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

Yellow Leaves on a Fiddle Leaf Fig

Yellowing on a Fiddle Leaf can commonly start on the lowest, or most mature leaves first. Yellow leaves are often the first sign of too much water (remember: this means watering too frequently, and doesn’t refer to the amount of water they receive).

The yellowing can sometimes be exacerbated by a lack of light too; so making sure your Fiddle Leaf has bright light & it’s key that the soil dries out a little between waterings. Yellow leaves will eventually drop off the plant.

Remember it’s normal as a Fiddle Leaf Fig matures that some of the lower leaves begin to drop off naturally. If your plant is a medium-large size and has a mature, brown and woody stem, it’s normal that a leaf may drop every now and then. However if it is sudden or involves multiple leaves at once, this can indicate an issue.

Yellow leaves on a Fiddle Leaf Fig | 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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88 Comments. Leave new

    November 1, 2021 9:48 am

    Hi! The only thing that bothers me with my flf is that new growth leaves are a bit light green… other than that i dont see any signs of an unhealthy flf.

  • So much wonderful, helpful information! Thank you ♡

  • My FLF is suffering from brown spots. I suspect it’s from overwatering on account of improper soil, which leads me to possible root rot, but my watering schedule has been irregular so I’m just not sure. I’m wondering which method I should try first as they contradict.

    • Hi Michael, I think the first step would be to get into a good watering routine, regularly checking the soil and only watering when the top inch or so of soil feels dry. If the brown spots are characteristic of overwatering/root rot (dark brown black and in the centre of leaves) you find they are increasing even after sorting out the watering, it would then be a sign that the soil could be the issue. At that stage I would take it out of the pot to check for rotten roots and repot if needed. I generally find a lot of people suspect root rot and end up repotting unnecessarily, causing further stress to the plant. So it’s best to be sure that it’s the case before disturbing the roots 🙂

  • Hi
    We have a fiddle ficus and had some issues with bugs last summer which we cleared up. However we have a mature leaf towards the top of the plant that started to turn black/darkbrown for bottom of leaf and stem, going upwards on the leaf. It is slowly getting bigger and we are not sure how to treat it.
    When we had the bug problem I took the plant out of the pot, removed all the soil and rinsed the roots and entire plant thoroughly. The roots were fine and we repotted in fast drainin soil. We got rid of the bugs by spraying with Safer’s End All.

  • Hi,
    I am trying to identify an issue on fiddle leaf ( ficus lyrata) it has a very small black bumps that can get wiped off. Tried neem oil but still have them underneath of Leaves. I would like to send you photo of it!
    I appreciate your help

    • Sounds like it could be a type of pest, possibly scale! Neem oil is a great product but it is best to make sure all the bumps are removed by either wiping down each leaf (top & bottom) or spraying with a hose. Then I would apply a neem oil solution to deter them!

  • catherine francisco
    January 9, 2021 7:20 am

    Hi Emily,
    I live in a tropical area. I place my Fiddle leaf indoor where it gets bright light in the morning and sometimes I move them outside for 2 days to get fresh air and sun.
    Is it ok?
    Also the top soil dry out right away in a day or 2.

  • Hi there,
    I recently purchased my FLF. There are several of the bottom leaves that have black spots on them as well as some of the stalk (I have a tree), but it’s still growing new leaves that appear very healthy. Since bringing it home, I’ve had 6 new leaves?! I am very confused because of the vast difference between the top and bottom leaves. I have it under a soltech grow light and use a moisture meter to test the soil. Not sure what I’m doing wrong… any advice?

    • Hi Chloe, if the plant is new and has experienced past damage, then the spots unfortunately won’t go away. The best thing to do is to keep an eye on them to make sure they aren’t getting worse. If this is the case, it’s likely that your plant is healthy! You’ll only need to take action if you notice them continuing or getting worse or other symptoms.

  • Hi!! My dad has had his FLF for around two or so years, it was growing to be really big and had lots of leaves. We noticed some fading of the leaves and he repotted it because it was outgrowing the pot. The fading got worse, and now the leaves are almost all turning brown and patchy. The leaves are also dropping! Please help!! I have photos if that would help

    • Hey Randi, I would check for spider mites on the plant as they can give the leaves a ‘faded’ look. More info on spider mites here. I’d also make sure the plant is getting nutrients through a fertilizer, especially if it was in the same pot for a long time. The soil in pots can easily be depleted of nutrients, which is another benefit of repotting. All the best!

