Ficus Lyrata bacterial infection

Fiddle leaf brown spots (and how to fix them)

Of course Fiddle leaf brown spots are always a bummer. However, they can be fixed. Although, 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. 

It is true that 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. 

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. 

Stress on your Fiddle leaf figs can happen when they are transferred to a different location or after re-potting. In fact, this 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.

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 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. Therefore, 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.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Sunburn Treatment

Unfortunately, leaves with sunburn damage 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 Fiddle Leaf Fig 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.

Fiddle leaf fig brown spots
Fiddle leaf fig brown spots

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 brown spots on your Fiddle Leaf Fig, be sure to let it thoroughly dry out before watering again. Hopefully this will stop the spots from spreading.

How to fix overwatered Fiddle Leaf Fig

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. In fact, 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.

Underwatered Fiddle leaf fig
Underwatered 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. If the leaves are not rigid and upright, and they start to look floppy, they’re telling you they need 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. 

How to fix under watered Fiddle Leaf Fig

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. However, I also pay attention to the condition of the plant. But, 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, and 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.

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. Specifically, near the outer edges or they start to fold or crumple. 

Indeed fiddle leaf figs are tropical plants and prefer a humid environment. In fact, they are happiest at 65% humidity. Although, they can adjust to lower levels of humidity. Additionally, dryness can also occur if it is located near a heater or air conditioner vent.

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 stretching to the light
Fiddle leaf stretching to the light

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. 

Fiddle Leaf Fig Care

Light is food for the plant. If dust is covering the leaves it is considered to affect photosynthesis directly. Specifically by shading the leaf surface and possibly increasing the leaf temperature. Definitely keep your Fiddle leaf fig leaves clean by wiping with a damp cloth.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Problems

Ficus Lyrata - Leaning Fiddle leaf fig
Ficus Lyrata - Leaning Fiddle leaf fig

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 are not 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.

Are your Fiddle Leaf Fig 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.

Additionally, holes in your Fiddle Leaf Fig leaves could be caused by low humidity. In fact, Fiddle leaf figs love humidity. When your Fiddle Leaf isn’t getting enough humidity, little buds can stick to themselves and tear as they grow.

Unfortunately, these holes will not repair themselves as they grow. Therefore, be sure your baby buds get plenty of humidity.

Fiddle leaf fig tree brown spots and how to fix them
Misted Fiddle Leaf Fig

Root rot on a Fiddle Leaf Fig is typically caused from excess moisture or overwatering. In fact, the brown spots caused by overwatering are similar to root rot. Excessive overwatering, excessive moisture, or compacted soil that doesn’t drain well will eventually lead to root rot.

When you fully saturate well-draining soil, excess water will drain out the bottom of the pot. If your Fiddle Leaf takes a long time to drain, or does not drain at all, then replace soil with a well-draining mix.

Rotting roots will be slimy or mushy and typically darker than the healthy firm roots. First, be sure to inspect all the roots. In fact, roots may also be rotting in the center of the root bulb. Next, you will need to repot the plant with new well-draining soil. Equally important is of course using a pot with a drainage hole.

Finally, cut off any rotting roots and try to remove as much of the old soil as possible. A fiddle leaf that has brown spots and is dropping leaves is likely affected by root rot.

Mold on Fiddle leaf fig soil
Mold on Fiddle leaf fig soil

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 overwatering could be the reason. When the white mildew or mold is just on the top soil, reduce watering frequency or move to an area with less humidity.

If the white is also on the sides of the roots, you may have a mold. problem. Additionally, you may also see mushrooms growing in the soil. These are all signs of mold. Mold means, too much water. However, it may also be in a location that is too cold or too damp. Left untreated, and it can lead to fungal root infection. Indeed very dangerous for your tree. 

How to treat mold in Fiddle Leaf Fig soil

First, remove any potting soil that may be old or contaminated. Always be sure to discard the old soil. Second, spray the roots with a mixture of one part hydrogen peroxide to four parts water. Third, make sure your fiddle leaf fig is getting potted in a clean, well draining pot. 

Fourth, replace soil with an indoor potting soil mixed with pumice or perlite to allow for better drainage. Finally, be sure not to overwater and you may need to move your Fiddle Leaf to a sunnier dry location.

Fungus on Fiddle leaf fig
Fungus on Fiddle leaf fig

White mold on Fiddle Leaf Fig leaves look like a fuzzy substance. Resulting from fungus spores. The spores quickly grow on the plant leaves and stems forming a white fuzz, also called powdery mildew. In fact, white fuzzy mold can affect indoor and outdoor plants. Especially when growing conditions are warm, damp, and humid.

Many bacterial infections start in the nursery. Unfortunately, they come home with you when you buy a plant. Thus, infecting your other plants. Before buying, check for signs of infection. Also, check out how healthy other plants around them are. If the plant you are buying looks healthy while the others show yellowing and brown spots, you might want to pass.

