Guide to Fiddle Leaf Fig Brown Spots & How to Fix Them

Fiddle Leaf Fig brown spots can be a tricky problem to solve, mostly because there’s a few different reasons why browning leaves can occur.

And it doesn’t help that some of the causes are the exact opposite of each other!

The good news is, there’s ways to identify and treat the causes of different brown spots depending on their location, colouring and your Fiddle Leaf’s care routine.

If you’ve recently bought a Fiddle Leaf Fig and have noticed brown spots, keep an eye on the spots to monitor if they spread or get worse.

Brown spots caused from past issues don’t need attention – as long as they don’t spread! Think of them like a scar. Unfortunately leaves won’t recover from damage. So the important thing is to make sure it doesn’t continue to get worse.

In this post I’ll be explaining the different causes of brown spots for FLFs, and by the end of it you should be able to identify what’s causing spots on your Fiddle and how to make sure it doesn’t keep happening.

Guide to Fiddle Leaf FIg brown spots & how to fix them | Dossier Blog

Identifying the cause of your Fiddle Leaf Fig’s Brown Spots

Don’t be put off by all the causes of brown spots! Once you begin to identify the different types, you’ll easily be able to assess your FLF and bring it back to full health. Here’s a list of the top causes of brown spots or damage, and how to fix it.

A Fiddle Leaf Fig with Sunburn or Leaf Scorch

Sunburnt leaves can appear to be between the colour ranges of white to yellow or light brown. Brown spots from sunburn will end up crispy and may have a yellow ring around the edge of the brown. Sunburn is not confined to a certain part of a leaf, such as the edges.

How to identify a sunburnt FLF:
  • Does your FLF get direct sun? Sunburn will only occur from direct sun rays either outside or through a window.
  • Has your FLF recently gotten more sun than normal? Fiddles are full-sun plants in nature, however they need to be acclimatised slowly to direct sun. If your FLF is new, be aware of giving it more than 1-2 hours of gentle morning sun when you first get it (unless you know if was definitely in direct sun before you purchased)!
  • Does your FLF get direct sun, but you’ve had extreme hot weather recently? These plants can still get burnt if they’re not used to extreme sun. After a heatwave of 38C (100F), my outdoor Fiddle unfortunately got some sunburn from the extreme rays.
  • Are the brown spots in areas that get direct sun? Sunburn will not occur on leaves that are hidden below other leaves. This is a good way to be sure sunburn is the cause. It will usually occur on higher leaves or areas that see the sun.
Sunburn or leaf scorch on a Fiddle Leaf Fig - white to yellow-brown crispy leaves | Dossier Blog
An Under-Watered Fiddle Leaf Fig

Fiddle Leaf Fig brown spots caused from under watering generally happen because the plant is too dry. Under watering brown spots are crispy, light brown and will generally start at the leaf’s outer edges and work their way in, depending on whether the situation has been fixed or not. The leaves will often droop from lack of water.

How to Identify an under watered FLF:
  • Are you fully saturating your plant when you water? Unfortunately, a lot of under watering occurs from only giving FLFs a small amount of water, or x-amount of ‘cups’. Remember the entire root ball should be saturated every time you water. If you’re unsure of your watering method & schedule, a reliable moisture meter can help automate this for you.
  • Has it been longer than two weeks since you last watered? How often you water your FLF will depend on a range of environmental conditions, however they will generally mostly dry out within a couple of weeks.
  • Does the soil feel dry to touch? A general watering rule is to water when the top two inches of soil is mostly dry. If the soil is bone dry, your Fiddle is far too dry!
A Dry Fiddle Leaf Fig

Similar to under watering, brown spots from dryness occur because of dry air. Fiddle Leaf Figs are tropical plants that like a humid environment. An ideal humidity level is above 60%, however they can adjust to lower levels of humidity. Dryness can occur from low humidity or if the plant is the draught of a heater or air conditioner.

