11 Reasons Your Fiddle Leaf Fig has Curling Leaves

Fiddle leaf figs are popular houseplants, but they can also be a bit difficult to care for. One common problem they have is curling leaves. In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton walks through 11 reasons why your fiddle leaf fig may have curling leaves, and how to fix it!

fiddle leaf fig leaf curling

If you’re a fan of Fiddle Leaf Figs, you’ve likely collected a couple since their explosion in popularity a few years ago. Unfortunately, that means you’ll probably also know how tricky these plants can be to care for.

Fiddle Leaf Figs develop a range of problems at the slightest sign of struggle or change in conditions. They are quite picky, and something as simple as light level, or slight overwatering can quickly cause them to show signs of distress.

One of these problems is leaf curling – either inwards, outwards, or randomly. If you’ve encountered this problem, take a look at these potential causes to determine which is most likely and how to take action!

High Light Levels

Tall houseplant near the window
One of the causes of leaf curl is intense direct sun.

Although Fiddle Leaf Figs can handle some direct sunlight during the day, they grow better when given bright indirect light indoors. As they are grown in greenhouses before being sold, these plants are not used to high sun exposure and can burn when left in the path of intense direct sun during midday or afternoon.

When the light levels are too high, your Fiddle Leaf may begin to curl in order to conserve moisture and protect itself from damage. High light can also cause the moisture in the soil to evaporate much quicker, making the curling worse.

Move your Fiddle Leaf out of the path of the direct sun and water if the soil appears dry. The leaves may take a while to recover, but they should return to normal eventually.

If you want to keep your Fiddle Leaf in a higher light area in the future, expose it to direct light slowly over a few weeks so it can get used to the conditions.

Lack Of Humidity

Tropical plant with water drops
This popular houseplant needs a high level of humidity.

Fiddle Leaf Figs come from warm and tropical or sub-tropical areas where humidity remains high for most of the year. These plants appreciate not only high humidity but consistency in humidity levels to prevent stress.

When humidity is low, the large leaves of this houseplant lack the necessary moisture to look green and lush, causing them to curl and brown at the edges.

Keep humidity above 40% year-round to keep your Fiddle Leaf happy. Closer to 60% is preferred, but 40% will likely prevent curling from occurring in the future. If the air in your home is very dry, invest in a humidifier to improve and control humidity around the plant. This will help all houseplants in your home.

Underwatering

Tall indoor plant in black pot
Another reason for curling fig leaves is a lack of moisture in the soil.

Lack of moisture in the air is not the only concern. Lack of moisture in the soil may also be an issue. When your Fiddle Leaf is underwatered, the leaves will likely point downwards first, unable to hold themselves upright. In this position, they may also begin to curl in order to conserve the remaining moisture inside the leaf, indicating a problem.

The amount you need to water will depend on the size of your plant. Young Fiddle Leaf Figs in small pots need more consistent watering as they grow quicker and dry out faster.

More established trees can store more water, left to dry out almost completely before watering again. Lift the pot to measure how much moisture is left in the soil by weight and increase your watering frequency to prevent underwatering in the future.

Overwatering

Overwatering of houseplant
Due to over-watering, leaves can curl and bend down.

While underwatering can cause leaves to curl upwards, curling or bending downwards is usually a sign of overwatering. Fiddle Leaf Figs are prone to root rot when overwatered, causing roots to become soft and leaves to wilt, curl and drop off the plant.

Never water your Fiddle Leaf when the soil is still moist. Wait until around half the soil has dried out before watering again. This time will differ based on your environmental conditions and the performance of the plant, so avoid watering on a schedule and test the soil every few days instead.

Pest Problems

mealybugs on green leaves
Mealybugs and spider mites are the most common pests you’ll encounter.

Fiddle Leaf Figs are prone to a number of pest infestations found indoors, particularly spider mites and mealybugs. Scale is also a possibility, along with flying pests like fungus gnats. Damage from any of these bugs feeding on your plant can cause leaves to curl irregularly and become deformed.

