Fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) is a popular tropical houseplant from the lowland tropical forests in western Africa. It is prized for its lush, green foliage in the shape of a fiddle, which can really come into their own when this plant is given the conditions it needs to grow.
And this includes ensuring that your fiddle leaf fig’s light needs are being met. In particular, contrary to some claims, the fiddle leaf fig is not a low light plant and will suffer without bright light and some direct sunlight every day. This means that determining the ideal fiddle leaf fig light requirements may take some experimentation and careful observation.
It’s definitely worth putting in the work to find the right balance here though as ensuring your fiddle leaf fig has the right amount of light can make a huge difference in your Ficus’ overall health. Keep reading to find out just how to do that.
How much light does a fiddle leaf fig need?
Your fiddle leaf fig’s light needs will change as your plant grows. Small plants with few leaves require less light to produce photosynthesis and often thrive in lower light. However, large fiddle leaf figs with dense foliage need more light to bathe the entire plant in light and so do best in direct sunlight.
If you are confused about how much light your fiddle leaf fig plant really needs, you are not alone. Opinions vary, with some claiming a fiddle leaf fig does best in bright, indirect light, while others claim it needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. Differences in opinion likely arise from people talking about plants that are at different stages of maturity.
FYI: The amount of light your plant needs can also vary depending on your fiddle leaf fig variety. In particular, if you have a variegated fiddle leaf fig, they need much more light than the more typical Ficus lyrata,
Ideally, place your fiddle leaf fig in a location that receives direct light from a sunny eastern, western or southern window with the general rule being that a large fiddle leaf fig tree needs more light. Just make sure you’re cautious of it getting too much direct sunlight from the late afternoon sun, especially in the summer when the sun’s rays are most intense.
Do indoor fiddle leaf fig trees need full sun?
Indoor fiddle leaf fig trees need bright light but do not need direct sunlight all day. They do best in six hours of direct sunlight and will grow faster in direct sunlight, but they can be grown in bright, indirect light. The foliage on indoor fiddle leaf figs will burn in direct sunlight, especially the afternoon sun.
Keep in mind that small fiddle leaf fig plants may be happy near a sunny eastern window; as your plant matures and produces abundant foliage, it may need more light to ensure all the foliage receives the light it needs to perform photosynthesis and produce energy for the plant.
If you move your plant to a sunnier window, make sure you give it time to become acclimated to the more intense sun. To do this, move it to the new location gradually until they can withstand full sun.
Do fiddle leaf figs like direct sunlight?
Fiddle leaf fig trees in the wild thrive in direct sunlight, although they are typically shaded from the sun by other trees during the hottest part of the day. They will thrive in direct sunlight in your home but may need protection from direct sunlight during midday and early afternoon.
Because the foliage of fiddle leaf fig plants can burn from too much direct sunlight, it is essential to assess the intensity of the light and adjust your plant accordingly. For example, your fiddle leaf fig tree will thrive with 6 hours or more of direct sunlight from an eastern window, but it may suffer if it is too close to a southern window where the sun beats in all day.
Where should you put your fiddle leaf fig?
Your fiddle leaf fig should be grown in a brightly lit area for optimal growth and health. A northern window won’t likely provide enough light for your fiddle leaf fig, but an eastern window with morning sun is ideal.
Southern and western windows work for fiddle leaf figs, too, but you must guard against accidentally burning the foliage during the hottest part of the day, as a fiddle leaf fig’s temperature needs can be pretty particular too. You can protect your fiddle leaf fig from the intense afternoon sun by moving it a few feet from the window.
FYI: If you can’t put your fiddle leaf fig near a window where it gets enough light, consider getting a grow light for your fiddle leaf fig to ensure its light needs are being met.
Signs a fiddle leaf fig needs more light
A fiddle leaf fig in low light will quickly start to not look its best. Because of this, there are several signs that a fiddle leaf fig likely needs more light. These include:
One of the most obvious signs that your fiddle leaf fig isn’t getting enough light is legginess.
A leggy fiddle leaf fig happens when the plant stretches to get more light, and the internodes between the leaves and branches begin to stretch. You may see longer distances between leaves with weaker growth.
