As you may already be aware, I am a bit of a Fiddle Leaf Fig fanatic. They are a much loved houseplant that can be a little tricky to care for. This is only made worse by the misinformation on the internet! However once you understand what the FLF’s natural environment is like, it’s so much easier to grow a healthy, thriving Fig.
So in light of some of the errors I’ve heard recently, I thought I’d dispel a few myths about Fiddle Leaf Fig care to get you growing them like a pro!
Six Myths about Fiddle Leaf Fig Care
Bright, Indirect Light – Myth
The common information about FLFs needing bright indirect light isn’t exactly true. Fiddle Leaf Figs will take all the light you can give them! They are full sunlight plants in nature and can handle a full 6-8 hours of direct sun a day – ONCE they have been hardened off.
If you’ve noticed a bad result from direct sunlight it may be because your FLF is not used to it. Without gradually acclimatising them to direct light, they can get sunburnt leaves and dry out too much. But once a FLF is used to direct light, it will grow like crazy! Take the time to start your FLF on an hour-ish of gentle, direct morning light each day, working up to putting it in full sun.
What does this mean for your indoor Figgy without direct sun? A FLF can still be placed in bright indirect light, however it probably won’t reach its growth potential. A lack of sunlight can play a part in health issues and slow down growth. If you want to keep your FLF in a spot without direct light, you may want to supplement its growth with a grow light. This post can give you more info on the best grow lights for your situation.
Watering Weekly – Myth
As you probably already know, how regularly your FLF (and all plants) need water is dependent on a few things. And the biggest factor that impacts how often they need watering is how much light they get! This is because plants use light to create energy, and they also draw up water from their roots during this process. So how much light they receive changes how much water they’re using, which determines how often they’ll need water.
Some of the other factors that impact how often a plant needs water include the soil type, pot size, plant size, its environment and climate, and also what the season is! As nice as it would be to boil all of this down to a weekly watering schedule, its just not the case. Fiddle Leaf Figs will not respond well to a set-and-forget watering schedule.
The best way to know when your plant needs watering is to check the soil! Fiddle Leafs like to dry out a little between waterings, so take your finger and feel if the top 1-2 inches of soil feels dry. If it does, its ready for water.
Remember that it’s normal for the soil further down to still feel damp. You never want all the soil to dry out, otherwise the plant would die! But when the top layer of soil dries out, this is a good indicator that the plant is ready for water.
Keep in mind watering requirements will change seasonally, as well as with environment changes.
If this all sounds a bit complicated, don’t worry! You will begin to know how often they need watering in your environment over time. A reliable moisture meter can help in the early days to help you understand how quickly your FLF’s soil dries.
Giving a Fiddle Leaf a Cup Measurement of Water – Myth
There has been a popular method of watering a Fiddle Leaf circulating online, called the cup method. This method states to give your plant a certain amount of cups, depending on its size. Eg, give a one foot tall Fiddle one cup of water, and a three foot tall Fiddle 3 cups of water.
I’m sure whoever came up with this system was trying to help people not overwater their plants. Sometimes we just love our plants a little too much, right?! But it really can be damaging to your plant in the long run. I’ve had many people come to me with dryyy, damaged and underwatered FLFs because of this style.
The best way to water your plant is to allow the whole rootball in soil to fully drink water, by giving it enough water until the excess drains out the bottom. In this case, it doesn’t matter how much water you give your plant, as long as you have a drainage hole! You could give it one litre or five, as long as all the soil is getting wet and the excess drains.
This works for multiple reasons. It allows all the roots to get a drink, without encountering dry patches in the soil. It also allows any fertilizer, salts or mineral buildup that can be present in water to be flushed out of the pot. Over time, if you’re watering your plant by the cup method (and without much water draining out), these things can accumulate in the soil and eventually burn or harm the plant.
Overwatering is an issue caused by watering your plant too frequently, and doesn’t refer to the actual amount the plant gets (can be confusing, I know)! So make sure to feel that the top 1-2 inches of soil is dry with your finger before you water again.
