Gardening

You Can Do Better Than a Fiddle Leaf Fig

April 25, 2016

Last week, the New York Times reported on how the fiddle leaf fig—a glossy-leafed, non-fruit bearing evergreen that can grow to 40 feet in its native West African conditions—has become ubiquitous as a houseplant (it only grows to be more like 5 to 10 feet in an apartment). So frequently is the fiddle leaf requested by the clients of interior designers these days, the Times dubbed it this year's "'it' plant of the design world."

A small fiddle leaf fig. Photo by Flickr

No matter where you live, it's hard not to notice the traction the fiddle leaf is getting—in nurseries, storefronts, and the homes of your friends. I suppose that's what makes it a trend, but I personally find the obsession a bit much. The fiddle leaf is a beautiful plant, but it's hardly subtle and has, in my opinion, the distinct effect of making every apartment, no matter the style, looking somewhat similar to the last. (Plus, being so in vogue, they're getting pricier and pricier.)

And as the Times reported, they're also finicky to care for—which made me think that it might be time to consider some alternatives, lest we forget they exist. Beloved for ease of care, reliability, or simply their ability to make a statement, here are 7 other (interior designer- and plant lover-approved) houseplants you might consider when the fiddle leaf fig trend starts wearing you out.

Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica)

"They are WAY easier to care for than fiddle leaf figs but have big 'statement-y' leaves that I think are very beautiful." —Justina Blakeney, interior designer and blogger at The Jungalow

Our office's rubber tree, making an appearance in a few shots. Photo by Bobbi Lin

Yucca

"I LOVE yucca." —Brad Sherman, B. Sherman Workshop and designer of the Food52 offices

Plectranthus

"We've cycled through a pretty large number of houseplants in our house, but without a doubt the hardiest among them—and my personal favorite—has been the humble Plectranthus. The variegated leaves of the Plectranthus are light and bright and the plant arcs and sweeps dramatically as it grows. I find that even when they look nice in photographs, a lot of houseplants can be a little dark and imposing to live with. A Plectranthus always looks cheery! It enjoys regular watering, moderate sun, and a good repot every year or so. Bonus: It smells good when you clip dead leaves!" —Erin Boyle, blogger at Reading My Tea Leaves and author of the new book, Simple Matters

Erin's Plectranthus as a wee lad (left), and after growing up a bit (right). Photo by Erin Boyl, Stephania Stanley

Splitleaf Philodendron (Monstera deliciosa)

"Monstera has a vaguely tropical, bright-green leaf that's a bit wild, and the plant itself grows to a nice large size (like fiddle leaf)." —Whitney Parris-Lamb, interior designer at Jesse Parris-Lamb

"I LOVE philodendrons—that genus includes the Monstera, which is having a real Instagram moment right now." —Caroline Lange, Assistant Editor at Food52 and our resident houseplant expert

Misting. So much growth since I got it in January. 💕🌿 #monstera

A photo posted by Caroline One (@onex8) on

Oxalis

"I also love Oxalis. The delicate triangular purple leaves really stand out among more common green leafed houseplants." —Whitney Parris-Lamb

Parlor Palm (Neanthe Bella)

"Easy, doesn't need direct sunlight, and can handle neglect!" —my mom, source of 90% of my gardening and interior design inspiration

• obsessed w/ my parlor palm | spent the afternoon singing to it • 🌴 #parlorpalm #fanniebay

A photo posted by lucy graney | FANNIE BAY • NT (@lucygraney) on

Elephant Ears (Alocasia 'Regal Shields')

I think I'm going to get one—so sculptural and tropical!" —Connie Migliazzo, landscape architect

Are you all about the fiddle leaf fig or a little bit over it like me? Share your favorite houseplants of the moment in the comments.

21 Comments

Matt H. April 27, 2017
I have a fiddle leaf fig for about four years now. I'm a uni student, so overtime I move housing I need to lop off about two feet off the top to fit it in my car, which just encourages more branching and healthier leave. The plant's bullet proof. I water it once a month, so I don't really get why people think it's so finicky.
 
btglenn May 1, 2016
When you recommend plants for the home, you need to include conditions under which the plants will thrive -- like how much sun is needed, general size, if it is a vine or a sturdy shrub, soil and watering preferences. Some of the plants recommended here need a sunny window. The Fiddle Leaf (Ficus Lyrata) does better in shade. The list you include here covers a variety of plants and their requirements for success. It would help the newcomer to buying a plant for the windowsill to know what to look for when plant shopping.
 
