If you’re having brown spots on fiddle leaf fig, then you’ll love today’s article.
These trees, also known as Ficus lyrata are tall broad-leaved large indoor plants that add a beautiful touch to any interior. When fully mature they can make a great focal point in a living room or office space.
Given all these wonderful attributes, a dying or dead fiddle leaf can leave you a bit devastated. Those beautiful leaves start to turn brown and it’s a pitiful process to witness.
Although these plants aren’t easy to keep alive (not quite as easy to grow as a rubber plant), more patience, love, care, and the right information help them survive.
Furthermore, Ficus lyrata trees are slow growers because their large leaves require a lot of energy to build. This makes troubleshooting and treating problems quickly even more important since it takes them so long to recover from ailments.
This is why you need to act quickly if you see brown spots on your fiddle leaf fig. Luckily, you’re reading this article. I have discussed what causes brown spots on fiddle leaf fig and how you can manage it.
If this sounds appealing to you, then let’s begin:
How to Treat Brown Spots on Fiddle Leaf Fig in Summary
1. Provide bright and indirect sunlight.
2. Keep fertilizers to the bare minimum.
3. Use fluffy and well-draining potting soil.
4. Supply an adequate amount of humidity.
5. Avoid overwatering and waterlogging to prevent root rots.
6. Remove the brown spotted leaves after new growth has opened up.
7. Test the spray with a single older leaf before spraying the whole plant.
8. Repot and replace the potting soil periodically to avoid natural compression over time.
9. Avoid inconsistent watering as much as possible to prevent new leaves from developing red-brown spots.
What Causes Brown Spots on Fiddle Leaf Fig?
All plants have their mechanism of telling you when they are in trouble. For fiddle leaf fig, it’s small brown spots on the leaves. But it’s not always easy to pinpoint the exact cause. What we’re sure of is some of our well-intended actions are almost always to blame.
However, we can predict the probable cause by observing the affected part of the plant. For instance, the older lower leaves turning brown before falling off shouldn’t worry you. It is the natural aging process with older leaves paving way for the new ones.
On the other, when it’s the rest of the leaves which are affected, you need to check what you’re doing wrong. Overwatering your plant, for example, is the main cause of brown spots. The other causes are salt build-up from fertilizers, poor drainage leading to root rot, phytotoxicity from sprays, lack of adequate humidity, and sunburnt.
Young, fresh leaves turning red and then brownish is an indication of moisture stress, often caused by irregular watering. This condition of younger leaves turning red is referred to as Fiddle Leaf Fig Edema.
What’s Fiddle Leaf Fig Edema?
Fiddle Leaf Fig Edema is the abnormal retention of water in the cells of the plant which burst and cause the tiny red spots which later turn to brown.
This happens when you’re overwatering your plants and evaporation and transpiration aren't keeping up with dispersing the excess moisture.
Although Edema makes your plant unattractive, it can rarely kill fiddle leaf fig.
How to Control Brown Spots on Fiddle Leaf Fig
Provide bright and indirect sunlight
While lack of enough sunlight certainly won’t kill your plant, it’s important if you want it to thrive. Place your plant in a brightly-lit window, but pulled back enough from the windows that the leaves don’t burn.
Ficus lyrata large leaves love sunlight but they burn faster than you’d think when they’re younger. You’ll know if your plant is getting enough light when there’s new growth during the active season
Besides, more light will speed up evaporation and transpiration thus help to disperse the excess moisture in the soil.
Keep fertilizers to the bare minimum
Unlike some other ficus trees, the Ficus lyrata does not have a strong need for fertilizer.
Give the plants a feed of diluted liquid fertilizer once a month during spring and summer. Alternatively, use Fiddle Leaf Fig Organic Fertilizer Spikes. Don’t fertilize your Ficus during the winter months – It doesn’t need it anyway.
Fish emulsion 5-1-1 or kelp extracts also does a good job. Make sure that in-between each fertilizer application you’re providing at least one plain water drench. Doing this will prevent excessive salt buildup and root burn.
Supply an adequate amount of humidity
The fiddle leaf fig tree is native to the tropics where the environment is filled with plenty of relative humidity. As such humidity is very important. Without enough humidity, those huge leaves will get brown and crunchy.
Besides, once the leaves are damaged they don’t recover, and this damage can be unsightly and harmful to the Ficus' ability to photosynthesize effectively. It’s also a fact that most homes have very little humidity distribution.