Some people recommend misting plants for dryness, however this only marginally increases the humidity for just a few minutes. Also if the leaves are constantly wet from misting, they can be prone to bacterial diseases! If your home is too dry, a far better option is to consider getting a humidifier to increase the room’s humidity. Make sure to run it nearby (but not touching) your plant.

How to identify dryness in a FLF:
  • Check the above tips on under watered FLFs. Dryness symptoms are similar to under watering, so make sure your Fiddle is getting enough water first!
  • Are the leaves turning brown from the outer edges, or crumpling? Dryness will start at the edges of the leaves and may also cause leaves to start to fold.
  • Does your Fiddle sit in the range of a heater or have any type of air blowing on it? Dry air hitting your plant can definitely be a huge cause of dryness. Change its location out of the draught.
  • Is the humidity too low? Fiddles can adjust to low humidity levels, but will thrive better when humidity is above 60%.
Overwatering a Fiddle Leaf Fig

Fiddle Leaf Fig brown spots caused by overwatering can start at any place on a leaf. This means the spot may appear in the middle of a leaf, near the edge or towards the stem. Overwatering brown spots are very dark – almost black – and murky looking. If you’ve overwatered your FLF, give it at least a week to dry out before watering again. The brown spots should stop spreading.

How to identify an overwatered FLF:
  • Are you checking the top two inches of soil are mostly dry before watering? Fiddle Leaf Figs like to mostly dry out between watering. A good rule to go by, is to only water them when the top 2″ of soil is dry. A reliable moisture meter can help you with a watering schedule if you are new to looking after these plants.
  • Are you watering your FLF more than once a week? While how often you water will depend on your environmental factors, as a general rule, FLFs won’t need more than a weekly water.
  • Does your pot have a drainage hole? Having a pot that drains is vital for FLF health. This allows excess water to drain as these plants don’t like to ‘sit’ in water. If yours doesn’t, you’ll need to repot your plant.
A Fiddle Leaf Fig with Root Rot

Brown spots caused by root rot are similar to overwatering. This is because if overwatering is not solved, it can unfortunately lead to root rot. However root rot is a more serious problem, as you’ll need to repot your FLF and cut off any rotting roots.

Similarly, evidence of root rot looks like brown or even black spots on the plant’s leaves. Diagnosing root rot includes checking the roots of the plant.

If you’ve identified root rot, prepare a well-draining soil mix for repotting. Repot your FLF by removing as much of the old soil as possible with your hands or a hose. Use cutters to remove any roots that are affected by the rot. Plant your FLF in the new mix, and water, making sure it drains properly.

How to identify root rot in a FLF:
  • Have you been overwatering your FLF? See if the above points apply to your Fiddle.
  • Does your FLF pot have a drainage hole? If not, you’ll need to repot it ASAP.
  • Are any of the roots soft, slimy and dark? Normally, the roots should be woody and firm. Try to lift the plant out of the pot and check for any parts that are soft, slimy and dark. This is definitely root rot.
  • Is the soil well-draining? Soils that hold water can cause root rot. A well-draining soil will result in excess water draining out the bottom of the pot when you fully saturate it when watering. If it takes a long time to drain, or there is no draining when you water, you will need to repot in a well-draining mix.
A Fiddle Leaf Fig with a Lack of Light

Lack of light can also be a cause of brown spots, however this also contributes to overwatering issues. When your FLF is in adequate sunlight, the soil will dry better and the leaves will be able to use more of the water it receives through photosynthesis, keeping it healthy. FLFs are full-sun plants in nature, but can still grow in shade. Be sure to put your Fiddle in a location where it receives bright, indirect light at the very least. If you can’t give your FLF more sunlight, consider placing a grow light near it to improve its health and growth.