  • Hi Emily,

    I’m so happy to have found your blog! I’m very new to plants, so I’m trying to get the hang of this whole proper watering schedule thing. I just got a FLF that is about 2ft tall. I got it at a giant tiger, so I’m not sure how well it was cared for there lol. It almost looks like it’s two plants in one pot actually.

    I have had it for maybe a month, and I’ve noticed some brown spots of the leaves, on the bottom and are mostly along the edges and some spots in the middle.

    I’m wondering if it could be the plant adjusting to the new environment? I was thinking of repotting the two plants separately because it could be rot bound. What do you think this could be?

    • Hi Megan, it is hard for me to tell what the cause of the browning could be without knowing its care and environment, which is where the above info should help! Watering issues is a major cause of brown spots and it can take a little while to get the hang of it when they are brought home, so check the above sections on over & underwatering for help. Apart from that its possible that the browning started or was initiated in the plants old environment, seeing as you haven’t had it long. In this case it’s best to let the plant settle in and get used to its needs. Here is some more info on rootbound plants and repotting if you need!

  • Valeriia Polishchuk
    November 6, 2020 7:10 pm

    Hi Emily,

    I’ve recently purchased a fiddle leaf fig tree, about a mouth ago and this baby got sick.This big bud is doing worse and worse every day though.

    It looks like the majority of leaves have brown spots, even the top ones.
    The stops occur not just on the edges but also in the middle of the leaf. They are smaller dark brown spots and there are multiple-lots of spots on one leaf about 0.5 inch diameter. It’s not just one big spot.
    It’s located near the central heater/radiator. But it’s further and there’s no direct air flow that’s blowing on it. The window is close by but I don’t have a windy side and it doesn’t directly blow on the plant either.

    I understand it needs time to adapt, the spots spread so fast. I am wondering if it my be a bacteria of some sort?
    It’s losing its leaved quite fast too.

    My care:
    1. I don’t over water it. I’ve waited about 2 weeks to water it, it was completely dry when I watered it.
    2. 8h artificial UV light (we bought it for this plant) and set it up so the light comes directly on the plant.
    3. We don’t touch it and it is standing on the same spot.
    4. The temperature in the apartment is about 25C
    5. We haven’t replanted it yet.

    Also, I’ve ordered the neem oil for the leafs, do you think it will help? Should I repot it when it at destress like that?

    Please help me and this baby to get better, any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  • Hello, i recently bought a new fiddle leaf fig that’s 7 ft tall. We’ve had it for about a month now but 3 leaves have dropped. They all have brown originating from the stem in the middle of the leaf. I just watered it for the first time this week, so I can’t tell if it’s underwatering or another issue. The brown isn’t super light or super dark. We haven’t repotted it as we wanted it to get used to it’s environment. Any info would be greatly appreciated

    • Hey Julia, its hard to say from your info what the cause could be, especially if its new (factors from their old environment might still be affecting it)! The best thing to do would be to let it settle in to its new environment and keep a close eye on it to see if the browning continues. It also can take a little while to figure out watering – be sure to water thoroughly only when the top 1-2″ feels dry to touch.

  • Hi there! I hope all is well.

    I wanted to reach out regarding my 8 ft FLF. I am on my second FLF and unfortunately, when I purchased this one it was already very root bound. The roots wrapped around the top of the pot and were very thick and tightly wound together. Other than that, the plant appeared to be pretty healthy.

    I brought it home and after about 2 months, decided I really needed to repot. When I repotted, the root was just a giant hard ball. It was nearly impossible to break into it. I didn’t want to damage the roots but I knew that if I didn’t somewhat break them up the plant would have root rot because the water would just sit in the middle of the root ball which was also lodged with bark like chunks of soil and pockets of fertilizer.

    I broke it up as best I could although it is still a very solid, hard ball that took shape of it’s previous pot. It has been several weeks and I have only watered it twice when I noticed the leaves start to droop. As soon as I watered it, they perked back up but then I noticed the leaves are getting some crispy brown edges which I am sure is a sign of root rot. At this time, it is getting indirect bright sunlight.

    I’m not sure what else to do other than try to repot again and break up the root ball further. Even though I tried bottom watering and the plant is in a well draining container, I think the water is just getting saturated inside the ball and sitting. I’m just nervous that I could really damage the roots and send the plant into shock which is what I think happened to my last fig. Help!

