Fiddle Leaf Ficus

Posted by @drdawg on
Have you ever wondered why Ficus lyrata, aka Fiddle Leaf Ficus, is so hard to find? Well, here's the scoop.

For several decades, Fiddle Leaf Ficus has been the favorite "centerpiece" plant for home decorators. One cannot pick up an expensive high quality, glossy magazine, such as Architectural Digest, Veranda, or Elle, and not see these plants. For any of you that have wanted a Fiddle Leaf Ficus and have had no luck finding one, even a seedling, you are not alone. I have had numerous people over the last 2 1/2+ years, after I started my "tiny" tropical plant business 09/2011 (and I had a handful of Fiddle Leaf Ficus for sale), tell me that they have searched for weeks and sometimes months for these trees without success. At first, I did not believe that these plants could be that rare. But after hearing this from so many, I did some research and found one grower in Australia that sold seeds. I contacted this guy and told him I wanted to purchase some seeds and see whether I could get them to germinate. He said he was sorry, but he only had seeds available for a brief period and they sold immediately. I asked him why Fiddle Leaf Ficus plants were so hard to find, and this is basically what he told me:

"Fiddle leafs grow naturally in only two remote areas of the world: W. Africa and SW Australia. Fiddle leaf Ficus trees can grow to 60' tall. When they are mature trees and flower (I have never seen a fiddle leaf flower in my three decades of growing them), they must then be pollinated, and that optimum time to pollinate may be a single night, but here's the catch: There is one specific wasp that must pollinate them. Only one! And this wasp is ONLY found in those areas where they grow naturally. Just one of the quirks of nature."

For two decades I tried to root cuttings from my plant. I was only successful perhaps 20% of the time. Two years ago I began air-layering my "Mother" tree, and now I am successful perhaps 50% of the time. Yep, with all the time and effort spent, only half of those branches will root. I air-layer twice a year and get 4-6 plants each time. Depending on the length of the branch I have air-layered, these plants will be 18-32" tall. Air-layering is time-consuming, and with the lack of success, commercial growers just won't do it. Only we hobbyists will go to the trouble to do this. Thus, because of these facts, commercial growers just don't deal in them.

That being said, I finally found a single source of seedlings, and this grower is in Australia. When I buy my plants, they are only 2-3" tall and it will take nine months before they are (perhaps) a foot tall. They will grow approximately one foot each year. I begin to sell them when they are 8-12" tall. I placed my first order last March and I completely sold out of all I had by fall. I always sell out of my air-division plants quickly and I usually have a wait-list for these particular plants.

Where did I get my "Mother" Fiddle Leaf Ficus, you might ask. She was purchased from a tiny nursery that was located between Pascagoula, MS, and Mobile, AL. The nursery was owned by an elderly couple, and their two greenhouses were so packed with exotic plants that one could barely walk between the plants. This was back in the early to mid-80's. That nursery was destroyed by a hurricane in 1985, and it was never rebuilt. There used to be a lot of mom-and-pop nurseries along the MS and AL coastal corridor, but they are now just a part of history. Hurricanes destroyed many of them. The rest were done in by the big-box stores.

So, now you know the rest of the story.

Thumb of 2014-06-01/drdawg/fc18d0 Thumb of 2014-06-01/drdawg/6d8195 Thumb of 2014-06-01/drdawg/b7d876

 
Comments and discussion:
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Hard to find? by Taxicat Jul 14, 2014 3:26 PM 6
Fiddle leaf ficus by poobles Jul 12, 2014 9:06 AM 2
Untitled by coconut Jul 10, 2014 8:17 PM 15
Sourcing Ficus lyrata by WillC Jul 9, 2014 6:35 PM 0

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