The Fiddle Leaf Fig is a glorious houseplant that acts as a focal point in any home, with its huge bright green leaves and strong stem, but like all gorgeous, tropical leaf houseplants, it is not without its problems.
Some houseplant owners have no luck at all with this plant, when they can grow any other tropical houseplant (even ones that are considered trickier) just fine.
This plant is fussy when it comes to the sort of conditions it will grow in, and if you move it to a different spot, it might protest by dropping a few of its beautiful leaves.
Get the growing conditions wrong, and the foliage will quickly be marred by unsightly brown or black spots, it might yellow or drop off completely, or the plant may stretch towards a distant light source.
But exactly what causes these problems? Can you catch them early enough to transform your sad-looking fiddle leaf fig into a plant you can be proud of? Should you cut your losses, or is it possible to save your plant?
Here’s everything you need to know.
Smaller Leaves On A Fiddle Leaf Fig
Why The Leaves Are Smaller: Lack of nutrients, light, water, or humidity
How To Fix It: Change one of the above, and if that doesn’t work, change another until it is fixed
If your Fiddle Leaf Fig plant suddenly grows much smaller leaves than the ones already on the plant, and they still look healthy, this is because the growing conditions have drastically changed in some aspects.
Unfortunately, they’re not as great as they used to be, hence the drop in leaf size and spread.
This might be in terms of light, temperature, humidity, water, or a combination of two or more of these.
It could even be that the plant has taken up all the nutrients it can out of the soil, and there are none left for the plant to use for new growth, causing new growth to be stunted.
Try changing one aspect of the growing conditions, and see if your Fiddle Leaf Fig improves.
Check the soil first, as this is the easiest one to fix. Make sure you water it consistently, always checking the soil beforehand.
If the plant is not stretched towards the light, the chances are there is nothing wrong with the light levels, though they might be dimmer than what your plant has been used to in the past.
Try to increase humidity by using a humidifier, or group plants with similar needs together to create a microclimate.
Feed your Fiddle Leaf Fig plant every fourth watering or so in the growing season, and this will help keep your plant healthy and happy.
Yellowing Leaves On Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Why The Leaves Are Yellow: Moisture imbalances, not enough light, no nutrients
How To Fix It: Rule out each problem by changing one thing at a time
Yellowing leaves can be the most frustrating problem of all, as there are a few different causes, and it can be difficult to tell them apart.
The first thing to do is check the soil for any imbalances in moisture.
If the soil is too wet or too dry for prolonged periods, the leaves will turn yellow and drop from the plant.
It will usually be the lower leaves first if it is a moisture-related problem. If the soil is too dry, go ahead and water it.
If it’s too wet, repot the plant into slightly damp soil, making sure you trim any damaged roots off beforehand and hope it recovers. If you’ve caught it early enough, there’s a good chance it will be fine.
Take a look at the plant’s recent growth. Has it stretched towards the light, with the gap between leaves getting bigger? Maybe it’s also lost some of its lower leaves, too.
Your plant needs more light, and it’s dropping the leaves it cannot support, leaning towards what light it can feel to get more energy.
Move it closer to the window, or invest in a grow light.
If it’s not stretching towards the light, and leaves are not constantly dropping, light is not the problem.
But the soil and light might be fine, in which case, it’s a good idea to look at the plant as a whole. How long has it been in its current pot?
If the answer is a few years, and you haven’t fed the plant in a while, now is the time to do so. It might be hungry for more nutrients.
Just make sure that this is the cause before you feed it, as feeding a stressed plant can make things much worse.
Feeding a plant that needs repotting will work in a pinch (especially if it is the wrong time of year to repot), but you can also add a layer of fresh compost to help give the plant a nutrient boost for now, until the growing season rolls around again.
Leaf Drop On A Fiddle Leaf Fig
Why The Leaves Are Dropping: Shock, moisture imbalances, very dry air
How To Fix It: Avoid putting your plant near drafts/heat, keep it in one place, and check the soil for watering issues
Every species has a problem it’s more prone to than others.