    • Hey Olivia, crispy brown leaf edges and drooping leaves is actually more of a sign of under watering! See the under watering section in this post. Always check if the top 2″ of soil feels dry, and if it does, its time to water. Water the rootball thoroughly until the excess drains. If there was no sign of root rot when you got it or before you repotted, I don’t think it would all of a sudden start – it is more of a gradual process from being consistently wet or overwatered. Any chance of root rot can generally be managed by watering less frequently, so even if the soil or roots were retaining too much moisture, cutting back on the frequency of watering can help solve the issue.
      However as mentioned it sounds like more of an under watering problem. Once you’re into a good watering routine, caring for it will become easier 🙂 all the best!

  • Hi Emily!
    I had purchased a newly 7 ft FLF that was purchased about 1.5 weeks ago. It looks full and somewhat healthy (small brown spots on certain leaves middle). I noticed when purchase that the root had wrapped around the top of the plastic pot and the top is extremely dry and hard. I had to cut some of the bottom leaves because they were yellow and had brown spots all over the leaves.

    I can’t figure out if there is bacterial infection or something else. They leaves were extremely dirty at purchase so I had started carefully wiping each leaves yesterday. I’m not sure to repot it since I know the figs are finicky and needs time to adjust. Then again, I already killed my last 8 ft fig so I’m afraid that it will die too. I had only watered it once since then. It is facing a west window with plenty of sunlight

    • Hey Jackie, I would allow your plant some time to adjust to its new location. It will be hard to know what the cause was of the yellowing / browning, especially since it happened while it wasn’t in your care. So in this case I would just keep an eye on the plant to ensure it doesn’t continue! It does sound like it may need repotting, which you can check out more info in this post on soil and repotting.

  • Hi Kate, thanks so much for a wonderfully informative article. I have a 2 foot tall FLF with 3 vertical branches, which was until recently doing quite well. I had a scale infestation, which I removed gently from each leaf by hand and then treated with an ecopesticide (one for scale, the active was paraffin oil). All seemed well for a few week after. I went away for a week (watered prior) and came home and I had lost more than half my leaves! They all just fell off, some were very brown and crispy and others were half brown and yet others were green with a tinge of yellow. I also have the rust brown pinprick edema you describe above on some of the upper most leaves. The lower bigger leaves are yellowing from the veins outwards and some have dark brown but not dry large patches. The leaves of what are otherwise healthy leaves keep falling off and I am very sad and at a loss as to what I should do to save my poor little guy. It has been so low maintenance for years and suddenly its so sick and I dont know how to help it recover.

    Was left in its usual spot inside. And it was not subjected to sudden weather or conditions change.

    Do you have any tips for what might have caused sudden rapid huge loss of leaves and how I can help it please? Some of them are just falling off when I touch it – and are still green at the stem but some stems are browning up. I’ve moved it outside to give it some sun. We are in mid spring here in Australia, it will receive the westerly sun in the afternoon outside (hot direct sun).

    Thank you

    • Whoops, sorry Emily for calling you Kate! I see that was the name of the commenter below. 😳😳😳

    • Hey Kelly, it sounds like there could be a few different things happening! It is unusual for the leaves to suddenly drop if there’s been no changes for the plant. Sometimes this can happen if the environment/care hasn’t been ideal and it’s finally catching up to the plant. I would think that the hot westerly sun is probably not great for it, especially if it is not used to direct light. However some time outside should help – if you have a more sheltered spot from the westerly sun. Other than that, you could check if its rootbound. If it has been in the same pot more for than a couple of years, its possible that the nutrients have depleted. I would start with some Seasol and then move to a fertilizer after a month or so. Now that it’s spring it should be fine to leave it outside to recover for some time – hopefully that will help it get back to being healthy again 🙂

      • thanks for the reply and helpful advice, Emily! I’ll check the root bound issue and add a little fertiliser. It has stopped the massive leaf drop (no drops for a couple of days, thank god). Fingers crossed!

  • I had to quickly relocate my large indoor FLF when a construction project outside changed the light situation and it started to affect its health. In the process, the FLF got placed outside and spent several hours in the hot Texas mid-day summer sun. I noticed this later that afternoon, brought it under a patio covering with nice indirect light, and now weeks later it seems to be happy and thriving again. However, it has several significant sections of severely brown or burned leaves. Can I remove these damaged leaves (or even just the brown sections of them) to make my FLF look nice and green and full of life again?

