Why is My Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaning to One Side? How Can I Fix it?

Is your fiddle leaf fig starting to lean to one side? Are you curious why this might happen, especially if it started happening quite suddenly? In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton examines why fiddle leaf figs start to lean, and how to fix it once it starts to happen.

Leaning Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant

Almost every houseplant lover either has or has certainly thought about growing a Fiddle Leaf Fig. With their impressive leaves and towering stature, they do make wonderful houseplant features in any home and with any design.

But, that does come with a few caveats. Fiddle Leaves Figs are fussy indoor plants that are tough to keep happy. Even minor issues can cause a number of problems in these plants. One of those is leaning.

Luckily, leaning is not a major issue and is easily fixable with some patience. There are a few common reasons why it occurs, and most are easy to fix. Read on to find out why this leaning occurs and what you can do about it.

Short Answer

The most common reason a Fiddle Leaf Fig leans is that it’s not receiving enough sunlight. The branches will stretch toward the nearest window to improve photosynthesis and growth, becoming lopsided. Other reasons for leaning include a lack of water, inadequate nutrients, and an incorrect pot size.

Long Answer

Healthy Plant in Pot
With insufficient light, this plant begins to look for a light source and reach for it, causing it to lean.

Almost all plants need some level of sunlight exposure to survive. Some plants need more, while others can survive in indirect or heavily shaded light without worry.

Houseplants are able to grow indoors because of their ability to withstand shady conditions, surviving and even thriving in indirect light for most of their lives. However, this does not mean they can survive on little to no light, especially indoors where light intensity is much weaker.

Many houseplants will struggle to grow indoors when placed in low light. Rather than accepting their fate, these adaptive and clever plants will go looking for a light source, sensing the nearest sunlight source and slowly moving towards it.

Unfortunately, this causes a few problems. Branches become thin and stretched out, developing very small leaves (if any leaves at all). Growth also becomes lopsided, causing the entire tree to lean to one side. Unless conditions are improved quickly, growth will only continue in this direction until conditions are improved.

A Quick Overview

Ficus Lyrata leaves
This popular houseplant has impressive fiddle-shaped leaves.

Almost everyone even remotely interested in houseplants – or even in interior design – will recognize the Fiddle Leaf Fig. This plant exploded in popularity a few years ago with the recent houseplant boom, becoming the most beloved indoor tree around the globe.

The Fiddle Leaf Figs we recognize indoors look very different outdoors and in their native habitats. These trees, scientifically known as Ficus lyrata, can grow more than 40 feet tall in their tropical rainforest habitats around the warm and humid parts of West Africa.

They are known for making a statement indoors, no matter where they are placed. The large fiddle-shaped leaves are a favorite feature, with their branching and impressive size only adding to their allure.

Unfortunately, they are not the most beginner-friendly houseplants around. Incredibly sensitive to changes in conditions, these plants can drop leaves at the first sign of stress. They can also be tricky to keep completely upright when placed in the wrong conditions. Luckily, this problem has a few easy fixes you can try.

Light Requirements

Tall houseplant near the window
These plants prefer to grow in places with bright indirect sunlight.

Light is generally the root of any leaning problems, so let’s start by looking at their light requirements.

In their native habitats, these tall trees receive a lot of bright, dappled sunlight. They generally form part of the lower story of the rainforest but are also often seen growing in partial to full sun conditions in tropical areas. They don’t appreciate long days of intense sun but are no strangers to bright light either.

Grown as houseplants, the requirements are slightly different. From young plants, they are brought up in shaded greenhouse environments to get them used to indoor lighting conditions to be sold.

That means when you bring them home, they should be placed in areas with a full day of bright indirect sunlight to continue growing their best. If introduced slowly to direct sun, they will also benefit from a few hours of gentle morning sun, but generally grow happiest in bright indirect light.