Leaf drop is extremely common in Fiddle Leaf Fig plants, just as Calatheas are prone to leaves crisping up.
The most likely reason why your fig is dropping leaves is that you’ve moved it, or you’ve just got it home.
These plants hate being moved. It’s incredibly stressful for them, just as a dramatic change in conditions can cause the plant to protest, especially if they are not an improvement.
If this is the cause, allow your plant time to adapt. Give it the most consistent care possible, and don’t feed it during this time. It will bounce back.
Try to make sure there are no extremes in temperature or moisture, and this will help stop leaf drop from happening.
Your plant may be dropping its leaves when the soil is too wet or too dry for it. Too dry, and the plant cannot sustain the number of leaves it has, so it takes some of the moisture out of the leaves it has to survive.
If the plant is too wet, the roots will start to rot, and as the plant can no longer take up water, it will start to die of thirst.
If the soil is fine, take a look at the room you’ve placed your Fiddle Leaf Fig in.
It might be far too dry for it, or you’ve placed it near a source of heat or a draft, both of which dry out the air more than your plant can cope with.
In which case, brace yourself. You need to move it to a more suitable space, like a kitchen or bathroom, use a humidifier, or group it with plants with similar needs to increase the humidity.
Leaves Wilting On Fiddle Leaf Fig
Why The Leaves Are Wilting: Overwatering or underwatering
How To Fix It: depending on the problem: repot or give the plant a drink
If the drooping leaves are also turning yellow or brown, you’re likely overdoing it with the watering can. Maybe you’re watering the plant blindly on a schedule.
We’ve all done it, but your plant won’t live long if you carry on watering it every X day or week. Eventually, an aspect of the growing conditions will change, but when you don’t adapt the moisture levels to that change, the plant will suffer!
Growing conditions don’t operate on a strict calendar, and nor should your watering practices.
What you should do as a habit is to check the soil frequently to see if the plant needs watering.
This will largely stop any moisture problems from happening. It will make more of a difference than you might guess!
But if the plant’s leaves are crisping up, there’s a good chance that your plant isn’t getting enough water. Maybe you’re leaving it too long in between waters, or, you’re only giving the plant a trickle of water each time.
Check the soil to confirm which problem your fig is suffering from. If the plant is too wet, repot it into slightly damp compost, making sure to trim any mushy roots.
If it’s too dry, you may want to water it twice. Once to force the soil to expand, and the second to hydrate the roots. Don’t forget to water all the soil you can reach, and tip out any excess water that collects in the bottom of the pot.
If you think you have been watering enough, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to soil moisture:
- Higher light and warmer temperatures mean you need to water the plant more frequently, but don’t do this when there’s any chance the plant will be in direct sunlight, as this can scorch the plant.
- The soil can compact if you don’t water it often or deeply enough. Use a bamboo chopstick to gently poke a few holes in the soil’s surface, and always water the plant thoroughly.
- Keep in mind that different pots made of different materials will lose water at different rates. Terracotta pots, for instance, will lose moisture much faster than plastic.
This can be a blessing or a curse, depending on the other growing conditions involved, how heavy-handed you are with that watering can, and how often you want to keep an eye on your plants.
Curling Leaves On Fiddle Leaf Fig Plants
Why The Leaves Are Curling: Improper watering, dry air, disturbing the roots
How To Fix It: adjust watering levels/frequency, improve humidity, wait for the plant to adapt
Your Fiddle Leaf Fig plant may start to look sickly with curling leaves for a couple of reasons. If you’ve just repotted it, the leaves curling are a normal response to root disturbance.
It will bounce back on its own, provided that you give it consistent care, and don’t feed it while it is stressed.
If you haven’t touched the roots, and the leaves are curling, this is usually a moisture problem in the soil.
The soil has either fully dried out, dehydrating your Fiddle Leaf Fig, or, it has struggled to dry out, and your plant is struggling to cope.
Check the soil to confirm which problem you have, and either water the plant thoroughly or repot it.
Curling leaves can also happen when the air is too dry for your plant, especially in winter if you have the heating on.
