Both the fiddle-leaf fig tree and its cousin, the ficus tree, have beautiful leaves, thrive indoors, and have gained popularity among indoor plant lovers for making a statement with their large green leaves. They grow tall, thrive indoors, and add lush greenery to any room the home that can provide bright light and moderate temperatures. Both of these plants are popular among interior designers and home decorators.

The similarities don’t stop there. In fact, fiddle-leaf figs and ficus trees are closely related and have much in common. Here are some other ways fiddle-leaf fig trees and ficus trees are similar:

  • Fiddle-leaf figs and ficus trees are part of the Moraceae family
  • Fiddle-leaf figs and ficus trees are evergreen plants that can grow outdoors in tropical and sub-tropical climates
  • Fiddle-leaf figs and ficus trees are popular houseplants
  • Fiddle-leaf figs and ficus trees can live 20-50 years

Even with all of their similarities, fiddle-leaf figs and ficus trees are different in a variety of ways, differences that will inform your choice when choosing which plant to grow in your home. Read on to learn more about both the fiddle-leaf fig and the ficus tree now!

Comparing Fiddle-Leaf Figs and Ficus Trees

Characteristic Fiddle-Leaf Fig Ficus Tree
Scientific Name Ficus lyrata Ficus benjamina
Family Moraceae Moraceae
Common Name Fiddle-leaf fig, banjo fig Weeping fig, ficus tree, Benjamin fig
Origin West Africa Asia, Australia
Description of Plant Fiddle-leaf fig trees grow to be up to 10 feet tall when grown indoors. When in their native habitat, outdoors, fiddle-leaf fig trees can grow up to 50 feet tall. Ficus trees grow to be between 3 and 6 feet tall when grown indoors. In their native habitat, outdoors, weeping fig trees can grow up to 60 feet tall.
Growing Conditions Fiddle-leaf figs thrive in conditions of bright but filtered light, rather than direct sunlight which burns the leaves, or shady areas that stunt the plant’s growth. When grown indoors, fiddle-leaf figs grow well in moist soil. Fiddle-leaf figs grow well when daytime temperatures remain between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Fiddle-leaf figs prefer humidity and thrive in parts of a house that are protected from drafts and away from heaters or air conditioners, which cause rapid changes in temperature. Ficus trees thrive in conditions with bright indirect light or partial sun. When grown indoors, ficus should be watered on a routine schedule and planted in well-drained soil that remains moist but is not overly so. Ficus grow well when daytime temperatures remain between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. They prefer humid conditions that are similar to that of their native habitat in Asia and Australia.
USDA Hardiness Zone(s) 10-12 (Outdoors) 10-11 (Outdoors)

Descriptions of Fiddle-Leaf Fig and Ficus Trees

Fiddle-Leaf Fig Trees

The Ficus lyrata is the plant commonly known as a fiddle-leaf fig. It also goes by the name banjo fig. Ficus lyrata is a species in the Moraceae family, which includes 38 different genera and more than 1,100 different species. Moraceae is sometimes known as the “fig family, and includes popular plants that bear edible fruit, including the fig, breadfruit, jackfruit, and mulberry. Ficus lyrata is one of more than 800 species in the Ficus genus, along with a diverse group of shrubs, trees, and other plants that are native to tropical and sub-tropical climates. A relative of Ficus lyrata, the Ficus carica, or common fig, bears edible fruit, popular throughout the Mediterranean and parts of the Southeastern United States.

Ficus lyrata, the fiddle-leaf fig, is a flowering plant that grows to 50 feet tall in its native habitat. However, as a popular houseplant, it rarely flowers and typically does not grow to be more than 10 feet tall. When grown indoors, fiddle-leaf fig plants will grow to a height of 5-6 feet. Fiddle-leaf figs grow wide, dark green leaves that possess a leather-like texture and often have a wide end and narrow center, making them resemble the shape of a banjo, helping to inspire the nickname banjo fig. These leaves are called lyrate because their shape resembles that of a lyre. The leaves grow up to 18 inches long and 12 inches wide, with visible white or yellowish veins and wavy edges. The trunk of a fiddle-leaf fig grows tall and straight.

A fiddle leaf fig planted in a wicker pot against a white background.
When grown indoors, fiddle-leaf fig plants will grow to a height of 5-6 feet.

iStock.com/Olga Peshkova

Ficus Trees

Ficus benjamina commonly known as weeping fig or ficus tree, is just one species in the Ficus genus and Moraceae family, alongside others, including Ficus lyrata. Therefore, fiddle-leaf figs and ficus tree have much in common.

Ficus benjamina, the ficus tree, is also a flowering plant that can grow to be 50 feet tall in its native habitat. However, like the fiddle-leaf fig, these trees rarely grow to be higher than 6 feet tall as houseplants. Very different in their appearance from fiddle-leaf fig trees, ficus leaves are much smaller, only growing to be about 4 inches long. They are oval-shaped and are pointed, green, and glossy. The branches of the tree are flexible and drooping. When growing natively, its branches will droop toward the ground and form a dense canopy of leaves that block the sunlight from reaching any plants growing beneath it.

a ficus tree in a black pot against a white background.
Ficus leaves are much smaller than those of the fiddle-leaf fig, only growing to be about 4 inches long.

iStock.com/sdbower

Fiddle-Leaf Fig vs. Ficus Tree: Key Differences

Fiddle-leaf figs and ficus trees have much in common. Though their appearances differ significantly, they are closely-related members of the same family and genus. However, there are a few other differences that set them apart from one another. The most significant differences between these two trees have to do with their histories, where they originated, and how they need to be cultivated. Let’s discuss those similarities and differences in greater detail now.

