Everyone’s Favorite: The Fiddle Leaf Fig - Ficus lyrata

Ficus Lyrata, also known as the Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree have been an indoor plant standard for many decades. They have recently enjoyed a strong resurgence in popularity due to the elegance of their form and the lushness of their large leathery leaves. With this surging popularity we have found that there are a number of commonly asked questions and concerns. We will address many of these as we take a closer look at this indoor giant.

Ficus Lyratas are a tropical tree native to western Africa. They are closely related to other Ficus trees, many of which also make excellent indoor plants. When young they grow as skinny saplings with a single woody stalk that has leaves sprouting off from soil to tip. When mature they are often sold in the nursery standard form which consists of a thick trunk at least 3 feet high that branches out with leaves sprouting only from the branches. The leaves can get quite large and are rigid with a leathery feel. Young stems are bright green and may have dark splotches and some woody bumps. Older stems and the trunk have a thin woody bark. New leaves form at the tips of the sapling or at the tips of the branches of a mature plant. These leaves are covered by a protective papery bract that shrivels and dries once the leaf fully emerges.

Given that the Ficus lyrata is a tropical tree that grows below the forest canopy it is therefore looking for conditions that mimic life in the mid canopy of a tropical forest. To that end here are some guidelines for indoor growing to get your Ficus on the road to success.

Light: It is of primary importance to find the right place in your home where the tree will receive very bright, but indirect light all day; an hour or so of direct light will not harm the plant but it will need time to acclimate to it. Unfortunately Ficus lyratas are not very tolerant of low light conditions; if the space you want your Ficus to grow in does not have the proper light levels your Ficus will not survive there for the long term.

Placement: Once you have found a spot with adequate light the next step is to make sure that your tree will be protected from physical abuse. High traffic areas such as entry ways and hallways can cause bruises to the rigid leaves of the Ficus and will lead to an unattractive display.

Planter and Soil: As we recommend for all potted plants a pot with a drainage hole is best. If you need guidance on choosing the pot type or size see our previous post on repotting houseplants. As a tropical plant a Ficus lyrata doesn’t want to have it’s soil go completely dry but on the other hand they are susceptible to root rot; for this reason we suggest using a standard potting soil such as Edna’s Best mixed with a bit of pumice (5:1) for some extra drainage. 

Watering: As we mention in our post about watering houseplants, the watering schedule for any plant is entirely dependent on the light, temperature, and airflow it experiences in it’s current environment which varies from house to house and can also change throughout the year. When potted in the above recommended soil mixture you should be waiting to water your Ficus until the top 1-2 inches of soil are dry. This could be once every 5 days to once every 2 weeks depending on your conditions. When you do water it is best to give your Ficus a thorough watering as we describe in our plant watering post.

Fertilizing: Ficus lyrata can benefit from regular doses of a good fertilizer during the growing season (March-October) We recommend using Maxsea all purpose fertilizer (20-20-20) every other time you water at the recommended indoor dilution of a ½ tablespoon to 1 gallon of water.

Each plant has it’s own set of specific things to look out for in their care and maintenance. One of the biggest things to be aware of with a Ficus lyrata, and any other thick, rigid leaved plant is that their leaves are very easily bruised when bent. This leads to most Ficus lyratas developing large dark brown/black spots on their leaves and even dropping a number of leaves within the first 3-6 months after they are brought home. Many first time Ficus owners panic as the bruises develop slowly and the leaves drop and think that this is a sign of disease but it is a part of the trauma of a tree being moved and rigid vascular tissue breaking as a result. Given the proper care the Ficus will settle in over those 3-6 months and any new growth will be bruise free. As it is settling in any leaves that develop particularly large bruises can be trimmed off. It is best to leave leaves with minor damage on the tree to maximize it’s photosynthetic surfaces for a faster recovery.

Due to the unavoidable trauma that comes with moving these trees around, especially for the larger specimens, we highly recommend purchasing a Ficus lyrata in late winter or early Spring. In temperate areas such as ours the ficus pause their growth through the darker and colder periods of the year (October to February) and generally have their largest spurt of growth in the early spring (March-May). If you bring your plant home in February, as the older damaged leaves start showing bruises from the move, a large number of fresh new leaves are developing to keep things looking happy. If you bring your plant home in October chances are no new leaves will form until spring and you will be left looking at a large number of bruised leaves. Early spring is also the time to repot your ficus as it will be growing new roots quite readily at this time which will help it recover quickly from any transplant shock. We’ve found that pruning a Ficus is best done in mid to late winter; around early February is best here in the bay area. This allows your plant to use it’s many leaves to capture what little light is available in the winter months. If you wait too long into spring however you run the risk of cutting off developing growth points and setting back the spring flush of stem and leaves.

Once established in a good indoor environment the Ficus lyrata is a hardy and beautiful plant that will give many years of enjoyment. If you like indoor trees like this we suggest checking out it’s cousin the Ficus ‘Audrey’ (Ficus benghalensis), it has a similar look but with subtler coloring and velvety leaves.




