Double Parlor The Victorian House

Death of a Houseplant

When do you give up on a houseplant?

I brought home my fiddle leaf fig in October, 2012. It dropped some leaves, but I quickly figured out how to keep it happy and it thrived. It grew about a foot taller over the next year, but then we moved. My brother-in-law cared for the plant while we were in Wisconsin, spending some time with family while we waited to close on our new house.

Fiddle Leaf Fig

He kept the plant outside, so it went from being indoors in one location for a year, to being outside, and then inside again in a new location, all in the span of about a month and a half. I gave it the same Southern exposure it was used to, but maybe the thing was stressed? Then I brought home a much smaller fiddle leaf fig from IKEA (which soon died), and I think it gave the other a fungus. It smelled and looked awful, but I tried to save it! I removed as much soil as I could and repotted it, adding a bunch of cinnamon for good measure. (Supposedly it ha anti-fungal properties? I’m sure I read that somewhere.) I successfully rid the soil of mushrooms, but the fig tree was losing leaves fast.

Fiddle Leaf Fig

I was watering it the same way I always had, but we have radiators here and I think the air was drier in the other house because of its forced air heating system. I cut back on the amount and frequency of water and that helped, but it never properly recovered. Tenderly, I would wipe down each leaf with a damp rag while whispering encouraging words. Grow, my darling, grow! OK, maybe not the last part, but I did remove the dust from the leaves regularly. They continued to drop occasionally though, and for the last few months now it has been looking like a Seuss tree.

Fiddle Leaf Fig

Don’t call it a comeback. I think it’s time to say goodbye to my fancy blogger tree, right?

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  • Krissy
    December 17, 2014 at 11:04 am

    Ohhh, it does look sad. I wonder if the OP conservatory would take it off your hands? Looks warm and cozy in their greenhouse. Also, money tree plants are under-rated. Not as magical looking, but much much harder to kill.

    • Making it Lovely
      December 17, 2014 at 11:52 am

      Do they take/want plants? I would think there would be issues like the fungus my plant caught.

      • Krissy
        December 17, 2014 at 1:22 pm

        Oh I have no idea. And yeah, maybe don’t share the fungus. I just thought it would be happy there :)

  • ryan
    December 17, 2014 at 11:11 am

    maybe try repotting it in a larger pot? it may just be the photo, but that pot looks to be a bit small for a tree of that size. but what do i know? i can’t grow fiddle leaf figs either. the big windows in my home face north and east, so i’m screwed…

    • Tanja
      December 17, 2014 at 12:59 pm

      Ryan might be right. I recently repotted my fig and it’s thriving now. Here I’ve read that you should repot it annually:

    • tina Slocum
      December 17, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Ryan, is right!
      Your dear tree is pot bound and beads a much bigger pot to spead its roots. ❤️

      • Jules
        December 17, 2014 at 6:18 pm

        Don’t toss it! It will bounce back, but it needs a much, much bigger pot and a consistent feeding schedule during the growing season. :)

  • Margie
    December 17, 2014 at 11:30 am

    A few balls and a garland and it would make an awesome Charlie Brown Christmas tree…

    • Making it Lovely
      December 17, 2014 at 11:54 am

      I did that with the smaller one last year when it was down to a single leaf!

  • Sarah
    December 17, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Oh, poor darling! Fiddle leaves are so fickle about being moved. But I’d encourage you not to give up just yet! If I were you, I’d give it until late spring or early summer at least–they go dormant during the fall/winter and it’s probably just acclimating to its permanent location. You may also want to consider fresh, cinnamon-free potting soil now that the fungus issue has been resolved. It sounds like maybe it was getting too much water at some point–yellowing/dropping leaves, mushrooms, and smelliness are all indications that it has root rot or “wet feet,” which fiddle leaves disdain. Good luck, and hopefully with a little patience you’ll be surprised by a miraculous recovery come spring!

    • Making it Lovely
      December 17, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      Yes, I think I was giving it too much water for a while. It’s still dropping leaves though, at the rate of one every week or two (not good when there are so few leaves left). I don’t know if it’s going to hold on until the spring.

  • Sarah
    December 17, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Yeah, this looks like it’s on it’s way out. They need an absurd amount of light to be happy. If it survives the winter, I’d maybe put it outside for a few months after there isn’t a fear of frost. If it makes you feel any better, we waited until ours had just a leaf or two before we finally tossed it!