2. Slow growth
Your fiddle leaf fig plant needs light to perform photosynthesis and make the energy your plant needs to grow. Plant growth will slow down when it doesn’t get enough sunlight and can’t make the energy it needs. If you notice your fiddle leaf fig isn’t growing as it should, the cause may be too little light.
Slowed growth in reaction to not enough light should not be confused with slowed growth in the fall and winter. It is natural for your fiddle leaf fig’s growth to slow down during the fall and winter as it enters dormancy and rests from a reason of active growth. However, if you notice your fiddle leaf fig growing no leaves at all, that may be a sign of a bigger problem.
Related: How Fast Do Fiddle Leaf Figs Grow?
3. Leaning towards the light
Your fiddle leaf fig will adapt to low light by growing towards the light source to get the light it needs. If your fiddle leaf fig plant is leaning towards the light or becomes lopsided, it is a sign it is not getting enough sunlight.
Minor issues with a lopsided fiddle leaf fig can be corrected by turning the entire plant every few days to get even lighting. However, to avoid lopsided plants, it is best to move them to a location where the whole plant is bathed in bright light from the sun.
4. Stunted new growth
Like slowed growth, stunted new growth is a sign that your fiddle leaf fig needs more light to flourish. New leaves may be small or misshapen and may grow slowly.
If your otherwise thriving fiddle leaf fig plant suddenly begins to produce small leaves without other obvious reasons, check that it is getting the light it needs. You may need to adjust the location of your fiddle leaf fig plant according to the seasons as the path of the sun changes, and the exposure in your room may change, too.
5. Yellowing leaves
Without enough sunlight, the leaves on your fiddle leaf fig may lose their healthy green coloring and begin to yellow. This happens because the rate of photosynthesis slows in low light, and your plant can’t make the energy it needs to thrive.
Yellow leaves on a fiddle leaf fig cannot be revived and will not turn green again. Instead, yellow leaves will die completely and fall from the plant. Pruning your fiddle leaf fig to remove the yellowed leaves improves the plant’s appearance and helps reduce stress to the plant, by freeing it to put its energy into healthy foliage.
Signs a fiddle leaf fig is getting too much light
It’s always possible to have too much of a good thing and making sure your fiddle leaf fig’s light requirements are being met also means making sure it’s not getting too much light. Some signs of this include:
Sunburn and leaf scald can occur if your fiddle leaf fig is exposed to too much direct sunlight. This typically occurs if the plant is too close to the window or receives full sun during the afternoon when the sun’s rays are strongest. If you move your plant to more light without acclimating it first, it can also occur.
Initially, the leaves of a sunburned fiddle leaf fig, or even one that’s “just” sun scalded, will look like white spots on your fiddle leaf fig, but they will gradually turn brown. Damage from sunburn or leaf scald cannot be reversed. Remove the damaged leaves and move your fiddle leaf fig tree to a location with less light.
2. Light green leaves
Similar to sunburn and leaf scald, fiddle leaf fig leaves may lose their coloring and begin to look light green or dusky. A fiddle leaf fig with light green leaves is the result of sun damage to the surface of the leaf.
Leaves with minor sun damage may survive if you correct the lighting issues promptly. However, if you have a number of fiddle leaf fig leaves turning light green, you may need to wait for new growth before their rich, dark color comes back in full force.
3. Leaf drop
Leaves that have been sun-damaged may turn brown and dry out and eventually drop from the plant if they have been severely damaged from the sun. Leaves that are turning brown and dry will not revive and must be removed from the plant to help its overall health.
Final thoughts on fiddle leaf fig light needs
Finding the right location for your fiddle leaf fig may take some adjusting to get the conditions right. Begin with placing your fiddle leaf fig near an eastern, western, or southern window where it receives direct sunlight for 6 hours a day but avoid areas where it gets direct afternoon sun.
Watch your plant for signs that it needs more or less light and adjust its location gradually until you get it right. Fiddle leaf figs are notoriously fussy about being moved, so avoid drastic changes when you can.