By Rebecca Benoît
The fiddle-leaf fig sprang up in the twenty-tens as the matcha of plants. We all knew fig trees existed, just like we all knew matcha existed, but actually keeping it in your home was for the experts —that is, until magazines and ads started featuring the tree as the perfect touch of greenery for any oxygen-seeking room. Just as suddenly as green tea became an easy powder, voluptuous fig trees became a plant petite enough for even a low-ceilinged, fifth-floor apartment.
Those of you who actually own a fig tree may have noticed the upkeep isn’t quite as simple as it may appear in an Elle Decor photo. Yes, plants are alive, and just like the seemingly flawless model in the latest perfume ad, they need a little TLC to keep a fresh face. So here at RoomZoom, we’re here to give you the dos and don’ts of taming the notoriously fickle fig tree.
1. These little things need PLENTY of light.
You’ll see many a fig tree shown in bright rooms next to huge windows. No, this is not an aesthetic choice. Those huge, green leaves are what make it look so luscious, but think of all the photosynthesis going on in there!
2. Don’t overwater!
Think of watering your fig like using moisturizer — you want to keep your skin from getting dry, but you don’t want it getting oily, either. Water about once a week and check the soil regularly to see if it’s dry; your particular plant may need to be watered even less.
3. Be patient.
If your tree starts looking a little weary, don’t pull off leaves. If the stalk is still hard and isn’t too shriveled, give it a little time to recover. You can trim the brown outer edges of the leaves without harming the plant, but nothing too drastic. The fiddle-leaf fig takes its time to grow and goes dormant in the winter. Fig trees, like most of us, appreciate good weather, so give it a little time to come back with its best summer bod.
4. Fig trees like warm climates, which also means they don’t like winds.
While it needs to stay close to a window to take in enough sunlight, make sure the window is properly sealed. And keep it away from air conditioners in those summer months. The fiddle-leaf fig is from the tropics and doesn’t want or need the chill.
Fig trees need water-soluble plant food during the warmer months in order to grow and stay strong.
6. Love the leaves.
Like a fickle complexion, fig foliage needs a gentle cleaning every once in a while. These guys are vulnerable to pests and bugs, which can cause the leaves to yellow and droop. Check the leaves regularly, and use ½ teaspoon of dishwashing detergent with one gallon of water to wipe down the leaves at the first sign of infestation.
7. Re-pot your tree about once a year.
With any luck, if your tree is healthy and growing, the roots will grow. This means they will also start to crowd the pot and block the drainage hole; we advise keeping your trendy tree happy by replanting in a new pot as soon as she asks.
Rebecca Benoît grew up in Washington, D.C. and Paris and is currently a student at Brown University.
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