Powdery mildew of houseplants is caused by a bacterial infection from one of several genera of fungal pathogens. These fungi cause the formation of white, powdery growth or dry, brown, papery leaf spots. Initial infections usually come from fungi surviving in dead and decaying plant materials or from airborne spores from wild or cultivated hosts out-of-doors.

How to Treat Bacterial Infections in Fiddle Leaf Figs

Bacterial infections can be hard to treat. Although, once it takes hold, you might be fighting an uphill battle. If more than half your Fiddle Leaf Fig is affected, it’s probably too late to save it. The bacteria may be spreading too rapidly for you to help it. However, if you can catch the infection early you may be able to stop it.

Bacteria thrives and spreads in overly wet conditions. In fact, it can actually spread through water, especially if you get the leaves wet. Always use clean hands, clean tools, and clean pots. Also, keep the soil surface clear of dropped leaves and debris. This gives bacteria and fungi fewer areas to grow near your plant.

Ficus Lyrata bacterial infection
Ficus Lyrata bacterial infection

Fiddle Leaf Fig Bacterial Infection Treatment

If the damage is not severe, first remove the affected leaves to prevent spreading. Next, repot your plant with fresh, sterile soil then treat with an antifungal for houseplants or a copper fungicide. Or, treat with a homemade remedy of 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda and 1-2 teaspoons of mineral oil in a spray bottle of water.

Then, give it plenty of light and go easy on watering until it recovers. Finally, monitor your plants closely. Keep them clean to prevent the spread of bacteria and maintain good care techniques. Be sure to keep away from other houseplants.

Annoying fungus gnats lay their eggs in the top 2 to 3 inches (5-8 cm) of soil where the larvae hatch and begin feeding. Adult gnats can be a nuisance when there is a large infestation. There are a few ways to get rid of these nasty little buggers.

How to get rid of fungus gnats

Mix one part Hydrogen Peroxide with 4 parts water and thoroughly water your plants until the excess drains. Don’t rinse the soil after.

Yellow sticky traps are also helpful at getting rid of fungus gnats. You may need a combination of Hydrogen Peroxide/water and the yellow sticky traps to successfully treat fungus gnats.

Another option is to lay a layer of sand or Diatomaceous earth. Specifically because gnats can’t lay their eggs in either. Furthermore, Diatomaceous earth is really good at killing fungus gnats and is harmless to people and pets. Although, very abrasive to insects. In fact, it works by eroding their exoskeleton. 

Thrips on Fiddle Leaf Fig

A thrips infection can also be eradicated by Diatomaceous earth. Food grade is safer to use than other types of diatomaceous earth. Also, be careful not to breathe it in.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaf that is sticking
Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaf that is sticking

If you have new leaf growth and it looks sticky like pictured above, it is possibly due to low humidity or pests. First, I suggest a thorough pest inspection. Specially for mealybugs. In fact, evil mealybugs love new growth. And, they like to hide in the crevices around the top of Fig trees.

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. On the other hand, you can use my favorite organic insecticidal pest soap.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Humidity

If you have ruled out pests, then leaves sticking is likely from low humidity as mentioned earlier. 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. In fact, the ideal humidity for a Fiddle Leaf Figs is between 30% to 65%. Thus, when in a more humid environment, new leaves should grow out better. 

See Related Article: How to get rid of Mealybugs and save your plants!

Fiddle leaf fig red spots
Fiddle leaf fig red spots

Small red or brown spots are typical especially in small new leaves. However, they 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.

In cases of root rot, Fiddle leaf Fig leaves will stay dark green with dark spots. However, with a bacterial infection, the affected leaves may yellow. Especially right around the spots.

Bacterial infection will cause spots across the leaf as well as on the edges. Whereas spots from root rot typically occur along the edges of the leaf. Or, spread from the stem.

Root rot tends to affect the bottom leaves first. However, bacterial spots can show up all over the tree. In fact, you may also notice that the newer leaves are affected more because they may be more vulnerable to infection.

Ficus Lyrata hitting the ceiling
Overgrown Ficus Lyrata hitting the ceiling

Your Fiddle Leaf Fig tree will look best when their top leaves are at least 8 to 10 inches (20-25 cm) below the ceiling. You will want to remove any growth above that height. Additionally, by pruning your plant you will create a stronger and more compact plant.

Fiddle leaf fig cold damage
Cold damage to Fiddle leaf fig

Leave your Fiddle Leaf Fig out in the cold? Fiddle Leaf Figs cannot tolerate below freezing temps even for a short time. In fact, cold damage will produce dark brown to black spotting on your FLF leaves. Definitely prune off any leaves that are more than 50% dead. Dying leaves take up nutrients that the rest of the plant could be using.

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 our post 6 lessons I learned from my Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree here.

Ficus Lyrata Plant

A live tropical tree with broad, violin-shaped foliage. Fiddle-leaf fig tree comes in a 4 inch pot. 

Brighter Blooms - Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree

This Fiddle Leaf comes in a three-gallon pot and is 3-4 feet tall.

Costa Farms Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree

Bring home a beautiful live Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree for a tropical feel. 1-2 foot tall plant.

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