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Omaha Magazine

Fiddling with Figs

Dec 17, 2019 04:09PM ● By Patrick McGee

Houseplants are seeing a resurgence in home decor, and among the most fashionable greenery to add to one’s living space is the fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata). These plants have recently appeared in the mainstream media (HGTV’s Fixer Upper host Joanna Gaines is a big fan), but have been popular houseplants for quite some time.

“A lot of people come in asking for them,” said Erica Tirendi of Mulhall’s. “We have a hard time keeping enough on the table.” She explained that the fiddle-leaf fig’s popularity is due to its visual appeal—big flat, shiny leaves that give it a lush look. Fiddle-leaf figs can grow to be 6-7 feet tall (indoors), or bigger. It’s a beautiful plant to fill a one-and-a-half-story atrium with natural sunlight, Tirendi added.

This interior design darling is actually native to the lowland rainforest of western Africa. It is the relative of commonly edible figs but rarely produces fruit indoors. (Though if they do produce figs, don’t eat them. They can be toxic.)

Caring for fiddle-leaf figs is not particularly difficult, as they’re fairly durable, Tirendi said. They do well indoors with ample light, and they do well outdoors in the summer. “They love being outside in the heat and humidity,” she said, adding that they need to be protected from the blazing afternoon sun. In the cold season, fiddle-leaf figs should be brought indoors. 

Placement in the home should not be overlooked. A south or southwest window, or skylight, will do nicely. “It needs as much bright light as you can get it,” Tirendi said. She also recommends protecting the plant from cold drafts. “They will show cold damage fairly quickly,” Tirendi said, and recommended keeping them away from heating and cooling vents to prevent the leaves from drying out.

Pruning is generally only necessary when the plant shows leaf damage or “dies back,” although Tirendi said it does depend on the individual plant. To encourage branch growth, one may pinch the top growth one leaf at a time, over the space of several weeks. In the wintertime it won’t grow as much, Tirendi said, adding that these figs do most of their growing in the summer when light is plentiful. Grow lights will benefit them during the cold seasons.

Because the fiddle-leaf is a ficus, it should be watered generously, Tirendi said. Water thoroughly around the pot until water comes out of the holes in the bottom. “Get the whole root ball good and moist,” she said. Let it dry out halfway to two-thirds before watering again. It will naturally dry out throughout the course of  7-10 days (depending on the plant’s size and the conditions of your home).

In addition, fiddle-leaf figs perform well in a smaller pot. “It’s a plant that needs to be somewhat root-bound,” Tirendi said. A tighter pot benefits this ficus and also saves space. When it comes to fertilizing, she advised only doing so during the growing season. 

The fiddle-leaf fig is a welcome addition to an interior living space and will thrive with the right lighting conditions and care. It’s pretty to look at and adds an earthy element to any room.

This article was printed in the January/February 2020 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

white chair on patio, fiddle fig

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