Stake the trunk to Strengthen – Myth
Staking a weak or leaning trunk can be beneficial, but its not ideal. Really you’d like your FLF to stand strong on its own, right?! Staking can be helpful for temporary but immediate support if your FLF trunk is really bending.
Instead of staking, there’s other things that can be done to get the FLF trunk to thicken and grow straight.
One: Wiggling the trunk. Yes, it sounds ridiculous. But in nature, the wind bends and sways the trunk naturally. In response to this, the plant grows the trunk thicker and stronger to withstand the wind. If your FLF is indoors, spend a couple of minutes 2-3 times a week wiggling the trunk. Start around mid height with small swaying, until you work up to quite a bend. Your FLF can withstand more than your think without breaking! It needs this bending to force it to strengthen. Within a few weeks you should notice a difference!
Two: A trunk can also be thin due to a lack of leaves. This is because leaves provide the trunk with nutrients to grow. Without leaves that grow closely together, the trunk won’t be getting as much support as it needs. A thin, leggy-looking FLF (like the one above) is often due to a lack of sunlight – the FLF grows straggly in search of light. So firstly, put your FLF in a brighter location. Secondly, pruning the tip can encourage more growth (back-budding) further down the trunk, which will also help support your FLF. Read a step-by-step guide to strengthening a leaning FLF trunk here.
Lastly, a quality fertilizer can help the trunk grow strong. I really noticed a difference in the trunk of my Fig tree after using fertilizer for a while. It really thickened and stopped bending in wind when I took it outside. If you haven’t tried a quality fertilizer on your Fig yet, this is a great fertilizer specially formulated with the correct ratio of nutrients FLFs need. For more info on fertilizing your FLF, see this post.
Mist to Increase Humidity – Myth
It’s true that Fiddle Leaf Figs are tropical plants and love a humid environment. However what you may not know is how little misting helps to increase humidity. In fact, it can even be HARMFUL to your Figgy! Using a spray bottle to mist a FLF is marginally effective, as the mist only lasts a few minutes before drying.
What it does do is promote infections, bacterial and fungal issues on their large leaves. So while you may be thinking you’re increasing the humidity by misting several times a day, not only is it not affecting the humidity levels, but it’s also putting your plant at risk. Something no one wants!
The only time misting is beneficial is to use a spray bottle on any new leaves forming at the top of the plant around twice daily. This will allow the leaves to grow without sticking together due to dryness (the reason some new leaves get holes).
A better way to increase overall humidity levels is by getting a humidifier. Make sure it is not spraying directly onto the plant’s leaves, but keep it nearby to increase humidity in the room.
Using Coconut oil as Leaf Shine – Myth
We all love shiny, glossy leaves. But using coconut oil, milk or other substances to get that shine is only doing harm! Any substance you put on the plant’s leaves potentially blocks the leaves not only from breathing, but also from photosynthesis.
Instead, use a damp or dry cloth, or give it a hose-down every now and then to keep any buildup off the leaves. Dust can also block the leaves!
If your FLF get some direct sun, in warmer temperatures any oil that sits on the leaves can cause the leaves to burn. I have experienced this and its not nice! Burn and sunburn can start anywhere on the leaf and can look anywhere from bleached white to crispy brown.
So there you have the six myths about Fiddle Leaf Fig Care! I often read some these myths on the internet and to be honest, I believed some of them when i first got a FLF too! While I’m sure everyone is trying their best to be helpful by sharing what they know, I know how frustrating it can be to feel like something isn’t working for you.
I hope this post has helped clear up a few things and you understand more about a Fiddle Leaf Fig’s natural environment. It has helped for me to remember that they are tropical plants, and to do my best giving them a tropical environment to live in – light, water, air flow and nutrients have been game changers for mine.
Let me know if you have any questions or check out my page dedicated to Fiddle Leaf Figs for more info.