All Posts   Posted:   February 27, 2019

One indoor plant that has dominated recent style and design trends is the Fiddleleaf Fig (ficus lyrata); found in either tree form or in its more juvenile shrubby phase this plant features large, glossy green leaves on a substantial-looking plant that can reach 8 feet tall or more. The fiddleleaf has some of the largest leaves of any of the ficus family which is compiled of many different species that have been popular indoor plants for many years; growth habits and leaf shape and size varies within this family from the relatively common weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) to the shiny, oval leaves of the rubber plant (Ficus elastica). Keeping a fiddleleaf fig happy at home can seem challenging at first but once you understand some of its basic likes and dislikes your next problem might be learning how to prune one* to accommodate its size in your home, apartment, work place or dorm room!

Let’s just get one thing out of the way – in general, Ficus plants are considered ‘Drama Queens’ – in other words they like specific conditions on a consistent basis and if those needs are not met… they pout by dropping leaves! If your plant goes too dry or stays too wet it will probably drop some leaves, if exposed to frequent drafts or blasts of heat it will drop leaves, if moved, turned or repotted… you guessed it:

leaves
will
drop.

It is normal to experience some leaf-loss in the first 2-4 weeks of receiving your new Ficus plant however, if leaf dropping is extensive or persists, evaluate your plants watering and light requirements to determine if it is in the ideal conditions.

We can speak in general terms on what the ideal conditions are for most indoor Ficus but each different species may have slightly unique preferences so be sure to research the specific species or cultivar you are interested in for detailed care instructions. Overall, the fiddleleaf is not the easiest of the indoor figs so if you have struggled with one before or want to dip your toe into the Ficus pool before diving in, I suggest trying one of the easier figs first. If you are concerned that your home or office may not be bright enough, try growing the Rubber plant (F. elastica) which is tolerant of lower light conditions or consider growing a Ficus Audrey if you are looking for something as cool yet different from the fiddleleaf.

General requirements for Ficus/figs including Fiddleleaf:  

Light: consistently bright or filtered light is best but avoid prolonged direct sun; directly in an east facing window or just a few feet away from a south or west facing window. Rotate plant occasionally to keep growth balanced.

Soil: use a high-quality, rich, well-draining potting soil.

Container: your container should have at least one drainage hole in the bottom and a saucer underneath to collect water as it drains; young plants may need to be repotted every year or two (in spring) if roots become crowded or begin growing through drainage holes – mature plants may only need repotting every 2-3 years and benefit from an inch of fresh soil added to the top layer each year. Only increase container size by about 1.5-2 inches at a time; if overwatering is a concern use an un-glazed pot or terra cotta container to allow moisture to evaporate through the walls of the pot.

Water: most common problems stem from overwatering – especially during winter months when growth is less active; be sure to adjust your watering frequency to different seasons and water almost half as often in winter. Generally speaking, most Ficus like regularly moist soil but never want to be soggy; always allow the top 2-4 inches of soil to dry before watering, then water thoroughly until it flows out the drainage holes and allow to dry out before watering again. Any signs of over or under watering will show up first in the foliage: if underwatered, new leaves near the top may turn brown or crispy – if overwatered, older leaves near the bottom may turn yellow or brown and fall off. Plants growing in lower light conditions may also require less water than the same plant in brighter light. As you get to know your specific plant and its watering needs, it is better to err on the side of too dry then to water too much!

Fertilizing: a basic indoor plant food - diluted to half-strength – can help maintain lush growth and good color, fertilize March through September but do not feed during winter months (October-February). Malibu Compost’s Houseplant Tea can be used to give a stressed plant a boost or as the first watering after transplanting, to help prevent transplant shock.

*Pruning: can be done to reduce plant height and promote branching or horizontal growth; pruning is best done in spring as the plant resumes active growth (many Ficus species will “bleed” from cut areas with a white sap that is sticky and contains latex, protect floors/furniture with paper, cloth or plastic sheeting before pruning indoors and wear gloves for protection).

