It’s no secret that the ever-popular Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata) can make quite a statement in your home, with its unique foliage and show-stopping height. Sometimes, however, you may find this showpiece plant has abandoned its usual shape and starts leaning to one side or the other, taking away from its beauty and making it appear lopsided. What causes this lean, and what can you do to fix it?
Although not ideal, it isn’t unusual to see Fiddle Leaf Figs lean to one side due to a variety of common care issues. The most probable reason your fig is leaning is that it is searching for more light. Other causes include watering issues, nutrient limitations, or heavy, lopsided growth. Typically, minor adjustments to the plant’s environment and care are enough to correct the issue.
Usually, a leaning Fiddle Leaf Fig is just a sign that something isn’t quite right with the plant, but it isn’t experiencing a whole lot of distress. As long as you keep an eye out for the lean and work to correct it, your plant should be just fine. Let’s go over the reasons why your Fiddle Leaf might be leaning, and then I’ll explain the best ways to straighten your plant back out.
Reasons Why Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Leans
First, let’s cover the most likely reasons you may see your Fig looking a little lopsided. I’ve listed these reasons from what I believe to be the most common to the least likely.
Not Enough Light
If you’ve done even a little research about Fiddle Leaf Figs in the past, you likely know how much these plants love sunlight. In fact, most of the issues that give this houseplant its reputation for being high-maintenance usually stem from the plant not getting enough light. So, it should come as no surprise that, when faced with a location in your home that is too dim, this plant is going to try and move itself into a better spot.
The most common reason your plant is leaning is most likely because the light levels where you placed the plant are too low, and the plant is seeking out a better source of sunlight. In botany terms, this is called phototropism. Many plants exhibit this behavior as a way to ensure that they can secure enough light to perform important functions like photosynthesis.
Your Fiddle Leaf likes lots of bright, indirect light all day long and will even handle a few hours of direct sunlight, so when it is tucked back in a dark room with poor exposure, it is going to work hard to lean towards the best source of light to secure what it needs to survive.
When you notice your plant leaning, this is often an early warning sign that your plant is not getting what it needs and may start producing weak, leggy growth as another method of finding more sunlight.
Too Tall or Heavy, Lopsided Growth
Another common reason you’ll see your Fiddle Leaf Fig leaning is because the main stem and branches may be buckling under the weight of the plant’s own growth. One of the main attractions of this houseplant is that it can grow quite tall, and with proper care, can do so fairly quickly. However, in some cases, these Figs can put on enough growth that the weight of the upper parts of the plant are too much for the stem to support, resulting in the plant leaning off to one side.
Another common issue has to do with how the plant has been shaped through pruning. In many cases, people like to trim their Figs into a more standard shape, with lower leaves and branches pruned back, leaving the upper third to grow into a thicker tree-like crown.
While this is a very classic, attractive look, removing lower branches and leaves can destabilize the main stem, making it hard to keep the weight of the growth on the top of the plant centered.
Lopsided growth can also be exacerbated by low light conditions because any new growth will usually grow towards a light source, further extenuating a lean. You may notice this on a plant that is set near a window and hasn’t been rotated in a while.
Improper Plant Care
It is good practice and pretty essential to make sure you are taking care of your Fiddle Leaf Fig properly so that it remains healthy enough not only to stay alive and put out growth but also to grow strong and straight.
Although a few plant care issues can cause your Fig to lean, I put these reasons last because, usually, if you are experiencing them, you likely have a much bigger health problem than a slight lean to one side and should address those issues first and foremost.
Improper watering can be a culprit when it comes to your Fig leaning, and both over-or under-watering create this issue in different ways.
If your Fig has been underwatered, you may notice that your plant looks dried and wilted. Severe cases of dehydration will reduce the water content in the plant low enough that even the stems and branches start to get soft, causing the plant to lean, but you’ll likely notice other signs of underwatering much sooner, like burned or curled leaf tips.
Alternatively, if your plant has been chronically overwatered for a long time, you may notice that the stems and branches look soft and droopy, with heavier stems beginning to lean, starting close to the soil line. This is likely a severe case of root rot due to being overwatered, and drastic steps should be taken to save the plant.
Although nutrients aren’t often a limiting factor in your Fiddle Leaf Fig’s growth, which usually gets adequate supplies from the soil it is planted in, a reduction in nutrient supply could, over time, cause a weakening of the plant’s woody structures, causing the stem to lean. It’s an unlikely cause, but if your Fig has been planted in the same soil for a long period of time and you aren’t one to fertilize, you may consider this when trying to diagnose your Fig’s lean.
