Why Are There Holes in The Leaves of My Fiddle Leaf Fig?

If there are holes in our fiddle leaf fig, you may be concerned as to why it's started happening. Holes in your plants can be from a few different causes. In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton examines why you might have holes in the leaves of your fiddle leaf fig plant, and what you can do about it.

holes in fiddle leaf fig

The famous foliage of the Fiddle Leaf Fig is instantly recognizable thanks to Pinterest boards and Instagram feeds over the past few years. But there are many occasions where the leaves of our Fiddle Leaf Figs don’t look quite as good as the ones on social media.

Drooping, yellowing and a host of other issues plague these popular houseplants. One of the most concerning of these issues is holes developing in leaves, looking as if some pesky pest made a meal out of your plant.

There are a few reasons why these plants may develop holes in leaves. Luckily, none are too concerning or detrimental to your plants. Apply the preventative tips to bring your Fiddle Leaf back to 100%.

Why Holes Happen

When it comes to finding holes in the leaves of these popular plants, there’s usually three common reasons that can be the cause. Typically it’s a result of physical plant damage, a lack of humidity, or most commonly, pests. Let’s take a deeper look at each of these causes of holes in your plants, and how you can solve for them.

Plant Damage

Damaged Fiddle Leaf Fig leaf
One of the most common causes of holes appearing in leaves is physical damage.

The most likely reason for unexpected holes, especially if there are only one or two in a concentrated area, is simply physical damage.

Although the leaves of these plants look tough, they can become quite thin and brittle. When light levels are higher than usual or they haven’t been given enough water, the foliage can be quite sensitive when touched. This leads to cracking and holes.

Older leaves also tend to be more susceptible to this damage. Not only due to their age, but also their larger size and position on the plant. Any areas that experience high traffic will be vulnerable to damage from brushing on parts of the trunk lower down.

Keeping your plant in an area that receives constant contact, or moving your Fiddle Leaf often, can lead to trauma that causes holes in the leaves. Make sure the plant is also out of reach of any curious children or pets. If they interact with or brush up against the plant, it can cause holes or other damage.

Make sure you keep leaf sensitivity in mind when caring for your plant. If you are wiping the leaves down to remove dust, use a steady and light hand. When watering, avoid disturbing the leaves where possible, and don’t move your plant too often to limit contact.

Common Pests

Houseplant leaves were eaten by worms
Also, the appearance of holes in the leaves may indicate the presence of pests such as caterpillars, spider mites, or mealybugs.

Are you seeing several holes on the leaves that start out small and expand over time? If so, it’s time to look out for any signs of pest problems.

Common houseplant pests like spider mites and mealybugs are known for feeding on juicy foliage. This includes the Fiddle Leaf Fig. While these smaller pests may not cause large holes themselves, the small areas of damage that appear can spread and die off. This leads to larger holes developing in the sensitive leaves.

Other pests that may be more common outdoors, like caterpillars, can also find their way indoors to feed on foliage. They may be brought indoors with other houseplants. They can also come home from a nursery, or they can even hitch a ride if you leave your Fiddle Leaf out for a couple of hours during the day.

Pests can be tricky to spot. If you notice irregular patches, match sure to check the undersides of leaves and around the stems for signs of problems. Webbing, a white powdery substance, spots or visible bugs all require immediate attention.

Lack of Humidity

Ficus lyrata young shoots are drying
Low humidity can also lead to the underdevelopment of young leaves, which dry out as they expand.

This popular houseplant originates from tropical areas where they are accustomed to high humidity levels. Indoor humidity doesn’t have to exactly match the 70% or higher these plants are used to in their native habitats. But it does need to remain above a minimum of 40% for your plant to grow successfully.

Low humidity can affect these common indoor plants in a number of ways. You may see brown edging forming on the foliage to thin and brittle leaves. It can also cause problems with newly developing leaves that are slowly expanding during the growing season.

As new leaves develop, they start out small and thin, growing larger and stronger over time. Low humidity impacts the development of these young leaves, causing them to dry out as they grow. Dried leaves that are trying to grow bigger will crack as they expand, developing holes in the leaves where these tears occur.

If humidity is the cause, you will likely notice holes only on younger foliage. However, low humidity can also make older leaves more brittle and susceptible to physical damage at the same time. These holes will be very irregular, compared to pest damage that generally appears more uniform.

Fixing The Holes

damaged leaves in bright sunlight
If the cause of the holes is pests, then remove the damaged leaves and get rid of the pests.

Unfortunately, once you discover a hole in the leaves, there is no way that tissue will grow back. Holes cannot be repaired, but as long as the problem does not persist, the leaf will heal around the edges, preventing the holes from spreading and becoming larger.

The size of the hole and the extent of the damage will determine what steps to take next. If the holes are large and caused by pests, continually spreading, pruning is likely the best course of action. Removing these damaged leaves will not only aid in dealing with the pest problem but will also preserve the energy of the plant, directing it toward producing new and healthy leaves.

Smaller holes caused by physical damage or humidity issues can generally be left alone. As they are prone to stress and leaf drop, it’s important to keep as many leaves on the plant as possible. As long as the hole doesn’t take up too much of the leaf, it will still be able to use the rest of the leaf surface area for photosynthesis, ultimately improving growth.

If the damage is serious and impacts internal functions, your Fiddle Leaf may drop the leaf on its own. This is a survival mechanism and response to stress. Make sure you take steps to prevent the problem from worsening to stop any more leaves from dropping in the future.

Hole Prevention

Ficus lyrata with water drops
To prevent holes in the leaves, avoid possible physical damage, check for pests, and keep an eye on moisture levels.

Since leaf holes cannot be repaired, prevention is the best solution to the problem.

For starters, keep your plant out of high-traffic areas of the home and away from pets and children. Also avoid areas in front of open windows and doors where wind can regularly disturb the leaves. If you continue to struggle, consider building a physical barrier around the tree (especially if it is large and can’t be placed on a higher table or shelf) to stop any curious hands from messing with it.

Check your plants regularly for signs of pest problems to tackle them early on. Any irregular growth, deformation or discoloration requires immediate attention before a pest problem gets out of hand. Remove pests by hand and treat with a natural insecticidal soap until all pests have been removed.

Finally, make sure humidity levels always remain above 40% to strengthen the growth of new and vulnerable leaves. If your air indoors is very dry, improve conditions by using a humidifier. Avoid temporary measures like misting that will lead to constant fluctuations in conditions, furthering stress and resulting in leaf drop.

Final Thoughts

Holes in your Fiddle Leaf Fig are a concerning sign, but not one that is difficult to resolve. The positioning of the holes and their size will give you clues as to the cause of the problem, allowing you to tackle it swiftly and prevent any more from popping up.

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