16 Common Problems With Fiddle Leaf Fig Plants
Does your fiddle leaf fig plant have problems that you can't seem to fix? Perhaps they have wilted leaves, or your plant is just dying outright. There are many different causes, depending on what's happening with your plant. In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton takes a look at the most common problems with fiddle leaf fig plants!
Fiddle Leaf Figs are one of the most common houseplants on the market, and certainly the most popular indoor tree. Many new houseplant lovers start with this beauty, only to find themselves facing a number of distressing problems, from leaf drops to red spots and more.
The Fiddle Leaf Fig isn’t the easiest plant to care for. They are more sensitive than most houseplants and immediately show signs of distress when something is wrong. But that’s not always a bad thing. These signs help you identify common issues before they can do any long-term damage and are great indicators of how your plant is performing.
Take a look at these 16 common Fiddle Leaf Fig problems. Hopefully, none of them sound familiar, but if they do, there are easy fixes that will bring your plant back to good health. Let’s jump in!
- 1 Leaf Drop
- 2 Drooping Leaves
- 3 Brown Leaf Tips
- 4 Brown Spots On Leaves
- 5 Brown Patches On Leaves
- 6 Black Spots On Leaves
- 7 Yellowing Leaves
- 8 Red Spots On Leaves
- 9 Yellow Patches On Leaves
- 10 White or Tan Patches On Leaves
- 11 Cracking Leaves
- 12 Small New Growth
- 13 Lack Of New Growth
- 14 Lopsided Growth
- 15 Webbing Between Stems
- 16 White Fluff On Leaves and Stems
- 17 Final Thoughts
Fiddle Leafs are incredibly sensitive trees. They value consistency and can’t handle sudden changes in conditions, whether that be in temperature, humidity or light levels.
If any part of their environment changes suddenly, these plants will respond by dropping their leaves. This can be caused by as little as an unusually cold day or as drastic as when moving the plant to a completely new environment (like when you bring them home for the first time).
Aim to keep all parts of your plants environment the same year-round. If you need to make any changes, introduce them gradually to avoid any shock and the resulting leaf drop.
Drooping leaves are usually a precursor to whole leaves dropping off the plant. While this problem can also be a sign of shock, it is most commonly an indication that your plant needs water.
When the soil begins to dry out, the cells of the plant lack the necessary moisture to maintain their structure. The strong upright leaves can no longer hold their shape, leading them to slowly fold over. A couple of hours after watering, the shape of the leaves should return to normal.
While some gardeners choose to use this drooping as an indicator of when to water their plants, it is usually too late by then. Lack of moisture causes stress that will stunt growth and shorten the overall lifespan of the tree. Instead, test the soil with your finger and water when the top 2 inches have dried out. This should stop any leaves from drooping in the future.
Brown Leaf Tips
Brown and crispy leaf edges are one of the most common problems to plague this plant. Once these edges turn brown and start to flake off, they won’t ever return to normal, so this is an important problem to avoid if you want to keep your plant looking lush year-round.
Like drooping leaves, the primary cause of this issue is underwatering. When the leaves lack moisture, they begin to slowly die back from the edges, spreading the longer the problem persists.
Lack of humidity is another common cause. These tropical trees are accustomed to very high levels of humidity and prefer conditions to remain around 60%. Prolonged lack of humidity will result in the same moisture issues in the leaves, only stopping when conditions improve.
Keep your plant well-watered and in the right environment to resolve and prevent these problems in future.
Brown Spots On Leaves
Small brown spots on your Fiddle Leaf Fig may be difficult to find due to their impressive size. However, if you do spot one or two, they could indicate a much bigger problem, requiring immediate attention.
They are susceptible to a number of indoor pest infestations. They are commonly attacked by scale, mealybug, spider mites and flying pests like whitefly and fungus gnats. These pests settle in around branches and leaves and even hide out in the soil. Attaching themselves to the leaves, they begin to suck the juices out of the plant, leaving brown spots of damage in their wake.
