Ficus lyrata, also more commonly known as the fiddle leaf fig, has become one of the most popular houseplants out there. If you managed to obtain one but would like to have more, keep reading! Propagating fiddle leaf fig is pretty easy and a great way to expand your fiddle collection for free.
Find out everything you need to know about fiddle leaf fig propagation and multiplying your tree!
Can you propagate a fiddle leaf fig from a single leaf?
If you frequent the houseplant community on Instagram, you’ll have seen photos of a single rooted fiddle leaf fig leaf. So is propagating fiddle leaf fig from a leaf possible then?
Unfortunately, no. Although a leaf can root and stay alive in water basically indefinitely, you’ll need more than that if you want it to actually grow new foliage. Leaf propagation is possible with some houseplants, like Begonia, but a fiddle leaf fig needs a piece of stem with a growth node in order to produce more leaves.
That doesn’t mean a single rooted fiddle leaf fig isn’t a nice addition to your propagation station, though! If you can obtain one, there’s no reason not to pop it in a vase. Just don’t expect anything more than roots to appear.
Taking a cutting
Now that we know that a single leaf is not enough for fiddle leaf fig propagation, let’s go into what a good cutting actually looks like.
First off, keep in mind that the best time to propagate your fiddle leaf fig tree is during spring or summetime. This is when the plant should already be focused on new growth and roots; light levels and temperatures will be conductive to the formation of new plants.
The easiest way to take a fiddle leaf fig cutting is to just ‘behead’ an existing branch. When doing this, include at least one leaf and, most importantly, a piece of stem that has a growth node on it. These nodes are not difficult to recognize: they look like small bumps on the stem of the plant. They are where the potential for new foliage to form comes from.
To separate your cutting from the tree, always use a clean knife or pair of scissors. You can sterilize your tool with alcohol. Go for the healthiest leaves you can find and don’t worry about removing them from the main plant, as it’ll replace them with new foliage when it gets the chance.
Note: it’s generally recommended to avoid taking large fiddle leaf fig cuttings. These are said not to root as readily as smaller cuttings as they can’t focus as much energy on rooting while also maintaining all those leaves.
Now that you’ve obtained your cutting, there’s two things you can do: pop it into a vase or glass of water to root, or plant it straight into its very own new pot. There’s no “better” method.
The advantages of water propagation are that you can see the process in real time and it’s usually faster, while soil propagation eliminates the shock that the roots can receive when being potted up after growing in water.
Fiddle leaf fig water propagation
- If you’d like to go for the water propagation option, fill a container with dechlorinated water (you can leave it overnight for chemicals to evaporate).
- Pop the cutting into the container in such a way that the stem is submerged but the leaves are sticking out.
- Place the cutting in a bright place, though avoid direct sun as the water can quickly become too warm, which promotes the growth of bacteria and algae. Indirect light is better.
- Change the water if it starts looking dirty.
- Roots should appear within a few weeks, although during wintertime it can take a lot longer than many expect! Be patient, as long as your cutting still looks nice and green it’s perfectly viable and just needs more time.
- Once roots have appeared you can pot your brand new fiddle leaf fig whenever you like. I prefer to wait until I see the first signs of new leaves.
Did you know? Commercial growers don’t tend to use these methods. They often opt for multiplication through in vitro propagation, also known as tissue culture (Debergh & De Wael, 1977). Propagating fiddle leaf fig is a matter of hundreds or thousands of plants for them!
Fiddle leaf fig soil propagation
- To grow a new fiddle leaf fig tree directly in soil, find a planter that has a drainage hole. Standard plastic nursery pots work pretty well for this.
- Create a soil mix that your future fiddle leaf will like: somewhat moisture-retaining but also airy and well-draining. A standard houseplant soil mixed with a good fistful or pine bark and some perlite should work well for this purpose.
- Optional: you can dip your cutting’s stem in some rooting hormone. This can really speed up the rooting process.
