i waited a long time before getting a ficus lyrata aka fiddle leaf fig. first, we had other trees to care for in melbourne and then i wasn’t sure that i could keep f. lyrata happy. i decided to buy a smaller plant so that a) it wouldn’t be such a hard loss if it didn’t work out & b) it would get used to growing in my environment versus a nursery – hopefully resulting in a higher rate of success. so far, so good! progress photos are shown below and on instagram at #jmficuslyrata.
these guys are native to tropical western & central africa and have been introduced & cultivated around the world including the west indies (acevedo-rodriguez & strong, 2012). in their natural habitat they can grow up to 12 m. ‘lyrata’ is derived from the latin word ‘lyratus,’ referring to its leaf shape (stearn, 1992). each member of the ficus fam has a symbiotic relationship with a particular wasp (starr et al., 2013). the pollinating wasp of f. lyrata is agaon spatulatum.
did you know?
fiddle leaf figs are a part of the ficus genus, of which some share a “strangling” growth habit (e.g., armstrong, 1988, 1990). as seedlings they latch onto trees & their roots grow downward. as they grow they trap the host tree & eventually the host tree dies. i observed this phenomenon while in costa rica. there was a ficus wrapped around a palm tree at the top of a mountain (pictured left). apparently palms are one of the only trees able to withstand being “strangled” to death so these trees will live together for the rest of their lives.
another interesting fact: several ficus plants have been used as a food source and medicinally in both ayurveduc and traditional chinese medicine (tkachenko et al., 2016). they have been used to treat diseases of the central nervous system, endocrine system, gastrointestinal tract, reproductive and respiratory systems, and infectious diseases (singh, singh, & goel, 2011). some ficus plants are a natural source of antimicrobial agents (salem et al., 2013).
according to tkachenko and colleagues (2016), the fruit, root, and leaves of ficus lyrata have been used to treat disorders such as:
- gastrointestinal – colic, indigestion, loss of appetite, and diarrhea
- respiratory – sore throats, coughs bronchial problems
- inflammatory and cardiovascular disorders
ficus lyrata latex can be used to treat conditions such as fungal infections (bidarigh et al., 2011) and pathogenic yeasts (salem et al., 2013). ethanol extracts of ficus lyrata have been found to have antimicrobial activities (rizvi et al., 2010; salem et al., 2013; tkachenko & colleagues, 2016). great apes in côte d’ivoire eat ficus lyrata leaves and a study found that the leaves have antioxidant properties (constant et al., 2012).
- bright, indirect light from an east-facing window where it gets a bit of direct am sun
- this plant would be living it’s best life by west or south facing windows with more direct sun
- i let my plant dry out between watering sessions – ficus lyrata has a high tolerance for drought (gilman & watson, 2014)
- i mist mine often to try to prevent tears in new leaves due to decreased humidity over winter.
- watch out for spider mites – an issue these plants are prone too. i wipe down leaves with a damp cloth as a preventative measure. this also stops sunlight from being blocked by dust.
- this is the only plant i’ve used a grow light with – it was one of those small, clamp grow lights and i used it to help my small plant get through winter. my plan is to not use the grow light this winter.
- propagate via leaf or three to four inch stem cuttings with two to three leaves. you can root cuttings in water or soil.