How to Identify a FLF lacking light:
  • Does your FLF get any direct sun? Having some direct sun (especially morning sun) will help your plant to thrive and fight off any diseases.
  • Does your FLF sit within 1-2 feet of a bright window? If your FLF is any further indoors from a window, it’s likely it is lacking in sunlight. Change its location to a brighter spot.
  • Is your FLF suffering symptoms or brown spots similar to overwatering or root rot? If so, it’s possible a lack of light played a hand in these problems.
  • Do the new leaves grow with more than 1.5″ of stem between them? When FLFs grow straggly, this is a sign they’re searching for more light. This post addresses some of the issues in FLFs caused by low light.
Small, red-brown dots on new leaves

Edema in Fiddle Leaf Figs is quite common and not too much of a problem. However it can be scary to witness and lead you to think something is terribly wrong! Edema looks like small, red-brown dots on newly developing leaves. It occurs when new leaves that are growing, so it’s mostly visible at the top of the plant (or on new leaves).

Edema is caused by either inconsistent watering or overwatering, and happens when the leaf cells take up too much water and burst. The edema will become less noticeable as the leaf matures, however if it keeps happening, be sure to adjust your watering schedule with the above points.

Red brown dots on new FLF leaves - Edema | Dossier Blog
Identified the cause of your Fiddle Leaf Fig’s Brown Spots? Here’s what to do next:

Hopefully the above points has enabled you to identify what could be the cause of your Fiddle Leaf Fig brown spots. Unfortunately once brown spots have hit, they’ll stay on the leaf. To make sure you’ve dealt with the problem, keep an eye on the spots to guarantee they’ve stopped spreading. If the brown spots aren’t spreading, you’ve fixed the problem!

Damaged leaves only need to be removed if they’re over 50% damaged. Otherwise, they’ll still be producing energy for the plant and it’s better for them to stay! If the remnant brown spots on leaves bothers you, you can try cutting off just the brown sections.

Remember it’s normal that as your plant matures, some lower leaves will eventually yellow and fall off. This will generally happen slowly, one by one. If you’ve had a rapid loss of leaves, check the above problems to make sure your care routine is correct.

Need more help? I have a library of Fiddle Leaf Fig resources worth checking out! Or if you have a specific question, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

How to identify and fix Fiddle Leaf Fig brown spots | Dossier Blog
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19 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi Emily,

    My Fiddle Fig did really well over the winter but now that it is Spring it decided to die. All the leaves are droopy and turning light green. The underside may veins are all brown. Searched the web for a similar situation and was not able to find it. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you!!

    • Hey Carmen, I would think it would most likely be a watering or nutrition issue. Drooping leaves is generally an indication of dryness. Make sure when you water that all the soil gets saturated and the excess drains, so that all the roots can get a drink. And then it’s best to not water again until the to 1-2 inches of soil has mostly dried (I use my finger to check). And then also give it a fertilize in case it is missing any nutrients. If you need help with fertilizer, there’s a post about it here. All the best!!

  • Hi, my FLF is sad this winter. I’ve had it last winter too and it did great. It did not drop any leaves at all in the first year. This Nov I noticed the kitten peeing in it and it started to drop leaves. I’ve blocked the kitten from getting to it and was keeping to the watering schedule it always had but it continued to be stressed (brown spots, yellowing and dropping leaves) So I changed the soil, inspected the roots and replanted in the same pot, watered and let it drain out. I took a chance on stressing it out more because I thought it would like the clean soil, but now, a week later, it’s worse. 4 bottom leaves have yellowed and started to get brown spots and there’s lots more following. I’m not sure what to do. It hasn’t moved, it’s in the biggest window of the house but i’m in Canada so sunlight is hard to find right now…. but it was fine last winter even after coming home from the nursery. The only thing i haven’t tried is moving it away from the window in case it doesn’t like the cooler temp. If I move it it’ll get less light. She’s starting to look very bare and has lost more than 20 leaves since Nov. What do you think?

