Best Light Exposure for Fiddle Leaf Figs to Thrive

Fiddle Leaf Figs (Ficus lyrata) can be a little particular about their care needs, in my experience, and need a few hours of direct morning sun and bright indirect light for the rest of the day to truly thrive. If slowly introduced to more intense direct light, they can handle full sun indoors and will grow faster. I find that a south-facing window is ideal, filtered by a sheer curtain to protect the leaves from burning in the afternoons. Follow this essential guide for everything you need to know about Fiddle Leaf Fig light requirements indoors. 

How Much Light Do Fiddle Leaf Figs Need Indoors?

The Role of Sunlight in Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant Health

When growing Fiddle Leaf Figs or any houseplants, there are several factors to consider. Sunlight is one of them, thanks to its vital role in plant health.

Plants need sunlight to make their own food for growth in a process known as photosynthesis. Using the sun as an energy source, plants take water from the soil and carbon dioxide from the air and convert them to sugars and oxygen.

Without sunlight, plants cannot grow effectively or survive long term.

But too much can also be a bad thing (much like overfertilizing). Each plant has particular lighting conditions it prefers based on what is found in its natural habitats. Light levels that are too high or lower than usual can cause irregularities in growth. This may end up killing your plants.

Indoor gardeners use several classifications to describe the type of light found in our homes:

Direct Light

The sun’s rays are directly hitting the leaves of the plant. Many houseplants will burn in direct light, but other succulents require them to survive. Fiddle leaf fig leaf drop is commonly caused by overexposure to inappropriate light. Direct light is most intense in the afternoon, especially in summer when temperatures are high.

Bright Indirect Light

The ideal lighting level is suitable for most houseplants. It is usually found in a spot very close to a window and unobstructed by any objects but out of the path of direct sunlight.

Filtered Light

Direct light is filtered through another object like a sheer curtain, creating similar conditions to bright indirect light.

Medium Light

Bright spots slightly further away from windows or obstructed by objects like furniture.

Low Light

Found in areas far away from windows or in the corners of rooms. Low light is not equal to ‘no light,’ but rather light of the lowest intensity.

By looking at a plant’s natural habitat and translating the light levels to what they would prefer indoors, we can ensure they stay happy and healthy in an environment they’re certainly not used to.

For more, see our guide to the best plants for low-light environments in the home or office.

Light Conditions Fiddle Leaf Figs Receive in Their Native Habitats

A collection of fiddle leaf figs growing natively in the wild

Like most houseplants, Fiddle Leaf Figs are native to the tropics and love the same conditions we do indoors, including bright indirect light and a little humidity.

These trees come from the tropical rainforests of Western Africa. You may not recognize them if you spot one outdoors, thanks to their enormous size, often reaching over 40 feet tall in the right conditions.

Due to their height and spread, Fiddle Leaf Figs get a lot more direct light in their native habitats than many other houseplants. You may even find them growing in full sun for the day without any overhead cover.

However, they don’t appreciate consistent and intense full sun. In their rainforest environments, despite their height, they are also often shaded by even taller trees that form a canopy over them.

Therefore, Fiddle Leaf Figs typically receive a healthy mix of gentle, direct sun and bright dappled light to maintain their growth and size.

Signs Your Fig Is Receiving Too Much Light

A close shot of a green fiddle leaf fig leaf with large brown patches potentially due to over-exposure of sunlight

Generally I find that Fiddle Leaf Figs can handle direct sun well. However, plants purchased for indoor growth are produced and acclimatized to lower lighting conditions to allow them to thrive in our homes. Without being slowly introduced to high light conditions, these plants can face some damage.

In my experience, the clearest sign your Fiddle Leaf is receiving too much light is burning. Like humans, plants are susceptible to sunburn, developing patches of white or brown on the leaves. These spots will appear on the parts of the plant closest to the light source, with the shaded leaves remaining healthy.

As high light dries out the leaves and soil quickly, they may also begin to brown at the edges due to a lack of moisture. This brown starts in a thin line at the tips and slowly expands if the conditions are not resolved.

If the plant is left in high light for long periods and does not adjust, it can also begin to grow away from the light source and towards the shade for some relief.

Freshly propagated fiddle leaf figs are also very sensitive to insufficient light conditions.

Signs Your Fig Isn’t Receiving Enough Light

A small fiddle leaf fig plant with stunted growth potentially due to a lack of sunlight

Damage from direct sun is undoubtedly a risk in plants acclimatized to indoor growth. However, problems with lack of sunlight are far more common.