History

Fiddle-leaf figs are native to Western Africa, in countries such as Cameroon and Sierra Leone. There, it grows natively in rainforests. In its native habitat, a fiddle-leaf fig grows tall, flowers, and bears fruit. As a type of banyan fig, the fiddle-leaf fig plant begins growing as an epiphyte. This means that the plant starts out as a seed that germinates on the top of another plant, where it can reach sunlight, before growing downward into the soil. Once it reaches the ground, the young plant grows thick roots and its growth can outpace that of the more-established host plant. This can cause the young, new plant to choke out its host as the two plants compete for sunlight.

Ficus trees, on the other hand, are native to Asia and northern Australia. In the United States, ficus trees can grow outdoors in warm, sunny regions. Like the fiddle-leaf fig, a ficus tree also begins life as an epiphyte. As its popularity has increased across Europe and North America as a houseplant, ficus trees have also been imported to non-native environments where they pose a risk to native plant species because of their potential to spread and disrupt the ecosystem.

Appearance

Fiddle-leaf fig trees have firm, straight trunks and perky dark green leaves. Fiddle-leaf fig leaves are simple, alternating, and grow to be eight to 15 inches long. They are green on the top and paler green underneath. If your fiddle-leaf fig leaves are drooping or wilting, appear to have spots, or sport new growth with holes in the leaves, reevaluate your watering schedule and/or the humidity in your home. If the leaves on your fiddle-leaf fig are brown or crispy, they are in need of water, and if they are yellow, they are being overwatered, or need more sun, or different nutrients in the soil.

Ficus tree leaves are also simple and alternating. However, they are much smaller in comparison to those of a fiddle-leaf fig, growing two to four inches long. They are dark green and shiny on the top and paler green underneath. If the leaves are yellow, wilting, or turning brown, that may be a sign of overwatering, which can lead to root rot. However, they may also turn yellow if the air is not humid enough. Because of this, leaves often turn yellow during colder months when the air indoors is dryer.

Cultivation

Growing Your Fiddle-Leaf Fig

Though stately and beautiful, fiddle-leaf figs can be temperamental and notoriously difficult to care for. Because fiddle-leaf figs are native to tropical, lowland rainforests in Western Africa, they thrive in warm, humid conditions that are vastly different from air conditioned / heated homes. When growing fiddle-leaf figs indoors, ensure that the plant is getting indirect light throughout the day. Rotating the pot of your fiddle-leaf fig will insure that it has balanced exposure to light, allowing it to grow straight up, rather than leaning toward the sun.

It is also important to avoid environments that will cause your fiddle-leaf fig to experience temperature shock. The plant grows well between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, but will suffer in areas with frequent temperature shifts or drafts.

Keep the fiddle-leaf fig plant’s soil moist, but not wet. This will keep the leaves from wilting while preventing root rot, which is a result of prolonged overwatering. As fiddle-leaf figs grow natively in warm, humid areas, it is important to keep provide humidity for your plants, either by running a humidifier or misting the leaves with water using a spray bottle.

Fiddle-leaf figs grow quickly. With this in mind, the plants should be repotted annually, to avoid becoming root-bound, gradually increasing the pot size by two to four inches each time.

Growing Your Ficus Tree

Compared to a fiddle-leaf fig, ficus trees are relatively easy to grow and care for. However, like the fiddle-leaf fig, these trees are also very sensitive to sudden, significant changes in temperature. They are also sensitive to being moved, so it’s best to avoid repositioning them.

Ficus trees will thrive in bright rooms with indirect sunlight. When planted in containers, they will grow well in fast-draining soil that stays moist but does not become overly-saturated. Likethe fiddle-leaf fig, keep to a routine watering schedule and reduce your watering in the winter. Ficus trees grow well in daytime temperatures of 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and will decline rapidly if the temperature inside dips below 70 degrees due to air conditioning or winter weather. As the tree is native to warm, humid climates, it grows best in humid conditions like those recommended for the fiddle-leaf fig.

Because ficus trees do not handle changes in location well, it’s best to avoid repotting your plant except when absolutely necessary. Unlike the fiddle-leaf fig, ficus trees only require repotting every three to four years. When repotting, examine the root system, removing any dead, rotted roots.

Fiddle-Leaf Figs vs. Ficus Trees: Cultivars

Fiddle-leaf figs, Ficus lyrata, come in several different cultivars. These include:

  • Ficus lyrata Bambino: a small plant with leaves that are smaller, typically only up to eight inches long and seven inches wide.
  • Ficus lyrata Compacta: smaller, with a slower growth rate.
  • Ficus lyrata Variegata: green leaves with yellow edges.

Ficus trees, Ficus benjamina, also come in many different cultivars. These include:

  • Ficus benjamina Exotica: light green leaves
  • Ficus benjamina Golden King: green leaves with yellow veins
  • Ficus benjamina Starlight: variegated leaves
  • Ficus benjamina Variegata: pointed leaves

Regardless of the variety, fiddle-leaf figs and ficus trees are well-loved houseplants from the Ficus genus. Each comes with a unique history, has a distinctive appearance, and can be a beautiful, lush focal point for home or office.

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