    • Hi Tara, some issues can take time to develop or have an impact on plants, which could possibly be why nothing has changed but the plant is suffering. Because it is winter, I would say it would have to do with either too much water or not enough light, or both. Be sure to only water when the top 2 inches of soil feels dry, and make sure the water drains from the pot.
      Apart from that, the plant may benefit from having a grow light, to supplement some extra light during winter. When plants have less light, they create less energy and therefore need less water which is why the issues are connected.
      You could also keep a thermometer nearby to make sure the temps aren’t getting too low. As long as they generally stay above 60 I don’t think the temp would be an issue. Just make sure that the plant isn’t getting hit with a shock of cold air if the window it is in gets opened sometimes (sudden freezing air can cause shock and sudden leaf drop).

  • Hello Emily,

    I have had my fig for a little over a year. I have watered it pretty regularly once per week up until late fall 2019, and have maybe lost 1-3 leaves until then. I live in the prairies so it is dry here, and in the first winter the fig was pulled out from a corner where two base board heaters met. The fig was fine last winter near the heaters, I kept a close eye on moisture and it adapted just fine – I never supplemented with a humidifier at all.

    Since last winter, I have moved the fig into a slightly larger pot, and it seemed to be fine with this. However, later this past fall I wasn’t watering on quite the same schedule, and I fear not quite as deeply. Although the plant hadn’t moved, it started to get some brown leaves (from the bottom) and a few fell off in rapid succession.

    Since I’m pretty sure I’ve never overwatered it, I thought I would move it away from the heaters to a) help with dryness and b) give it more access to sunlight a couple of weeks ago since the days are much shorter. I also am occasionally bringing my bedroom humidifier out for the afternoon to increase humidity to the whole room. The leaves have stopped falling as fast, but now I am seeing more spots on more of the leaves. It still looks like the brown crunchy spots that read as underwatering. I also highly doubt that there is any chance sunburn could be an issue unless it was the middle of the summer.

    This is a lot of information to say that it feels like the only major change from last winter was that my watering schedule had changed for a time. Now that I’m back on track do you know if it usually takes a long time for it to recover from that period? And if moving it and suddenly adding a tiny bit more humidity all at once was too much at one time? I’m a bit concerned I’m fussing over it too much now after it had been fine for a long time, but afraid of it losing too many leaves to survive. The fig is currently about 5′ tall. Any suggestions or reassurances welcome!

    • Hey Krystal! It can be tricky to determine if brown spots are caused by overwatering or underwatering, but you are definitely the best person to diagnose it, as you know your FLF and it’s care routine the best 🙂 In saying that, you said that you maybe weren’t watering quite as ‘deeply’. When you water, do you water the plant until the excess drains out the bottom of the pot? This is the best watering method for FLFs, to ensure all their roots get a drink. The only way they can be overwatered is if they get watered too often, rather than the amount of water they get.
      Its also possible that maybe the plant’s conditions weren’t the best, and you’re just seeing the results from it now that it is winter. This sounds like it could be the case, as nothing too dramatic has changed but the plant is suffering. Moving it to a brighter location is a good idea and sunlight can definitely help with its health. If it’s not getting enough light, consider adding a grow light to help out.
      I don’t think moving it and adding humidity would have any negative affect. Leaves that are already damaged unfortunately won’t return to normal, but if the spread of damage stops then you know you’re on the right track!
      FLFs can generally acclimatise to dry air, and remember to only water when the top 1-2 inches of soil is dry.
      Overall I think you are on the right track – giving it more light and making sure your watering is right. If this is the case then you should see a stop to any damage or browning! All the best 🙂

  • Hi I think my fiddle leaf fig leaves are sun burnt and very sad. What can I do to revive these leaves? Almost all are brown on the under side of the leaves ..

    • Hi Nash, Unfortunately damaged leaves won’t recover to being green and healthy again. If there’s over 50% damage to a leaf, you may want to remove those leaves as they can drain energy from the plant. The best thing to do is to make sure the damage doesn’t continue by having your FLF out of direct sun and keeping up a good watering and fertilizing routine to keep it healthy!

  • Can you tell me why a couple of leaves are splitting? Looks like they have a tear down the middle.