The second you notice signs of a pest problem, isolate the plant and take steps to remove them immediately. Use insecticidal soap or neem oil, repeating applications until any hidden bugs have completely disappeared.
Brown Patches On Leaves
While small circular spots usually indicate a pest problem, larger patches of brown may be a sign of disease. This is not particularly common but can be brought indoors from new houseplants or may find its way to your Fiddle Leaf from the nursery.
One disease to look out for that causes brown patches is bacterial leaf spot. These patches occur randomly on new and old leaves, spreading and expanding to nearby areas and even to close plants. Rather than appearing uniform and circular, these patches will have undefined edges, often with yellow rings around them.
The trick to handling disease issues in houseplants is quick action. As soon as you notice any problematic areas, prune them away immediately and clean your shears after use. Continue to prune any new areas of disease and spray with an appropriate preventative product to prevent problems in future.
Black Spots On Leaves
Sometimes brown patches can appear to have a darker, almost black tinge. This problem is caused by one of the greatest houseplant killers – overwatering. More specifically, it’s caused by the result of overwatering, root rot.
Excess water in the soil can be the result of a few factors. The first is obviously watering when the soil is still moist. However, lack of drainage (in the pot or in the soil) and leaving the plant sitting in water in a drip tray or pot cover can also have the same impact.
Mushy roots and stems lead to brown and black spots on the leaves. They may also turn yellow and start to droop, not fixed by additional watering. If this is the case, hold off on watering for a while and see if the leaves return to normal. If not, repot the plant immediately and trim any damaged roots. Be prepared for an adjustment period as the plant recovers before growth can get back to normal.
Black spots aren’t the only problem caused by overwatering. Yellowing leaves are also common, generally starting with the oldest leaves first. If excess water is involved, the whole leaf will generally yellow at the same time, rather than in specific areas.
Again, the key is to avoid the Fiddle Leaf sitting in water. Never water when the top layer of soil is still moist and always plant in a pot with plenty of drainage holes. If watering over a drip tray, pour any excess water out after 30 minutes to stop the soil from becoming soggy.
Changes in conditions can also cause the leaves to yellow, such as a sudden dip in temperatures or a strong cold draft. Check the environment around your plant to determine if anything has changed and try to replicate the previous conditions your plant was used to.
Red Spots On Leaves
Red spots are not something you may expect to occur in your Fiddle Leaf Fig, but they are surprisingly common. Generally easier to spot on new growth, these spots spread throughout the entire leaf, rather than remaining concentrated in one area.
These tiny spots are the result of moisture stress, specifically from an inconsistent watering routine. They like being watered at consistent intervals, not swaying between under and overwatering every few weeks. These red spots are also more likely to appear when the plant is placed in direct sunlight.
To avoid these markings on the leaves, test the soil every 2-3 days with your finger. Water again as soon as the top layer has dried out, and slow watering in winter. Don’t wait till the leaves start dropping to water again.
Yellow Patches On Leaves
When yellowing occurs, the whole leaf may not necessarily change color at once. Sometimes, patches of discoloration occur, usually near the edges and between veins. The culprit here is usually a nutrient deficiency.
When your Fiddle Leaf has been in the same pot for a while, it has likely used up most of the available nutrients in the soil it came in. Without additional fertilizing, the plant becomes nutrient deficient, indicated by this patchy yellowing. Some areas may also turn brown, but the dominant color will be yellow if nutrients are involved.
A regular fertilizing routine can resolve and prevent this problem from happening again. Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer during spring and summer as recommended on the packaging, and repot every few years to refresh the soil and ensure it can still hold onto water and nutrients.
White or Tan Patches On Leaves
If the patches on the leaves of your plant are closer to white or tan than yellow and appear in irregular spots, sunlight is the problem. Specifically, too much exposure to direct sunlight.
They are accustomed to some direct sunlight in their native habitats. However, the ones we purchase for growth indoors have been brought up in shady environments, making them sensitive to direct sun exposure. If they are suddenly thrust into full sun positions, the leaves become scorched, resulting in the white or tan patches in the leaves closest to the light source.
