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?


Anonymous said...

Hi Marisa!
I too live in OC and have been looking for a fiddle leaf tree for months now but most nurseries I check don't carry it (or they only have the column ones). Can you please tell me which nursery you went to? And how much the tree was?

I hope your tree is doing better, btw. I keep reading that they shouldn't be watered frequently, like every 2 weeks once the soil is completely dry.

Marisa said...

Hi! Thanks for the comment! I purchased our Fiddle Leaf Fig from the Plant Depot in San Juan Capistrano. They have a wide selection to choose from. Ours is in a 14" pot, and we paid $130. I've seen some at Home Depots, though not the tree-type.

My tree is doing about the same. I've started watering less (a thorough watering every 2 weeks), though I think the issue is light. It needs plenty of bright, filtered light, and my tree just isn't getting it.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info! I called them but unfortunately they're out of stock until next year. They recommended I try a different nursery in OC so it's all good.

The ones at Home Depot in Huntington Beach are all sickly looking and yes, they're all columns not tree-type. I want one just like yours; it's beautiful!!

I'm sorry to hear it's not doing any better though :( The light thing can be annoying to figure out because yeah, it can't be direct light but it still needs to be plenty. I've heard of fiddle leaf trees doing fine in windows of all four directions so maybe it just depends on the specific tree?

Anyway sorry I can't offer any help. I'm still trying to get my hands on one!

Best of luck to you and your beloved Fiddle! :)


Andres Saavedra said...

I got one at English Gardens and they have a wide variety, but not sure if there is one near you

Marisa said...

Thank you, Andres! I don't think we have English Gardens out here. Sounds like a great place!

Lisa Zoet said...

I read you are supposed to water it to drain straight through once a dowel is stuck in deeply and comes out dry (not cool & moist). If you sit it in a saucer it will sit in the water and build up mineral salts which would affect the plants cell respiration/growth. Fertilise only during growing season. Hopefully it wasn't pot bound and the new pot is sufficient size. I have a small bushy type from Bunnings in Australia. I put it in the shower on the weekend and soak it through and let it drain in there. The soil is very loose. It is doing well and we are going into winter so I will have to move it. It gets full morning eastern sun now. Hoping a north window will do.
I don't know how this works for much larger plants in huge pots. There is a LONG thread on Houzz discussing ficus lyrata.

Marisa said...

Hi Lisa! Thank you for your comment, and great suggestions about how to keep a Fiddle Leaf Fig healthy. Sounds like your plant is doing great! I posted an update to this post ( - my plant was a happy camper for quite a while, until last year when I accidentally left it outside after a soaking. The temps shot up to 100 degrees (F), and unfortunately the plant was in direct sun. So many leaves got fried. :-( It sure hasn't been the same since. We actually have about 4 of them planted in our backyard, and they're a breeze to take care of (go figure). Thanks again! Wishing you continued success with your plant!