Fiddle leaf figs are a stunning plant that’s often grown indoors in areas where they are not hardy.
Like other indoor houseplants, the fiddle leaf fig can benefit from soil amendments to help improve the overall quality and health of the plant. But you may be surprised to hear that some people swear by coffee grounds as being one such soil enhancer.
Repurposing coffee grounds is definitely an environmentally conscious way to help promote good plant growth while reducing your carbon footprint.
However, before you start dumping your used coffee grounds around your plants, let’s look at whether or not fiddle leaf figs like coffee grounds.
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Do fiddle leaf figs like coffee grounds?
Yes, fiddle leaf figs like coffee grounds in moderation. This is because these grounds are high in nitrogen, which is an important nutrient for plants of all types. Used coffee grounds have long been used by gardeners to give plants a boost without the need for commercial fertilizers.
While coffee grounds can be beneficial to fiddle leaf figs, they will also increase the acidity level of the soil, which is an issue for some plants.
The best soil for fiddle leaf figs is slightly acidic with a pH level that ranges from 5.3 to 6.7. The soil pH scale goes from 1 to 14, with anything below a 7 considered acidic soil and anything above a 7 considered alkaline.
When the soil is too acidic, however, the fiddle leaf fig can begin to develop yellowing leaves that appear limp and lifeless. Adding too much coffee grounds can decrease the soil’s pH level, causing it to be too acidic for the fiddle leaf fig.
How often should I put coffee grounds on my fiddle leaf fig?
You should add coffee grounds on a fiddle leaf fig no more than every 8 weeks. While coffee grounds can provide essential nutrients for plants, it can also decrease the soil’s pH level. When this occurs, the acidity level will increase, which can be too much for the fiddle leaf fig.
A good way to monitor the soil pH balance to help prevent damage to the fiddle leaf fig is to test the soil’s pH levels before adding coffee grounds. If the reading is higher than the recommended pH level, add some coffee grounds to increase the acidity and lower the pH balance.
Keep in mind: Even though fiddle leaf figs like coffee grounds, you should refrain from applying them to the plant during its inactive growing periods, fall and winter. The best time to add the coffee grounds is during early spring.
How to use coffee on fiddle leaf figs
One of the great things about coffee grounds for houseplants is that you can use them in a variety of ways. This allows you to choose the method that works best for you and your needs.
With that said, however, some methods are considered safer than others and pose less of a risk to your fiddle leaf fig.
1. Compost the coffee grounds
Adding used coffee grounds to a compost pile is one of the best ways to prepare the green material before adding it to your fiddle leaf fig.
Not only does this help even out the high level of nitrogen often found in coffee grounds, but it also gives you a well balanced organic soil amendment with other important minerals, like potassium and phosphorus.
Try to keep the ratio of used coffee ground to compost at about 15 to 20 percent. A good general rule of thumb is to let the coffee grounds compost for about 2 to 3 months before using them on your fiddle leaf fig.
2. Coffee ground liquid fertilizer
Another way to use coffee grounds on your fiddle leaf fig is to make a homemade liquid fertilizer. This is done by filling a cheese cloth, or other mesh-like material, with the used coffee grounds and then soaking it in water for 2 weeks. The homemade liquid fertilizer can then be poured directly into the soil of the plant.
Consider testing the soil’s pH levels before adding the homemade liquid fertilizer. If the level is too alkaline, then adding the liquid fertilizer can help restore the pH balance back to correct acidity. If the soil is just right or too acidic, skip your fiddle leaf fig’s fertilizer for now and retest in a few weeks.
3. Sprinkle around the plant
While not the best option, you can simply sprinkle the used coffee grounds on the fiddle leaf fig soil.
The reason why this method should be a last resort is because of the potential dangers associated with too much nitrogen and caffeine, both of which are found in coffee grounds.
Take note: Avoid sprinkling an excessive amount of coffee grounds on a fiddle leaf fig, as too much can be a bad thing. Applying a thick layer of coffee grounds creates a mulch-like layer around the plant that can retain water and impede the soil’s ability to drain properly. This in turn will increase the chance of fungal problems and root rot.
Risks of using coffee on fiddle leaf fig plants
Even though using coffee grounds on a fiddle leaf fig can provide various benefits, that doesn’t mean there are no risks involved. In fact, there are a few issues that can arise if coffee grounds are used improperly on any plant.
1. Yellowing leaves
Yellowing leaves on your fiddle leaf fig is one of the most common side effects of using coffee grounds on a fiddle leaf fig.
The yellowing can occur at the tips, near the veins, or all over the leaf. It can also occur on both new and old leaves. The discolored leaves may also appear listless and even fall off the plant.
2. Limp leaves
Another potential risk of adding coffee grounds on a fiddle leaf fig is limp foliage. When the plant receives too much acid, your fiddle leaf fig’s leaves may droop, appearing lifeless and limp. This can occur on any leaf, no matter what the age.
Limp leaves can also be discolored, with a yellow tint, and even drop off the fiddle leaf fig. You may also notice the stems of the plants are less vigorous and more limp as well. All of these symptoms can be caused by too much coffee grounds.
3. Stunted growth
Coffee grounds, if not applied properly, can cause your fiddle leaf fig to experience stunted growth. This means the plant’s growth rate slows or stops altogether.
While stunted growth is not something to ignore, most plants can recover from this problem. With that said, however, it can take months and even years before a plant fully recovers from the damage caused by stunted growth.
Find out more: What To Do If Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Is Not Growing New Leaves
4. Unhealthy plant
Even though fiddle leaf figs like coffee grounds, too much of it can cause the overall health and wellness of the plant to suffer. Limp, discolored leaves and stunted growth are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to too much coffee grounds. It will also cause your fiddle leaf fig to be unhealthy.
An unhealthy plant is more susceptible to diseases and pests than its healthier counterpart. This means that insects and fungus will see your unhealthy plant as an open invitation to come in and feast on the fiddle leaf fig. When this occurs, you are left with a whole new set of problems to deal with.
5. Caffeine exposure
Unless you use decaf coffee, there is a chance that you will expose your fiddle leaf fig to caffeine if you use coffee grounds. Even though caffeine is often used as a natural insect repellent, it also has the potential to harm beneficial insects, and can even kill earthworms.
While it is true that spent coffee grounds have less caffeine in them than fresh coffee, a Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry study found that there is still about the same amount of caffeine in a shot of brewed espresso as there is in a cup of tea.
Final thoughts on using coffee grounds on a fiddle leaf fig
If you can’t live without your daily coffee (or, ahem, coffees – not just me, I’m sure), then it’s nice to think you can occasionally share your morning ritual with your treasured houseplant. I’m also very much in favor of any tactic that helps to reduce waste, as adding coffee grounds to your fiddle leaf fig’s soil definitely helps to ensure those grounds go to good use.
Of course, like anything, all good things should be in moderation. Along that line, and as mentioned above, while fiddle leaf figs like coffee grounds, be careful to not give them too much that would make their soil pH too acidic.
This doesn’t have to become too difficult though. Like with anything to do with your houseplants, simply monitor your fiddle leaf fig after you start giving it coffee grounds every now and then to see if it’s reacting negatively. If you notice any leaf yellowing or other changes to your plant, slow it down or even stop altogether and then try again at less frequent intervals.
Once you find the right balance though, this strategy can definitely give a nice little boost to your ficus!