Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata) & Our Love-Hate Relationship

Fiddle Leaf Figs (Ficus Lyrata) seem to be the "it" plant right now. They're splashed all over the pages of Pinterest, Houzz, Apartment Therapy, designers' websites, home catalogs and magazines. There's no denying why: Fiddle Leaf Figs are gorgeous! They add plenty of color and interest to a room's d├ęcor. Now keeping them gorgeous... that's a whole other ballgame.

I picked up my Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree from a local nursery in South Orange County (one recently visited by Bravo TV's Jeff Lewis). It's planted in a 14 1/2-inch pot, and cost a pretty penny. Here's a photo of when we first brought our baby home:
ficus lyrata
See the beautiful, big shiny leaves? Not a speck of brown. Anywhere.

Fast-forward three months. Here's our Fiddle Leaf Fig today:
fiddle leaf fig tree, ficus lyrata
Looks good from a distance, doesn't it? Look more closely:
Ficus Lyrata, brown spots
Ficus Lyrata
Unsightly brown spots all over the bottom portion of my tree's leaves. Eek!

They say Fiddle Leaf Figs are hardy and difficult to kill. Whomever said that must have ingested the toxins from this plant (yes, they're moderately toxic, although there's no definitive answer on the toxicity level of these plants). Just give them plenty of light, monthly fertilizing and let them dry out between waterings. Check, check and check.

I've researched this brown-spotting phenomenon online (GardenWeb, Google searches) and have spoken with nurseries. It could be the following:
  • Overwatering (it gets an abundant 3 1/2 cups of tap water weekly, given after the first few inches of soil are dry);
  • Under-watering (it only gets 3 1/2 cups of tap water weekly);
  • Too-little light (doubtful);
  • Over-chlorinated tap water (we have over 500 ppm - seriously gross Southern California water); or
  • You're just out of luck (thanks, Lowe's).
For now, my plan of attack is lengthening the time between waterings, waiting for the top leaves to begin wilting before watering.

I've invested too much time and money in this relationship to let it go. Just as Shania Twain sang, you're still the one, my Fiddle Leaf Fig...

Any ideas what's afflicting my tree? Perhaps some other sob stories?