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What is a Fiddle Leaf Fig?

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  • Written By: Helga George
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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A fiddle leaf fig is a large tropical tree, Ficus lyrata also known as Ficus pandurata,. It is grown as an ornamental plant in warmer climates, and as a houseplant worldwide. The fiddle leaf fig is a member of the fig family, known as Moraceae. This particular species of fig is fairly undemanding in its horticultural requirements.

This evergreen tree quite frequently grows to reach 40 feet (12.2 m) tall, and almost equally wide when grown in western Africa, its native habitat. It can grow equally high in tropical or subtropical gardens, but is generally about 15 to 25 ft (4.6 to 7.6 m) tall in these locations. The fiddle leaf fig is also grown in the U.S., in Florida, in roadway medians and along streets that do not have sidewalks. Sometimes larger trees are fractured in strong winds, so it is often advised that this fig tree be kept in courtyards, so it will have some protection from the winds.

The fiddle leaf fig is so named because of the shape of its large leaves. They can reach up to 15 inches (37.5 cm) long, and 10 inches (25 cm) wide. These leaves are typically thick and shaped like a fiddle. This foliage is considered to be attractive. The flowers are inconspicuous, and occasionally small green fruit are produced in the spring.

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This type of fig tree can tolerate drought, but it is best to keep it evenly moist. One should also take care not to over-water it. These plants will grow in a wide array of soils, as long as they are well-drained. The trees will also grow fairly quickly in the sun or in partial shade. They are recommended as being good to grow near swimming pools.

As indoor plants, the fiddle leaf fig grows more slowly, but it can reach 20 feet (6.1 m) tall. The plant will grow straight up, with no branching, if left undisturbed. If branching is desired, the top should be cut off when the plants are young to encourage the formation of branches. The leaves should be washed periodically with soap and water to remove any dust that may have accumulated. This also helps protect against insect infestations.

In general, Ficus plants grow well in fairly small containers. Once their growth appears stunted, they can be transplanted in early spring. They usually prefer fairly warm temperatures of 65° to 70°F (18.3° to 21.1°C) at night and 75° to 85°F (23.9° to 29.4°C) during the day, along with high humidity. Established plants should be fertilized every six months. During the winter, the plants should be watered less frequently.

Plants that have outgrown their space can be cut back in early spring, leaving a few inches of plant remaining. New growth will soon appear. Propagation is usually done by air layering, in which a cut is made in the stem and moist sphagnum moss is wrapped around it. This cut is then covered with plastic to encourage sprouting.

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