Try increasing the humidity by putting a pebble tray of water underneath the plant, or invest in a humidifier.
Black Spots On Fiddle Leaf Fig Plants
Why The Leaves Are Getting Black Spots: Overwatering, root rot, infection
How To Fix It: Propagate healthy stems and repot the main plant, or use a fungicide
Black spots on your Fiddle Leaf Fig plant are not something you want to ignore. This is a time-sensitive problem, as the longer you leave it, the quicker your plant will decline!
There are a few causes of this problem, unfortunately. Let’s go through each one, so you know what to look for.
If the black spots are forming in the middle of the leaves rather than at the edges, your plant is likely suffering from a fungal infection rather than a water-related issue.
There are many ways that this can happen, but usually poor airflow, higher humidity, or damaged roots or stems are the issue.
The latter allows for fungal mycelia to get into the parts of the plant they shouldn’t, where they normally live just fine in houseplant soil without causing damage.
Isolate your plant from others nearby, and treat it with an appropriate fungicide, following all the directions on the label, removing and disposing of infected leaves.
Bacterial infections will lay waste to the structure of your Fiddle Leaf Fig foliage in no time at all.
At first, they will look like dark or black spots, and then these will turn wet or mushy, as the infection starts to punch holes in the plant.
If it’s a mild infection only infecting one leaf or two, there’s a chance you can salvage the plant. You’ll need to take off any infected growth, disposing of it carefully.
Immediately wash your hands and any scissors or secateurs you’ve used, and reduce watering and humidity, while increasing airflow.
If the bacterial infection has gotten too far (it’s systemic, and spreading to the rest of the plant), the only thing you can do is put the plant in the trash (general waste, not garden waste), compost, and all.
Make sure to wash the pot thoroughly with hot, soapy water, and give it a rinse with a solution of hydrogen peroxide to kill off anything left.
If you’re seeing black spots as well as leaf loss and even brown spots, this is an overwatering problem. You could be the plant too much water, too often.
Or, the soil is struggling to dry out because the root system isn’t big enough, the pot is too big, or temperatures and light levels are lower than they should be.
Check the soil to make sure. If it’s soaking wet, take the plant out of the pot, and quickly.
Get rid of any roots that are damaged or rotten, and repot into slightly damp, fresh compost, and don’t water for at least a couple of days.
Always check the soil before you water the plant to help prevent overwatering, to begin with, and do not rely on soil moisture meters.
Brown Spots On A Fiddle Leaf Fig
Why Brown Spots Are Appearing On Your Plant: root rot, infection, sun scorch, underwatering/overwatering, nutrient deficiency or imbalance
How To Fix It: repot your plant, treat for infections, put your plant in lower light, fix watering issues, or feed the plant
As you can see from above, there are several reasons why your plant is developing brown spots, and the sooner you figure out the cause, the sooner you can get your Fiddle Leaf Fig back to normal.
One reason why your Fiddle Leaf Fig plant is getting brown spots on the foliage is that you’re feeding it too often, or, salts have built up in the soil, and you need to flush them out with distilled water.
Always measure out the recommended amount of fertilizer and water, keeping a note of when you last fed your plants, and this will help prevent any overfeeding.
Periodically flush the soil with distilled water, as no matter how careful you are, the salts in the feed will eventually build up in the compost, causing root burn if not dealt with.
Brown spots on the leaves of your Fiddle Leaf Fig can mean some unwanted guests have moved in, and you’ll need to check the undersides of the leaves as well as the stems to rule this out.
Use a horticultural soap to get rid of any infestations, and wipe down the leaves (including the undersides) with a damp cloth every day to keep pest numbers down.
Aphids are usually green, and only really attack houseplants if they have been outside during the summer. Look into beneficial predators such as ladybugs, which you can order online to control infestations!
Tiny little flies might be hovering around your plant, but they usually set up shop in your Fiddle Leaf Fig when the soil is too wet for too long.
A good way of making sure they don’t move into your houseplant soil is to top dress the first two inches of soil with grit, or let the top two inches dry out in between watering.
