The Tale of Fiddle Leaf Fig Fail {CONFESSION}

Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree Pruned

You might remember when I got my Fiddle Leaf Fig last year. It was really full and green and other than some brown spots or edges here and there, it looked pretty good. It filled up the corner of my family room quite nicely and made me look like I was not only really trendy and designery, but like I had a green thumb.

But within a few weeks, as I do every plant I’ve ever owned, I killed it.

Or tried to.

fiddle leaf fig brown leaves

Caring readers tried to help save it and gave me such good ideas and tips.

Concerned plant people were asking their friends and spouses for advice and emailing me its diagnosis.

But it continued the downward spiral until it basically had no leaves left.

It was just a stick in the pot.

There.

I said it.

IKEA white slipcovered chair

Readers starting noticing the blank lonely corner in my family room where it used to be. I got lots of emails from people were wondering where the Fig went.

So of course I was honest and told everyone I just set it outside to die enjoy the warm summer sun.

But once it was outside, I actually forgot about it.

I never watered it.

I never talked to it.

It was around the corner from view so I didn’t even see it most of the summer.

I left it for dead.

I assumed it was gone.

I didn’t mention it again. I just started a search for a new Fiddle Leaf Fig.  I had flashbacks to when my little sister and I were kids and we had pet goldfish. Mine was named Seymour. My sister’s fish was named Jill.  A few times my mom and I found Jill floating in the fishbowl. There was a quick moment of panic,  but I would spring into action distracting my sister while my mom would run out to get a brand new Jill. Yes, sometimes Jill looked a little different. Sometimes Jill was on vacation for days. One time she returned a different color, like with a suntan. But the important thing in my sister’s world was that JILL NEVER DIED.

Fiddle Leaf Fig and pea gravel patio

So back to the Fig, while I was out of town in the Fall something miraculous happened. My husband texted me a picture of how our gravel patio area was coming along. That actually wasn’t the miraculous part, that was just how I discovered it. While I was really excited about all the progress and help in the backyard while I was out frolicking on the beach in Tybee out of town slaving away working, I noticed something way way in the back corner of the yard.

A tiny little something that wasn’t there before.

Do you see it?

It was the Fig! ALIVE AND WELL! (It was the SAME one, I promise.)

My husband had moved the Fiddle Leaf Fig from where I had left it to the back corner of the yard when our helpers started digging out the patio.

And there it was in the photo, alive! With leaves!

I could hardly believe my eyes.

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I was stunned, but of course I said all the right things when I saw it. “I’m glad to see it’s doing so well. I meant to do that. It just needed some sun. It was outside to recover.” BLAH BLAH BLAH. I left it there until mid-fall. It was still looking pretty good but I decided it should probably come in where I could care for it through the winter {RED FLAG!}. I brought it in to the brightest sunny area of the house to spend the winter, which isn’t really SUNNY because we live in Washington, but it was the best sun I could offer it.

You may have spotted it way back in the corner of our living room the other day. It is alive, but you may have noticed it’s a little scrawny looking. A shadow of its former self. Bless its heart, though, it’s trying to stay alive.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Fail

Upon close inspection, you can see some of the leaves look like this. Brown, scaled and crispy. And they sometimes fall off.

All I can think of is for its own good it might be begging me to put it back outside when the sun comes out. No plant wants to risk being in my care.

So now you know the whole story of what happened to the Fiddle Leaf Fig. I wish I could say it was thriving fluffy beautiful green plant, but this is all I’ve got. Failure.

I just may need to start over with a new plant.  Or perhaps be plantless. I just love house plants so I wish I could keep them alive!

Has anyone had a thriving Fiddle Leaf Fig in their house longer than one year?

