Design

Figuring Out This Fiddle Leaf.

January 8, 2013  —  Written by Julia 

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Last August (mmm summertime), we got our hands on a second-hand bench that we cleaned up and stained and it became the hopeful home to four potted plants.
Today, one remains–wah wahhhh– and we moved it to a new home in the kitchen on the upper open shelf.
It looks like it is on its way out there, but I think I just need to pull some of those dead leaves off.  It’s doing good!  Much better than its dead friends. Even though I am well aware I have a black thumb, I am just not ready to give up on house plants.  Honestly, they make me so happy! And they are good for you!  So, I decided to try, try again.
Since we have other plans for that bench (different post for a different day), Chris and I decided to go for something a little bigger that could stand on its own. While I was at Home Depot picking up paint over the weekend, I spotted a fiddle leaf fig tree and snapped a pic and sent it to Chris for approval.
You’d be surprised how much Chris cares about things like this and luckily, he was just as excited about the plant as I was.  $30 later and it was coming home with mama. This is the part where I am supposed to show you how great it looks in the living room.  And it does.  Except one major problem.Two days later and I think it is already dying. What?! Help! Mayday! Some leaves still look fairly green with a brown tips:

While some are almost completely brown:

When I noticed it was dying on me without even being in our house for 48 hours, I immediately gave it water and then Googled more care instructions which said, if it is turning brown–you might be overwatering it.  Lovely.

Given that was the first time watering it, I don’t think it was my doing, but now I am stumped.  How could a plant thrive in a warehouse and once it gets home to a family that will love it forever–it starts dying?!

The care instructions say it needs bright, filtered light–check. Let soil dry out in between waterings–okay. And is best in temperatures 60-90 degrees, which makes me wonder if maybe our quick trip between the store and our home is what did it in.

Could it be?  Any fiddle leaf fig experts out there?  I have my receipt, so I know I can return/exchange the tree, but I would love to do my best to resuscitate it first.  Come on baby, don’t die on me now! 

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What do you think?

  1. After pining for a fiddle leaf plant I stumbled across one at Ikea for $12.99! A leaf just feel off the other day and I was heartbroken—was it the beginning of the end? Please keep me and my brown thumb updated. I’m determined to keep this one alive!

  2. vicks27 says:

    I thought that second picture was from a MAGAZINE! I can’t believe that’s your HOUSE!

  3. Nina says:

    It looks a lot like a Ficus tree (maybe it’s an alternative name?). We have one of those and it’s totally normal for leaves in the lower third of the tree to get brown and fall off as the tree grows — at the same time, it should start sprouting new one in the top third of the tree. I wouldn’t worry too much unless the browning leaves are in the top third of the tree.

    Also, consider going back to Home Depot or better yet to a local nursery to ask for advice – they can be really wonderful. FYI: with our figus (which is a similar size to yours), we were told to water it only once a month: a deep full watering, and then to let it dry in between.

    Finally, from the photos it doesn’t look like you repotted it yet. Which is a huge problem. The potting soil that it’s packed in is not supposed to be its final soil: you need to mix potting soil and basically small planting rocks to help with drainage. Otherwise, pure soil absorbs too much water and the roots start to disintegrate. So I would repot that baby NOW. (Go buy a pot and soil at a nursury, or at least go browse there. And ask their advice while you’re there).

    • Nina says:

      And I second the advice on plant food. A nursery should have a bunch of little sample packs you can get for cheap, they just dissolve into the water.

      And lastly, our tree is also right there in a north facing window, no curtain, and has no problem with the light. I doubt that’s your problem.

      So yeah, before you give up on that baby, I’d definitely go have a chat with the pros at a nursery! You’ve got nothing to lose, and they can probably give you some stellar advice about picking out appropriate hard-to-kill plants for your home’s lighting conditions and tips of the trade on how to keep them alive.

  4. Here’s even more advice. Be careful what you buy. Try buying something that’s a little easier to keep alive. I don’t know if you like ivy, but it’s very easy to keep alive. My family is pro’s at keeping plants alive. They always say the bottom line secret is to let it get REALLY dried up before even thinking of watering it. Like, when you bring it home from the store, don’t water it until it’s good and dry. I wonder if you are watering it to much

  5. Anonymous says:

    Off topic a little but be careful with fiddle faddle figs. They are highly poisonous. I wanted to get one so bad 6 or 7 years ago but didn’t because of that. They are beautiful though!

  6. Helene S says:

    Hello,I LOVE the new look of :the room, the blog, the.. that’s it.
    I’am not an expert but every “plant-y people” i know have told me the same : don’t put your plant directly in front of the window, It needs a bright room but not directly in front. And also, have you changed the pot it came in? sometimes, that can be a factor.
    Anyway, all the best to you 3.

    H.

  7. Syl says:

    I don’t have any experience with fig trees at all but if memory serves they can be sensitive to change, so it may be just an adjustment period on its part. The browning is crispy looking, which makes me doubt it’s overwatered.

    I’d second getting a sheer curtain, or just pulling it away from the window a bit. Check for drafts from the window, those are really hard for plants. I see you have a heating vent close by; redirect the flow of air away from the plant if you can, or close it somewhat if not. Dry central heated air is a plant killer. In the same vein, how dry/humid is your house? The tropical plants tend to like humidity on their leaves (but not necessarily wet roots) so if your house is on the dry side, spritz the leaves with water a couple times a day.