- Pop your cutting into the soil and lightly moisten it. Place it in a spot with bright indirect light, preferably somewhere nice and warm.
- Be really patient. The frustrating thing about soil propagation is that you can’t see what’s going on in terms of rooting! Keep the soil lightly moist but never wet or soggy.
- You can give the cutting a careful tug after a few weeks; if you feel any resistance, congrats, that means a root system is establishing.
- Once you see the first signs of new leaf growth you can be sure that your propagating attempt has been successful.
Air layering a fiddle leaf fig
Although propagation by stem cutting is definitely the most popular way to multiply a fiddle leaf fig, there is also another option. It’s called air layering and it allows you to create a new plant attached to the mother plant, which you remove to pot up separately once it has established a root system.
Air layering basically involves propagating fiddle leaf fig by tricking a branch of your tree into thinking it has touched soil, which encourages it to sprout roots. It allows you to take a much larger cutting with more ease. You’ll need an established fiddle leaf fig tree, rooting hormone, cellophane wrap, long-fiber spaghnum moss and some wire ties.
Did you know? The air layering method works perfectly for pretty much all woody houseplants, including other Ficus species like the rubber tree and the tropical Dracaena.
- Find a nice mature branch and pick a spot close to where it connects to the main trunk.
- Take a sterilized knife and scrape away the first (greenish) layer of bark about 4 cm (1,5″) long over the whole circumference of the stem. It should still be firmly attached to the main trunk, so don’t cut too deep, but there should be a ring of bare stem.
- “Help!”, the isolated stem will basically think. Separated from the mother plant in terms of the nutrients that the bark carries, it’ll decide it’s time to continue on its own. With a bit of your help, it’ll form its own root system and become a tree of its own.
- Apply rooting hormone on the “naked” ring of stem.
- Cover the ring in a layer of spaghnum moss all the way round, moisten it and wrap it in cellophane to keep the moisture in. Use the wire ties to make sure everything stays in place.
- Check the moss after about two weeks to ensure it’s still moist. If it appears to be on the dry side, apply enough water that it won’t dry so fast next time. The moss should remain humid at all times.
- Be patient, even more patient than with the other propagation types. This can take a while, but in exchange you’ll have a sizeable new tree when you’re done!
- If you see roots growing in the cellophane wrap, your air layering attempt has been successful! Leave the wrap for now, until a good root system has formed.
- Prepare a pot with soil and cut the rooted branch, including the entire new root system. Carefully plant it after removing the cellophane and moss. Congrats, you now have a whole new fiddle leaf fig tree.
- The first few weeks are a time of adjustment for the new fiddle. Keep it in a light location and make sure the soil is always lightly moist. You can even place the whole thing in a clear plastic bag for a week or two to simulate a nice greenhouse environment!
- As always with propagation, once you see new leaves forming, you’ll know you’re in the clear.
Fiddle leaf fig care
Once your fiddle leaf fig propagation is established, you can care for it like you would an “adult” specimen.
- Light: As much sun as possible is appreciated indoors, although you should make sure you acclimate the plant slowly to a higher light environment.
- Water: The soil should dry out about halfway before it’s time to water again, though it should never lose all moisture. The exact watering frequency depends on the environment and light levels.
- Summertime: You can place your fiddle leaf fig tree outdoors using the warm months so it can soak up plenty of light. It’ll thank you by growing extra vigorously. Be sure to take it back indoors well before any signs of frost!
- Problems: If you’re seeing issues like leaf drop, discoloration or bugs, head over to the article on problems with fiddle leaf fig to diagnose the problem and find out how you should treat it.
If you have any more questions about propagating fiddle leaf fig or if you want to share your own experiences with these lovely indoor trees, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. 🌱
Debergh, P., & De Wael, J. (1977, September). Mass propagation of Ficus lyrata. In Symposium on Tissue Culture for Horticultural Purposes 78 (pp. 361-364).