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Oh fiddle leaf dee

Houseplants bring color ... and oxygen ... into your life

Now that our holidays are over and the pretty Christmas trees are gone, you may want to fill in those empty spaces with interesting, colorful houseplants. They can boost your spirits, add oxygen to the environment and give us a sense of purpose and joy as we watch them grow.

This is a good time of year to purchase a few houseplants or to tend to those which we have been neglecting these past few months.

Let me introduce you to one of my favorite, easy-to-grow houseplants.

The fiddle leaf fig plant (Ficus lyrata) is relatively easy to grow in your home. Named for its fiddle-shaped, large, leathery leaves, some of which are 12 to 18 inches long and 5 inches wide, it can reach heights of 10 feet or more indoors. It is also known as the banjo fig.

It is tree-like, fast-growing and will be a stunning addition to any room in your home.

This popular tropical rain forest plant is native to the West African lowland rain forest. In its native habitat, the fiddle leaf fig produces very small inconspicuous flowers and fruits. However, indoors it rarely flowers.

It is one of the most common houseplants in the temperate world due to its drought tolerance and ability to thrive in poor indoor growing situations.

About four years ago I purchased a fiddle leaf fig plant from a local nursery in the indoor home garden section. It was about 2 to 3 feet tall and now is more than 9 feet tall! It is perfect for an area of your home that is looking somewhat bare and needs a focal point.

If you are thinking that you may not have enough sunlight for this plant, you need not be concerned. The fiddle leave fig likes indirect filtered light or part shade. Mine is next to a window facing northeast and likes the early morning sunlight. Protect it from the afternoon sun.

When it outgrows its pot, transplant it in a container with drainage holes and one size bigger than its existing container. Use a potting soil mix that has fertilizer in it.

Avoid overwatering.

Water less in the fall and winter, and a little more in spring and summer. If the outside edges of leaves start to turn brown, it needs a little more water. If leaves start to fall off, again, give it a little more water.

It is also a good idea to fertilize your plant once a month during the growing season with a diluted liquid fertilizer.

This plant likes temperatures between 60 to 75 degrees. Avoid placing it near drafts and heater vents. Moving this plant from one location to another may shock it, causing leaves to fall.

As with most house plants, watch for scale, aphids, mealy bugs, thrips and spider mites. Fortunately, there are no serious insect or disease problems with the fiddle leaf fig plant. Now that is seriously music to your ears, isn’t it?

For more info on this plant, go to http://go.osu.edu/fiddlefig

For more on caring for houseplants, go to: http://go.osu.edu/houseplants

Belfast is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.V

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