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Comments

  1. You should get an Aspidistra (I think is called a Cast Iron Plant) – it can survive almost anything! The Danish name for it translates to “pub plant” or “bar plant” because it can survive living in a dark corner and being watered with beer or being forgotten completely! :-)

  2. I love fiddle leaf figs and just bought one at IKEA a couple weeks ago (quite a bit smaller and only $13). I am so hoping I can keep it alive! I have lots of house plants and have moderate success with them, but I don’t have any tips on this plant. It’s my first one. I’d say go buy a new one and try again. It was perfect in that corner of your room.

  3. Glenna
    Twitter:
    says:

    http://houseplants.about.com/od/foliageplants/p/Ficus-Lyrata-growing-Fiddle-leaf-Fig-Indoors.htm

    Best reading said this is a tropical plant and needs to stay most but not wet, it is prone to scale, mites and other problems. I have sent you the link above to read about it.. I for one think it is a beautiful tree but like the fig tree that bears fruit, it seems to like losing its leaves… The fig that bears fruit will loose it leaves in the fall and new one come back in spring… Hope this helps you, I love plants but it is so hard to keep house plants in the house that are tropical of nature since they need more moisture… Good luck. Glenna

  4. Yep! My FLF is thriving, however in Australia it’s just so sunny that it would be impossible to kill it! And yes, I reassure it how gorgeous it is daily :D

  5. I myself am a serial plant murderer, and did not get my mother’s green thumb gene (my sister did). My solution is to only buy a few real plants, like Chinese evergreen, that are super hardy (a few have still died) and to invest in some really GOOD fakes. All my succulents are fake – I can’t even keep those alive :)

  6. She’s a survivor, a completely perfect plant for you! They are indeed fickle, dropping all of their leaves when there’s a change in environment. This looks like a great corner for her though, she will do well, maybe not a giant tropical locale size, but well! You’ll see.. :)

    PS Plants are so much cheaper than flowers and last so much longer. A worthwhile investment no matter the outcome!

  7. Maybe you could try a table top terrarium. They are supposed to be easier.

  8. I, too, wish to be trendy + own a fiddle leaf fig but haven’t been to IKEA (yet) when they’re in stock.
    Fingers crossed, though!
    Sorry about the plant-murdering “thing” — I suffer from said-same when it comes to the highly-coveted topiary or standard houseplant.
    Rosemary, coleus, myrtle — you name it — if it’s a topiary, I kill it.
    To amuse myself, lately I’ve been singing to the dearly departed plants, “Another one bites the dust!”
    Good X’s!
    Kay recently posted..More Red + White SignageMy Profile

  9. Hello! I’ve worked for 11 years at a nursery greenhouse with all kinds of green plants, including the fiddle leaf fig. Looking at the big crispy spots, it could be a moisture issue. The advice we always give our customers about watering all kinds of indoor tropical plants is:
    1. Be sure the container has good drain holes, not blocked. If the plant is sitting in a tray, empty the tray after every watering so the plant never sits in water.
    2. Wait to water until the top 1/2 inch or so of soil is dry, especially in the winter, when the plant is indoors and doesn’t get as much sun and doesn’t need as much water. The time between waterings will vary depending on a lot of factors, but if you go by the 1/2 inch rule, and not a predetermined schedule, you’ll do fine.
    3. When you do water, water thoroughly so the entire soil profile is moistened, then let drain well. Consider moving the plant to your shower or another water-friendly area so it can get a thorough drenching without harming your floor. Drain completely then set back in its spot.
    4. Never use soft water. The salts in soft water collect in the soil, slowly making the plant sick. I have soft water, so in the winter, I get my plant water from the outdoor spiggot.
    5. Keep away from heat vents and other sources of heat. I have a heat vent right under my best south-facing window, so I use deflectors to direct the hot air away from the plants.

    Hope that helps! All that said, I don’t think fiddle leafs are the easiest plants to grow indoors to begin with. Sun-loving plants like figs, coleus, crotons, and the like tend to be tricky indoors because they’re so much happier with more light. Without enough light, watering becomes a tricky issue because overwatering is just as bad as underwatering, especially in the winter.