To replicate the native humid conditions, place the Fiddle leaf fig container on a tray of pebbles. Add clean water to the tray to increase humidity around the plant. Alternatively, you can get cheap plant humidifiers sold commercially online or in garden centers.
Use fluffy and well-draining potting soil
What most people don’t know is that most potting soils have pre-existing water molds, for instance, Phytophthora spp. This pathogen is responsible for causing root rots given the right conditions such as heavy potting soil which holds too much water.
Hence, you need to use light, porous, fluffy, and well-draining quality potting soil. It’s even better if the soil has enough amount of perlite, vermiculite, and possibly a good amount of organic or worm castings.
You can further learn how to improve drainage by reading this article – how to improve drainage in potted plants.
Avoid overwatering and waterlogging to prevent root rots
One of the biggest mistakes first time owners of houseplants make is watering on a schedule. This is totally a bad idea. If you’ve ever had overwatering problems, it’s probably because you were watering on a schedule.
The best way to determine when you should water your Ficus lyrata is to poke your finger about an inch and feel if the soil/mix is dry. Alternatively, you can get inexpensive watering gauges to help you determine when there's a moisture deficit in the potting mix.
If there is a deficit or the top inch of the mix in the container feels dry, it's time to water the plant. When watering, completely soak the soil until water comes out of the drain holes. Here’s a great guide on watering potted houseplants.
As we’ve already seen before, overwatering favors the multiplication of the pathogen responsible for root rots. When your Ficus has been attacked their leaves will start by turning brown and eventually falling off.
If you suspect root rot infection you need to act fast:
How to Fix Root Rot
The first thing you need to do is check whether the soil appears soggy and whether the plant’s crown area looks mushy. If all these conditions are present, then check the roots.
If the entire root system has already become mushy, it is too late to save the plant. The best course of action is to uproot and discard the plant away from the rest of your plants.
However, if some healthy, white, firm roots exist, try to bring the plant back to good health by rinsing the roots with clean water, trimming off the affected ones, and replanting in fresh soil with good drainage.
Give your Fiddle leaf fig tree some time to recover.
Remove the brown spotted leaves after new growth has opened up
Brown spots on fiddle leaf fig leaves indicate the presence of a bacteria or fungus which started in the wet soil and is moving up the plant. Older leaves are usually attacked first. The affected leaves usually don’t look nice but it’s important you leave them on as long as you like.
The spotted leaves will continue to feed the plant and help promote new growth. After the new leaves emerge and open up, you can remove the spotted ones. Despite Ficus lyrata responding well to pruning, if you remove all the old-growth your plant will look a bit leggy.
Instead, consider cutting back one-third of the stems every few months until the plant has a nice bushy habit
Test the spray with a single older leaf before spraying the whole plant
Sometimes, spraying your Ficus lyrata with certain spray products meant to control pests or make the leaves shiny can burn the sensitive leaves leaving them with brown spots. This is referred to as phytotoxicity.
To prevent this, test any product that you’ve never used on a single leaf before spraying the whole plant. If there are any negative effects, you can just pluck that single leaf and throw it away.
Repot and replace the potting soil periodically to avoid natural compression over time
After several years of growth, the potting soil naturally compresses over time, reducing the pore space for oxygen in the soil (necessary for healthy roots) and draining excess water more slowly. Also, mineral buildup from past fertilizing will damage roots if the soil isn't replaced periodically.
To avoid this problem, repot and replace the potting soil. You can repot into a bigger pot or use the same pot if the plant hasn’t grown bigger but make sure you disinfect it with 1-part bleach and 1-part water prior.
Avoid inconsistent watering as much as possible to prevent new leaves from developing red-brown spots
Inconsistent watering leads to Ficus lyrata Edema – which we’re already discussed. You’ll know this when you observe brown-red speckling in new leaf growths and can cause budding leaves to abort.
This doesn’t mean you should develop a watering schedule to be consistent but rather not to leave your plant too long with moisture deficit or too long sitting in excess water.
You have just read how to control brown spots on fiddle leaf fig. Whether you are a first time owner of these beautiful, broad-leaved houseplants or a green thumb, I hope you’ve found this post both helpful and inspirational.
Now, next time your fig friend is in trouble, you’ll know exactly how to save it and as fast as possible.
Back to you and let me how it goes in the comments!