TREE ENVY & A BOTANICAL MIRACLE
I had fiddle leaf fig tree envy for years. Every gorgeous interior shot in Domino and all the legit designers have fiddle leaf figs. They just scream, “Oh yeah. This room is so awesome that a giant plant just lives here 24/7.”
I wanted one. In the worst way.
I was pained by my inability to grow even a measly herb. All those majestic fiddle leafs in the pictures just mocked me. Fast forward a few years and miracle of all miracles, I’ve somehow kept mine alive almost almost two years.
I get emails all the time about Newton…my fiddle leaf fig tree. If you’ve been hanging around this blog for any amount of time, you’ve heard about my serial plant killing ways. I don’t just have a “black thumb”, my whole stinking arm might as well be deadly.
I love plants. But they rarely love me back.
When I brought Newton home, I vowed to keep him alive. Come hell or high water. The typical plant care tips weren’t gonna’ cut it. I needed to do more.
I had to woo my fiddle leaf fig tree.
THE DAY I BROUGHT HIM HOME
We have a little something my husband jokingly refers to as the “ceramic graveyard”. It’s a spot behind our tool shed where all my empty pots are stacked, plantless and unfulfilled. Here was the scene when I tried to casually sneak in a 3 foot tree into the house without him noticing…
ME: Oh hey, did you eat lunch yet?
(Nonchalantly trying to change the subject before the conversation ever started.)
(Almost chokes on coffee as he sees the tree.)
STU: Really?? Well, that’s optimistic of you.
ME: I can handle this!! Apparently the larger the plant, the harder it is to kill. (Lie.)
ME: Plus it was totally on sale, and I couldn’t pass up a good deal. (Another lie.)
ME: Doesn’t he look gorgeous in the living room?!?
STU: Sure…This week he does.
(Hums the funeral march)
(Gives inappropriate hand gesture and then whispers to the plant…)
ME: Don’t listen to him. You have your whole life ahead of you.
TIPS + SUPERSTITION
So here’s the deal…There are some “tried and true” fiddle leaf fig tree care tips that you can find anywhere online. I researched and followed most of them and will lay those out for you today.
However just “following the rules” has not served me well in my past plant endeavors. For Newton’s care plan, I added several unorthodox things that I routinely do. Here’s my take on how to keep a fiddle leaf fig alive and happy…
HOW TO KEEP YOUR FIDDLE LEAF FIG TREE ALIVE
1. Choose the Right Planter.
-The lovely lady at the nursery informed me that buying too large of a pot can be a deathtrap for a fiddle leaf fig. For a small plant, go with 8″-10″ diameter. For larger plants, 12″-14″ is the max size you’ll want to use.
-Make sure that there are drainage holes in the bottom on your pot. (I placed a few rocks beneath the soil and and also used a pot with holes. A clear plastic liner sits between the planter and my floor.)
2. Pick the Placement Carefully.
Fiddle leaf figs like sunlight, but too much harsh sunlight can be a problem. Place in a sunny area where they receive at least 4 hours of sunlight a day, but avoid direct sunlight. I placed mine in a corner that receives lots of light, but I have drapes that filter the sunlight’s effect.
3. Rarely Move but Often Rotate.
-These guys are homebodies. They don’t want to go galavanting all over the place, or they tend to act out. You might want to let it get some outdoor air a couple times during the year, just not in a windy season. Pick a place in your home that he’ll be able to stay put.
-Fiddle leaf figs trees grow toward the light, so you’ll want to rotate the planter every few weeks. (I did NOT do such a great job of this, so Newton is a tad heavy on one side. I can relate…)
4. Tend to the Leaves.
-You’ll want to lightly dust the leaves as needed. Even a thin layer of dust can block sunlight from absorbing and stunt the tree’s growth.
-Water the leaves by misting with a spray bottle after dusting.
5. Wait to Water.
-This is probably the most important tip…Do not overwater. The suggested method is to wait until the top inch of soil is dry but you can still feel moisture an inch deep. Factors like where you live, pot size, humidity can all affect how often this is. (See my REAL indicator to water below.)
*WATCH: Leaves dropping mean either over or under watering. Brown leaves at the bottom area sign of over watering. Brown leaves at the top could mean under watering.
6. Give Your Tree His Vitamins.
I heard from a couple readers that Superthrive Plant Vitamin Solution was a miracle worker for their sick FLF, so I tried it out myself. Add a cap of it to some water and pour it right into the soil if you notice your leaves limp or sickly. You can even add this to the soil during growing season to help boost new leaves. (Just read the glowing Amazon reviews by botanists and you’ll be sold like I was.)
In addition to the “real rules”, here are my superstitious habits that have served my FLF well…
1. Name your tree.
He needs to feel like one of the family. Plus, if you name him it’s likely you’ll remember to take care of him more like a pet and less like a houseplant.
2. Serenade the tree daily.
Sometimes I’m belting the Beatles, and other times Ellie Goudling is blasting on Pandora. Newton seems to like both. Equally.
3. Fiercely guard against plant terrorists. (AKA: toddlers)
Newton and the surrounding area is completely off limits to my daughter. Ceramic vases and white chairs? Go for it. Come near the plant, and I will take your tiny hiny down.
4. Water as a last resort.
I wait until the top leaves start dropping just the teensiest bit before giving any water. I am an over-waterer by nature, so this ensures that I don’t overdo it. This trick has worked well for me and my guy, but it is a tad risky. (*It ends up being about a once a week watering for the climate we live in and the size of my tree.)
Who knows what’s really kept him alive for nearly 2 years (Sheer luck? A miracle?) but I’m not taking any chances.
I will continue to do all of the above. For as long as we both shall live.
*The small brown portion that looks like a dying bud is actually normal. All new leaves look like this in the beginning.
TROPICAL PLANTS IN COLD CLIMATES?
Because these are tropical plants a lot of people think that you have to live in a sunny state to have one. Well, I happen to live in the tundra of Missouri, and I still have a thriving plant. Creating the right conditions inside is the key. We use a humidifier in the coldest months for my daughter, but I’m sure Newton appreciates it as well.
So yes, Midwesterners…you too can have a fiddle leaf fig.
Scared to strike out for the 1,000th time with a plant, much less a gorgeous fiddle leaf tree? I’m telling you, it’s worth the risk to try. Buy one from IKEA or your local nursery and just go for it! Newton and I are rootin’ for ya.
PS: Check out my FREE guide below with 11 of my favorite houseplants even YOU can grow:)
*affiliate link used in this post.