    Jenny

  10. I have found that God is a much better gardener than I am . Lol I have killed many plants, I once killed a cactus from underwatering. ;>)
    Kathleen Grace recently posted..Cheery Cherries and a QuestionMy Profile

  11. and also read this portion which was linked to the above page 7 secrets on how to save a dying fiddle leaf fig tree.
    Bex recently posted..Sue RowlandMy Profile

  12. My fig tree was doing the same thing. I started to water it with distilled water and it seems to not be getting the brown spots anymore. Im not sure it is thriving because it’s not growing new leaves but it isn’t loosing them anymore either. I water it every week when I remember. I also make sure I let the water soak to the bottom without too much coming out the bottom. I mist the leaves and stalk every time I water too. Hope this helps.

  13. I am a gardener , love growing vegetables and flowers – outdoors. Indoors, I fail miserably! I have watered, not waterd, misted and even might have whispered a few sweet nothings toward the dying green things to no avail. Every once in a while I get the courage to try again thinking maybe this time…Best wishes with your fickle fiddle leaf : )
    Mindy recently posted..Going DeepMy Profile

  14. Regarding confession, are you so sure you’re the one who needs to confess, Melissa? Are you certain that every fiddle leaf fig you’ve actually seen looking gorgeous and healthy is the same tree you saw a week or a month or a year before? Are you sure everyone who tells you they’ve had success with a fiddle leaf fig (tropical climates and Australia excepted) is telling you the truth and not just desperately wishing? Are you sure every picture you’ve seen of a fiddle leaf fig looking gorgeous and healthy is a picture of a live fiddle leaf fig? Designer/colorist Maria Killam recommends a fiddle leaf fig and comments that she’s seen some in interiors that were 2 stories high. She also says the fake trees are identical (www.mariakillam.com/do-you-need-a-tree-for-your-interior). Maybe retract your confession and redirect your search. I love this tree too but it may well be one of those plants that stubbornly resists humans messing with Mother Nature. Besides, with plant-loving kittycats, fantastic looking fakes are my safest way to go, and there’s definitely one on my list for the master.

  15. janpartist says:

    I am a receptionist and have sat across from a FLF in the lobby of our building for at least 5 years now. Personally I find it sort of gangly and awkward but for those that love them, more power to ya. Anyway the thing is thriving. It has never been outdoors, never been misted and we have a very dry furnace here in the winter, never gets plant food, and gets watered once every two weeks. It is in the window but or building has an overhang so it get indirect light. That’s all I know, hope it helps.

  16. janpartist says:

    Oh, and it probably drops 10 leaves a year which turn yellow and fall off.

  17. I used to kill Ficus plants every time until I decided I wanted one to die so I could hang my mini birdhouses from the branches. Need I say it thrived? I wonder if your plant might have aphids. Try looking on the underside of the leaves to see if you have tiny bugs.

  18. I have had mine {originally from Ikea} for almost 3 years – it is scrawny, drops leaves occasionally but it is growing and also gaining new leaves. I have it in a very light-filled corner of my living room and water it when I remember. I also put a couple of those Miracle Grow fertilizer sticks in the pot when I think about it. I think neglect is the key to these plants – they should be called a ‘Fickle’ leaf fig!
    xo~Jill

  19. What a perfectly timed post Melissa! I have my own fiddle leaf fig tale/failure post scheduled for Monday…and the story is pretty much the same. All the leaves started to turn brown and fall off, one by one. I was planning to toss it…but now, after reading your tale, I may try and put it outside to see if it will make a comeback! I read that brown leaves like this is a case of overwatering…a big no, no for fiddles. On a side note…I also bought a braided trunk money tree…and it is thriving!
    Laura recently posted..Sherwin Williams Paint now at Pottery Barn…My Profile

