Care for Ficus lyrata

Ficus lyrata, commonly called the fiddle-leaf fig, is a perfect indoor specimen plant. The plant features very large, heavily veined and violin-shaped leaves that grow upright on a tall plant. These plants are native to the tropics, where they thrive in warm and humid conditions. This makes them somewhat more challenging for the home grower, who is likely to have trouble duplicating these steamy conditions, but they are fortunately relatively tough plants that can withstand less-than-perfect conditions for a fairly long time. Finally, F. lyrata are really meant to be grown as larger specimen plants: they are perfect if you can situate them in a floor-standing container where the plant is allowed to grow to 6 feet or more. (The trees commonly reach heights of 40 feet or more outdoors in tropical landscapes.) Because of their very large leaves, these are not natural plants to trim down to a manageable size, though they can take modest pruning to shape.

Ficus lyrata are not especially demanding plants. One of the most common complaints about these plants is spotting on the leaves, which is especially noticeable in such a large-leaved plant. This spotting is usually caused by injury to the leaf, either mechanical injury or an attack of mites. Ficus lyrata has mildly caustic sap that can cause these brown spots when exposed to air. The plants are also susceptible to various leaf-spotting and fungal diseases, which are typically caused by lack of air-flow and too much moisture sitting on the leaves. You can help prevent this kind of attack by keeping the plant well trimmed, removing dead leaves and twigs as you see them. If your plant is losing leaves, however, it's likely a sign of too little moisture at the roots, or low humidity and cold, dry air. Try misting the plant regularly to increase the ambient humidity. Finally, these plants are also more sensitive to high salt levels, so make sure to flush your potting medium very thoroughly, preferably monthly, to prevent the build-up of fertilizer salts. Ficus lyrata are vulnerable to pests including aphids, mealy bugs, mites, scale, and whitefly. If possible, identify the infestation as early as possible and treat with the least toxic option.

Repotting: Healthy specimens are fast-growing plants with aggressive root systems (which is pretty typical for any type of ficus). Try to repot the plant annually, stepping up the pot size  2 to 4” until the plant reaches the desired size or until you can't manage the container anymore. Once plants are in large containers, scrape off the top few inches of soil and replace with fresh potting soil annually.


Growing Conditions

Tips:  This plant does not like to be turned or be moved frequently. Position the plant permanently and keep it clean by dusting with an old T-shirt. Stake and prune as needed. Ficus lyrata will only keep leaves that face the light; leaves facing a darker wall or corner will not last. Expect an attrition of leaves from moving the plant.   

Light: F. lyrata require bright, filtered light. They can even tolerate some sun, especially if placed in an eastern-facing window. Plants that are kept too dark will fail to grow rapidly.

Water: Keep steadily moist, but don't allow it to sit in water or it will drop leaves and suffer from root rot.

Soil: A good, fast-draining potting soil will do nicely.

Fertilizer: Apply Maxsea All Purpose fertilizer seasonally and up to monthly for plants not in perfect conditions, or recovering from stress.