From lighting advice to tips about dealing with root rot, here's what two experts say you should know about your favorite potted plant.

By Caroline Biggs
September 15, 2020
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Beloved by green thumbs and rookie gardeners alike, fiddle leaf figs are popular for a reason. "There are very few plants in the houseplant market that will become a proper 'tree' in an indoor space," says Summer Rayne Oakes, host of "Plant One On Me" on YouTube and author of How to Make a Plant Love You ($19.19, amazon.com). "So, if you're looking for height and big leaves, then a fiddle leaf fig is probably one of the best options out there."

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Also known as Ficus lyrata, fiddle leaf figs can grow up to 10 to 15 feet or more inside your home, says Lisa Eldred Steinkopf of The Houseplant Guru. "Its large, shiny, fiddle/violin shaped leaves make this architectural plant unique and one of the most popular houseplants on the planet," she says. "However, it is also known for its finicky properties." Looking for advice about how to grow and care for fiddle leaf figs at home? We asked our experts to share their tips and here's what they had to say.

Find the right light.

Steinkopf says if your fiddle leaf fig isn't already living in bright, indirect sunlight, you need to move it as soon as possible. "It needs as much light as you can give it without the sun necessarily shining directly on the leaves," she explains. "A south or west window is a perfect spot if it is back a bit from the window. An east window would also work, but a north window would not provide enough light for the plant to grow well."

Water according to planter size.

According to Oakes, the amount of water your fiddle leaf fig needs will depend on the size and type of planter it's in. "A Ficus lyrata that's planted in a smaller pot will need to be watered more frequently because it will likely dry out more quickly," she says. "Whereas one in a larger planter can be watered weekly, and even less so in colder months. Remember to water thoroughly, so that the water level gets down to the bottom roots—you can use a moisture meter to check bottom levels of potting medium."

Look out for yellow, brown, or falling leaves.

Are the leaves of your fiddle leaf fig start to turn yellow or brown? Have they begun dropping off? Steinkopf says these are signs that they have received either too much or not enough water. "If it is kept too wet, which often happens when a plant is watered on a schedule, it may develop yellow leaves which will also fall off," she explains. "Remember, the oldest leaves will fall off naturally as the plant grows, so do not panic unless it is dropping leaves consistently or a large number in a short amount of time."

Check for soil shrinkage.

If the plant becomes too dry, Steinkopf says the rooting medium may shrink away from the edges of the container. "The water will not soak into the root ball and will run down the sides of the container and out the drainage hole," she says. "If this happens, bottom water the plant instead. Set it in a basin of water and leave it there until the top of the medium feels wet. By allowing the potting medium to absorb the water slowly, the medium will usually expand and fill the pot again."

Manage root rot.

Without proper soil drainage, Oakes says your plant's roots can rot. "Pull out the root ball, clear out the soil and cut off any roots that are mushy, dead, or not serving the plant," she says. "Be sure to clean out its container and replace with new potting medium, preferably one that's more well-draining, and make sure, if at all possible, you have a planter with a hole."

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