Hello! Thanks so much for the help. When I put my branches in water to propagate, the leaves on the branch in the water began to feel very weak and soft right away. They kind of curled too. Is there any way for it to recover or is it a lost cause?
Hey Elizabeth, I would check how large the cutting you’ve placed in water is, because if its too big or has more than just a few leaves, its possible it is too large to stay alive with no roots at the moment. In that case, you could consider cutting it into a couple of sections to propagate or take a few of the leaves off if you think it has too many.
I have three FLF’s and each are about three feet tall. They are more like a Bush, with leaves almost to soil level. Should the lower leaves be removed to give it a more tree like appearance? They are all growing, using your recommended fertilizer(CNS17), and are watered once a week. Also they get adequate light and sit on wet pebbles for humidity. Thank you for any recommendation
Hi Donna, it really just depends what you prefer the look of. Although if you are aiming for a tree shape, I generally recommend removing the lower leaves as the last step in the process as they help to strengthen the trunk. Or allowing them to drop naturally as the plant matures. There’s more info in this post if you need!
Thank you Emily for the very fast response! I will follow your advice and wait for lower leaves to fall…. can’t rush Mother Nature. Love your blog!!!
Hi! My FLF is only about 1.5’ tall with two stems growing from the main trunk, which is tucked away in soil. The stems are growing into each other which is causing some bending, so I wanted to see if I should cut and propagate the smaller stem entirely. Is my tree too small to begin cutting? Or should I wait until it’s a little taller? Also, will there be new growth if I cut the stem right above a node?
Hey Jeannie, how you’d like to cut your FLF is really up to you – depending on how you’d like it to look in the long run. So if you think about and try to imagine your plant with branches or multiple stems growing around the point you’re thinking of cutting it at, this should help you decide where and when to cut. New growth will come from nodes just below the cut. You don’t have to prune it, it’s really up to you and how you’d like it to look! It can be normal for some bending if there’s multiple stems in the one pot 🙂
Hi Emily! May flf has broken branch, which I expect that it will eventually give me some new growth. Am I right with my expectation? What will I do to grow the said branch?
Hi Jesse, as long as your plant is getting enough light and has enough energy stored, it should eventually grow new buds on the branch that was broken. You can propagate the part that came off – I would just give it a clean cut with some sharp cutters where it broke to neaten the end.
I’ve started two propagation of my fiddle leaf. The leaves seem to be getting weak and have some brown spots. I may have overwatered and I used fertilizer. Is there hope if the leaves fall off? Also do you have any information on how to create new leaves on a nearly bare fiddle leaf? Thanks very much for any help you can offer.
Hi Julie, I’m not quite sure if you mean the leaves on the propagated cuttings or on the plant itself? Here’s a post on browning that might help you identify the case and have a solution.
Unfortunately plants can’t regrow leaves where they’ve been lost, but its possible for them to grow branches which can help fill in bare patches. This post on branching should help! 🙂
I have a 4.5’ FLF and I am wanting to prune and propagate one branch. I’ve only had the tree 2 months. Is it too soon to do the cuttings?
Hi Lindsey, I wouldn’t say its too soon – the best scenario is if your plant is happy and healthy in its space, then it should respond positively to the pruning. Depending on where you are located, if it is Spring then it is a good time of year to prune 🙂
Thanks for the help with propagating my FLF! How long after trimming my FLF can I expect new growth? I had a pretty large tree which I’ve propagated but now I miss it’s height and want it to grow back! How long will it take?!
Hey! It does depend on the environment, season and the plant’s health but you should start to notice new buds within 2-4 weeks 🙂
I propagated with water method and had good roots growing. After transferring in the pot of soil, I kept it under direct sun all day long and the three leaves got burnt. I cut out the totally brown leaf n left the other two partially burnt leaves. Will my cutting still grow new plant? Or is this a waste?? Iam so upset.
Hi Bhavna, I’ve had a similar thing happen to my cuttings after giving them too much light too quickly! There’s no reason why your cutting can’t continue to grow into a plant 🙂 Once it has grown a few new leaves, you could trim off the burnt ones if they are bothering you. All the best!!
I have a great deal of success using a marcott – a different form of aerial layering. This involves ring-barking the stem twice about an inch apart and removing all the dark stem. The rest is the same as above. The new plants can be quite large and rarely loose any leaves.
Yes! Marcotting is pretty much the same, just removes the bark in a different way. I’m guessing it might work better for certain plants where the bark is more easily removed. Maybe I’ll have to give it a go! 🙂