  • Astral
    December 17, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Don’t laugh at me but…I have purchased a total of EIGHT, yup I said 8 fiddle leaf figs this year and I have killed 5 of them so far. One of the remaining 3 plants is on it’s last legs. smh

    I don’t understand what I am doing wrong? I admit, i might the 1st 5 may have died from over-watering. But I have tried placing them in different rooms w/ diff sunlight options, etc but nothing works.

    I love this plant so much and I don’t want to give up. But my wallet keeps asking me…”When is enough going to be enough!” I’ve even googled myself to death trying to find tips on how to care for them and always end up with nothing :(

    At leats you’ve had your tree for a good period of time. Mine only seem to last about a month or two! lbvs

    • Making it Lovely
      December 17, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      Oh no! I’m on number three. This one, the little IKEA one that died right away, and another small one that I was hoping would do well (and it is only doing all right, not great). They get expensive, but they look so good!

  • Kelly B.
    December 17, 2014 at 11:45 am

    We are experiencing the same problem with our money tree. It was once happy and thriving, but now I can’t seem to get it right! i’ve battled fungus gnats and the leaves are dropping on a daily basis. i’m only watering once every 1-2 weeks (when the soil dries out), added gravel for better drainage, changed locations, fresh soil, etc.! I think it might be time for us to say goodbye too.

  • HollYo
    December 17, 2014 at 11:47 am

    That is a really cute pot. But I have to ask – does it drain on the bottom? Or is it sealed? I find that if my plants don’t drain, they often times end up this way…

  • HollYo
    December 17, 2014 at 11:49 am

    p.s. if it doesn’t drain, the answer to this is placing the plant in a pot that DOES drain (like a cheap plastic one), and then placing that pot inside the cute non-draining pot.

    • Making it Lovely
      December 17, 2014 at 11:58 am

      There is no drainage, but the nursery I bought it from had me put some big sponge-like things in the bottom. Not really sponges because they don’t absorb water, but they have spaces inside to let the water run through. No idea what they’re called (clearly!).

      • Bonnie
        December 21, 2014 at 9:19 pm

        That’s your problem. Drainage is mandatory and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

  • Michelle
    December 17, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Aw, tear. This tree has fond memories for me. :)

    • Making it Lovely
      December 17, 2014 at 11:55 am

      I know. Me too. You’ll have to come back into town so we can go get another one together!

      • Michelle
        December 18, 2014 at 11:43 am


  • Rachel
    December 17, 2014 at 11:53 am

    I can’t keep dirt alive – numerous failed attempts at orchids, house plants, trees, etc,. have all failed miserably. I even had a company reach out to me to send us some plants and I was like “No. I kill things.”

    • Making it Lovely
      December 17, 2014 at 11:56 am

      Ha! That’s an awesome response.

  • Christina
    December 17, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Hack it. My mom works in a greenhouse and has given me a fiddle-fig. Hack the branches and it will encourage new growth. It likely did become stressed, and these are somewhat tropical plants so it really should *NOT* have been outside. (My mom’s greenhouse gets theirs from Florida and the transition for FL to OR is a stressful couple weeks or so as they get acclimated.) Don’t give up on this plant, it WILL come back!

  • Katie
    December 17, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    It might have a nutritional deficiency – the same thing happened with my citrus trees and they didn’t recover until I started using DynaGrow Foliage Pro in my water. Honestly I think the tree looks OK, but it may take a while to recover. I’d leave it, keep watering sparingly, and pitch it next year if it hasn’t grown new leaves by then. It’s probably not going to grow anything until the spring/summer if your efforts worked.

    You don’t want to over-fertilize and you generally don’t fertilize when the tree doesn’t grow, like in the winter. But if you’ve never fertilized it ever, you may need to now.

  • Mel
    December 17, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    I’ve never posted to your blog, so let me first say, I enjoy reading your posts. You’re talented, egaging, diplomatic, and never snarky (my biggest disappointment in bloggers). Nice job. Next, I’ve been accumulating more indoor plants over the past couple years to improve air quality in our home. When I’ve tried all other tricks for reviving ones that are stressed, I move them into our bathroom for a few days, the humidity from our showers does wonders!