Signs of pest problems differ for each bug. Spider mites will leave webs between the leaves and stems, while mealybugs leave a white powdery substance behind as they move around the plant. Once you’ve identified which pest it is, you can take the necessary steps to remove the problem and save your Fiddle Leaf from further damage.

Overfertilizing

fertilizer in small pot with soil mix
Excessive fertilization can cause leaf curl.

Mature plants and especially young plants will benefit from consistent fertilizer applications to keep up their strong growth. Soil high in nutrients will ensure there is never a deficiency, saving the plant from stress and stunted growth. However, too much is never a good thing and can also cause the leaves to curl.

You’ve likely overfertilized if the leaves curl and become discolored soon after fertilizing. This occurs when you apply more than is recommended on the packaging or when you apply too often, leading to a build-up of salts in the soil.

Flush the soil until it runs clear and stop fertilizing for several months to give the plant time to recover.

Tap Water

woman spraying a small plant in pot
Make sure you water your plant with good quality water.

The same issue caused by overfertilization can also occur when using low-quality tap water to water your plants. The chemicals in tap water used to clean it, particularly chlorine, can slowly build up in the soil over time, leading to growth problems and burned roots.

Those that live in areas with low-quality tap water should consider watering with filtered water to prevent curling. Even better, if you have the option to, harvest rainwater to water your plants with. This will be far better for their health in the long run than the wrong tap water.

Disease

yellow leaf of houseplant in container
This plant can suffer from various diseases, the symptoms of which are brown spots, yellow spots, as well as curling.

Indoor plants typically don’t face as many issues with disease as outdoor plants, but they are not immune to problems. Fiddle Leaf Figs in particular can succumb to various diseases that cause the leaves to develop brown and yellow patches, along with curling.

Diseases are often difficult to identify and get rid of. If you do notice any potential signs of disease, it’s important to remove the affected leaves and branches immediately to prevent any further spread.

Ensure there is adequate airflow around your Fiddle Leaf and keep water off the foliage to avoid attracting fungal disease.

Lack Of Drainage

Drainage of plants in pot
Make sure your pot has good drainage or add drainage stones.

Overwatering is one of the greatest plant killers. But excess water in the soil is not always the fault of the gardener. Lack of drainage can lead to the same problems as overwatering, even if you don’t water very often.

Planting containers should have plenty of drainage holes that allow excess water to flow freely from the pot. The soil should also be well draining, as dense and compacted soil tends to trap water around the roots, limiting the flow of oxygen.

In both cases, you will need to repot into a new container and fresh soil to resolve the problem.

Nutrient Imbalance

Woman pouring soil into a pot
For the normal growth, it’s necessary to maintain a balance of macro and microelements in the soil.

Fiddle Leaf Figs require a wide range of nutrients to thrive, from macronutrients like nitrogen to micronutrients like iron and everything in between. If one of these nutrients is out of balance, the plant may start to grow incorrectly, causing the leaves to curl.

To prevent any imbalance, always start with a high-quality potting mix. Avoid potting in garden soil that is too compacted for growth indoors.

When fertilizing, apply a balanced fertilizer with equal NPK values that also contains secondary and micronutrients to give the plant everything it needs at once. Using the wrong fertilizer, or not fertilizing at all, is bound to end in an imbalance eventually.

Incorrect Temperature

Tall plant in pot
These plants do not tolerate sudden changes in conditions.

Originating in tropical Western Africa, these popular plants love warm temperatures. They also love consistency in those temperatures and don’t appreciate sudden changes in conditions. If your indoor temperatures dip below 60F suddenly, or suddenly rise beyond 90F, your plant may respond by curling and dropping leaves.

Aim to keep temperatures as consistent as possible year-round. Keep them in the warmest room of the house and protect them during sudden changes in temperature. Once conditions return to normal, the plant should recover.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the most common causes of leaf curl in Fiddle Leaf Figs, you can prevent it or treat it. When it comes to indoor plant care, prevention is generally best, followed by treatment once you identify the issue. Leaf curl is common, and is generally not something that can’t be overcome with swift action. With a little TLC, your favorite houseplant should be back to good health in no time!

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