How to Propagate a Fiddle Leaf Fig

The fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) is a popular outdoor plant in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10B and 11. In other regions, enthusiasts grow the fig indoors and admire its large, coarse leaves which can grow up to 12 inches long. However, unlike some other houseplants, the fiddle-leaf fig is very difficult to propagate from cuttings. Attempts to do so routinely end in frustration and failure. The best way to propagate this particular fig is through a process known as air layering. During this interesting process, you will wound the plant stem and then encourage root growth at the injury site.

ficus lyrata moraceae rubber tree with big leaf from tropical africa
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How to Propagate a Fiddle Leaf Fig

Do Some Damage

Although it seems counter-intuitive to intentionally wound a plant you like, stress is often the impetus behind a plant's growth or flowering. Reproduction takes a lot of time and energy, so happy plants growing in a nurturing environment sometimes don't bother.

To encourage propagation of your fiddle-leaf fig, choose an offshoot you think would make a good plant or elect to turn the top few inches of the main stem into a second plant. Once you've chosen the base for your new fig, hold it firmly with one hand and make a one-inch long cut in the stem with your other hand. Cut on an angle and slice through 1/3 to 1/4 of the stem, being careful not to cut all the way through. Place a toothpick or matchstick into the cut you made on the plant's stem. This prevents the stem from healing itself rather than achieving your goal: forming roots.

Set the Growing Conditions

Sprinkle some rooting compound on the stem incision you made to encourage root production. After that, you'll need to create a moist growing environment. Do so by wetting two handfuls of sphagnum moss and then wringing them out. You want the moss saturated but not dripping wet. Wrap the moss tightly around the cut stem, making sure the wound you created is completely covered.

To keep the moss in place, cover it with plastic wrap. Make two complete passes with the plastic wrap. Don't allow any of the moss to stick out of the wrapping. When the moss is completely covered, secure the top and bottom of the wrap with twist ties. You have now created a moisture cocoon around the plant stem.

Over the next few weeks, remove the top twist tie from your stem and add water to the peat moss whenever it starts to look dry. Dry sphagnum moss will lighten and turn tan. You'll probably need to add water every seven to 10 days.

Wait for the Magic

Keep a close eye on your sphagnum ball for the next several weeks. In time, you will notice roots poking out of the moss. Depending on the plant, this can take from 30 days to eight months, so have patience. When you do see roots, carefully remove the plastic wrap from the plant. Cut the stem of the plant about an inch below the root ball to create a new plant. Remove any leaves on the bottom three or four inches of this new plant. Loosen the sphagnum moss and then pot your new fig in a container filled with well-drained potting soil. The new pot must be large enough to comfortably contain the entire root ball. Water the plant thoroughly.

Keep It Going

Place your new plant in an area where it will receive full sun or only partial shade. Choose a spot you're sure you can live with as these plants don't take kindly to frequent relocation. Water the fig only when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch as fiddle-leaf figs do not tolerate wet feet. They may not like wet soil, but they do like humidity, so mist the plant every few days, especially during the winter. The large leaves of the fiddle-leaf fig are prone to collecting dust, which can interrupt photosynthesis. Dust the leaves with a damp cloth every other week. Your plant will also enjoy a bit of a balanced (10-10-10), water-soluble fertilizer every other week, so fertilize and dust on the same schedule to develop a routine that will keep your plant healthy and growing. Rotate the plant every few days and re-pot it every year. You can delay re-potting if you maintain the roots by pruning those that stick out of the pot.