    Also, another tip for getting rid of bugs or fungus is a vinegar and water rinse through the soil. Good luck!

  • Julie
    December 17, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    That last leaf hanging is the equivalent of getting the indoor plant middle finger. My fiddle leaf fig tree is on the same trajectory, with one exception – a baby version sprouted underneath. I have no idea what to do with it now.

  • Emma
    December 17, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    I agree with the previous posters – don’t give up yet! Fiddle leaf figs are temperamental and hate, hate, hate being moved (even from room to room, let alone house to house). Ours went through a sad phase when we moved but has completely recovered.

    I’d leave it until the spring. They do go dormant in the winter, so any recovery won’t happen for a few months yet. If you can’t bear to look at it, move it to a room where it’s less obtrusive. Don’t water until the top inch of the soil is dry (stick your finger in the pot to measure). Fertilize, but only in months without an “r” (great rule of thumb for all houseplants!) They need indirect, bright light – no sunbeams shining directly on the leaves.

    Good luck, little plant! Grow grow grow!

  • Aimee T.
    December 17, 2014 at 1:03 pm
    Check out this forum on Gardenweb…this guy named Tapla is the resident fiddle leaf fig guru/expert and his excellent advice saved my 2 figs from imminent death! I don’t think you should throw yours out yet..browse the forum and you will see many that are just as bad as yours that end up thriving in the right cultural conditions!

  • Kaycee
    December 17, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    I bought one from IKEA, it had 3 in 1 pot. It was fine, then eventually started dropping leaves and then I was left with 3 sticks. I said whatever and stuck it outside in the backyard and forgot about it.. a few weeks later I went outside and 2 of the 3 sticks had leaves again! I left it out there a while longer to fill out and all but the 1 stick came back to life. I repotted the 2 into separate pots and they’ve been doing wonderful. I’ve been keeping them outside and letting nature do its thing. I do live in FL, though. I seriously thought they were done for, it was a nice surprise.

  • Ellen
    December 17, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    I concur with a few of the other comments, it might turn a corner with a bigger pot. Good luck! It is always sad to see one fall from its glory days.

  • Hannah S
    December 17, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    These trees can be very fickle when it comes to light but if all of that has stayed the same, I would def recommend putting the tree in a bigger pot and even if all the leaves have fallen out give it until spring to rebloom some of the leaves. Dont give up hope!

  • Lesley
    December 17, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    I think it’s pot bound and the roots have rotted because there’s no drainage. Take it out of the pot and look at the roots. If they’ve wound around the sides of the pot the plant needs to go into a larger one…looking at the roots is the first thing to do before throwing it out IMHO

    Hope that’s a help

  • Von
    December 17, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Keep the fig, it’s FAR from it’s last leg. My fiddle has suffered a similar fate, after last Christmas when I moved it from the window to put our Christmas tree up. It died, lost half of itself and was so scraggly. They don’t grow much in the winter, so I waited out the ugly phase. And it was UGLY.

    This spring I got new soil, I let go of my hopes and trimmed off the stick (the dead crunchy part I had been praying would sprout new leaves), and I gave it much attention and better light. A year later, it’s thriving and beautiful again. The roots were tangled in with the roots from the dead half, and then it caught the mushroom fungus from a bad bag of soil (I feel your mushroom pain), but after all of that, it’s back on the good path. In the winter, I still water infrequently, but I mist it daily with a water spray bottle. It’s not dead yet, and very vibrant so I think it approves. I bought a replacement (just in case) Ikea fiddle this spring, and immediately did a few things better, and it’s done nothing but thrive. Water less, move around less and it’s almost as big as #1 in a few short months.

  • CathyS
    December 17, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    I bought the artificial fiddle-leaf from Potterybarn…over $100, but it’s alive and kicking!

  • Catherine
    December 17, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    I just ordered a smallish one from Home Depot for $15, and it’s doing well so far. I read a suggestion to water it with a cup of water once a week, and then increase to two cups as it gets taller. I agree that you should keep it a while longer and see if you can nurse it back to health. A new pot and fresh soil might help, too. Good luck!

  • Karen @ year of serendipity
    December 18, 2014 at 7:06 am

    That’s so sad!! I just got my first from IKEA a few weeks ago and have a bigger one on it’s way to me next week- I’m so afraid of murdering them!

