Fiddle leaf brown spots and how to fix them

Fiddle leaf fig brown spots are always a bummer, but they can be fixed! It can be a little tricky to pin down the right care for your Ficus Lyrata, when you first get one. Once you’ve found a good watering routine and location for the plant, things will definitely get easier. 

Fiddle Leaf Fig trees can be finicky and brown spots can be a tough problem to solve. This is because there are a few different reasons why their leaves brown. Luckily there are ways to identify and treat the causes of different brown spots depending on their location, coloring, and your care routine. 

FLF Stress

Fiddle Leaf Figs can experience stress when you initially bring your new plant home. If your new FLF has existing brown spots, keep an eye on the spots to monitor if they spread or get worse. As long as the brown spots do not spread they should be fine. Unfortunately brown leaves will never revert back to green. 
Fiddle leaf figs can also stress when they are transferred to a different location or after re-potting. Stress can cause leaf drop or leaf browning. Unless more than 50% of the leaf  is damaged, I would leave it on the plant. Damaged leaves can still produce energy for the plant, so they are definitely worth keeping. If the brown edges bother you, you can trim those parts off.
Keep in mind it is not uncommon for fiddle leaf figs to get a bit stressed from new environments or re-potting. I would find a nice bright spot for your fiddle leaf fig and leave it to settle in.

Fiddle Leaf Fig with leaf scorch or sunburn

In their natural habitat Fiddle Leaf Figs thrive in full sun. New plants will need to be gradually introduced to direct sun, otherwise their leaves can burn. Typically 1-2 hours of early morning sun will help with acclimation.
Fiddle leaf fig brown spots may develop due to sunburn if temperatures get too hot. Even if your plant is used to being in direct sun, extreme temperatures can scorch the leaves. Keep in mind only leaves that are exposed to the sun can burn. Leaves in shade or directly under another leaf typically will not burn, so if there are brown spots there it is most likely from something else. Burns typically occurs on higher leaves or areas that see the sun.
Sunburned leaves can appear in color ranges of white to yellow or light brown and sometimes even purple. Fiddle leaf fig brown spots from leaf burn will eventually end up crispy and may develop a yellow ring around the edges of the brown. Burns can happen anywhere on the leaf.
Unfortunately leaves with sunburn damaged leaves will not revert back to green again. If more than half the leaf is damaged you should remove  it so that energy is sent to healthy leaves instead.  Once you notice sunburn, immediately move the plant to a shadier spot to stop the damage from getting worse. Continue with a healthy water and fertilizing routine to keep it happy and healthy.
Fiddle leaf fig brown spots
Fiddle leaf fig brown spots

Overwatered Fiddle Leaf Fig

When your Fiddle Leaf Fig is getting too much moisture the leaf will start to brown just about anywhere on the leaf.  Necrosis can happen near the leaf margin, the center, edges, or tips. Brown spots from over-watering are typically very dark brown and sometimes even black. If you notice these types of spots on your FLF be sure to let it thoroughly dry out before watering again. Hopefully this will stop the spots from spreading.
Be sure your pot has a drainage hole and that you are not watering more than once a week. Your plant may also become somewhat wilted because of an excessive amount of water in the soil. Too much water deprives the roots of oxygen, which limits their ability to function efficiently and/or normally.
Sometimes you can be over watering and under watering at the same time. Crazy right…typically infrequent watering can cause this. Be sure you are checking the soil about 1-2 inches down and ensure that it is dry. If this is hard for you to tell, I suggest using a moisture meter.  Too much moisture in the soil is not always due to over-watering. It is possible you FLF is not getting enough light (food) which could in turn create too much moisture in the soil.
It could also be that the soil is too root bound causing excess moisture. Fiddle leaf figs prefer to be slightly root bound, but not completely root bound.  Be sure to water only when the top couple inches are dry and a moisture meter is my favorite fool-proof way to water.
Fiddle leaf brown spots and how to fix them
Underwatered Fiddle leaf fig

An Under-Watered Fiddle Leaf Fig

Fiddle leaf figs need to be watered enough so that water is flushed out of the bottom. This is so the lower, big roots get adequate moisture and the entire root ball should be saturated every time you water. Leaves will often droop from lack of water. Fiddle leaf fig brown spots caused from under watering typically happen because the plant is too dry. These brown spots are generally crispy, light brown and will typically start at the leaf’s outer edges and work their way in. 
There is some controversy on whether to water plants on a schedule or not. It really depends on your climate. Things like humidity, light levels and air flow can all vary daily and will influence how long it takes for the soil to dry.  I try to have a watering schedule, but I also pay attention to the condition of the plant. Before adding water I check the soil with my finger two knuckles deep (about 1-2 inches down); if it’s dry to touch, water. If it’s damp, leave it.
When the soil is bone dry your FLF is far too dry! It generally only takes a few weeks to completely dry out (depending on your environmental conditions).  I also suggest using a moisture meter if you are having any doubts about your watering. If your FLF  is showing any signs of stress it is best to evaluate your watering schedule and the amount of light it gets.

