It’s hard to miss the Fiddle Leaf Fig in posts on Pinterest, Instagram, or home décor sites. The latest trend seems to be Bambino plants, but when you Google them, they look like Fiddle Leaf Figs. Are they the same plant, or something different?
A Bambino plant is a dwarf fiddle leaf fig or a Ficus lyrata bambino. It is not a hybrid, but a smaller variety of a fiddle leaf fig. There are several minor differences between a fiddle leaf and a Bambino, but height is the key one.
Spend a few minutes scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram for decorating ideas, and you’ll see fiddle leaf figs. Some designers call them the design plant of the last decade. Will Bambinos become a new trend? Read on to learn how the plants are different and why you might want to get a Bambino instead of a Fiddle Leaf.
What Is a Fiddle Leaf Fig?
Fiddle leaf figs, or ficus lyrata, are subtropical plants that come out of West Africa. You might hear them referred to as Fiddle Leaf Tree or Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree. Their genus name, ficus, is occasionally used.
Fiddle leaf figs are epiphytes, trees whose seeds are embedded on top of other trees, and then grow down. In the process, they often strangle and kill the host. Not to worry—this only occurs in the wild. The fiddle leaf you buy will not have to destroy another plant to establish itself.
You will also never see a fig on a fiddle leaf fig tree unless you come across a tree in the wild. Their figs resemble those of the common fig, but they are not edible. The leaves of your fiddle tree are mildly toxic due to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals.
Fiddle leaf figs have a reputation of requiring much care. It would be more accurate to say that they are picky and do not like change. Follow a few guidelines to keep them healthy and watch for common signs that your fiddle leaf fig needs some extra TLC.
What Is a Bambino Plant?
A Ficus lyrata bambino often called a Bambino, is a dwarf fiddle leaf fig. Some stores label them as Dwarf Fiddle Leaf Figs, while others call them fiddle leaf figs. Why is this important?
Size—that’s why. A native fiddle leaf can grow to 40 ft (12.19 m) in its natural habitat. Those sold for homes will reach 6 ft (1.8 m) or higher. However, if the plant you buy is labeled Bambino, you expect it to grow 3 to 4 ft (0.9 to 1.2 m). And if you purchase a fiddle leaf and it stops growing at 3 ft (0.9 m), you will suspect something is wrong.
How Are Dwarf Cultivars Created?
Miniature fiddle leaf figs, like the Bambino, are dwarf cultivars. A cultivar is a version of a plant that horticulturalists breed by cloning to create plants that have desirable characteristics. The resulting plants will have characteristics that would not be found in the wild. However, cultivars are still the same species of plant.
Contrast that with a hybrid plant, which is created by crossing two different species of plants. This is often done by transferring pollen from one plant to a plant of a different variety. Sweet corn and Meyer Lemon Trees are two hybrid plants. But a Bambino is a smaller version of a fiddle leaf.
How Are Bambino Plants Grown?
Bambino plants start as a plant tissue culture. This process begins with using pieces of plant tissue—explants—that are then cultured in a nutrient-rich medium. The resulting teeny-tiny plants are then sent to growers who will transform the tissue cultures into plants that are ready to be shipped to nurseries, garden centers, and home improvement stores.
Once they arrive at a nursery, the bambino babies are placed into a soil plug so that they can take root. This is a specialized task—the tissue cultures need to be dug into the soil at a precise depth without being damaged.
To keep them warm, they are tented in a greenhouse for two weeks, and then for another four to five weeks. At that point, they are placed into a grower pot. They will live in these 5 in (12.7 cm) pots until they get to your home.
At the end of the five weeks, their leaves will be the width of the pot. At that point, they are spread out strategically to ensure each plant gets the same amount of light. If this is not done, then bambinos won’t grow straight. Once they have reached a height of 13-15 in (33.02-38.cm), they are ready to be shipped to sellers.
Why Are Bambinos Suddenly Popular?
Fiddle leaf figs are gorgeous plants, and their size adds drama to any interior. But not everyone has the large interiors often seen in decorating magazines. Dwarf fiddle leaf figs, or Bambinos, let someone with less space still own one of these exotic plants.
Caring for a Bambino Fiddle Leaf Fig
Keep these requirements in mind to ensure your plant stays healthy:
- Light. Indoor Bambinos prefer bright, indirect light. Although many sources say that they shouldn’t receive bright light, it’s more accurate to say they need to become acclimated to direct sunlight.
- Water. Keep the soil moist, but do not overwater. Your Bambino’s water needs are dependent on several factors, with light being the biggest. Check the soil with your finger—if the top inch feels dry, your Bambino is ready for a drink.
- Humidity. As tropical plants, they thrive in humid areas. Bambinos and their larger cousins prefer humidity levels between 40-60%. Our homes should ideally have humidity levels between 30-50%, so you might need to provide that if your house is dry. A humidifier is a healthier and permanent option for your plant than misting. The Soothing Air has suggestions to provide more humidity for your Bambino.
- Temperature. Temperature is not a concern unless you keep your house below 50°F (10°C). Drafts can be a problem, especially if they dry out the air.
- Movement. Fiddle leaf bambinos do not like being moved. Sudden changes in location can cause them to begin dropping their leaves.
What if Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Isn’t Growing?
What if you bought a Fiddle Leaf and it has stopped growing?
Most likely, there is nothing wrong with your plant. Instead, it was mislabeled or misplaced when you purchased it. That happens from time to time. How do you know which is which?
You should look at the leaves. Bambino leaves tend to be smaller, stick up more, and are rounded, without the distinctive “fiddle” shape of their larger cousins. Also, the leaves on a Bambino are usually clustered closely together so that a Bambino looks more like a small bush.
Instead of being disappointed, consider this: you have managed to take care of your finicky Bambino. Find another spot for your Bambino, and then buy a real Fiddle Leaf Fig.
A Bambino is a smaller version of a Fiddle Leaf Fig, not a separate species. Both the Bambino and the larger Fiddle Leaf Fig are stunning plants, but often they are not accurately labeled. If you want the smaller Bambino, then do not be fooled by words such as tiny or little.
Large home improvement stores often don’t distinguish between a full-sized Fiddle Leaf and the Bambino. A smaller, reputable nursery would be more likely to sell you the plant you want.