Welcome back, Fiddle Leaf Fig lovers! Recently I’ve been getting more and more questions from readers about their FLFs (which is great – I love helping you guys!). Over time I’ve started to see some trends on what people need help with.
One of the most asked questions I get is how to strengthen a weak or leaning Fiddle Leaf Fig trunk! Maybe you FLF is starting to lean, or no longer wants to stand on its own. The good news is – it is very possible to get them standing straight and strong, and it probably won’t take as long as you’d expect!
When my first FLF was around 3 feet tall, I took it outside to hose down the leaves. Inside, it stood straight all by itself. But when it was exposed to the slight breeze outside, it bent right over until it nearly touched the ground! I had to leave it outside until it stopped dripping from the hose-down, but I was so nervous that it would just snap in half. I tried to hold it upright, but it seemed to prefer to touch the ground whenever I let go. *crying face*! I wish I had taken a photo to show you!
So I grabbed a couple of bamboo stakes and staked it upright again. Staking is great for an emergency, temporary fix like this. But the bad news is, staking won’t help strengthen your plant! And you won’t want to have your plant staked forever, either.
When a plant is staked, it doesn’t have to do any work to support itself, so it never really strengthens. The good news is, in a few simple steps you can get your Ficus growing strong all by itself.
Here’s my steps on How to Strengthen a
Leaning Fiddle Leaf Fig:
1. FLFs are Light Lovers!
Light plays a huge factor in the health of your FLF. When your FLF is getting enough light, the leaves will grow close together. This really helps to support the trunk. When they aren’t getting enough light, they will ‘search’ for more – you can notice this if there is more than around an inch distance between leaves (called ‘inter-nodal distance’). Your FLF might look lanky or may even be leaning towards the nearest window.
If there’s more distance between the leaves, there’s more opportunity for bending. Giving your plant more light won’t fix older growth, but any new growth that comes through should be closer together and therefore stronger.
So firstly make sure your FLF is getting adequate light! I’ve found they generally need more than we think. Directly in front of a window is best if they’re inside. In nature, they can even grow in all-day sunlight!
One quick tip is that a specially formulated fertilizer can also help with shortening the inter-nodal distance. I recommend one like Botanicare Grow Fertilizer for FLFs.
Make sure to rotate the pot as you water each week to help even out growth. If you can’t move your FLF closer to natural lighting, you may want to supplement some light with a grow light – read an easy guide to grow lights here.
You can see this FLF below needed more light, because the leaves are so spread out on the stem:
2. Air Flow will Train the Trunk
In nature, you won’t come across a FLF that can’t support itself. Why? Because of air flow! When a FLF is outside, it has to learn to withstand the force of the wind. This causes it to strengthen its trunks and stems and grow straight.
Remember my poor FLF that bent over at the first sign of the breeze?! It now lives outside for half the year and is taller and stronger than ever!
Because most of our beloved FLFs live inside, they don’t get a chance to strengthen their trunks with air flow. This can eventually lead to a leaning Fiddle Leaf Fig through the weight of their enormous leaves. FLFs naturally grow larger and larger leaves higher up, which adds to their top-heavy nature.
I recently bought a new FLF where one of the stems was bending under the weight of its new, large leaves. I sat it outside and within a couple of weeks, that stem had straightened up and was so much stronger. It really doesn’t take long for the breeze to do its thing!
FLFs can withstand quite a bit of bending, so don’t be afraid to allow yours some time outside in a light breeze. If it’s seriously bent over like my first one was or you’re worried its too weak, you may want to loosely stake it while outside just to keep it upright.
One thing to note is that you’ll need to have favourable outdoor conditions for your FLF. They don’t like temperatures under 65F/18C, and be sure to acclimatise them slowly to any extra sun they might get.
What if you can’t get your FLF outside, I hear you ask? There’s an answer for that too!
3. Wiggle the Trunk
Am I serious?! You betcha! I’ve heard many success stories of people who wiggled their FLF trunks to strengthen them.
Wiggling the trunk basically mimics the wind. If you can’t get your FLF outdoors, doing this may take a little bit more effort but is still successful.
Two to three times a day, take your FLF trunk and begin to wiggle it side to side. Like I mentioned earlier, they can withstand quite a bit of movement. So don’t be afraid to work up to quite a bend! Spend about 10 minutes or so doing this.
This method may take longer than natural conditions would to strengthen your FLF, but within a few weeks you should see results.
4. Keep the Leaves On
Lastly, It can be very tempting to remove some lower leaves on your FLF, especially if you’re looking to get that coveted tree-like shape. BUT the leaves provide a lot of nutrition to the trunk, so they play a big role in helping to strengthen and thicken it! My advice is to leave the lower leaves on as long as possible. When you do eventually have that tree shape, the trunk will be strong enough to support a top-heavy canopy.
As FLFs mature, it’s also pretty normal for lower leaves to eventually drop off. So you may not need to manually remove them yourself.
FLFs naturally produce larger and larger leaves as they grow, which can add to their top-heavy nature. If you notice new large leaves that are causing the stem or trunk to start to lean, do the above steps regarding light and air flow to allow the stem to catch up in strength to its leaf size.
So the simple steps to strengthen a weak or leaning Fiddle Leaf Fig trunk are: 1. Make sure it’s getting enough light (checking the distance between new leaves may help you determine this), 2. Give it some outdoor time where it can get a breeze, 3. Wiggle the trunk if you can’t get it outside, and 4. Leave the leaves on to thicken the trunk!
If you take the above steps, you can transform your FLF to stand straight and strong on its own generally within 1-3 weeks.
I hope this post has been helpful for you – let me know in the comments if you have any questions or if you’ve tried these steps with success!
I also have a library of FLF help – check it out here!