  20. Hi Melissa, below is a copy of fiddleleaf care instructions from my last post. I promise this has worked for me. I have followed these instructions since April 2013 and mine is thriving…in fact, so much so that I have had to tie some branches for support and have now started trimming back in order to keep its tree shape as it is growing out of control!! Be sure not to over water and use the fertilizer. With heater running a lot this winter (in Montana) the soil gets quite dry between waterings. When you water and see it seeping into the saucer, STOP! I suggest the Peter’s House Plant fertilizer. New leaves started popping out very quickly when I started using it. Good luck!! You can do it!! :) Did you repot?
    old post:
    So sorry you are having a problem with the Fig. I loved yours so much I was a copy cat and bought one for myself couple months ago. I work for a florist/green house so asked our experts about your problem. Fiddle Leafs like medium bright indirect light/not direct sun. Water thoroughly ONLYwhen top inch of soil is dry. Do NOT let plant stand in water in saucer. They also get very root bound and must be repotted if that is the case. Mine had coils of surface roots visible so I had it repotted before delivery. Over watering is the biggest problem. I add water slowly and when I see it draining into saucer…Stop! If you over do and get a saucerful, use a turkey baster to remove the excess. I have not done this yet but instructions are to fertilize every 4-6 weeks with Peter’s House Plant fertilizer thru growing season. (March-November) following instructions on package. I am in Montana and it is very dry here/low humidity so mine dries out pretty quickly. I water about weekly.

  21. The life and times of the fiddle leaf fig. I have a brown thumb, but for some reason people keep giving me plants. Perhaps, there is something I need to learn.
    Lisa recently posted..Get on your knees, Get the help of God, Get up, and Go. {Miguel’s Missionary Moment}My Profile

  22. Melissa, I am no help in the plant area, in my home they either live or they don’t. I have found that watering just once a week keeps them alive and they all like a sunny corner. I only have three plants, but they are pretty much fail proof, or I wouldn’t have them. Good luck with Figgy!!
    Happy Friday,
    Kathysue
    KATHYSUE recently posted..Three Things That Inspired Me This Week!My Profile

  23. I worked in a garden center for years, one tip i can give as i see someone has already posted care info for you is to fill you drip tray with small pebbles. The size of peas works best. Make sure you wash them first so you don’t bring any pest’s in with them. What this does is save the plant from sitting in water and also provides humidity that is needed by the fig family. They tend to get spider-mite if it’s dry in your house, a good way to prevent is to wipe off the leaves by hand occasionally,(both sides). I usually would use a soapy water solution, preferably an organic dish soap. Good luck with your fig. They are lovely plants!

    Jenn

  24. small miracles are good too.
    Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm recently posted..It’s All GoodMy Profile

  25. Plants say “goodbye” to their relatives when they come to my house because they know they are going to die! I asked my family not to give me gifts of indoor plants of any sort. (see above). But now that I have retired from full time work I have more time to nurture outdoor plants. I have acepted my fate…. indoor plants still die under my care.

  26. This is a great story. I’m shocked as hell that your plant came back. I have never seen that happen with these fussy figs. Mine is about a year old…it always looks the same….never grows. I don’t know if it gets too much sun or too much water. It’s a mystery. Hope yours makes it til summer!

  27. what a fun honest story! We’ve all been there- I have all silk in the house and a few limping houseplants out on the lanai and I live in Florida where sun is NOT a problem! I am always amazed at what a difference a little (regularly applied!) plant food does! You would think I would do it consistently, but I don’t. Maybe give the ole gal a slip of vitameatavegamin ( I Love Lucy/am I dating myself?) and perk her up a bit! Thanks for the reality check!

  28. I bought two house plants, pretty tropical ones. The instructions said water every other day. I can do that I thought….and then I forgot about them……for two months. Then, in my desperation to rejuvenate them, I accidentally drowned them. I clearly did not inherit my parents green thumbs (sigh).