Horrible little villains. Mealybugs cause a lot of damage quickly, and they can be difficult to spot. They look like tiny furry spots, and will usually hide on the undersides of leaves, or where the leaves join the main stem.
Similarly, spider mites can easily go unnoticed, so you should look out for the easiest thing to see from a distance: fine webbing on the stems and leaves.
Largely, you can prevent spider mites by keeping the air a little humid, by using a humidifier, or, by grouping similar plants together.
You can spot underwatering by the dry, parched compost, coupled with tan splotches spreading out from the leaf edges, sometimes curling or crisping up the leaves completely.
Check the soil with your finger to confirm, and then give the plant a good watering. Do it again for good measure, as it’s likely that the first time will only have the water racing out the drainage holes.
Make sure you discard any excess water from the bottom of the pot, otherwise this will cause the opposite problem: root rot.
If the light levels are too bright for your Fiddle Leaf Fig plant, red, brown, tan, or yellow spots will appear on the leaves, usually at the top of the plant where the light is strongest.
Put a sheer curtain over the window to help prevent sun scorch, or move it a few feet further away.
When overwatering gets far enough, the roots will start to rot, starved of oxygen and nutrients. On the leaves, this will appear as brown or black spots, usually on the lower leaves.
The plant will also start to smell when the roots get damaged enough. Remove the plant from the pot as quickly as possible, cutting off damaged, mushy, or brown roots, and repot into damp soil.
Do not water your plant for a little while, and hopefully, it will recover if the rot has not spread that far.
Just like black spots on your Fiddle Leaf Fig can mean bacterial infection, so can brown spots.
Again, if the infection has only gotten one leaf or two, it could be salvageable, otherwise, you’ll need to throw the plant in the trash (not a garden waste bin), and wash the container thoroughly.
Red Spots On Fiddle Leaf Fig
Why Red Spots Are Appearing On The Leaves: Edema
How To Fix This: Improve drainage, fertilizer, and wait for the problem to go away on its own
Edema is probably the one houseplant problem that will fix itself. This is because edema only appears on new growth, and it will fade as the leaves mature.
But what is edema? Edema happens when the cells of your plant contain too much water, and they burst, causing red spots on the leaves.
These spots will not spread, leave holes, or get bigger, and only measure between 1 and 3mm in diameter.
If the above isn’t true for your plant, this means that your Fiddle Leaf Fig plant is not suffering from edema, but something else entirely.
Here are some alternative causes:
If the discoloration on the leaves comes off when you rub it, this is rust rather than edema. Prune back the affected leaves, dispose of them, and wash your secateurs and hands thoroughly.
It’s difficult to treat fig trees for rust, and fungicides that do work will need to have lime and copper sulfate. Use it during the dormant period during winter for prevention.
Rust can be caused by too much moisture on the leaves, and not enough airflow.
Occasionally sun scorch will appear red rather than brown. Sun damage usually happens on a Fiddle Leaf Fig when the light conditions drastically change, or you haven’t acclimatized the plant to direct sunlight over weeks.
Damage caused by sun scorch cannot be repaired, so it’s best to cut these leaves from the plant.
Pests can leave small spots on the leaves, but this is usually not the only sign of damage. You’ll also notice webbing, distorted leaves, discoloration, and drooping foliage, depending on the pest and how far the infestation has gotten.
Use a good quality horticultural soap to get rid of pests, and wipe down the leaves in between applications with a damp cloth to keep pest numbers at a minimum.
As you can see, the beautiful Fiddle Leaf Fig plant is not without its problems. The good news is that most problems are easy to prevent, as long as you understand what the plant needs.
One of the simplest things you can do to prevent most leaf problems in any plant is to check the soil with your finger about once a week or so to see if it needs watering.
Nine times out of ten, this will catch any underwatering or overwatering issues before they can start, and a healthy plant is also more pest resistant, too.
Do not mist your plants to increase humidity, as this only boosts humidity for a few seconds, and to ensure that your plant has enough light, keep it within a few feet of a window.