    • Hi Terri, tears can usually happen from mechanical damage (if the leaves brush up against things or possibly while being moved around) or it could also be from low humidity. Fiddles love humidity! This post on humidity might have some tips on increasing it at home that might help 🙂

  • Hi Emily,
    I bought a fiddle leaf fig that was root bound and repotted it about 3 days later. Once I repotted, I let the water run through the pot and drain out the bottom. A few days later I see that it has a couple of dark brown spots but mostly dark brown edges on the leaves. Should I trim the edges that have the brown spots or remove the whole leaf? I don’t want to stress it out any more than it already is. Thanks in advance! -Liz

    • Hey Liz, unless over half the leaf is damaged, I would leave it on the plant. Damaged leaves can still produce energy for the plant, so they’re worth keeping! If the brown edges bother you, you can trim those parts off. It’s possible your FLF is a bit stressed from the new environment plus repotting. I would find a nice light spot for it and leave it be to settle in. Letting the water run through the pot is definitely the best way to water! All the best

  • Help 🙁 I bought my first fiddle fig a couple days ago and all of a sudden one leaf started to turn brown from the middle of the leaf. It is on my porch and gets in direct sun light. I watered it once when I got it.

    • Hey Erika! There’s a few different reasons why leaves turn brown, but I would say it is most likely overwatering or sunburn. FLFs that are put in direct light actually need time to acclimatise to the sunlight, otherwise they can burn. So if your FLF wasn’t living in direct sun before you bought it, that could be the cause. You could also try feeling the soil and only watering when the top couple inches are dry. Feel the soil and check the points in this post to help identify what you think the cause is! 🙂

  • Avatar
    Janet Hogarth
    July 20, 2019 9:22 pm

    Oh gosh I wish I had read this first. I had a beautiful 6ft fiddle fig and was doing so well then it stareted developing large brown spots on all leaves except 3 so I stupidly pruned all the leaves except 3 and took about a foot off trunk. It’s very bare – also I am in Australia what potting mix and fertiliser can you recommend? Have I killed my fiddle tree! 😢
    Thankyou for all your info!

    • Hey Janet, it can be a little tricky to pin down the right care for FLFs when we first get them! Once you’ve found a good watering routine and location for the plant, things will definitely get easier and I’m sure yours will recover 🙂 FLFs need a well draining soil, so even a cactus and succulent mix should be fine. You can also combine it with some pine bark mulch for extra drainage and horticultural charcoal if you like, which helps keep them healthy. This post has all the details about fertilizer. Look for one with a ratio as close to 9-3-6 as you can, there’s one at Bunnings called Nitrosol which isn’t too bad.

  • Avatar
    Dorie Jenkins
    June 17, 2019 2:19 pm

    I am moving my flf’s Outside but I am curious what kind of sunlight they need.

    I have the one under my maple tree. I have found an area where it is still in the shade but not deep shade. I think it may need more sunlight because it it growing toward one side but I am hesitant to put it in the sun because I don’t want the leaves to be scorched. Advise?

    Also, when growing inside it was leaning toward one side. I was hopeful that moving it outside would help to strengthen the trunk. In the area where o have it, the large branch that leans toward the side is resting against my chain link fence. Will the trunk get stronger if it leans against the fence? If it doesn’t lean against the fence the pot just falls over everyday.

    • Hi Dorie! FLFs love sunlight but need to be acclimatized slowly to direct light. Their leaves can burn if they are not used to direct light. Once acclimatized, they can even be full sunlight plants! They do lean towards the light if they aren’t getting enough, which is why it’s good to rotate the pot each week, especially if they live indoors. This will help even out growth.
      I’m sure having it outside will help strengthen it, even though it is leaning. As long as there is a breeze it should help! Hopefully it won’t take long before it can stand on its own. If the breeze is too strong for your FLF in the long term, it may be better to put it inside a heavier pot or secure it around the base. All the best!


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