Let’s be real: even if you aren’t a “plant person” I believe that you can still appreciate the beauty of a fiddle leaf fig, or for proper terminology: a Ficus lyrata. Over the last two years these beauties have been popping up in every trendy storefront, restaurant and homeware retailer. They have such an aesthetic presence to them and to be honest, if it were my choice, I would have one in every single room of our home. I have had my fair share of houseplants over the last four years, which also means that I have killed my fair share of houseplants over the last four years. The fiddle was always my dream but the thought of killing one of these beauties kept me away from them for a longgggg time. I stopped by Home Depot back in February to pick up moving boxes and stumbled upon two baby fiddles in the garden center. I knew that the odds were against me: it was winter (they love the sun), and we were moving soon (they are so tempermental and despise change). As expected, my fiddles started dropping leaves every couple of weeks. I was devastated, but I knew that they weren’t too far gone to bring them back to health. I made a promise to myself that I would make them a priority in our new home and that I would take the time to do the research to ensure that they would be happy and flourish.
I get a surprisingly large number of DM’s regarding my fiddle care, so I figured that I would just write up a post and cover the questions that I get asked most frequently, as well as share what I have learned! Just this past weekend I repotted my fiddles for the first time since purchasing them back in February and it wasn’t nearly as scary as I expected it to be. I will share all of those tips as well!
Light: Let’s start with the basics and the most important factor when attempting to grow (read: keep your fiddle alive) a fiddle in your home: LIGHT! Give your fiddle bright, consistent light–preferably in front of a window. Be sure to turn your fiddle every few weeks to be sure that all sides of the plant are receiving adequate light– a good way to know that you need to turn your plant is when you start to notice that it is leaning one direction more than the other. I have found the most success with my fiddles facing a south window– good all day sunlight and not too much strong afternoon light (causes burning of the leaves). If you don’t have the option of a south facing window, north or east is better than west (too much afternoon sun).
Water: Apart from not giving my fiddles enough light, I was also drowning them with too much water. As I said before, I only know what to do because I have learned what not to do, lol. I water my fiddles on friday, “fiddle friday” is apparently a thing? You want to water your plant so that the water flows out of the bottom. Once the water comes out of the bottom of the plant be sure to dump the remaining to reduce root rot. A good rule of thumb for knowing if your plant is ready for more water is to stick your finger in the top of the soil and if you feel it’s dry roughly 1-3 inches down, it’s time for more water. I always do this check prior to watering! During growing season (summer) I have been using a fiddle fertilizer or “fiddle food” with each watering (linked at bottom of post). I invested in a plant mister and I really think that it has helped. I mist my plants each morning in order to increase humidity. **If you are planning to repot in the near future, be sure to not water for at least a week beforehand, it’ll make your life a whole lot easier working with dry soil vs. freshly watered soil.
Drafts: Fiddles are used to growing in the tropics where they live in a warm, humid and sunny environment. Obviously, replicating their natural environment can be difficult indoors– especially if you live in the northern part of the country. Cold drafts from doors, windows and vents are surefire ways to cause your fiddle to dry out and drop it’s leaves.
Soil: Plan to repot your plant about once a year. I have read multiple places that fiddles (unlike many other plants) prefer to be in a tight fitting pot rather than one with excess room. Having said this, repotting your fiddle before it’s ready is a sure way to cause it to be unhappy and potentially bring it to it’s death. Once the roots become crowded they will begin to grow out of the drainage holes, which can lead to root rot and circulation problems. If you see roots coming out of the bottom of your plastic planter, this is a good sign that it’s time to move your plant to a bigger home. Another way to know it’s time is when the soil of your plant begins to pull away from the sides of your planter– more than likely your plant is root bound and this prevents growing.
Cleaning: Every two weeks I wipe my fiddle’s leaves down. I simply get a washcloth damp, add coconut oil (provides great shine) and gently wipe off excess dirt and dust! I have found that this allows my plant to breathe easier and it keeps it very happy and beautiful!
Now that we have covered the basics, let’s talk about how to repot your fiddle. If you are reading this, congrats, because this means that you have been successful in keeping your fiddle alive long enough to need to upgrade it’s pot! So, for real, congrats, that’s no small feat!
Repotting Your Fiddle
As I mentioned above, repotting your fiddle seems a whole lot more intimidating than it really is. Once I got my babies out of their plastic pots I knew that if I would’ve waited a whole lot longer they probably would’ve chocked themselves to death due to being so root bound and overgrown for their homes. So, here we go, step by step!
Step 1: Find A Planter. If you ask R, he will confirm: I am a psycho. I bought and returned SO many planters that I thought was “it”… There were these ones that I loved, but I couldn’t get myself to spend a couple hundred dollars, so guess what? I recreated the look for less than $60 per plant (I linked my exact purchases at the bottom of this post, if you’re interested). Okay, back to the real deal: find a planter that is a few inches wider in diameter than your current planter. You don’t want to go too big, too fast, or it’ll shock your plant and that’s not good. The plastic planters that I had were 8 inches and the new ones that I moved my plants into are 12 inches.
Step 2: Add Drainage (if necessary). If the pot you purchased has drainage holes then you don’t necessarily have to add additional drainage, but I personally feel like it won’t hurt. Fill the bottom of your planter with 1-2 inches of rocks, or gravel. Once the rocks are in place, top with about an inch of soil.
Step 3: Choose Your Soil. There are so many types of soil out there. I grabbed the one recommended to me by my local nursery, it was just their basic potting soil for indoor plants. You will end up needing more than you anticipate, so buy the bigger bag. You can always save the unused soil for other plants, or for when you repot in the future!
Step 4: Remove Your Fiddle From Existing Pot. I SO suggest doing this outside because it gets messy! If outside isn’t an option for you, lay down a big blanket or sheet that you don’t care too much about and do the removing and repotting on top of that. Start by gently pulling on the base of the trunk; if your fiddle is ready to be repotted, the entire rootball should come out without much effort (as pictured). If you find that the roots are bound together, be sure to gently break up the root ball before placing your plant in its new planter.
Step 5: Position Fiddle In New Planter. Position fiddle in the center, be sure that there are at least 2 inches of negative space surrounding your plant and the planter.
Step 6: Fill With Soil. Backfill all negative space with new soil, gently pressing until firm. Note: as the plant settles you may find that it looks like soil is disappearing, just add additional!
Step 7: Be proud of yourself!! But, really. Growing fiddles is no joke. I personally waited a day before putting my newly repotted plant back in it’s sunny location because I have read a lot that direct sunlight can be harsh on a weakened plant. I also waited a day before watering– this is a debated topic, but so far it’s worked for me.
fully embracing the fact that I am now considered a “plant lady.” xo, G