We all know Fiddle Leaf Figs (Ficus lyrata) can be rather particular about their care, often earning them the title of “most dramatic houseplant” and causing us to obsess over their every need. One factor that gets a particular amount of attention and garners many questions is how much light a Fiddle Leaf Fig should actually get.
What light is best for Fiddle Leaf Figs? Figs love lots of light and gladly accept as much bright, indirect light as you can give. Figs can take up to 6 hours of direct sun, as long as they’re properly acclimated to higher light levels. Without enough light, you’ll see slow, leggy growth and leaf loss.
I know that talking about light levels, types of light, and exposure can all seem a bit subjective, and to a certain extent, it is. Every home is unique, and each person cares for their plants in their own way, so it makes sense that what works for some folks won’t work for others.
However, in this article, I break down everything from what the best light is for Fiddle Leaf Figs, to what we mean when we talk about direct light vs. indirect light, how to properly place and monitor your plant, and what to expect from your Fig based on your light levels. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll be equipped to confidently assess your own home and find the best spots for your Fiddle Leaf.
What Light is Best for Fiddle Leaf Figs?
To start, I want to define what I think is the best type of light exposure to keep your Fiddle Leaf Fig thriving in your home. Fiddle Leaf Figs are native to West Africa, where they typically grow in lowland tropical rainforests. This means they are used to hot, humid, crowded environments where light may be a limiting factor. As they grow, they are often bathed in lots of ambient light while competing with other shrubs and trees for whatever splashes of direct sunlight they can get.
Cultivated varieties of Fiddle Leaf Figs are usually grown in bright light conditions in a greenhouse before coming home with us, where they acclimate to our homes, which tend to have a lot less direct sunlight.
All of this to say that these figs have evolved to want a lot of light, and although they can tolerate a broader range of lighting conditions, they do best when they have several hours of bright, indirect light a day, perhaps with a few hours of direct sunlight, if available.
For these “full sun” plants to do well in your home, be prepared to find a spot that at least provides them with lots of indirect (or ambient) light all day. Six hours, at a minimum, but more is better. If you can swing it, it is even better if they also receive a few hours of direct sunlight through a window each day, as long as they’re properly acclimated to receive it (more on this in a bit).
There’s really no such thing as too much light for these plants (as long as they’re properly acclimated – again, more on that further down).
Direct vs. Indirect Light
OK, so all the plant blogs say it, but what does “bright, indirect light” even mean? How does it compare to “direct sunlight”? Let me explain.
When evaluating the light exposure for your houseplants, there are two types of light that are important to consider.
The first, most obvious type of light is “direct sunlight.” This is the type of light a plant receives when it is fully exposed to the direct light of the sun shining down on the leaves (either outside or through an uncovered window).
Direct sunlight is often bright and harsh, casting defined shadows and, when you hold your hand in it, you can often feel it contains a lot of heat. Many plants LOVE this type of light and will utilize it to quickly grow sturdy, compact growth.
However, direct sunlight can also be a bit too harsh in some situations. Too much of it and plants can get dried out and sunburned (just like people), so some sort of protection is often necessary to save tender plants from the hottest parts of the day.
Indirect light is a lot different. Think of indirect light as the ambient light in a room reflected off different surfaces, so there isn’t much heat associated with it. This type of light is a lot softer and may produce weak shadows if any at all. While indirect light is weaker than direct sunlight, it is often abundant in our homes, especially in rooms with lots of windows.
We talk about giving Fiddle Leaf Figs as much indirect light as possible because as a “full sun” houseplant, there’s really no risk of overexposing it indoors. We have to be more careful about direct sunlight because, as an indoor houseplant, your Fig has acclimated to utilize the dimmer, indirect light in your home and may not be ready for hours of exposure to harsh sunlight without being properly acclimated first.
Acclimating Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Did you know that Fiddle Leaf Figs can actually handle several hours of full, direct sunlight, even living outdoors year-round in the warmest parts of the country?
While it’s true that indoor figs can often only handle a few hours of direct sunlight a day, you can actually train them to withstand more exposure by gradually acclimating them over time.
If you have a spot in your home that gets more than a few hours of direct sunlight each day (or you want to bring your Fig outside during the summer months), it is best to introduce your plant to this new spot slowly over several days.
For indoor plants, if you are hoping to move your Fiddle Leaf from one area of your house to a brighter spot, start by placing your Fig in the new spot for a short period of time, an hour or so, before moving it back to its original spot. The next day, increase the time by 30 minutes to an hour. Continue doing this over the next several days to allow your plant to slowly get used to its new environment without inducing any stress.
Alternatively, if the distance you plan on moving your plant is relatively short, you can move your Fig a little bit each day towards its new spot to achieve the same effect.