Crimson's Guidelines for Watering Houseplants

One of the most frequently asked questions we get here at Crimson is “How often should I water my plant?”

Our answer is always “That Depends!” There are many factors that go into when and how you should water your potted houseplant and today we are going to cover the basics.

Here are the factors that affect how much water your plant is using: Sunlight, air temperature, air flow, type of soil mixture, type of planter, type of plant, day length and root mass. We covered the planter options and soil mixtures in our first post on how to repot your plant. Given that previous information we will assume you have a good pot and soil combo for your houseplant; this is really the key to setting up a successful watering regimen. Next up is sunlight: plants use sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to make sugar, this means that when the sun is shining your plant is using water to make sugar. Therefore the more light the more water your plant is using. More light also usually means warmer temperatures. When it is warmer water is lost from the soil by evaporation. Evaporation can be further increased if there is a lot of air movement. So in general if you have a lot of light, high temperatures and a lot of air flow your soil will be drying out quite quickly and you will need to check on your plant more often.

Exactly how often you should be checking your plant depends most on the type of plant that you have. Most houseplants fall into the following categories:

“Moisture Loving” check every 2-3 days: These plants are plants that want to stay WET. There are even some plants that fall into this category can be left sitting is a dish of water and thus all you need to do is refill the dish when dry. These plants you are checking frequently to ensure that the soil only ever becomes dry to the touch on the very top. For these plants it is best to keep them on moist side rather than letting them dry out. Some examples of plants in the this category are Bog carnivorous plants, maidenhair ferns, corkscrew rush, Aphelandras (zebra plants) and more.

“Evenly Moist” check every 4-7 days: These are the plants that are usually described as wanting to stay “evenly moist.” These plants generally want their soil to be moist but not saturated. The best way to achieve this is to water your plant thoroughly and then let it dry down over the course of about a week and when the top 1-2 inches of soil is nice and dry then it is time to water again. This cycle mimics a more temperate water cycle where it rains once or twice a week with time for the soil to dry a bit in between. Some examples of plants in the this category are most Ficuses, rabbits foot and blue star ferns, Diefenbachia, Aglonemas, and more.

”Dry Adapted” check every 7-14 days: These are the plants that are very susceptible to root rot and thus they want their soil to dry out very well between waterings. Most of these plants are from xeric habitats or seasonally dry habitats; thus it is very important that you are sure the soil is dry quite far down through the pot before you water them. Some examples of plants in the this category are cacti, succulents, euphorbia, sansevieria, ceropegia, senecios and more.

Now that you know when to water your houseplant the final question is how do you water your plant. Most houseplants prefer a thorough watering to ensure that all the soil is moistened and no dry spots are left behind. If you think of your soil like a sponge there is a finite amount of water that that sponge can hold at one time. This is why it is important to have a drainage hole in your pot. This allows to completely fill your “sponge” up knowing that any extra will drain out the bottom.

In order to accomplish a thorough watering we recommend the following steps:

1. Set your planter in a dish or saucer (it is advisable to do so in a sink or tub in case of saucer overflow).

2. Fill the pot to the brim with water and let it soak through. Repeat this 3-4 times until you havewater collecting in the dish.

3. Let your plant soak for 20-30 minutes (this ensures all dry patches inside the soil get a chance to fully moisten).

4. Empty the extra water from the saucer and let any other excess water drain from the pot.

For your dry adapted plants we recommend watering by a soil rinse. To accomplish this type of watering do everything you would for the thorough watering but skip step #3. This will allow your soil to remoisten and also rinse any excess salts or fertilizer out while not fully saturating all of your soil. Keep in mind that in the midst of a hot spell or a long succession of really sunny days even dry adapted plants may need a thorough watering to rehydrate and ensure that their soil doesn’t get so dry that it becomes hydrophobic.

A soil rinse is also a watering trick you can use on your evenly moist plants if you are growing them in the lower levels of their light tolerance or if your evenly moist plants are potted in a soil that stays too wet and you aren’t ready to repot them yet.


Finally, your watering schedule can change over time due to the final factors affecting your plant’s water use: day length and root mass. As seasons change so does the day length which leads to your plant receiving much less light on a daily basis, this means they are using much less water and you’ll have to adjust your watering schedule accordingly. You may find over time that your soil starts to dry out faster and faster even though the light, temperature and airflow seem to be the same; often times this is a sign that your plant has begun to outgrow it’s pot. The pot becomes so full of roots that the soil becomes compressed and can’t hold as much water as it used to. Essentially your sponge has gotten smaller. If you notice your plant is drying out much too quickly it is time to repot!



Crimson's Guidelines for Repotting Houseplants

If you’re like us when you bring home a beautiful new houseplant you will most likely want to put it in an equally beautiful planter. Today we are here to give you a few guidelines on how to repot your new houseplant.