As adaptive as they are, they are not suitable for areas of your home with low or even moderate light. More established plants may not show signs of struggle immediately, but these less-than-ideal conditions will eventually cause problems with growth and may even end up killing the plant completely despite their reputation as being quite hardy.

One of those problems is leaning. It may be difficult to spot this problem at first due to the slower growth rates in low light, but after a couple of weeks, you will likely notice the branches slowly point towards the light source. The large leaves will also attempt to face the same direction to absorb as much sunlight as possible.

How To Fix A Leaning Plant

Ficus Lyrata plant in paper pot
To correct a leaning fig, move the plant pot to the window with the side that does not lean.

There are a few ways to fix a leaning Fiddle Leaf Fig, starting with improved lighting conditions. As soon as you notice your plant leaning to one side, move it to a brighter area of your home, preferably in front of an east-facing window.

If the lighting conditions are drastically different from what they were in previously, introduce the plant to brighter light slowly for about a week to avoid shock or potential damage to the leaves.

Start by placing the opposite leaning side toward the light source. Once growth slowly returns to normal, ensure you rotate your pots every week or so to stop growth from becoming unbalanced again.

If the leaning doesn’t improve, you can also install supports to help the branches grow upright again. This is best done during repotting to avoid damaging essential root systems. Install a stake right next to the plant and tie the branch to it with flexible fabric to allow for movement.

For larger plants, you can also prune the stretched branch back slightly so any new growth grows upright. Pruning smaller plants can quickly lead to shock, so only prune if the branch is less than a quarter of the entire size of the plant.

To prune, cut just above a node to make space for new growth. If the cutting is long enough, you can trim it down to the next node and plant it in soil to grow a brand-new plant. Avoid trimming too much at once as this can cause stunted growth that will take weeks or even months for the plant to recover from.

Other Possible Causes For Leaning

Sunlight is the most likely cause of leaning, but it isn’t the only cause. If lighting isn’t an issue for your plant, take a look at these other potential problems to determine which is most likely.

Incorrect Watering

Ficus Lyrata leaves foliage with water droplets
Excessive watering can also cause the plant to lean.

Overwatering can cause the new green stems to become soft. Branches that lack strength will begin to lean over, unable to hold themselves up.

If you have overwatered, simply hold off on watering for a while and adjust your schedule. If growth does not return to normal, you may need to repot and trim any rotten roots in the process. Also check the pot and soil to ensure drainage is adequate.

In the future, wait until the top two inches of soil have dried out completely before watering again. Don’t leave the plant sitting in a pot cover or drip tray full of water and repot into well-draining, lightweight soil.

Nutrient Deficiency

Repotting Ficus Lyrata
It is recommended to repot the plant every few years.

Lack of nutrients can lead to weaker growth in all parts of the plant, including branches. This weakness may cause them to lean over, getting worse the longer the problem persists.

Nutrient deficiency is not highly likely when correct care practices are followed. However, if you suspect this is the problem, applying a balanced slow-release fertilizer should fix the issue. Remember to repot every few years to refresh the soil and follow a fertilizing routine for a consistent supply of nutrients.

Incorrect Size

Tall indoor houseplant
You’ll need to ensure you prune regularly to control their growth.

As they age, these popular plants can grow very tall in the right conditions. Along with increased size, the branches also become heavy under the weight of the large leaves.

If the plant is too top-heavy and the pot is the wrong size, this excess weight can cause the branches to start leaning to one side. They may even tip the pot over – a mess you certainly don’t want to have to clean up.

Ensure your plant is never more than double the size of the pot in height. The width can be extended slightly beyond that, but if growth does get out of hand, prune the plant back to prevent any further leaning.

Final Thoughts

Although a leaning Fiddle Leaf Fig is not preferred, it is usually not an urgent problem signaling the demise of your plant. Once lighting conditions are fixed, the plant will return to normal and will even grow better than before. If lighting is not the cause, look out for any of the other possible issues to help your favorite tree thrive.

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