Dry or Crispy Fiddle Leaf Fig leaves

Similar to under watering, fiddle leaf brown spots from dryness occur because of a lack of humidity in the air.  Browning starts the same way as an under watered FLF near the outer edges or they start to fold or crumple. Fiddle Leaf Figs are tropical plants and prefer a humid environment. They like a humidity level above 60%, although they can adjust to lower levels of humidity. Dryness can also occur if it is located near a heater or air conditioner.
If you are located in a very dry climate, you may want to consider a humidifier. Some suggest misting although too much misting can cause bacteria and is really only a temporary fix.
Fiddle leaf brown spots and how to fix them
Fiddle leaf stretching to the light

Not Enough Light For Your Fiddle Leaf Fig

Insufficient light can also cause brown spots on your precious Fiddle Leaf Fig. When your FLF is not getting enough light the soil may be retaining too much water. This can lead to excess moisture and eventually root rot. The less light plants have, the less energy they create, therefore needing less water. If your plant is becoming elongated or is looking too stretched out, this is another indication your Fiddle leaf is not getting adequate sunlight. 
In their natural habitat, Fiddle Leaf Figs are grown in full sun, however they can survive with indirect sunlight indoors. If you live in an area that does not receive adequate sunlight year round, you may want to consider using a grow light. Light is essential for photosynthesis and to fight off diseases. FLFs indoors prefer bright windows and love morning sun. 
Light is food for the plant. If dust is covering the leaves it is considered to affect photosynthesis directly, mainly by shading the leaf surface and possibly increasing the leaf temperature. Be sure to keep your FLF leaves clean by wiping with a damp cloth.
Fiddle leaf brown spots and how to fix them
Leaning Fiddle leaf fig

FLF leaning to one side

If your Fiddle Leaf Fig is leaning this can be because it is getting too heavy for the trunk to support or it can be because it is not being rotated to receive equal light as seen above. Plants tend to lean towards the light if they aren’t getting enough. It is best  to rotate the pot ¼ turn at each watering, especially if they live indoors. This will help even out growth.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves Splitting or Tearing

Are your leaves splitting or getting tears? This is typically caused by mechanical damage (if the leaves brush up against things or possibly while being moved around) and is essentially what would be a bruise to a human. It could also be caused by low humidity. Fiddle leaf figs love humidity!

Fiddle Leaf Fig with Root Rot

Root rot on a Fiddle Leaf Fig is typically caused from excess moisture or overwatering. Therefore the brown spots caused by overwatering are similar to root rot. Excessive overwatering, excessive moisture, or compacted soil that does not drain well will eventually lead to root rot. Well-draining soil will result in excess water draining out the bottom of the pot when you fully saturate during watering. If it takes a long time to drain, or does not drain at all,  the soil should be replaced with a well-draining mix.
Rotting roots will be slimy or soft and typically darker than the healthy firm roots. Be sure to inspect all the roots as the roots could also be rotting in the center of the root bulb. Once it gets to this point you will need to repot the plant with new well-draining potting soil and of course in a pot with a drainage hole. Cut off any rotting roots and try to remove as much of the old soil as possible.
Fiddle leaf brown spots and how to fix them
Fiddle leaf fig with powdery mildew

Powdery mold/mildew

Are you finding white stuff on the roots of your Fiddle Leaf Fig? Is it dropping leaves or have you seen fungus gnats circling the roots? Humid climates or are overwatering could be the reason.  When the white mildew/mold is just on the top soil, reduce watering frequency or move to an area with less humidity. If it is on the sides of the roots like shown here you may have powdery mildew/mold. You may also see fungus gnats.
Make sure your fiddle is in a very well draining pot and you are not overwatering it. Your potting soil may also be old or contaminated. I recommend changing the pot your fiddle leaf fig is in, as well as the soil. If possible, use indoor potting soil mixed with pumice or perlite to allow for better drainage. Always be sure to discard the old soil.

Fungus Gnats

Diatomaceous earth is really good at killing fungus gnats as it is harmless to people and pets, but very abrasive to insects. It works by eroding their exoskeleton. Thrip infections can also be eradicated by diatomaceous. Food grade is safer to use than other types of diatomaceous earth, and be careful not to breathe it in.
Yellow sticky traps are also helpful at getting rid of fungus gnats. If that still does not do the trick, a combination of H202 watering and yellow sticky traps are also a very successful treatment for fungus gnats.
stuck FLF leaf

New Fiddle Leaf Fig leaf is sticking

If you have new leaf growth and it looks sticky like this, it is possibly due to low humidity in the air or pests. I suggest a thorough pest inspection first, especially for mealybugs. Mealybugs love new growth and like to hide in the crevices around the top of FLFs. Make sure to check the skin of the open buds and the areas of the trunk where the bark is as well. Dab them with an alcohol soaked Q-tip or use my favorite organic insecticidal pest soap.
If you have ruled out pests it is most likely low humidity in the air. This can cause the  leaf to stick to itself and cause it to rip. You can correct this by setting a humidifier close by or misting it. Once in a more humid environment the new leaves should grow out better.
Fiddle leaf brown spots and how to fix them
Fiddle leaf with tiny red spots

Red or brown spots on fiddle leaf fig leaves

Small red or brown spots are typical especially in small new leaves, but can appear on larger leaves as well. These spots on your precious fiddle leaf figs are caused by edema or capillaries bursting from too much water. They fade once the leaf grows. If they do not fade then it may be getting too much water.
Fiddle leaf brown spots and how to fix them

Want to lean more about fiddle leaf fig trees? Check out our post on Fiddle Leaf Fig Propagation and care tips here. Or check out 6 lessons I learned from my Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree here.

Want to learn more about Fiddle Leaf Figs? Check out our videos!

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