Pests: Sadly, Ficus plants are almost as popular in the insect world as they are in ours. Pests that may cause issues include scale, spider mites, mealybugs, whitefly and aphids – probably the most common pest though is scale. Scale can be difficult to spot, especially in early stages of the ‘infestation’ and once they are noticed, can be numerous and difficult to overcome. They look like small tan bumps, usually oval-shaped, frequently found along the midrib of a leaf (top or bottom) or on a stem at the point where a leaf is connected and can be picked off with a fingernail or small tool. Regular inspection of your plant and frequent cleaning of its foliage will help keep you catch problems early and put you quickly on the path to recovery.

FAQ: Why are my leaves getting brown spots? Problems with Ficus leaves is one of the primary struggles growers have and may be due to a range of problems. It is helpful to take note of both the location of the damaged leaves (i.e. toward the top or bottom or plant) as well as the shape, pattern and color of the spots. Fiddleleaf figs can be the most dramatic with their leaf problems, in part because their leaves are so large – each damaged one makes a great impact. As mentioned above, they can be sensitive to environmental and transplant shock and will most likely do some degree of leaf-drop for the first 2-4 weeks after being placed in your home. If brown spots develop or dropping continues it could be caused by one of the following:

1)     Root rot caused by overwatering – older leaves (toward inside and lower portions of plant) are usually affected first; damage is dark patch in center of leaf or random dark blotches

2)     Extended drought/underwatering – newest leaves tend to be most affected, leaf damage is on outer edges

3)     Bacterial infection – worst on areas of new growth which may turn yellow or appear abnormally small or spotty; spots are more brown or reddish in color than black

4)     Insect damage – damage varies depending on pest; look for unusually shiny or sticky leaves as indication of pests nearby & inspect in more detail.

Always contact our indoor plant experts for advice or with your questions; We are here to help! Bring in examples of your sad leaves and/or send us an email with photos so we can address your concerns or determine the best plant for you. Attend one of our many classes on indoor plants to learn more – class listings can be found here. Although our on-hand inventory differs by location and changes daily, stop in to see what Ficus we have in today – there are usually lots to choose from!

One indoor plant that has dominated recent style and design trends is the Fiddleleaf Fig (ficus lyrata); found in either tree form or in its more juvenile shrubby phase this plant features large, glossy green leaves on a substantial-looking plant that can reach 8 feet tall or more. The fiddleleaf has some of the largest leaves of any of the ficus family which is compiled of many different species that have been popular indoor plants for many years; growth habits and leaf shape and size varies within this family from the relatively common weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) to the shiny, oval leaves of the rubber plant (Ficus elastica). Keeping a fiddleleaf fig happy at home can seem challenging at first but once you understand some of its basic likes and dislikes your next problem might be learning how to prune one* to accommodate its size in your home, apartment, work place or dorm room!

Let’s just get one thing out of the way – in general, Ficus plants are considered ‘Drama Queens’ – in other words they like specific conditions on a consistent basis and if those needs are not met… they pout by dropping leaves! If your plant goes too dry or stays too wet it will probably drop some leaves, if exposed to frequent drafts or blasts of heat it will drop leaves, if moved, turned or repotted… you guessed it:

leaves
will
drop.

It is normal to experience some leaf-loss in the first 2-4 weeks of receiving your new Ficus plant however, if leaf dropping is extensive or persists, evaluate your plants watering and light requirements to determine if it is in the ideal conditions.

We can speak in general terms on what the ideal conditions are for most indoor Ficus but each different species may have slightly unique preferences so be sure to research the specific species or cultivar you are interested in for detailed care instructions. Overall, the fiddleleaf is not the easiest of the indoor figs so if you have struggled with one before or want to dip your toe into the Ficus pool before diving in, I suggest trying one of the easier figs first. If you are concerned that your home or office may not be bright enough, try growing the Rubber plant (F. elastica) which is tolerant of lower light conditions or consider growing a Ficus Audrey if you are looking for something as cool yet different from the fiddleleaf.

