Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > July 2014 > FABULOUS FIDDLE-LEAF FIG


Talk about your showy houseplant—the Fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) has large fiddle-shaped leaves up to 12” in length, 6-12” wide, even larger in the wild.  Native to tropical west Africa, this tree can grow to 40 feet or better in the tropics, but will stay a reasonable 10-15 feet in height when containerized.   An ornamental relative of the fruiting fig, Ficus lyrata is unlikely to produce its little round green fruits indoors.  Lyratas have been popular houseplants for many years, but we have experienced an increased demand over the past year and a half.  Our growers in Florida have been working hard to keep this plant on their availabilities.   

The Fiddle-leaf fig is a banyan tree: an epiphytic fig whose seeds germinate in the bark of other trees, growing up in the canopy, and sending down roots that will eventually strangle the host tree.  It is just one of several “strangler figs.”  We know them, however, as landscape trees in the tropics or potted houseplants throughout the temperate zone.

Another interesting fact about Ficus lyrata is that, like all figs, the flowers are inside of the fruit, and are pollinated by a specific wasp.   The female fig wasp has to struggle her way into the fig and lay her eggs in the florets.  Male and female wasp larvae mature, the males mate with the females and then create an escape route for the females, who, loaded with pollen head off to find another fig.  Once the fig ripens, fruit-eating birds, bats, monkeys, etc., then disperse the seeds, few of which can germinate and then survive in the dark of the forest floor, while the majority find a hold in the bark of another tree. 

In southern Florida, these trees can be grown in full sun to part shade, but as a houseplant, they do their best in direct morning- or late-afternoon sun.  The lower the light level, the thinner the branches, and these big trees can become rather floppy looking, spreading wider rather than taller.  They can be pruned, however, to maintain a strong and attractive shape.  Expect slow to moderate growth from this plant.

Unlike the Weeping fig, this ficus is not prone to rapid, heavy leaf drop when relocated.  On the other hand, if you do not water correctly, any leaf that turns brown or yellow stands out like a sore thumb among the larger but fewer leaves carried by the plant.  Browning lower leaves usually indicates that the soil is getting too dry, while damage to newer leaves indicates over-watering.  Provide good drainage (Ficus lyrata does not like wet feet) and do not over-pot.  If you have some space to fill and can provide adequate light, the Fiddle-leaf fig is a highly decorative addition to your home or office.

Posted: 7/9/2014 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: MargotGunn, TheGreatIndoors
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