If your Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata) isn’t growing as well as you’d hoped, you’re not alone. These trees have a reputation for being difficult to care for. Many look to fertilizer to solve their growing problems, but when done incorrectly, this can do more harm than good. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about when and how to fertilize Fiddle Leaf Figs at home.
- Signs Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Is Lacking Nutrients
- When and How Often Should You Fertilize?
- The Best Fertilizer for Fiddle Leaf Figs
- How to Apply Fertilizer
- Key Considerations
- The Role Fertilizing Plays in Plant Health and Growth
- What Is Fertilizer Made Of?
- Types of Fertilizer
- Fertilizing Fiddle Leaf Figs FAQs:
Signs Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Is Lacking Nutrients
Fiddle Leaf Figs are known for being slightly tricky when it comes to care. They often display signs of struggle for several different reasons.
Lack of nutrients is not as common an issue. These plants require repotting yearly, which is usually enough to keep them alive without fertilizers. However, if your tree has been in the same pot for several years without any additional nutrients, you may begin to spot issues.
Under-fertilized Fiddle Leaf Figs will start to develop yellow leaves or even leaf drop or display signs of drooping. This discoloration occurs over time rather than all at once and pops up in irregular patterns before covering the whole leaf.
But, yellowing leaves are also signs of overwatering, incorrect temperatures, and a number of other problems. Make sure you know the cause before attempting to fix it, as fertilizing at the wrong time can result in even more growth issues.
Stunted growth is another sign of a lack of nutrients but is far more commonly caused by a pot that is too small for the plant. Check if your plant needs repotting first. If not, add fertilizer and see if growth resumes.
In addition, keep an eye out for any common fiddle leaf fig pests, bugs, and diseases, and consider pruning past-prime or decaying fiddle leaf fig leaves periodically.
For more, see our in-depth guide on the best positions for fiddle leaf figs to thrive in the home.
When and How Often Should You Fertilize?
Fertilize your Fiddle Leaf Fig in spring and summer during the growing season. Fertilizing out of season will encourage new and vulnerable growth at the wrong time, impacting the plant’s life cycle.
How often you fertilize will depend on your chosen fertilizer. Slow-release fertilizers are usually applied once per season at the start of spring and summer to feed the plant over three months. Liquid fertilizers are generally used once every four weeks or so.
Concentration also impacts how often you fertilize. A higher concentration fertilizer with more nutrients must be applied far less often than one with a lower concentration. To find out which time is best, read the packaging of your chosen fertilizer and follow the instructions exactly.
To a lesser effect, environmental conditions and growth rate can also influence how often you should fertilize. Slow-growing trees in lower lighting conditions or small pots will need less fertilizer than large trees that quickly grow to take up entire corners.
In these cases, you’ll need to use your judgment and understand your plant’s needs to determine how often it needs feeding.
Never apply fertilizer more often than is recommended. Overfertilizing is a great risk with Fiddle Leaf Figs, and they may drop leaves or turn brown if there is a build-up of salts in the soil. It’s far better to apply too little than too much.
In addition, it’s generally best to hold back from fertilizing freshly propagated fiddle leaf figs.
The Best Fertilizer for Fiddle Leaf Figs
As these lush trees have large green leaves, a fertilizer high in nitrogen is recommended. Lower concentrations are best for houseplants as they grow slowly than plants outdoors and are confined by their containers.
Most balanced houseplant fertilizers are suitable for Fiddle Leaf Figs, but for optimal growth, a 3-1-2 fertilizer is best. This promotes strong leaf and root growth to help your tree grow as quickly as possible. The fertilizer should also contain secondary and micronutrients for overall plant health.
For a liquid plant food, you can try this fertilizer from Easy Peasy Plants (via Amazon). It has a 6-2-4 NPK ratio, meaning you can apply it less often or dilute it to half-strength if your plant is growing well.
For a slow-release option, these pellets from Grow Co (via Amazon) are specially formulated for Ficus trees. Mix it into the soil when repotting or gently add the pellets to the top layer of soil just before watering.
If your plant needs a real boost, you can try this high concentration Fiddle Leaf Fig Fertilizer from Perfect Plants (via Amazon). It can help revive struggling plants or maintain healthy plants when diluted to a lower concentration.
Follow the instructions on your chosen fertilizer exactly to avoid burning the roots and leaves.
How to Apply Fertilizer
How you apply your fertilizer will depend on the chosen product:
- Slow-release sticks: Bury the sticks in the soil towards the outer edge of the pot, applying as many as are recommended on the packaging for the size of your plant. Water afterward to begin breaking down.
- Slow-release pellets or dry fertilizer: These are best mixed into the top layer of soil gently to avoid disturbing the roots. Adding to soil mixes when repotting is also an option but this can increase problems with shock.
- Liquid fertilizer: Either diluted in water and poured over the soil or applied to the soil as is. Make sure you dilute the mixture exactly – measuring cups are normally provided or indicated on the cap of the bottle.
