How to Care for Ficus lyrata Indoors & Outdoors

The Fiddle-leaf fig is known scientifically as the Ficus lyrata. It is a flowering plant from the Moraceae family. Its native habitat is in Western Africa, from Sierra Leone to Cameroon west. It grows in the tropical rainforest, specifically in the lowland areas. They grow as high as 12 to 15 meters or 39 to 49 feet when fully matured.

Ficus lyrata

There is no exact way the leaves look as these are variable in shape. However, these are typically narrow in the middle and have a broad apex. It can go up to 18 inches or 45 centimeters long and up to 12 inches or 30 centimeters wide. The leaves are leathery in texture, with prominent veins. It has a green fig with a diameter of 2.5 to 3 centimeters.

In tropical and subtropical gardens, you can find the Ficus lyrata as an ornamental tree. In temperate areas, you can find these as houseplants. You might be wondering how it grows 12 to 15 meters tall and can fit as a houseplant? They stay short! Do keep in mind to keep them away from direct light. 

When left unattended, the Fiddle-leaf fig can grow dense. It needs to be groomed and trimmed regularly. In the following sections, we will walk you through what you need to know about how to care for Ficus lyrata. 

Ficus lyrata Benefits

Fiddle leaf

Owning a plant has its benefits. For this one, it is beyond aesthetics. Several owners have one at home mainly because they think it is attractive. That reason is enough, but there are several more benefits to being a Fiddle-leaf fig owner. Below are some reasons why owning one benefits you!

  1. It Promotes Physical Health

Being surrounded by plants and trees promote your physical well-being. Studies have proven that indoor plants increase humidity in an indoor space. They also elevate your mood and improve your temperature perception. Moreover, it also calms the nervous system and lowers blood pressure. 

  1. It Cleans the Air

Several indoor plants remove toxins and chemicals inside the home. The toxins they can remove include benzene and ammonia. They can also help with formaldehyde. They can do it better than any modern-day purifier available on the market. Moreover, they promote healthy levels of oxygen as they respirate.

In a study by NASA, several plants can purify the air and remove deadly substances. It includes the Fiddle-leaf fig. They grow large, and larger plants can respirate more than smaller ones. It effectively cleans the air more.

Maybe you are wondering how plants clean the air? They indeed absorb harmful substances through their leaves and release these as oxygen. But that is only half of a plants’ cleaning properties. More than 50% of these cleaning properties are from the microbes in the roots, the roots, and the soil. The leaves pull down oxygen into the soil as water flows through it. This process cleans and removes the chemicals.

ficus lyrata being planted in soil

So, how many plants does one need to promote physical health? Per NASA, you need at least two to three plants per 100 sq. ft. If your home’s floor area is 1,800 sq. ft., you need at least 36. One large Ficus lyrata is about three to five small plants.

Below is a summary of what makes the Ficus lyrata great at cleaning air:

  • Plants that take up a lot of soil surface help clean air.
  • Leaves release water vapor. The root system draws air and metabolizes it. In the process, it filters out toxic compounds. 
  1. It Can Boost Your Mental Well-Being

There is something with taking care of plants that makes one feel productive and accomplished. Several owners have admitted to developing a bond with their plants. In summary, it helps boost your mental well-being. 

  1. It Can Boost Concentration

The benefits one may get from growing a Fiddle leaf fig do not stop at boosting one’s mental well-being. It also promotes an increase in productivity and focus. Should you need to get something done as soon as possible, try sticking around a fiddle leaf.

  1. It is Fun to Grow

Apart from the mental and physical benefits, growing it is fun. Aside from keeping your home beautiful, it adds a splash of nature. 

Where to buy Ficus lyrata variegata?

Because this plant’s popularity is growing fast, you might want to know where to buy one. Who does not want one? Its stunning leaves have a pattern of yellow, white, and green. It makes it an absolute beauty indoor or outdoor. Before fully committing to buying and growing one, you should know these plants are challenging to grow. Do not attempt to raise one if you are not willing to risk losing hundreds of dollars. 

