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Fiddle Leaf Fig Care: Turns out I Suck at it

Fiddle Leaf Fig Care: Turns out I Suck at it

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

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 problemsΒ 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 weeksΒ 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.


Outside of his work as Editor of The Life Creative blog, Chris is also an interior stylist, presenter and author. His first book, Sydney Precincts, is out now. If you'd like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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  1. Jess

    6 March

    I feel your pain Chris!!
    I’ve had my FLF for about six months and what was a gorgeous plant is now a sad three-leafed ‘thing’
    I’ve done just about all the same things as you’ve described and ended up with a sorry excuse for a plant.
    When it’s ‘gone to the gods’ I won’t be buying another as it’s been such a disappointing ‘journey’. πŸ™

    • Oh Jess, I’m glad I’m not alone. Mine is going to be a three-sticked wonder in no time. And I’m going to go for something much easier after that. Monsterra’s are quite nice, or perhaps a fern. Any other plant has to be easier than this one to keep alive!

  2. Kathy

    6 March

    Wow – I had no idea! I plonked mine on the back deck in the shade, I lightly water every day and when I think of it, give the leaves a wipe, and it is thriving! I bought another, thinking I could plant it in the backyard but got a little lecture from the nursery-man about the roots seeking out, crushing and destroying underground water pipes. Sinister….

    • Oh gosh Kathy, who knew its roots were so eager to damage the pipes! I wish mine could even get to that stage lol. I know I’m doing something wrong with this indoor one, but I just have to figure out what it is!

  3. Chelsea

    7 March

    You’re right. I should just get a fake one. Obviously Instagram makes me feel I NEED one of these plants but I have been known to make Mother In Law’s Tongue sick so a live one is probably too much responsibility for me.

    • omg Chelsea my mother-in-law’s tongue is on the verge of dying too haha. I was told this was almost impossible to kill. So naturally I seem to be killing it. So funny. Glad I’m not the only one!

  4. Ange

    7 March

    Oh you’ve both been through a traumatic time, but dont give up! That new growth is a fantastic sign, eventually the damaged old leaves will fall off. Seems like you’ve settled into a routine that is working for the plant, just do what you’re doing, it’s too early to call yourself a failure. Best of luck. Look forward to more positive updates to come.

  5. Tessa White

    10 March

    Oh babe!!. I had to give mine away when I left Sydney and now have a new one in SF.. I water every 10 days or so, hardly ever remember to wipe the leaves and leave it in a bright room but never direct sunlight.
    I think you are overthinking it and just got worried so overdid and underdid all sortsa stuff.. yep those two are not words πŸ™‚

  6. This is officially the EVIL DIPSHIT of all plants. I’ve hurled 3 of these suckers in the bin, having brutally murdered every single one of them in just the same loving, nurturing way you described. My confidence in my own abilities to keep plants alive is in shreds, all I can tell you is that real live human children are easier to raise. My best advice is to put it in the bin now, and buy a lovely bottle of wine with the money you’ve saved on buying another. x

  7. Sonia Lewis

    10 March

    Argh! Yes the struggle is real..I killed three of those bloody Fiddle”y” Leaf Figs
    I followed all instructions but alas my usual green thumb turned blue from despair
    Our home is poorly lit but our windows offer the perfect filtered light; but unfortunately when you have heating/cooling ducts near windows (which are the recommended spots for ducts) it’s an instant killer for plants. Having said that I tried moving to different locations away from ducts -but she was a total bitch from the stress of the move.
    Totally agree!
    Fiddle Leaf Fig you suck..enjoy model life in Real Living magazine

    Sonia

  8. Debra McCulloch

    10 March

    Yep know how you feel. I have 3. All looking decidedly daggy before we went off on a 7 week holiday. After declining an offer from a friend to babysit them at her home, (wanted to remain freinds) we placed them under a tree where the reticulation would sprinkle on them once a week. Gave them a blessing & said a prayer. When we returned, they were dusty & dirty but appeared to be flourishing. Go figure. So now when they look droopy we take them outside and usually forget about them for a week or longer. They are a pain to look after & seriously considering fake, however yet to find real looking fake. Oh well it’s probably time for a new trend like all indoor plants to be replaced with garden gnomes.

  9. Caro

    10 April

    Yep – paid 100 bucks for two healthy specimens and things started going downhill within weeks of bringing them home. Refused to throw them out (I paid 100 bucks for them!) so took them outside and put them under the tap (in complete shade) and gave them one last desperate watering. Couldn’t bear to look at them after that, and didn’t until I had need to use the tap again a few weeks later…they were thriving! I’ve left them there in the full shade, where no one can see them and that’s where they shall remain.

  10. Katrina

    10 April

    It needs bright indirect light I found, and also I water mine from the bottom, I have a deep dish to sit it in, fill it full of water and when it stops soaking it up empty the dish. Don’t let it sit in water. I do this roughly once a week and the top of the pot never never looks wet. It’s working for me so I’ll continue with it!

    I find it horrible that stores sell plants like these without giving any advice. My plant did the exact same as yours, brown spots turned to leaves falling off and looking quite unhealthy. It was in a dark corner so I moved it to the window. Started to get better bit was stretching for light so it’s now in the back room, no direct sun but it’s a very light filled room. I’m thinking a cut back in Spring is in order but I’m scared I’ll kill it haha

  11. Mel

    10 April

    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.

  12. Mel

    10 April

    And but wipe the leaves more often, I mean, actually wipe the leaves – not something I’ve done yet!

  13. Lunise

    10 April

    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.

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