General requirements for Ficus/figs including Fiddleleaf:  

Light: consistently bright or filtered light is best but avoid prolonged direct sun; directly in an east facing window or just a few feet away from a south or west facing window. Rotate plant occasionally to keep growth balanced.

Soil: use a high-quality, rich, well-draining potting soil.

Container: your container should have at least one drainage hole in the bottom and a saucer underneath to collect water as it drains; young plants may need to be repotted every year or two (in spring) if roots become crowded or begin growing through drainage holes – mature plants may only need repotting every 2-3 years and benefit from an inch of fresh soil added to the top layer each year. Only increase container size by about 1.5-2 inches at a time; if overwatering is a concern use an un-glazed pot or terra cotta container to allow moisture to evaporate through the walls of the pot.

Water: most common problems stem from overwatering – especially during winter months when growth is less active; be sure to adjust your watering frequency to different seasons and water almost half as often in winter. Generally speaking, most Ficus like regularly moist soil but never want to be soggy; always allow the top 2-4 inches of soil to dry before watering, then water thoroughly until it flows out the drainage holes and allow to dry out before watering again. Any signs of over or under watering will show up first in the foliage: if underwatered, new leaves near the top may turn brown or crispy – if overwatered, older leaves near the bottom may turn yellow or brown and fall off. Plants growing in lower light conditions may also require less water than the same plant in brighter light. As you get to know your specific plant and its watering needs, it is better to err on the side of too dry then to water too much!

Fertilizing: a basic indoor plant food - diluted to half-strength – can help maintain lush growth and good color, fertilize March through September but do not feed during winter months (October-February). Malibu Compost’s Houseplant Tea can be used to give a stressed plant a boost or as the first watering after transplanting, to help prevent transplant shock.

*Pruning: can be done to reduce plant height and promote branching or horizontal growth; pruning is best done in spring as the plant resumes active growth (many Ficus species will “bleed” from cut areas with a white sap that is sticky and contains latex, protect floors/furniture with paper, cloth or plastic sheeting before pruning indoors and wear gloves for protection).

Pests: Sadly, Ficus plants are almost as popular in the insect world as they are in ours. Pests that may cause issues include scale, spider mites, mealybugs, whitefly and aphids – probably the most common pest though is scale. Scale can be difficult to spot, especially in early stages of the ‘infestation’ and once they are noticed, can be numerous and difficult to overcome. They look like small tan bumps, usually oval-shaped, frequently found along the midrib of a leaf (top or bottom) or on a stem at the point where a leaf is connected and can be picked off with a fingernail or small tool. Regular inspection of your plant and frequent cleaning of its foliage will help keep you catch problems early and put you quickly on the path to recovery.

FAQ: Why are my leaves getting brown spots? Problems with Ficus leaves is one of the primary struggles growers have and may be due to a range of problems. It is helpful to take note of both the location of the damaged leaves (i.e. toward the top or bottom or plant) as well as the shape, pattern and color of the spots. Fiddleleaf figs can be the most dramatic with their leaf problems, in part because their leaves are so large – each damaged one makes a great impact. As mentioned above, they can be sensitive to environmental and transplant shock and will most likely do some degree of leaf-drop for the first 2-4 weeks after being placed in your home. If brown spots develop or dropping continues it could be caused by one of the following:

1)     Root rot caused by overwatering – older leaves (toward inside and lower portions of plant) are usually affected first; damage is dark patch in center of leaf or random dark blotches

2)     Extended drought/underwatering – newest leaves tend to be most affected, leaf damage is on outer edges

3)     Bacterial infection – worst on areas of new growth which may turn yellow or appear abnormally small or spotty; spots are more brown or reddish in color than black

4)     Insect damage – damage varies depending on pest; look for unusually shiny or sticky leaves as indication of pests nearby & inspect in more detail.

Always contact our indoor plant experts for advice or with your questions; We are here to help! Bring in examples of your sad leaves and/or send us an email with photos so we can address your concerns or determine the best plant for you. Attend one of our many classes on indoor plants to learn more – class listings can be found here. Although our on-hand inventory differs by location and changes daily, stop in to see what Ficus we have in today – there are usually lots to choose from!