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How this fiddle-leaf fig became the most talked about plant on Instagram

A fiddle-leaf fig plant.
Crystal Blackledge’s fiddle-leaf fig plant caused a sensation on Instagram.
(Photo illustration by Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Photo provided by Crystal Blackledge)

“Huge, old fiddle leaf fig plant. Pick up Cambridge, 45 mins north of Minneapolis, MN.”

When Crystal Blackledge, a 36-year-old photographer and mother of three, listed her fiddle-leaf fig for sale on the noihsaf resale Instagram site this week, she was simply trying to unload a 7-foot-tall plant that was taking over her home in Cambridge, Minn.

“It was blocking so much sunlight,” she said Wednesday. “It was 9 or 10 feet tall at one point, and I had to trim it back. It got to the point where we had to squeeze by the plant to get through the dining room.”

Crystal Blackledge's fiddle-leaf fig takes over a corner of a room.
Crystal Blackledge’s fiddle-leaf fig plant caused a sensation on the Internet.
(Crystal Blackledge)
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For those who have struggled with the beautiful but finicky houseplant, Blackledge’s magnificent Ficus lyrata quickly became, in the words of noihsaf founder Kate Lindello, “the most talked about plant on the internet.”

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Among the comments:

“Can I buy the secret to making a fiddle fig this happy?”

“Is anyone else getting a ‘feed me, Seymour!’ vibe or is that just me?”

“This plant needs its own IG.”

“I saw that a fiddle leaf apparently broke the internet and had to gawk.”

Minnesotans are known for being nice — books and musicals have immortalized “How to Talk Minnesotan,” after all — so when the listing garnered more than 100 comments and questions, Blackledge good-naturedly responded with tips on how she kept her impressive ficus so happy.

“I was very surprised,” she said of the response. “I didn’t think it would be that desirable. It made me question whether I should sell it.”

According to Lindello, the post reached more than 13,000 people on Instagram, was tagged 128 times and shared by 490 people, a high level of activity for one of the seven curated resale Instagram accounts she founded in 2013.

“The plant has been the star of our home site,” Lindello said. “It’s a great example of how our resale site goes beyond just buying things. It’s also about sharing and discovering.”

Lindello, a plant lover, admitted she considered driving two hours from Duluth to Cambridge to purchase the plant. Price tag: $350.

“But it was too gigantic,” she said with a laugh.

True to the plant’s Minnesota roots, its adoption story, as described by Blackledge, sounds like something you might hear on the former weekly radio show “A Prairie Home Companion.”

“I went to our local car dealership three years ago to buy a Suburban,” Blackledge said. “They had some plants in pots there and I told them that their plants looked so sad. So they gave me all the plants. I ran home and got my husband, and we brought them all home, where I gave them a lot of love.”

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While we had Blackledge on the phone, we couldn’t resist asking her what she means by “love” and how she cultivated such a healthy fiddle-leaf fig:

Light:

“It’s in a south-facing bay window and gets sun all day long. I had another fiddle-leaf fig in a west-facing window and it didn’t do well at all. That window is the perfect spot for the plant.

Water:

“I water my plants with hot water from the tap. You know how our pores open with hot water? It’s the same for the tropical plant.”

Maintenance:

“I wash the leaves with coconut oil and keep them clean.”

Fertilizer:

“I feed it every six weeks with fiddle-leaf fig tree liquid fertilizer from Amazon.”

Despite the huge response, Blackledge said she received only three or four offers to purchase the houseplant. This week, a woman from Golden Valley, Minn., hired a moving company and collected the plant.

Blackledge said she views the popularity of the post as a much-needed escape during difficult times.

“I think it was a fun thing for people,” she said. “Plants bring life into your home. In the dead of winter, they pick you up. I think that’s just what happened.”


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