Let’s start with choosing the correct pot. Most pots are made from plastic, ceramics or glazed ceramics. There are also more rare pots made from concrete, carved stone, wood, glass and even felt. Most of the houseplants you will find are tropical plants that will be happy in any of these containers so long as there is a drainage hole for excess water to escape. Possibly the most important factor about your planter is that it has at least one drainage hole. Planters that lack a drainage hole make watering very tricky in the long run. Pots made from porous materials (wood, unglazed ceramics, concrete, felt etc) will pull water from the soil helping the soil to dry out faster. This makes these types of pots a great choice for plants that like to dry out a bit or a lot between watering (e.g. orchids, epiphytes, succulents). Plants made from nonporous materials (glazed ceramics, glass, plastic) will not leach water from the soil maintaining a more moist soil environment. This means these types of pots are ideal for plants that like to stay moist or evenly moist such as many ferns, alocasias, aphelandras, calatheas and more.

Once you’ve chosen the type of planter you will use now you have to choose the correct size. In general it is recommended that you should never repot a plant into a container that is more than 2” larger in diameter than its current pot. This is especially true for smaller plants that come in 2”,4”, 6” and 8” pots. If your plant is of a type that likes to dry out considerably between watering then you should choose a pot that is similar in size to one it came in or that is only 1” larger in diameter.

With the correct planter chosen now it’s time to choose the correct soil. It is helpful to recognize that growing a plant in a pot is much different from growing a plant in the ground. Soil dug up from the ground does not generally make a good potting soil. The main purpose of a potting soil is to act as a sponge that holds the right amount of water, air and fertilizer that your plant requires. To this end the main component to most potting soils is a highly absorptive material such as peat moss or coco-fiber. This creates the spongy base material that will hold the water and fertilizer. Next many soil mixes add a light stone (like perlite or pumice) or bits of tree mulch. These additives create air pockets and allow for some water to drain through. For plants that like to stay moist there is generally more spongy material and less rocky material; for plants that like to dry out there is generally an even amount of spongy material to rocky material. For Xeric plants like cacti and many succulents there will be more rocky material than spongy material. Most tropical houseplants will be happy in a standard potting mix however we often recommend using better draining soils for houseplants. Since houseplants are generally kept in lower light then they would prefer, they do not use as much water. This makes it more difficult for their soil to dry, creating an ideal environment for bacteria and fungi.

Now that you have your plant, your pot and your soil it’s time to get down to business! First you want to prepare your pot. We like to use a small piece of drywall tape to cover the drainage hole as this will hold in the soil but allow water to pass easily through. You can also use a broken piece of pottery or a stone if they are at hand. Next put a small scoop of soil at the bottom of the pot and you are ready to prepare your plant.

Most tropical plants or other plants that like to have moist soil have fairly delicate roots. This is because beyond the roots that you can see with your naked eye they also have teeny tiny root hairs that sprout off into the soil to be able to reach every last corner of their pot. This means that even a little disturbance to the soil can damage these tiny delicate root hairs. For this reason we recommend gently squeezing the plastic pot your plant is in to loosen the soil then cradling the base of the plant in your hand and turning the pot on it’s side in order to slide the root ball out. If your plant is in a hard ceramic container you may want to slide a thin knife or trowel down between the soil and the inside of the pot to free the roots from the old pot.

Once your plant is unpotted take some time to look at the roots and smell the soil, yes I said smell the soil! You are looking for firm healthy roots snaking their way through the soil. If anything is mushy or smells like old produce left in your fridge then you are looking at a plant that has been over watered and is experiencing root rot. We will be writing soon with details on how to specifically deal with this issue. If your roots look healthy and your soil smells like soil ought to then we recommend gently dusting off any loose soil but leaving the root ball as intact as possible.

Now that your pot and your plant are ready gently set your plant in the pot on top of the soil. You want the top of the root ball to sit a half inch to an inch below the rim of the pot. If it’s too high you’ll need to remove some of the soil from the bottom of the pot; if it’s too low you’ll need to add more soil to bottom. Once your plant is at the right height then you can add soil to fill in along the sides of the pot. Be sure to gently tamp the soil into place to prevent any large pockets of air. Keep filling the sides until it is even with the top of the root ball then use just enough soil to lightly cover the top of the root ball. Do some final tamping to make sure everything is secure and you’re done! For most tropical plants it is advisable to gently water your plant to help it settle into it’s new soil. For many cacti and succulents it is advisable to wait a few days before watering to allow any damaged roots to heal before getting wet and inviting fungus or bacteria. If you have questions about how to water your houseplant see our next post that is about that very topic! 



Rue Magazine Shops Oakland

"Once you enter through the doors of this dreamy indoor nursery you will quickly learn why this is my happy place." - Julie Edwards of Julie Edwards Design writes.

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Crimson does Mother's Day Right

Get ready Mother's Day is right around the corner. 

We have just the thing for all you present seekers.
Kitchen Herb Boxes: Singles for $20 and a 4-pack for $65
Also we will be here for you Sunday May 11th from 11am-3pm to arrange Custom Crimson Mother's Day Bouquets!! Don't miss out on the perfect present. Herb boxes are first come first serve.



Rachel Ray Pays Us a Visit

The Lovely Rachel Ray of "Rachel Ray cooking" visited the alley today and explored our shop and took a bit of it home with her. Thanks for stopping by Rachel!