Whether you’re a seasoned fiddle leaf fig owner or a plant parent brand new to the game, I’m sure you’ll agree that there is something uniquely appealing about the concept of a variegated Ficus lyrata. While this beloved plant is usually celebrated for its big, lyre-shaped, beautifully dark green leaves, the variegated fiddle leaf fig offers something completely different – a jungle vibe with just a bit of pizzazz.
Of course, it’s no secret that fiddle leaf figs can be challenging to care for, and the variegated version is no different. Their needs are very specific in general, and this becomes amplified when you’re dealing with a specialized cultivar. Needless to say, with knowledge and consistency, you’ll be well on your way to growing a happy, healthy plant.
In this post, we’ll go into greater detail about the ins and outs of variegated fiddle leaf figs, from what causes this unique mutation to how to grow them and where to find them.
Can fiddle leaf figs be variegated?
Fiddle leaf figs can be variegated, exchanging their signature dark green leaves for beautiful, tri-colored foliage. The leaves of a variegated lyrata are dark shiny green in the center but framed with striking white or cream all around their edges. They also have olive-colored patches in between.
A variegated fiddle leaf is nothing short of breathtaking, but they are as rare as they are lovely. While standard and dwarf fiddle leaf fig types dominate the houseplant sphere, their colorful cousin is only now starting to enjoy a rise in popularity, particularly with those who have been cultivating fiddle leaf figs for years.
Indeed, variegated houseplants are in no way a new phenomenon, but unlike Monsteras and philodendrons, the fiddle leaf version can be very difficult to find. And once you’ve managed to obtain one, they’re even more difficult to keep alive.
The mutation in their cells that gives them their variegation has specific requirements when it comes to light, as they’re much more susceptible to developing brown spots or sunburn than fiddle leaf figs normally are. Furthermore, their chlorophyll distribution differs from that of regular plants and is deficient in the lighter areas of their leaves.
What does it mean for a fiddle leaf fig to be variegated?
Variegation on a fiddle leaf fig means that its leaves are not one solid color. Instead, they are lighter in some parts and darker in others. Usually, their lighter areas form around the edges of their leaves. Variegation results from a cell mutation that causes them to produce less chlorophyll.
This mutation, however, is not without its complications. A lack of chlorophyll means that the existing cells have to work infinitely harder to convert light for the purpose of photosynthesis, which is a process very necessary for the health of your plant.
Consequently, variegated fiddle leaf figs are more prone to ill health and require a stringent care regime. They need plenty of bright, indirect light to keep them happy and thriving, and of course, good soil, hydration, and regular feeding.
The phenomenon of variegation is usually genetic, so specimens are most commonly propagated from existing plants. For this reason, and because these plants grow so slowly in general, they are considered rare and sought-after.
How do you grow a variegated fiddle leaf fig?
Growing a variegated fiddle leaf fig is much like growing a regular fiddle leaf fig, with some exceptions in their lighting requirements. Without sufficient light, variegated fiddles may suffer from energy deficits leading to ill health. They are also prone to root rot and nutrient deficiencies.
Being rather new on the houseplant scene, there is still a lot that we are actively learning about how to grow a variegated Ficus lyrata. Those who have been successful credit consistency as the key to keeping these beauties healthy. That, and a little artificial assistance when needed.
As mentioned, variegated fiddle leaf figs need plenty of light to make up for their low chlorophyll levels. If necessary, this can be supplemented with a grow light for your fiddle leaf fig to ensure it gets its required six to eight hours a day.
In addition, as jungle plants, they also enjoy a lot of humidity, which can be increased by incorporating a humidifier in their environments.
Furthermore, in terms of the best soil for your fiddle leaf fig, variegated fiddle leaf figs need well-draining, good quality soil and a booster of nitrogen-rich fertilizer every few months.
Where possible, in terms of when to repot a fiddle leaf fig that’s variegated, it’s best to avoid moving these plants around or repotting them until they are well and truly settled and thriving. Regarding how often to water your fiddle leaf fig, it’s quite similar here to other types in that watering is required every 7 to 10 days, or once their top layer of soil is dried out.
In terms of new leaves, don’t expect to see prolific growth. A lot of this plant’s energy is used simply to keep it healthy, especially as they photosynthesize at a lower rate than their dark green cousins. New growth takes time but is always incredibly satisfying. That said, if you’re dealing with a variegated fiddle leaf fig that’s not growing new leaves, it’s always worth investigating.
Where to buy a variegated fiddle leaf fig
Currently, variegated fiddle leaf figs are not freely available and can usually only be found via private suppliers on websites like eBay and Etsy. More prominent in Asia, they can be shipped abroad, but this process is risky for these delicate plants, and they don’t have a high chance of survival.
As variegation is genetic, suppliers of this particular specimen must rely on propagation of fiddle leaf figs to create new plants for sale. Their slow-growing natures, and the high demand, means that they aren’t always around for purchase. Those fortunate enough to own a variegated fiddle leaf (and pay a price that can’t always be described as “reasonable”) may be kind enough to part with a cutting, but you’ll need to track down said person first.
Final thoughts on variegated fiddle leaf fig care
There’s no question that the variegated fiddle leaf fig is one of the most striking plants on the houseplant circuit these days. It’s easy to see why they’re so popular – and the fact that they’re not always the easiest plant to find has the effect of creating even more interest in the Ficus lyrata.
At the same time, it’s true that they’re not the easiest plant in the world to take care of. The design that makes them a favorite for so many also adds an extra complication, especially in terms of how much light they need to survive. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on your variegated fiddle leaf fig for any signs that it might be struggling so you can take action and help it continue to thrive.