For outdoor plants, acclimation becomes even more critical. Not only will the sunlight be more direct, but you’ve got to acclimate your plant to the change in temperature, as well. The same rules apply, though.
Start by setting your plant outside for about an hour when the weather is nice. Feel free to use the protection of a covered patio or overhang to shield the plant from the harshest times of day. Gradually, over about a week or so, leave the plant out in direct sun a little bit longer each day until your plant adjusts to the higher sun exposure. Watch carefully for any signs of distress or sunburn during this process, as they are signs you are pushing your plant too far.
The Best Location for Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Now that you know what type of light is best for your Fiddle Leaf Fig and how to manage your plant’s exposure to both indirect and direct light, you are ready to pick the best location in your home for your plant.
Aim to place your Fiddle Leaf in a room with the most ambient light. Rooms with south- or east-facing windows are often best, but as long as there is a lot of reflected light, it’s a good start. If you have a window that gets a couple hours of direct sun in the morning or late afternoon, that is also an ideal spot.
The main goal is to provide at least six hours of adequate lighting for your Fig. For you, more science-minded folks who happen to own a light meter, the goal is to get around 1000 foot candles per day.
If you have any windows that allow for more direct sunlight, your plant will gladly accept the extra exposure, as long as you allow your Fig to acclimate over several days. If you need to protect your Fig from excess sun, draw a sheer curtain or pull the pot back from the window a few feet.
There are a few other things to consider when placing your Fig in your home for optimal light exposure (like how big your plant is) to help you determine where to set it. Small plants are easier to move around and adjust and can go just about anywhere you need them to. Larger figs may need the prime spot in front of a big window, so the sills don’t cut off light to the highest or lowest section of the plant.
Additionally, if you have a larger or bushier plant, you may want to rotate it about once a week so that each side of the plant has an equal opportunity to soak in some sunshine. This will prevent your plant from growing lopsided and help prevent leaf drop from the lower or inner sections that are often shaded from the sun.
The last thing to remember about your placement is that sun exposure can change quite drastically throughout the year. Spring weather often brings a short burst of intense sun in between rainy weather. Summer sun is high in the sky and can pack a lot of heat. As the seasons change, be mindful of how much light your Fiddle Leaf has and watch for signs that the sun exposure is changing too fast.
Signs Your Fig Needs More Light
The great thing about Fiddle Leaf Figs (and perhaps the reason they have a reputation for being dramatic) is that they are actually pretty great communicators. If something isn’t right in their world, they are sure to let you know about it.
This holds true for Figs that are not getting enough light in their lives. There are a few signs to look out for that can help you determine if your Fiddle Leaf is placed in a spot that is too dark to flourish.
Slowed Growth. If you notice that your Fig’s growth has slowed substantially or stopped altogether, it may not be in a bright enough spot. Plants need sunlight to produce the nutrients necessary to put on new growth, so their growth rate can suffer or stop if they are not getting enough light.
Leggy Growth. You may notice that your plant is, in fact, growing, but the new growth is weak, leggy, and bare. This is a result of your Fig desperately seeking out more light. In a last-ditch effort to find sunlight, your plant switches from healthy, compact, full growth to spindly, bare growth as it stretches in all directions looking for a new source of light.
Leaning. Before leggy growth starts or is noticeable, you may actually witness your Fig leaning towards a window or other light source. This is a preemptive indication that your plant is seeking more sunlight and is willing to stretch out to get it.
Leaf Drop. Lastly, plants kept in too low of lighting for longer periods of time tend to start dropping leaves, usually starting near the bottom, although they can shed leaves from anywhere. This is a serious indication that your plant is struggling and its needs are not being met.
If you notice any of these signs, it is important to correct the lighting issue so your Fig can rebound. However, remember that your plant will recover quicker and be under less stress if you acclimate it correctly to its new, brighter location over several days. A big jump from low light to high light exposure can shock your plant, so be sure to change its conditions gradually.
Signs Your Fig Has Been Overexposed
Just as you can underexpose a Fiddle Leaf Fig to sunlight, you can also overexpose them to the extent that damage is caused to the plant.
Dry Soil and Wilting Leaves. The first sign that your Fiddle Leaf has been overexposed to sunlight is that the plant may dry out much faster than you anticipate. Remember that direct sunlight also carries with it a lot of heat. As your plant is sitting in the sun, that heat not only will increase the amount of water a plant loses through respiration, but it can also dry out the soil a lot faster.
This combination reduces the amount of available water to the plant, and you may see it begin to wilt. If you catch it fast enough, you can water the plant and make sure it has plenty of moisture to draw into its tissue. However, if it dries out too much, the leaves can easily wilt to a point where irreparable damage is done, and the tissues burn and curl.