While fertilizer can give your plants a boost and keep them healthy, it cannot be used as a remedy for other growth issues. It won’t resolve cases of shock of makeup for inadequate environmental conditions. Fertilizers are a supplement to the soil, not a growth guarantee. As always, monitor your Fiddle Leaf Fig watering cycles carefully as well.
Don’t apply more fertilizer than recommended on the packaging, and don’t apply at the wrong time. Overfertilizing will burn the roots and leaves and can do irreparable damage.
At the end of the day, if you’re repotting regularly, your Fiddle Leaf should still grow without the extra boost.
The Role Fertilizing Plays in Plant Health and Growth
Plants carry out a lot of processes, much like humans, to keep themselves alive and thriving. Water and sunlight are important parts of these processes. But a component often overlooked in plant health is nutrients. These are usually found in the soil and, when required, through fertilizers.
What Is Fertilizer Made Of?
Fertilizers are made up of a combination of the essential nutrients required for a plant’s survival. Depending on the fertilizer, these nutrients are added in different amounts, with the remainder made up of filler materials to transport the nutrients to the roots.
Ever seen the letters NPK of a bag of fertilizer? These are the macronutrients – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Each performs a different but complementary function:
- Nitrogen: A key component of leaf and stem growth. Nitrogen, an important part of chlorophyll, gives Fiddle Leaf Figs their deep green color.
- Phosphorus: Important in the process of photosynthesis and other processes at cell level. Higher amounts of phosphorus encourage plants to put out more flowers and fruits.
- Potassium: An all-rounder, playing a vital role in the transportation of water and nutrients around the plant.
The ratio on a bag of fertilizer refers to the concentration of these macronutrients in the fertilizer. For example, a 3-1-2 fertilizer will contain 3% nitrogen, 1% phosphorus and 2% potassium.
But macronutrients are not all your plant needs. Secondary nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and micronutrients like iron or boron are also essential. High-quality fertilizers should mix these nutrients in the right amounts for holistic plant health.
Types of Fertilizer
The sheer number of fertilizers, with their confusing labels and buzzwords, can be difficult to navigate. However, an understanding of the different types of fertilizers and their purposes can help to clarify the chaos.
Slow-release vs Water-soluble
While these two types of fertilizer are not opposites, they are different regarding the speed of nutrient availability.
Slow-release fertilizers, available in pellets or sticks buried in the soil, release nutrients when exposed to water. They break down over time to add nutrients to the soil in stages. This lowers the amount of time you spend fertilizing but takes away an element of control.
Water-soluble fertilizers are designed to be immediately used up by the plants. As nutrients are transported around the plant through water, the roots quickly absorb them. However, that does mean they need to be applied more often and don’t remain in the soil for long periods.
Organic vs Inorganic/Synthetic
Organic fertilizers are made from plant or animal materials, while inorganic or synthetic fertilizers are mined or created from non-living matter.
There is a misconception that the label ‘organic’ means the fertilizer is better for the plants, but that is not always the case. These fertilizers serve different purposes: organic, usually for slow long-term nutrient uptake, and inorganic, for quick use.
As the common saying goes – organic fertilizers feed the soil, and inorganic fertilizers feed the plants. The one you choose will depend on your plant’s needs at the time.
Dry vs Liquid
Dry fertilizers come in dry granules or pellets that are applied over the top of the soil or mixed in when repotting. Liquid fertilizers are either diluted in water before applying or added straight to the soil if they are lower in concentration.
Most houseplant fertilizers are liquid or water-soluble for easy application with your regular watering routine. Slow-release fertilizer sticks are also popular, added to the soil and replaced once every three months or so.
Fertilizing Fiddle Leaf Figs FAQs:
Do Fiddle Leaf Figs need fertilizer?
When repotting often with high-quality houseplant potting mix, fertilizing may not be necessary. However, it can give your plants a growth boost in spring and summer if you’re looking for extra tall and lush plants.
When should I fertilize my Fiddle Leaf Fig?
Fertilize in spring and summer when growth is high. How often you apply your fertilizer depends on your chosen type and brand.
What is the best fertilizer for Fiddle Leaf Figs?
An NPK ratio of 3-1-2 is preferred for healthy leaf and stem growth. However, if you already have a balanced houseplant fertilizer on hand, that is suitable too.
Is Miracle-Gro good for Fiddle Leaf Figs?
Miracle-Gro houseplant fertilizers generally have a balanced NPK ratio of 1-1-1 or 2-2-2. These concentrations are often too low for the towering Fiddle Leaf Figs and their large pots. You’re better off with a specialized Ficus fertilizer for the strongest and quickest growth.
Are used coffee grounds good for Fiddle Leaf Figs?
Coffee grounds do contain nitrogen, which Fiddle Leaf Figs love. However, the nitrogen is available in lower concentrations that are not enough to serve as a holistic houseplant fertilizer. They can also compact around the soil, repelling water and preventing saturation. Throw them on your compost heap instead.
We all want our Ficus to look lush and larger than life. With the right fertilizer and a bit of extra care, you can ensure your tree will grow to its full potential.