Christina B. April 26, 2016
This list has to include spider plants. I bought one about 20 years ago. Ever since, whenever I need a little green somewhere, I just get a spider plant baby and pot it up; and if they outgrow their containers I usually throw out the parent and replant with a baby. They're nearly impossible to kill and have a nice "cascading" effect as they spill out of their pots.
 
Victoria M. April 25, 2016
This has inspired me to finally invest in a house plant. Thanks Mrs. Sim's for the rec!
 
Hannah W. April 29, 2016
Right there with you, Victoria!
 
kate K. April 30, 2016
Couldn't agree more .... I need some tropical plants in my home so I can always feel like I am on vacation! Great article — super inspiring and educational.
 
Anna F. April 25, 2016
Peace lilies grow well too. Mine has survived 4 different moves and plenty of roommate plant-sitting. They aren't picky about light conditions and perk up quickly after you forget to water them for a few days. The leaves grow into a nice full shape, and it produces white flowers similar to the calla lily.
 
Lindsay-Jean H. April 25, 2016
I still love my fiddle leaf fig (in part just because I'm proud I've kept it alive), but I've been searching for another largish plant for a spot without direct sunlight, and I think the parlor palm might be just the ticket. (Thanks Amanda's mom!)
 
Author Comment
Amanda S. April 25, 2016
Keeping it alive seems to be a feat!
 
Eli April 25, 2016
At least two of these plants (Oxalis and Yucca) are toxic to cats.
 
Elizabeth April 25, 2016
And dogs! If you have pets, check out the ASPCA's site. They have a good list of plants that are toxic to pets.
 
Ryan P. April 25, 2016
watch the easter videos from the Kardashian West household and you will see a very sad Fiddle Leaf tree in the background of their lobby(?) .
 
Author Comment
Amanda S. April 25, 2016
:(
 
Smaug April 25, 2016
<br />the Plectranthus mentioned apparently is P. Australis "variegata"- the genus also includes Coleus (P.Coleoides "Marginata"). Monstera is the genus for Philodendrons; there is no "Philodendron" family that "Monstera" belongs to- they belong (unless the taxonomists have been at them) to the family Araceae, which includes Calla lillies, Jack in the Pulpit, Voodoo lilly etc. Oxalis is a large genus, most of which could be grown as house plants (many are serious weeds in mild climates). The plant picture is O.Regnelli " Triangularis, often sold as O. Triangularis. None of these plants are exactly breaking new ground as houseplants.
 
Author Comment
Amanda S. April 25, 2016
Not at all groundbreaking, I agree. Simply a reminder that what's trendy right now isn't the only option as far as houseplants go: Reliable, attractive, and readily-available are good traits, too!
 
Author Comment
Amanda S. April 25, 2016
Also: Updated above to clarify that philodendron is a genus! (thank you)
 
Smaug April 25, 2016
Philodendron is not a genus; the genus is "Monstera". The word "Philodendron" (Latin for "tree lover", by the way) has no taxonomic standing that I know of.
 
Smaug April 25, 2016
Oops, I'm getting rusty at this stuff, had to look it up- Philodendron is a genus, Monstera Deliciosa just doesn't belong to it. The most common is probably. P. Seloum- I grow it outdoors in California, where it can be a monster; should make a good large scale houseplant.
 
Isabella R. April 27, 2017
Ancient Greek, actually, not Latin! It's a common mistake, but as a general rule, anything with a -ph- or ending in -on is Greek.
 
Smaug April 27, 2017
True- Botanical Latin is a bastard language, drawing from all over the place. Official plant names are, rather sloppily, usually referred to as "Latin" though, as you pointed out, frequently they're not.
 
Samantha W. April 25, 2016
Rubber plants are the best! I love ours -- it's planted in a pretty stone planter with rocks and looks so jazzy in our living room. Deeply colorful leaves lend such a punch to white, rental apartment walls.