The Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant

Overview

Grown both indoors as a house plant or outdoors as a tropical shade tree, the fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) provides beauty with its large leaves. Glossy green with a stiff, waxy texture, the foliage is shaped like a violin or oblong pear. As a true fig, it will produce small fleshy fruits when at an appropriate age and light and warmth are abundant.

Classification and Nomenclature

Fiddle leaf fig has the scientific name of Ficus lyrata. It is a member of the mulberry family, Moraceae. It produces flowers and fruits, making it an angiosperm. It may also be called the banjo fig.

Habitat

Fiddle leaf fig is native to tropical western and central Africa. It tolerates full sun exposures and is drought tolerant, allowing it to grow in moist, well-draining rainforest habitats as well as in grasslands.

Description

Slowly growing upwards to 40 feet in height with a canopy width of 20 to 30 feet, the large foliage gives fiddle leaf fig a coarse visual texture. The medium to dark glossy green leaves are large and waxy, sometimes with wavy edges. Shaped like a violin, the leaf blade is oval with a slightly narrower width at its base and then becomes wider toward the middle to tip. They are evergreen, shed only in drought or exposure to frost. Flowers occur in spring or summer at branch tips, and are either male or female in gender. Only female flowers develop into small, fleshy round fruits that will drop to the ground once ripened.

Hardiness

To prevent leaf burn, drying or full leaf drop, this fig must not be exposed to temperatures below 35 degrees F. Brief encounters with frost will defoliate the tree but not harm the branches, from which new leaves may sprout when growing conditions are more favorable. Outdoors this tree may survive in the warmest of climates, in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 10 and higher.

Uses

The roots of this fig species are not as wide-spreading or aggressive as other large tropical fig trees. It can be used as a focal feature in a garden as a slow-growing shade tree. Avoid planting the tree over areas where fallen fruits would be considered messy or a nuisance. Its ability to tolerate dry soils is helpful to vegetate nonirrigated landscapes. Fiddle leaf fig has been a popular house plant in cold winter regions. Since the roots are not aggressive and the plant is relatively slow growing, it can be contained and appreciated in a warm sunny room for considerable time before becoming too large. Branches may be pruned back in spring to allow for new foliage to sprout and to rejuvenate a plant that has become too tall for the average room in a house.

Keywords: Ficus lyrata, fiddle leaf fig, banjo fig

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," non-profit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He holds a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware and studied horticulture and biology in Australia at Murdoch University and the University of Melbourne.