  • Kim
    December 18, 2014 at 9:42 am

    – Being moved around is very stressful for fig trees. They’re sensitive creatures.

    – It’s normal to lose some lower-down leaves as the plant grows, but the higher up ones shouldn’t be falling.

    – I water mine really infrequently (but thoroughly when I do) and make sure my house doesn’t get below 65.

    – Mine was very inactive for a long time, and at one point I thought I had killed it, but it just sprouted two new top leaves.

  • Janine
    December 18, 2014 at 10:15 am

    My name is Janine and I murder orchids. Everyone says they’re so easy to keep alive and I have killed three Phalaenopsis orchids that I know of, and I’ve stopped buying them, but orchids are pretty major in interior design, they’re very very popular, and I want to confess that I am considering getting plastic orchids because I can’t handle the guilt of decimating another beautiful plant. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, and I’m so so so sad.

    Yours in the shared guilt,

  • AmyR
    December 18, 2014 at 10:26 am

    I’m of no help – I no longer have any houseplants as I’ve killed every single attempt :P but when you mentioned getting an IKEA plant I cringed. I love IKEA – but their plants I won’t go near. The one and only plant (couldn’t even tell you the name of it – I’m clueless) was infested with centipedes/millipedes (didn’t bother to count the legs to see which was which – I was too busy running away). And I mean INFESTED – when my hubby took it out of the house he dropped it and even HE ran when he saw how many started coming out. To this day I have a hard time having plants in my house! Between fears of that and my black thumb my house is doomed to fake greenery.

  • Dawn
    December 18, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    I would put in a pot with a drainage hole and water once a week. Imake sure the pot is big enough, but not huge. That’s what has worked for mine.

  • Ashley
    December 18, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    Everything that everyone else said (wait it on, re-pot to a larger, draining pot, etc.), but also try the “hokey” talking to it and playing it some Mozart :) I’d be curious to see what happens!

  • Sara
    December 18, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    I agree with other comments….pot looks way to small for the size of the tree and I would be concerned about the pot not having anywhere to drain the water. From everything I’ve read they really don’t like sitting in water. Mine is small enough that I literally put it in the sink, shower it with water and then give it quite a while to drain.

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  • Haley J.
    December 19, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    That plant should be salvageable with a few changes.

    1) Buy a bigger pot– one with drainage holes– and repot the plant with fresh potting soil. Yes, the plastic trays that go underneath them are not beautiful, but at least they are clear. It will give you a better idea of how your watering affects the tree. Too much and/or too quickly, and the water will pool at the bottom and rot the roots. Never let water stand in the tray, either.

    2) Find out what kind of fertilizer it likes and give it a bit of diluted fertilizer at the beginning of its growing season.

    3) Learn how and when to prune it, then cut it back so it looks less leggy. This will probably also occur at the beginning of its growing season.

  • Rhoda
    December 20, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    I’m doing some research on the beloved Fiddle Leaf Fig-tree, and came across your initial post in October 2012. I enjoyed the read a lot, and went to your homepage with hopes you are still blogging, then was sadden to read the death of your house plant. Too sad! Hope you buy another one…

  • chris
    December 22, 2014 at 12:37 am

    That is too bad – those big leaves are so pretty. Here in San Diego fiddle leaf figs can live outside and do. I never really noticed them until they became the fancy blogger trees. When was that? 4 years ago? There are several large ones at the SD Zoo and even some houses in the neighborhood have them planted outside. I just had to put ours outside because the kitten decided the soil was a litter box weren’t deterrents weren’t working. Hope mine doesn’t mind all the moving around and I hope yours recovers!

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  • Alana
    December 24, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    Chiming in with all the feedback for a bigger pot. One about twice as big, if not three times, with drainage holes. Then put a layer of small rocks along the bottom to help with drainage. That Miracle Grow formula that helps hold moisture is really great. Then maybe stake it and tie very loosely so the woody growth straightens up and feed it well. When you pull the plant out of its current pot, gently pull the roots free and ruffle them a bit so they are stimulated to grow into the new space given to them by the new pot, otherwise they’ll keep growing in a ball. I bet It’ll bounce back!

  • Katerina
    January 2, 2015 at 3:45 am

    Get rid of the fig tree! According to my tradition (Greece) fig trees grow in empty houses-properties…

  • Tena
    January 5, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    Let it Go! Let it Go!