  29. Hi Melissa – I buggy my first fiddle leaf last summer and was over the moon! I love the look of them and read up on everything I could so that my plant would thrive and stay beautiful. I even named it – “Francesca.” Crazy I know. Alas, she began to turn brown and lose leaves much like yours and I couldn’t figure out what went wrong. After a few more weeks/months the leaves would fall off (at least 3-5 a day) and things didn’t look good for the fig. I visited a nursery after noticing a sticky substance on some of the leaves and the stem. The woman at the nursery told me the best thing to do with fiddle leaf figs is indirect light, watering only when very dry and applying a systemic every two months. This will keep the bugs away and the plant healthy and can be put right into the soil and then watered in. I bought a new plant that day -”Figaro!” – and have been following that plan. The plant is thriving and I have had it for 6 months now! I just love the look as I said and think they are so worth it! Try again and use a systemic. I even out it on my calendar soin don’t have to wonder when to apply it again. Good luck!!

  30. Loved this post! I have a fairly green thumb, but only in my outdoor garden. As soon as a plant comes in my house, it’s pretty much doomed. I have no idea how to help your plant, but thanks for the great laugh!

  31. Diane Campbell says:

    I can relate! This is a beautiful plant and it looks so good in a room, but I too had bad luck with one. They start out beautiful, but soon start browning of the leaves which later fall off. I’m contemplating a silk Fiddle leaf in the future!

  32. Hey just FYI I did a post on the fiddle leaf fig the same day as you! Great minds think alike!! They are so beautiful!! Xo,Kathy
    Kathy recently posted..Fiddle Leaf Fig, Oh How I Love You!My Profile

  33. Oh no! That’s so sad. I have 2 of these beauties and I’m very happy to report they’re thriving!! I’ve had one for 1 1/2 years and the other for about a year now. I got mine at Ikea and I can’t believe how much they’ve grown. I live in MA and keep mine in our dining room (south facing) so they get lots of light but not direct sun. We don’t keep that room heated in the winter and I’ve had to move mine to a north facing room for a week or two at a time because of the cold, but it hasn’t seemed to bother them. And I’ve always had a black thumb but since I started working from home 3 years ago, I decided to give plants another try. I do talk to my Figs and think it’s very important to wash the leaves to get the dust off and it helps them absorb the sunlight better. I make sure to keep them hydrated but not over watered. I’ve also given some liquid fertilizer. This is my pin on pinterest. I love my fiddle leaf fig so much that I even did this DIY for it at Christmas.

    http://www.pinterest.com/pin/417216352950875987/

  34. I have the same problem with Boston Ferns. I have them on my porch all summer and attempt to bring them in once it gets cold only to kill them. It is good to know that I am not alone.
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  35. I just adore this post! You had me rolling with laughter! I am glad I’m not the only one without a green thumb! I admire plants and flowers so much, but I just did not get a natural talent for keeping them alive. You inspired me to keep trying!
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  36. Love the post =). I love terrariums and you barely ever have to water them, which makes them great for busy people.
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  37. I think it is an urban myth that they thrive. I’ve tried several times. Didn’t even thrive on my screened porch when other plants did. Phooey on you, FLF.

  38. I have been wanting to get one. I just haven’t figured out where I will put it yet.
    I have my Oleander tree inside for the winter. It looked pretty sad at the start, but now it seems to be happy (until it can go back outside in May).
    Sherry recently posted..Kids Bathroom ProgressMy Profile

  39. Fiddle Leaf Figs are the death of me. I have babied mine, talked to them, taken them for daily walks in the sun, and nothing, absolutely nothing will convince them to grow in my house. My mother-in-law however, despite her black thumb, has abandoned one under the eave of her house and it is as happy as a clam.

    I give up. Perhaps its for the best as I’ve read they are toxic to dogs and we’re a dog loving household with three fur babies terrorizing anything they get their paws on! If you find a good silk FLF, please share!

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