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How to Strengthen a Leaning Fiddle Leaf Fig

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.

How to strengthen a weak or leaning Fiddle Leaf Fig - do these steps to have your FLF growing straighter and stronger in as little as one week! | Dossier Blog

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:

A leggy Fiddle Leaf Fig with a thin trunk - it needs more sunlight! six FLF myths | Dossier Blog
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!

How to Get your Fiddle Leaf Fig growing straight | Dossier Blog
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!

A step by step guide to strengthen a weak or leaning Fiddle Leaf Fig trunk. | Dossier Blog
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14 Comments. Leave new

Emily, thank you for this post! I have been searching for answers to my FLF “problems” with no luck. You’ve helped me address both of my FLF issues. First, I couldn’t figure out why my FLF was quickly growing taller but with several inches between leaves.

Second, this tall growth without leaf development had me concerned about the integrity of the trunk. (It is currently staked.)
I will definitely be moving her outside for more light and soft breezes. This does bring about another concern though. What do you do to protect your fig from pests? Do you treat it before you bring it back into your home? I live in North Carolina so my fig couldn’t (nor would I want it to) live outside year round.

Thank you for your help!

Reply

    Glad it could be helpful! It’s something I had to learn about my FLF too. To be honest, I’ve had just as much trouble with pests when they’re inside, so I don’t think having them outside is any worse. When I put my FLFs outside, I always keep an eye on them to catch any pests early.
    If you are concerned you could always easily hose them down outside to physically remove any possible pests before bringing them in. I don’t think you’d need to treat it unless you’ve found signs of pests – but check the top and bottom of the leaves to be sure 😊

    Reply
Avatar
Ody Rinehart
May 29, 2019 11:06 pm

How do I propagate my FLF from the trunk ( large area in my plant without any leaves)
without cutting it of the tree? I saw it done in a website but cannot find it now?
That way I would already have two trees once it shows roots?
All I can remember is
They used a plastic water bottle cut and it hugged the trunk?
Thank you!

Reply

    Hi! This technique is called air layering. A section of the branch is scraped, then wrapped in damp sphagnum moss and covered in clear plastic, or a bottle. After weeks, when you see roots developing, you cut the branch section off below the plastic & plant it! I’m yet to try this technique but believe it works well for propagating a larger piece of plant. Other forms of propagation (such as in water) work better with short or smaller cuttings. If you look up air layering, you may be able to find some more details. It looks like a fairly straightforward process 🙂

    Reply

Thank you for this important information. I’ve started to give my FLF vitamins and it is finally doing much better. I am going to put it outside for a few hours today. I Live in Florida and it is a beautiful day. Do you think it is okay to do that.

Reply

    Hey Joan, outdoors is great for Fiddle Leaf Figs! I would just make sure that you acclimatize it to direct sunlight. If your FLF already gets direct sunlight, it should be fine to put outside. If it doesn’t normally get direct light, I would only leave it in the sun for an hour or so a day, otherwise the leaves could burn.

    Reply

Hi Emily,

Why does my FLF have two trunks? And mine has leaves all the way down the trunk, not just at the top like all the pretty photos of FLF’s you see online.

What gives?

Reply
    Avatar
    Emily Connett
    April 21, 2019 5:33 pm

    Hey Debbie, it’s pretty normal for FLFs to have multiple trunks. Sometimes it’s a few plants planted in the same pot, and other times the trunks will share the same rootball. Generally the tree-like ones you see photos of have been pruned and trained to that form! FLFs can come in all shapes and sizes. If you are after a tree-like style, think about picking up a FLF that just has a single stalk. It can then be pruned when it gets tall enough to encourage branching. It is possible to separate multiple trunks in the one pot, although it can be a little tricky.
    When FLFs mature, it’s common for the bottom leaves to eventually drop off. Some people remove the lower leaves, however as they add to the health of the plant it can be best to leave them on til they’re ready to drop. 🙂

    Reply

Gah….my dear FLF Sven grew many feet until he hit the ceiling, I took about 2 ft off from the top, between nodes. Dear husband decided he was not straight enough and Sven is now tied to a 1×2″ stake (for support ).. after reading the above I think we’ve messed up. He’s scrawny, big leaves, not full IMO , he lives against a full glass door, east facing. I had dreama of a full, jungle type tree, ha. Thoughts? ?

Reply

    Hey Kristen, you haven’t messed up! You can always do things to help it straighten and fill out. Pruning and notching can help promote new lush growth by activating buds down the stem, and using the above steps can help it straighten up by itself. If the new leaves are growing far apart, you may want to consider a location where it can get more light. IF this isn’t possible, you can supplement natural light with a grow light, which will help new growth be more dense too. Hope that helps 🙂

    Reply

Hi ,
I have a FLF which got very top heavy. my Husband sawed it off half way up the trunk. we crossed our fingers, two weeks later
there were buds on the trunk. Now it is a picture covered in new glossy large green leaves. It is an outside plant. Soon to go into my
Green house to be company for my other FLF.

Reply

    Hey Glenda, your Fiddle sounds amazing! Pruning is another great way to help a top-heavy FLF. Whenever I prune I keep the cuttings to propagate from too! I’m sure yours will love it’s new green house environment 🙂

    Reply

Hi! I’ve had my FLF since November and it’s only grown a few inches since it’s been winter, but I was wondering when I should remove its stake. It’s currently about a foot tall.

Reply

    Hey Allyson, you should be able to remove the stake anytime! If your FLF doesn’t stand when you remove the stake, you may need to loosely re-stake it while you work on strengthening it. Whey they grow with the support of a stake, they don’t have any need to grow their trunks stronger so sometimes staking can actually be detrimental overall. So how you go removing it and refer back to the post if you need any more help! 🙂

    Reply

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