The Haunting History of Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees

The Haunting History of Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees

Oct 7, 2020

If you’ve been on social media these past years, you are no stranger to this lifestyle “it” plant. It’s grande size and large leaves are an instant eye-catcher when placed in any home. In fact, The New York Times even dubbed Ficus lyrata the “It Plant of the Design World.”

Many people credit Pinterest for its rise in popularity dating back to 2010. Since then, many large-scale retailers have produced artificial Fiddle Leaf Figs to supply to ever-growing demand of this popular houseplant.

This statement plant is constantly flying off the farm here at Garden Goods Direct, and rightfully so. It’s bold glossy foliage and unique growth habit make an excellent addition to any modern decor for interior design. However, many people don’t know of the plant’s unique history. It may seem like this plant popped up out of the blue, but Ficus lyrata has been here all along.

Fiddle Leaf Fig’s roots begin millions of years ago along the coast of Western Africa - specifically in the lowland rainforest of Sierra Leone and Cameroon. It’s tropical rainforest nature is apparent in the high-maintenance upkeep of this trendy plant. Ficus lyrata is a member of the large Moraceae species of plants including the mulberry and fig tree. Although many people think this tree grows from the ground, you’ll be surprised to learn that it doesn’t.

In the wild, Ficus lyrata is known as a banyan fig tree. These trees have a unique, yet haunting growth habit known as epiphyte. Epiphytes don’t grow from the ground, but from the top of another tree. So let’s break down how this happens.

First, the seed of a fiddle leaf fig plant germinates, and the roots then wrap itself around the trunk of the other tree. Many plant enthusiasts refer to this process as a  strangling of the host plant. Because this plant grows atop of others, Ficus lyrata completely hogs the sunlight from the more mature trees below. Talk about a nightmare!

If it wasn’t obvious, Fiddle Leaf Fig gets its name from its large fiddle instrument-shaped leaves. In the wild, this tree grows an abundance of non-edible fruit and when grown outdoors, it can soar to heights of almost 50 feet. Don’t worry! When grown indoors, Ficus lyrata reaches a height of 10 feet, but can keep a compact size with regular pruning.

While the fiddle leaf fig tree has grown in popularity, many people aren’t aware of this indoor plant’s high-maintenance upkeep. As we mentioned, this plant is tropical by nature, and proper care must support that. Before buying a fiddle leaf fig, here’s a few care facts to help determine if you’re up for the task!

  • Light: Okay, this one is easy! The more light the better. Ficus lyrata needs an abundance of bright indirect light to properly thrive in an indoor space. As we mentioned, this tree grows atop of others to compete for sunlight to encourage optimal growth.
  • Humidity: Due to this plant’s tropical nature, you’ll need to pump up the humidity. Simply mist Ficus lyrata’s leaves to create that tropical climate indoors. In some cases, you may need to invest in a humidifier to keep your plant happy and healthy.
  • Water: While this plant has a tropical nature, avoid overwatering your Fiddle Leaf Fig tree. A good rule of green thumb is to keep the soil evenly damp, but allow the soil to dry out between watering.
  • Placement: Truth is, Ficus lyrata can be a bit of a pa. If you’re experiencing problems with your plant despite the proper watering and light, it could be where it's located. This plant takes a while to acclimate to its new space, so avoid moving it around too much.
  • Dust: Keep your plant looking glossy by regularly wiping down its leafs with a damp cloth to remove surface dust. Easy-peasy!

If you're still experiencing problems with your Fiddle Leaf Fig, you'll be happy to know that it can be saved. Simply chop off the top of the trunk, resume proper care, and watch another tree sprout from the pre-existing trunk. See - it's not so scary after all!

Bring a piece of the African jungle into your indoor space with our Fiddle Leaf Fig, Little Leaf Fiddle Leaf Fig, and Fiddle Leaf Fig Bush house plant options.