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giant fiddle leaf fig in highrise apartment near window in black ceramic pot

Fiddle Leaf Fig Care: Turns out I Suck at it

Fiddle Leaf Fig care is not my thing, as it turns out. When I purchased my first Fiddle Leaf a few months back I knew I was in for a challenge. A journey, as the reality TV shows like to call it. An experience that I knew would be fraught with issues; drooping, sagging, lack of growth. And a tonne of other potential problems I’d heard about from others in the past.

But I like a challenge. I was up for it. I was one of those moronic ‘it won’t happen to me’ people, who foolishly thought I’d have a fiddle leaf fig resembling the one above in a matter of months. That photo is not mine, obviously. I’m actually convinced the image above is some sort of mirage. Or a photoshop prank. It’s gotta be fake, at the very least. Because my Fiddle Leaf Fig does not look like that. It barely resembles a living plant at all right now.

So let me take you on my Fiddle Leaf Fig journey. And perhaps you can help me by pointing out where I went wrong. This is clearly not a guide on how to properly care for your plant. So if you came here for tips and assistance, I apologise in advance. This is my therapy session. Start the timer.

fiddle leaf fig in small white ceramic pot with lush greenery and soil

Fiddle Leaf Fig Care seemed easy initially

I purchased my Fiddle Leaf Fig from Mitre 10, brought it home, chose a spot for it. From the outset, she looked incredibly happy. She was rather proud of herself and her glossy green leaves, and I was too.

A spot that was bright but out of direct sunlight was essential. That’s what I’d heard the plant needed, anyway. Fiddle Leaf Fig care stage one was complete; light-filled spot, no over-watering, and wipe down the leaves every few days. Tick, tick, tick. I had read all the help guides and was quietly scoffing to myself, what’s with all the whiners who claim it’s hard work?

Reality hit a few days later when the leaves started to dry out, like my mouth when I’m gagging for a wine and the line at the bar is long. OK, so perhaps I haven’t been watering it enough. That seems right. Dry leaves, falling off… it has to be water.

So my partner took the plant outside and gave it a good drenching. She’ll come back, I told myself. And in the days that passed I convinced myself that I could see a noticeable difference. Like when you go for one run and you’re sure you can see an abdominal muscle shortly after.

fiddle leaf fig in rattan belly basket with dying leaves on ground

So Much Advice, so Much Confusion

I soon discovered, after a further week, and when the leaves started to fall off, that my denial about the plants health was not helping. OK, fair call, I got it wrong. I had no idea what I as doing, and the poor plant was fading fast. What else does one do in this modern, futuristic world do when they need help? No, you don’t call a professional. You take to Instagram and ask other people for advice.

That’s when things started to get hairy, as so many conflicting viewpoints came through regarding my Fiddle Leaf Fig care plan. Here’s just some of what I was told by you gorgeous people online.

I’m actually laughing as I write this because the advice is so hilariously varied.

  • Water thoroughly once a week & every few weeks with a liquid fertilizer.
  • Never overwater and liquid fertilise every month
  • Filtered light and then 1 or 2 cups of water when it starts to look droopy
  • Put outside in filtered light on the front porch every 2nd week or so
  • Rub coconut oil on its leaves once a month or something!
  • Wipe the leaves with a mixture of milk & water
  • They love having their roots contained in a small pot but they still need soil
  • You need a fertilizer high in nitrogene
  • Teeny tiny bit of indoor plant fertiliser about every 3 months
  • They need a lot of sunlight but not in the harsh sun
  • Don’t move it, it will get anxiety
  • Pop it in the shower once a week with a small burst of water
  • I water mine every second Sunday or when they start looking sad
  • As soon as it starts to look a bit droopy give it a drink of water.
  • Do one cup of water a week in winter a bit more in summer
  • Water only when the top 2 cms of soil are dry
  • If it’s not happy, move it to a better place, but don’t move it for the sake of it.
  • Brown leaves usually mean they have wet feet ! Cut back the watering to once a week

fiddle leaf fig in grey pit from bunnings in dining room with horse art from urban road

After Replanting, things got Worse

So I thought… it’s in too small a pot. There’s over-crowding. I need to give it more room to breathe. So after a few weeks of brown leaves falling off and it looking as dry as ever, I decided to put it in a new, larger pot.

That, sadly, did nothing to help it. For a few days it looked lush (or was my denial kicking back in?). But then soon enough, I got creepy little flying bugs swarming around the soil. And then I had to look up ways to try and get rid of them! I used a mixture of white vinegar and dishwashing liquid in a cup to draw the bugs away, although I don’t believe they’ve gone completely.

Another week after that, I decided to move it. What I read when I was finding ways to remove the bugs, was that they’re drawn to the moist soil. So I thought… it’s too close to the window. The sun is streaming in on it. That’s the issue.