Keep your Fiddle Leaf out of the path of direct sun, unless it is gentle morning sun and only for an hour or two. You can slowly introduce your tree to a more full sun position to improve growth, but this should be done over a few weeks and not all at once to prevent damage.
The large leaves of this beloved indoor tree are one of the reasons why they are so popular. So when they start to crack and split, potentially dropping of the plant, it can be understandably distressing.
Cracking occurs when the leaves become thin and brittle, usually due to underwatering. Lack of humidity is another common issue that dries out the foliage and removes its lush, green look. Under these conditions, the slightest touch will do damage to the leaves, leaving them more vulnerable to pest and disease problems.
The first solution is to move the plant out of any high-traffic areas where they can be bumped and damaged. Then, determine whether watering or humidity is the culprit and change conditions to bring the leaves back to good health.
Small New Growth
The emergence of a new leaf on your Fiddle Leaf Fig is an exciting experience. But what happens if these tiny new leaves remain tiny, not developing into the full leaves we look forward to.
This common problem usually occurs when your Fiddle Leaf is placed in a low-light area. These plants need a full day of bright indirect sunlight to grow their best. Anything less will greatly impact growth due to the lack of photosynthesis. New leaves will remain small for long periods, and may not even grow past that point.
Slowly move your plant to an area with bright indirect light. They can even tolerate an hour or two of direct morning sun. While it won’t resolve the problem over time, it will improve conditions long-term.
Lack Of New Growth
Alternatively, your Fiddle Leaf may not be putting up any new growth at all. Over the cooler months this is completely normal, but you should see new growth in spring and summer if the plant is healthy and happy.
Stunted growth has a number of causes. Again, low light is one of them, bringing down photosynthesis rates and leaving the plant with little energy to grow. Nutrient deficiencies, while less common, could also be involved.
If your Fiddle Leaf has been in the same pot for a while, repotting may be required. Once the roots take up all the available space in the pot, the plant will slow growth dramatically until it gets more space to expand. Repot every 2-3 years or more often if the plant is young and growing quickly to prevent these problems.
Large and branching Fiddle Leaf Figs can quickly become uneven and lopsided, depending on the position they are in. Some branches may grow longer, with more leaves packed closely together, while the other side looks weak and diminished.
This uneven growth is caused by uneven sunlight exposure. One side of the plant receives more light than the other, causing growth to be greater on that side. As the leaves grow larger, they continue to shade the other side of the plant, worsening the problem.
Luckily, the fix is very simple. Rotate your pots around once a week to ensure all parts get equal sunlight exposure throughout the year. If the growth is very uneven, causing the plant to fall over, prune the one side and use the cuttings to propagate new plants.
Webbing Between Stems
Whisps that look like spider webs between stems and leaves are a tell-tale sign of a spider mite infestation. These small pests love Fiddle Leaf Figs and make homes in the cracks and crevices of the plant. Feeding on the foliage, they can also cause small spots to appear that eventually become large patches of dead tissue.
Start by wiping the visible bugs off the plant or spraying them with water. Follow up with a treatment of insecticidal soap for spider mites or neem oil until all signs of infestation are gone. Keep a close eye on nearby houseplants too as these bugs spread quickly.
White Fluff On Leaves and Stems
While caring for your plant, you may be surprised to find a white fluffy substance around the stems and the base of the leaves. Don’t simply brush this off, as it’s an indicator of a mealybug infestation.
Mealybugs are sap-sucking pests that will damage foliage and cause new growth to become deformed. The white fluff is used to protect them while they feed on the leaves and stems. They can lay up to 100 eggs, protected by this layer until they hatch. Mealybugs also excrete honeydew which is known to attract ants.
The resolution for this problem is the same as for spider mites. It’s best to isolate the plant until the problem is gone to avoid any spread to other houseplants.
Fiddle Leaf Figs can be fussier than other houseplants, with a wide range of problems caused by something is little as a slight dip in temperature. However, many of these problems are also easy to fix. By ensuring you monitor the common problems above, you can do your best to prevent them from happening!