    As for un-killable plants… pretty much anything in the Yucca family (some of them are big and architectural) is nearly indestructible. Your little guy that survived is part of that family if I’m not mistaken, but one of the dwarf varieties. Peace lillies are also incredibly forgiving (they can droop down until they trail the sides of the pot, water them and an hour later they’re fully perked up. Sanseverias (aka Snake plant or Mother-in-lawe’s-tongue) are also tough as old boots. All the above are easier to care for than succulents (yes, yes!!!) Succelents are actually harder to care for than most people think.

    • Syl says:

      Another thing I forgot, do you let the temperature drop a lot overnight? Many plants do not like that one bit! They balk at big temperature changes over short periods.

      Big box store are plant heaven in a way; they get constant temperatures, constant (artificial) lighting, they’re often watered from below (on capillary mats or trays) and they get misted regularly. It’s hard to duplicate that at home :-(

    • Thanks for all of the helpful tips Syl! The more I research and hear, the more I think it got frostbite from the store to the car. :/ We’ll see if it perks up again!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I had one last year and I had the same issues, but my leaves fell off. Mine sadly didn’t survive, so I hope you fare better than me and maybe I’ll give it another go if you find the secret! Everyone says they’re supposed to be easy, but I changed rooms and how I watered it….but yours looks much nicer than mine did.

  9. Lindsay says:

    It might be going through an adjustment period since the conditions (light, temperature, humidity, etc) of your home are probably much different than in the store! I’m a huge fan of succulents, they’re very hard to kill :)

  10. So sorry to hear it’s dying already, that’s the worst! But $30?! I saw a fiddle leaf fig tree at our Home Depot and they wanted $169 for it!!! Sad part is, I almost bought it even with it’s high price tag. I’m going to have to keep my eyes peeled for the $30 versions cause I have a black thumb too and if I kill a $169 plant, I’ll be super pissed haha

  11. Nichole says:

    I am not an expert but my mom and grandma are. They always trim off the brown tips of leaves since they don’t like the way they look and it hasn’t hurt any of their plants. So at least you can get rid of the brown tips.

    I agree that it’s probably getting too much direct light and/or too much heat from the vent. Also, droopy = too much water so I don’t think that’s the problem. Good luck! I need to get some plants myself!

  12. Jennah says:

    if the leaves werent covered when you left the store, the temps may have been to low and the leaves been have frozen. it doesn’t take long, unfortunately. it may still recover, but it will be ugly for a while. The placement looks good, and I doubt it’s the vent (but who knows).

  13. Yana Puaca says:

    I bought one of these for our place not too long ago and had a similar problem shortly after. It was overwatering for us. I water that baby once a week, really really well and add some liquid plant food (this was recommended to us. I put in about 10-20 drops). So far so good. Don’t give up yet- I’m sure it will revive within a week or so. Good luck! Y

  14. Anonymous says:

    The leaves might be getting dried out from sitting right next to your floor vent. Or shocked by that and the cool from the door and window. That might just not be a good place to keep plants!

    • I don’t want that to be true, but you might be right.

    • Maybe you could try closing the floor vent as an experiment? And I’m not a plant expert, but I also know plants often have an adjustment period when you bring them home because even if the conditions are good, they will be different from its previous situation. I’m just not sure how to tell the difference between adjusting and dying…

  15. I am terrible with plants. TERRIBLE! But I did want to tell you that your redesign is fabulous!!!

  16. Kelly says:

    I have a black thumb but I’ve killed so many plants that I know why they die sometimes! Since the tag says bright filtered light, maybe the direct light from your window is too harsh and burning the leaves. Try adding a sheer curtain or finding a bright indirect spot. Also try misting and wiping the leaves. Browning leaves usually indicate dying from dryness, while yellow and droopy will indicate root rot or overwatering. I don’t think you’re overwatering.

    • Kelly says:

      Also wanted to add its perfectly possible the plant was diseased when you bought it. If you bought it from a big box store like Home Depot or Lowes, if you saved the receipt they will refund or replace the plant. One of the store associates told me this because they say the info helps them inform the nursery they purchased it from or try new vendors, etc.

    • I think curtains is such a good idea! We’ve been wanting to add some curtains anyway. If things aren’t looking up next week, I’m gonna return it and hopefully buy another one. I love them!

  17. Kelly says:

    I am the furthest thing from a fiddle leaf expert, but I have managed to keep one alive for almost a year now (which is amazing because I even kill succulents!). Mine’s about the same size as yours, and I give it about 2 litres of water every 2 weeks. It gets pretty dry between waterings, but it seems to like it. I was also told to not have it in our front room because the opening and closing of the door and all of the cold air would cause it to die. I ignored that advice and it’s doing just fine – even with our Canadian winter. The only other thing i do is dust it – which is actually quite a chore…but I find the leaves get caked with dust and then I figure it must have a hard time ‘breathing’. Good luck – I hope yours is just experiencing some culture shock in it’s new home and will settle in soon.

  18. I am no plant expert, but perhaps the window is too drafty and/or perhaps sitting right in front of the window is giving the plant direct sun light which its not digging. Too much bright and not enough filtered light. I have an aloe plant I stuck too close to the window once and it turned brown fast in disapproval. Its always been my little rule of thumb that the bigger/broader the leaves of a plant are the less it likes direct sun.

    • Good point. The window is north facing so it isn’t direct sunlightl, but it could be getting drafty. Or maybe even though it isn’t direct, too much light. Thanks for your input Gabrielle!

  19. Sometimes leaves can get wind burn when traveling. Did you have it in the car to transport home or was it sticking out of the car at all? I have a black thumb too but this I know. Or maybe the store over watered it and you were lucky enough to bring it home?

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