As of the time of this article, there are no Fiddle-leaf growers in the United States. Most growers are in Asia. That is if it’s not all of them. However, it is not wise to get one overseas because it is a long way to go for a delicate plant. Some people from the United States that traveled to Asia attempted to bring one back, but it died along the way. It is also tricky to grow this plant because different Ficus lyrata caring instructions are available online.

eBay is the best place to find a Ficus lyrata variegata. You might be eager to search for one right now, but you might not be lucky. When it goes live on eBay, it sells out pretty quickly. What you can do to increase your chances of getting one is to set up alerts. As soon as a seller posts one, you will get a notification.

If you need help in setting up keyword alerts, here is a summary for you:

  1. Log in to your eBay account. If you do not have one, creating an account takes about a minute or two.
  2. Locate the “advanced” in the search bar to begin a search.
  3. Enter “Variegated Fiddle Leaf Fig” or “Variegated Ficus lyrata” in the keyword.
  4. You can also set up other requirements, if any.
  5. Click on save.

Indoor Care

Should you wish to keep this plant indoors, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when it comes to taking care of it. The first thing you need to know is to position the plant in front of a window to get the most sunlight. To learn more, do continue reading.

Water

You need to water it at least once a week to keep it alive and healthy. The amount of water depends on the height and its roots’ size. In most cases, you might want to wait until the soils’ top two to three inches are dry before watering it. Do not allow water to sit for a long time if you have a drip tray. Roots soaked in water rot fast. Water your plant in a circular motion, covering all the soil area.

Use room temperature water when watering your plant. Using cold or hot water will shock the plant in the same way it gets subjected to extreme weather. You wouldn’t want it to die. 

Light

The Ficus lyrata needs direct sunlight in the morning and the afternoon. A window that has no obstructions from sunlight exposure is what you need. It’s best if facing south, west, or east. It should be away from neighboring buildings and trees.

A large window with a clear view should work too. Make sure your plants get several hours of sunlight daily. However, do it slowly until it gets accustomed to it. The leaves form brown scorch marks when it gets too much sunlight quickly. Over two weeks, increase its exposure slowly.

The fiddle leaf fig’s size matters when deciding how much light it needs. A larger one will need more light. On the other hand, a smaller plant will need less light. For example, a ten-inch tree will need a taller window than a five-inch tree. Aside from height, the number of leaves also plays a role in determining how much light it needs. More leaves translate to more light to continue growing. Do you know how the leaves show it needs light? It drops down, telling you its leaves need more light.

If you live in a location that experiences winter, it should not get any cold air. It is challenging because you will need to place it in front of the window. You will need to move your plant about three feet back if you have drafty windows. Distance is usually good as it helps the plant avoid cold air. 

Maintenance

Maintaining your Fiddle leaf fig makes it happy. The leaves need a bit of regular dusting. Accumulating dust makes it difficult to perform photosynthesis and absorb the sunlight it needs.

Since most indoor plants are in a pot, we recommend rotating them regularly to get even exposure to light. If one side gets more light, it might grow more.

There are a few things you can do so your plant will grow branches. The very first thing is to give it more light. Sometimes, they lack exposure to it. It hinders their growth. You can also cut off the topmost point to facilitate growth.

If you have not done so, aerate the soil at least once a month. It keeps the soil from being too compacted. You can use an aerator to keep it loose. Alternatively, you can use chopsticks or anything of similar shape and size. Always gently do this to avoid damaging the plant. 

Man planting Ficus lyrata

Outdoor Care

The fiddle leaf fig’s natural habitat is outdoor, so there is not much caring you need to do in this case. In its natural habitat, it grows in the lowland rainforest. It sprouts to life in the high branches of another tree. Its roots slowly make their way down to the ground, where they will slowly strangle the host tree.