How to Straighten Out a Leaning Fiddle Leaf Fig
Now that you know the most common reasons your Fig might be leaning, let’s discuss how to fix it. In this next section, we talk about light requirements, rotation, pruning, and why sometimes you may just need to give your Fig a good shake a few times a week.
Move Your Plant to Better Light
To fix the most probable cause of your plant’s lean, consider moving your Fig to a new spot in your home that gets better light. Remember that Fiddle Leaf Figs will take as much indirect or ambient light you can give them, and when properly acclimated, can handle up to several hours of direct sunlight a day.
By moving your plant to a brighter location, you can ensure that your Fig will have enough resources to put out tight, compact, strong growth without needing to lean in one direction or another to secure more sunlight.
Want to read more about ideal lighting scenarios for Fiddle Leaf Figs? This article goes in-depth on the subject.
Rotate Your Plant
Another tool to ensure your plant stays straight is periodically rotating it. This ensures that all sides of the plant are getting access to the light they need and will help produce even growth on all sides, so it is less likely a lean from lopsided growth will develop.
Typically, a quarter turn once every week or two is enough to keep the plant from both leaning and from accumulating too much growth on one side.
Strategically Prune Your Fig
It can be hard to cut your plant, especially if you want it to be big and tall. However, keeping growth for the sake of size is often a short-sided way of caring for your Fig. In many cases, a strategic trim here and there will actually prepare your plant to handle more growth and weight over time and make your plant more attractive in the long run.
If you find you have a rather tall, thin plant, consider pruning it back by about 1/3 or 1/2. Yes, this sounds drastic, but new branches will push out from where you make the cut, and the lower stem will continue to thicken to support them as they grow out over time.
Perhaps you have a really bushy plant with many branches but find the growth is somewhat lopsided and causing a lean. Again, pruning a few choice branches back can help redistribute some weight to help straighten the plant out.
Wiggle Your Plant
If your Fig seems to have thinner stems that are having trouble supporting the weight of new growth, one thing that might help is to give your plant a good shake every once in a while. This is based on the concept of “thigmomorphogenesis,” which is a botany term for a plant’s altered growth response to mechanical sensations such as wind exposure, the weight of rain droplets, or being brushed by passing animals. In many cases, a plant’s branches will grow shorter and stronger when consistently exposed to these mechanical touches.
Although shaking many of your houseplants will often cause more damage than good, in the case of Fiddle Leaf Figs, it seems that gently shaking or wiggling your plant for 1-2 minutes every day (or at least several times a week) will cause the stems and branches to thicken over time.
This, in turn, will help your plant stay upright and straight since the stronger stems will be able to handle the weight of the plant much better. Just don’t be too rough…aim to mimic the light breezes your plant would experience if you set it outside in the summer.
Stake Your Plant
Another option you can always utilize is to stake your Fig so that it has something to support upright growth even when the stem is too thin or delicate.
This is a good option if your plant is on the taller side, but the stem isn’t thick enough to support the full weight of the plant. By placing a metal (or wooden, or plastic) stake next to the plant’s main trunk, you can give the plant a little extra support that essentially buys more time for the stem to thicken up with age.
You could also use stakes to help prop up large or heavy side branches, but often this is a difficult endeavor, and I find that utilizing some strategic pruning is often a better option in the long run.
If you want to use a stake to support the main stem of your Fiddle Leaf Fig, choose one that can be easily driven down into the soil and is thick enough to support the weight of the plant. Secure the stem to the stake using plant ties, which stretch when needed. You don’t want to use any sort of tie that will inhibit or pinch the plant as it grows thicker.
Provide Proper Plant Care
It is always important to check in and evaluate how you care for your plant to be sure you are giving it what it needs to thrive. This not only supports the long-term health of your Fig but will go a long way in protecting it from any health-related leaning issues.
Make sure you are watering your Fig properly. Wait until the top two inches of topsoil have dried out before watering the plant thoroughly, allowing any excess water to drain from the hole in the bottom of the pot. And don’t forget to empty the saucer when all the water has drained – Figs hate sitting in standing water.
Occasionally, you may want to provide some additional fertilizer to ensure the plant has plenty of nutrients to utilize. Pick a well-rounded liquid fertilizer and start by feeding about once every month or two during the growing season. Dilute the feed to about half strength to avoid overloading or burning the plant.
If you ever see your usually straight Fiddle Leaf Fig leaning off to one side, chances are it’s a subtle clue that your plant needs a change to its environment or care. Your plant is likely seeking out more light, but be sure to evaluate your plant for care issues and determine if it’s perhaps time for a quick prune.
Usually, the fix to a leaning Fiddle Leaf is pretty straightforward to implement, so just keep an eye on your plant and make adjustments as needed. Remember, those minor corrections here and there can make a huge difference over time. Good luck!