Fiddle Leaf Figs are known to show signs of struggle soon after being placed in low-lighting conditions, indicated by these signs:

Slow or Stunted Growth

Fiddle Leaf Figs are relatively slow-growing trees, especially indoors. However, they often put out new leaves or extend their branches, indicating signs of new growth. If there is no new growth in spring and summer during the peak growing season, your plant is likely not receiving enough light.

Even if your Fiddle Leaf puts out new leaves, you may still have a lighting issue. Take a look at the size of the new leaves once they have matured and compare them to the size of the older mature leaves. Smaller leaves that aren’t growing anymore indicate a lighting issue.

Similar traits may also be displayed if your fiddle leaf fig is suffering from any common bugs, pests, and diseases. Pruning fiddle leaf figs every year can also encourage new, healthy growth to emerge.

It’s also prudent to remove any excess dust build-up on your fiddle leaf fig’s leaves each month.


Fiddle Leaf Figs are most sought-after when they have high levels of branching that give them the full tree look. Depending on their orientation, those branches can also indicate a problem with lack of sunlight.

These trees will begin to stretch towards the nearest light source in lower lighting conditions. Rather than growing fully and healthily, they put their energy into stretching out. This leaves the branches and foliage thin and diminished in the process.

Few Leaves

We’ve all seen the social media posts of thriving Fiddle Leaf Figs with dense leaves and many branches. Many houseplant owners strive to get to that level of lushness. Instead, they are left with a thinned-out tree with only a couple of leaves.

In these cases, sunlight is usually the problem. Along with stretching, low-light Fiddle Leaf Figs won’t put out any new leaves, and the spaces between new leaves will extend over time. As mentioned before, these new leaves will also be smaller than the older ones. Keep an eye out for any drooping or yellowing leaves on your fiddle leaf fig, which is another common sign that something isn’t quite right.

The Best Light Exposure for Fiddle Leaf Figs Indoors

A vibrant green fiddle leaf fig plant growing indoors under ideal light exposure

Fiddle Leaf Figs will grow to their full potential when placed in areas with bright indirect sunlight for most of the day. They will also appreciate some direct morning sunlight and can handle direct midday sun if they are slowly introduced to it.

A spot right next to a south-facing window is ideal, as the plant will receive direct sun throughout the day. You can leave the plant in direct sun for a few hours by adding a sheer curtain and filter the light when it becomes too intense in the afternoon.

If you want to acclimatize your tree to direct light, slowly increase the hours of direct sun they receive per day and limit exposure if you notice any burning. It’s best to do this in early spring rather than summer when the sunlight is more intense.

Bright east-facing windows are also suitable, but your Fiddle Leaf may not grow as large and lush as you’re hoping for.

The most important thing to remember is that these plants do not appreciate changes in conditions. Find the ideal spot for your tree and stick to it as they will struggle if they are consistently moved. This is equally as important for newly repotted fiddle leaf figs.

The only moving that should be done for Fiddle Leaf Figs is a weekly rotation of the pot. This will give all parts of the plant adequate light rather than just one side, ensuring consistent growth and preventing stretching.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Light Requirements FAQs:

Can Fiddle Leaf Figs live in low light?

Used to high levels of dappled sunlight or even full sun in their natural habitats, Fiddle Leaf Figs are unsuitable for low-light areas. If left in low light for long periods, they will begin to drop their leaves.

Can Fiddle Leaf Figs take full sun?

Often found in full sun when planted outdoors, these trees can also handle gentle, direct sun indoors. However, as they are grown in greenhouses and adapted to indirect light, they need to be slowly introduced to direct sun conditions. If they are thrust into full sun unexpectedly, the leaves will likely burn.

What kind of light do Fiddle Leaf Figs need?

Fiddle Leaf Figs need consistent bright indirect light throughout the day, with periods of direct morning sunlight for the best growth.

Will Fiddle Leaf Figs live happily indoors?

These trees may not grow to their full potential indoors, considering they reach well over 40 feet outdoors. However, they can still live happily indoors under the right care and conditions. With the right light, they can even grow as tall as your roof, creating a towering indoor feature.

How do you know if your Fiddle Leaf Fig is getting enough light?

Healthy Fiddle Leaf Figs will continue to grow and put out new leaves. The leaves will be close together, and the branches will appear full. These trees will grow several feet tall indoors as long as they have enough space in their pots to expand.

Wrap Up

These popular indoor trees, sought-after and found in almost every houseplant lover’s home, can be tricky to care for if you don’t understand their needs. They require higher lighting conditions than some other houseplants but will reward you with strong branches and lush leaves in return.

For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position fiddle leaf figs for optimal growth and feng shui benefits.

Contributing Editor | | Full Bio

Madison is a writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She writes and photographs for various online and print publications in the gardening sphere and is the author of the book The Next-Generation Gardener.

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