Now I have it in a corner with less light, and it’s seriously on its last legs. I’m considering moving it back to its original spot. But I almost feel as though it’s time to just bury the poor thing in the backyard and call it a day.

dying fiddle leaf fig in grey pot from bunnings

Fiddle Leaf Fig Care: In Conclusion

I suck at fiddle leaf fig care and never want to do it again.

The only thing giving me some hope is that new shoots are sprouting up, albeit really light green ones and they look kinda creepy. The large, dry leaves are still ever-present, as you can see above, so I’m really at a loss as to what to do now to mend all of the dryness and brown bits.

Do you have any more advice for me? Where did I go wrong with my Fiddle Leaf Fig care plan? Drop me a comment below and share!

Image one photo credit here, photo two here.

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Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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21 Responses

  1. Okay, this requires a long reply, which no one will read, so the short answer is: don’t give up on your FLF. I didn’t and mine are bouncing back. Put it back where there is most light, rotate it every month – slightly, water weekly to 2 weeks (depending of season and where you live CA vs. NYC climates). Use several methods (as described below) to get rid of pests. And repotting is tricky. Repot in a slightly bigger pot (1-2″) with drainage holes and use good drainage soil. No need to over dote your FLF with cleaning and fertilizer BUT do not leave next to vents, ACs, or any kind of draft whether it is hot or cold.

    *** Repotting and Pests: As for the fungus gnats, repotting helped (but never in a big pot,always go for an inch or 2 inches bigger with good drainage holes because a pot too big means more soil that remains wet for a while and FLFs don’t like to be in very wet soil as it is prone to root rot — And then it will be hard to save. Also a plant in distress attracts pests. FLFs like to be snug, so unless it is pot bound or has serious pests issues, I wouldn’t repot. It just does better that way.

    Pests: Yellow sticky traps kills the adult fungus gnats but needs to be combined with a garden safe fungicide. The larvae problem gets resolved by either removing the top first inch of soil or adding a hydrogen peroxide mix (1/5th 3%HP and 4/5ths water) when the top soil is completely dry so that it can instantly kill the larvae. I added black sand to cover the top soil as an additional precaution. It dries quickly and doesn’t attract the adults as much (they like wet soil). This may seem like an over the top crazy care instructions (lots of work and $$$) but FLFs are expensive and these steps will pay off. In my case, it got rid of 90+ % of the bugs issues and now my 7 foot FLFs are doing well (even having new growth). FLFs are beautiful trees and tend to grow about a foot a year, so it’s worth it to try to bounce it back to life.

  2. Okay, this requires a long reply, which no one will read, so the short answer is: don’t give up on your FLF. I didn’t and mine are bouncing back. Put it back where there is most light, rotate it every month – slightly, water weekly to 2 weeks (depending of season and where you live CA vs. NYC). Use several methods (as described below) to get rid of pests. And repotting is tricky. Repot in a slightly bigger pot (1-2″) with drainage holes and use good drainage soil. No need to over dote your FLF with cleaning and fertilizer BUT do not leave next to vents, ACs, or any kind of draft whether it is hot or cold.

    *** Repotting and Pests: As for the fungus gnats, repotting helped (but never in a big pot,always go for an inch or 2 inches bigger with good drainage holes because a pot too big means more soil that remains wet for a while and FLFs don’t like to be in very wet soil as it is prone to root rot — And then it will be hard to save. Also a plant in distress attracts pests. FLFs like to be snug, so unless it is pot bound or has serious pests issues, I wouldn’t repot. It just does better that way.

    Pests: Yellow sticky traps kills the adult fungus gnats but needs to be combined with a garden safe fungicide. The larvae problem gets resolved by either removing the top first inch of soil or adding a hydrogen peroxide mix (1/5th 3%HP and 4/5ths water) when the top soil is completely dry so that it can instantly kill the larvae. I added black sand to cover the top soil as an additional precaution. It dries quickly and doesn’t attract the adults as much (they like wet soil). This may seem like an over the top crazy care instructions (lots of work and $$$) but FLFs are expensive and these steps will pay off. In my case, it got rid of 90+ % of the bugs issues and now my 7 foot FLFs are doing well (even having new growth). FLFs are beautiful trees and tend to grow about a foot a year, so it’s worth it to try to bounce it back to life.

  3. Fungus infection! Take it out of its pot and leave out for at least a month. Let it completely dry out. Cut off diseased leaves. Then liquid fertiliser. Back in pot. Happen to mine, now it has lovely new growth.

  4. Mine is going ok, mainly from neglect! I water it when I remember – sometimes once a week, sometimes once a fortnight. I think it likes the filtered bright light it gets behind the glass brick window. But I do need to wipe the leaves more often as the lower few leaves are a bit shriveled.

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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