Sunburn. Another sign that your plant has been overexposed to sunlight is sunburn or sunscald. This is when direct sunlight damages the top layers of leave tissue, leaving the plant with several or all of its leaves covered in scaley, brown spots. If the burn is severe enough, the damaged leaf tissue will actually dry out and crumble, so the leaf is left with missing parts or holes throughout it.
Sunburn severely reduces the plant’s ability to function correctly, requiring a ton of energy to be put towards repairing the damage and trying to photosynthesize to keep the plant alive.
How To Correct a Sunburned Fig
If your Fiddle Leaf Fig suffered a sunburn from a bright window or from outside, unfortunately, there aren’t many options to fix it.
Sunburned leaves typically won’t ever fully recover, but the plant will do its best to try and save them. This results in a huge energy suck that is more detrimental to the plant as a whole. Instead, in most cases, it is best to clip off any sunburned leaves so that energy can be redirected towards putting out new growth.
To read more about what sunburn is and how to help your Fiddle Leaf Fig recover from it, read an article I wrote on the subject here.
Can Fiddle Leaf Figs Be Set Outside in the Summer?
As I mentioned above, you can actually bring your Fiddle Leaf Figs outside in the summertime. When the weather warms up, many people like to bring the indoors outside to make a jungle paradise on their balcony, patio, or backyard.
As long as you are mindful of what your Fiddle Leaf needs to continue thriving, you can gradually introduce it and other houseplants to your backyard oasis during the warmest months of the year.
Wait until the weather is consistently warm in your area when nighttime temperatures stay above 60°F, and you’ve got at least a week free of storms or high wind. When bringing your plants from inside, you want to start by moving them out for only a short time (1-2 hours) before moving them back in.
Each day, you can increase the time they spend outside, being careful to protect them from too much direct sunlight at first, perhaps by keeping them under an overhang or covered patio. The idea here is to get them used to outdoor temperatures first and then work them up to exposure to direct sunlight next.
After several days, you can start to give them more and more direct sunlight, slowly working them up from a few to several hours of direct sun a day. Be very in tune with the plant, always making sure your Fig is properly watered and isn’t showing any signs of sunburn.
Don’t forget to pay close attention to nighttime temperatures. Just like you have to acclimate your Fig for higher temperatures and direct sunlight, you need to acclimate them to cooler temperatures, as well. If the temperature drops below 60°F at night, I suggest bringing your plants inside until the next morning.
Over time, you may be able to leave your plants out longer and longer until they can easily make it through the night, but always keep an eye on the temperature. If there are any sudden changes or big drops, be sure you rescue your Fig before it gets too cold.
One other thing to consider when placing your Fiddle Leaf outside is that the chances of pests making a home in your plant go up significantly. If you are bringing your plant in and out throughout the summer, just watch for signs of pest infestation so you can treat it before anything spreads to the rest of your houseplants.
Supplementing Fig Trees with Grow Lights in Winter
As the summer months wind down and move through fall, you will probably notice that your Fiddle Leaf Fig growth slows down a lot. It’s common for these plants to go dormant during the winter months, which means both growth rates and resource needs are significantly reduced.
Although it doesn’t look like much is happening, your Fiddle Leaf Fig is initiating many internal processes and shoring up its root system in preparation for another year of growth. And, although it doesn’t need nearly as much care, providing a steady source of light during the darker months is always appreciated.
If you’d like to ensure your Fig has enough light in the winter (or if your home doesn’t have great southern exposure any time of year), consider adding a grow light to supplement. The addition of a grow light can keep your plant healthy and happy throughout its dormancy and will help reduce the incidences of shock, leggy growth, and leaning during those iffy spring days when the plant is just waking up to begin its growing season. Aiming for at least six hours of light each day should be sufficient, but again, your Fig will take more if you give it to them.
Grow lights come in all shapes and sizes that differ based on your needs. If you have a smaller Fiddle Leaf or just want a bulb that can be screwed into an existing lamp, pick up a bulb-like the Sansi 15W LED Bulb. If you want to invest a little more money for a light that can handle a bigger fig tree, something like the LED Floor Lamp Glow Light by ACKE has both the versatility and portability to provide options for keeping your Fig in plenty of light.
If you want to read more about grow lights for houseplants and our recommendations, click here.
Although Fiddle Leaf Figs have a reputation for being finicky and difficult, I would argue that, as long as we are paying attention to their basic needs, they will reward us with tons of beautiful growth.
Ensuring your Fig has enough sunlight is the key to a vibrant, happy Fiddle Leaf Fig. Remember, they will take as much light as they can get, whether it be bright, indirect light, or several hours of direct sunlight (after being properly acclimated first, of course), so be sure you give your Fig a prime spot to soak in all that wonderful sunshine.