If you are thinking of growing this plant just outside your home (outdoor), you might not be lucky. It is a delicate species. Everything needs to be in places like humidity and exposure to sunlight.

How Often Should I Water a Ficus lyrata?

The frequency of watering your plant would depend on its size. You need to keep the soil moist. On average, water it two to three times a week. Before doing it, please check the soil’s moisture. 

Do Fiddle Leaf Figs Need Direct Sunlight?

No, Fiddle leaf figs do not need direct sunlight. What they need is a lot of indirect sunlight. There are several things to bear in mind regarding the amount of sunlight it needs. Getting enough natural light inside your home is challenging, especially in autumn and winter. The lack of it is one of the leading reasons for leaf drops and the yellowing of leaves.

Placing your plant in a location that does not get enough natural light is like staying in a room with minimal oxygen. It needs sunlight to survive because it uses the energy for photosynthesis. It will suffer without these. So how much is enough sunlight? It grows natively in the rainforest in Africa, where it gets a lot of it.

You may also want to consider the sun’s direction concerning your home. Use your phone’s compass to know where your house faces. The south-facing window will get the most sunlight if you live in the northern hemisphere. It only applies to those living in the equator’s very far south or north. Maybe you’re living in the Southern United States. There, even windows not facing the south will get enough sunlight during the summer and spring months.

Do not attempt to place it in a west-facing window without protection. The heat coming from the afternoon sun could burn the leaves. Although the Fiddle leaf fig naturally lives in a sunny environment, they never get direct sunlight.

You will also need to consider the cumulative exposure to natural light the plant gets daily. You can compare this to how important drinking eight glasses of water per day is to people. They are unable to store and reserve sunlight for later. As such, they need at least six hours of exposure. 

FAQ

Is Ficus lyrata Toxic to Cats?

Yes, cats are allergic to it. You might ask why? People aren’t allergic, so why are cats? It contains a toxic principle. It’s an irritant sap that can trigger mild dermatitis and mild gastrointestinal upset. It can also cause oral pain when ingested.

So what makes it toxic? If a cat chews on the leaves, it excretes a milky sap containing irritating substances. The most common signs to look out for are oral irritation and rash on the affected area. Be on the lookout for diarrhea and mild vomiting as well.

In the case of dermatitis, gently wash the irritated area with water and soap as soon as possible. The sooner you do it, the lesser the effects. If the condition does not improve after a few minutes, please call a professional who can handle it.

We suggest keeping it in an inaccessible area to protect your cat. Alternatively, several species are pet-safe. 

Is Ficus lyrata Toxic to Dogs?

Similar to cats, dogs are also allergic to this plant. It may trigger oral pain, mild gastrointestinal upset, and mild dermatitis. You may refer to the above section for more details. 

Can I still Save a Rotting Plant?

Yes, provided that there are still some parts of the root that is firm and white. You may clean it up and remove any dead roots before replanting. If the entire root system is soft and mushy, it is too late to save it. 

Where do you put a Ficus lyrata?

The ideal location is near your window, where it gets in contact with indirect sunlight. Do not place it in direct sunlight as it stops your plant from growing or can even kill it. Rotating the plant helps in symmetrical growth. 

Should I mist my ficus Lyrata?

Yes, you can mist. However, you can only do it to the lead buds. When water drips down to the other leaves, you misted too much. Mist it two to three times a week, depending on how dry or wet. 

What are common ficus lyrata problems?

Below are some of the most common problems Ficus lyrata owners encounter:
– Fertilizer burn
– Infestation
– Leaf damage
– Underwatering
– Overwatering
– Bacterial infection
– Root rot
– Sunburn
– Black spots on the leaves
Yellow leaves, curling leaves, and drooping leaves

What is ficus lyrata’s growth rate?

The growth rate is at 12 to 18 inches yearly, provided it gets enough exposure to sunlight.

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