  • Hi Emily! Thank you for sharing your FLF wisdom with us. I was gifted a FLF by my mom about 3 months ago and unfortunately it hasn’t had any new growth. Which concerns me. You can imagine how much I’m wanted to treasure it being that if was from my mom so I’d love for it to thrive. So, I have it on a weekly watering schedule. The top leaves are perky and overall look good.. there’s some redness on a few leaves. The bottom leaves are droopy and have some browning at the edges. One in the middle. Not a lot, but enough to catch my attention. I have it placed about 5 feet away from a window. I live in the Bay Area and don’t get too much sun, but pretty bright Indirect light. I’m also thinking of repotting it as It is in a 10” pot and it’s only about 2’ tall. Lol. Thinking of sizing down and to asses the roots as well. Please let me know if what I’m doing sounds good. One more thing, do you suggest giving it super thrive? Any and all suggestions welcomed. Thanks again. New FLF mama.

  • Hi Emily!

    Your page has been super helpful! THANK YOU!

    I am so stumped! I am a new FLF owner! I purchased my FLF tree about 6 weeks ago (stands about 6 ft tall). After I watered it with fertilizer, some leaves started to yellow on the bottom of the tree but there were no brown spots. The following few days after watering it, 3 leaves fell off (this was 2 weeks ago).

    Fast forward to this past weekend, I noticed another 3 leaves starting to yellow on the bottom of the tree. One of the leaves has fallen off and then I watered it again for the first time since fertilizing it 2.5 weeks ago (the top 2 inches of the soil was dry also). Today, I noticed another leaf starting to discolor. It is much lighter green and looks like it will turn yellow soon. Another thing to note (not sure if this means anything) but this new leaf that is starting to discolor is on the same branch as another leaf yellowing. The rest of the tree looks pretty lush and green and otherwise healthy (at least so I think).

    Is this just the older leaves coming off or is there an issue with my FLF? I am wondering if it’s because of the fertilizer and perhaps reminiscence of it in the soil?

    My tree is against a North facing window. I also have grow light on my tree so it can get ample lighting. Not sure if I should be doing something differently or this is all completely normal.


    • Hey Teresa, if your plant is new it is likely there are some adjustments going on as it gets used to its new environment. This can cause some leaf drop as the plant acclimatises. Another reason for yellowing & dropping of the lower leaves is overwatering, so make sure you are only watering when the top 2″ of soil feels dry to touch. If the yellowing continues, try watering the plant a little less frequently and see how you go 🙂

      • Hi Emily!

        Thank you so much for the advice!

        I left it to dry out a bit more (16 days between watering and was still some yellowing during the 16 days (it looks like the green goes lighter and spotty and turns to yellow slowly). I am now thinking I left it too dry because it looked like it was getting droopy.

        I showered it (so it can clean the leaves as well and let it drain out the bottom) but during the shower, another 5 leaves fell off.

        I took a pic of the leaves as maybe I’m going about it all wrong and perhaps it’s something completely different? Or I am just “helicopter” parenting my flf. Some were yellowing, some were browning so now I am completely at a lost.

        Could I email you a picture of the flf leaves? Perhaps that might help you diagnose a little better.

  • What are some identifying differences of root rot and edema? I bought mine from Sam’s and the darker/older leaves have many small faded dark spots on the underside of the leaves and the new/bright green ones have just a few distinct noticeable spots. I know drainage is an issue I am going to fix but wanting to distinguish between the two. Thoughts? Thank you!

    • Edema will always be small, pen-point sized dots. They can appear reddish brown while overwater or root rot will be dark brown, almost black spots that can spread on the leaves. The older leaves could also be from past damage which unfortunately won’t go away, so as long as they’re not spreading the issue may have been solved… All the best!

  • Hi Emily,

    I’m planning to move my FLF from outside patio to in ground. I live in SF bay area where temperatures can fall down to 28F (-2C). Can FLF survive mild frost? It was able to handle 34F(1C) last December with minimal damage.


    • Hi Nabeel, generally they don’t do well with temps around freezing as they are tropical plants. However if you found it was fine last time, its possibly it could have adapted. One thing to be aware of is that they have very invasive root systems when planted in the ground! Its best to either not plant them in ground, or make sure they are well away from any structures or underground pipes as they can interfere and cause damage. Just something to be aware of! 🙂

      • Hi Emily,

        Will keep you updated as it goes. Will give it one more winter in the patio before moving it in ground. BTW, I followed your guidelines regarding gradual exposure to full sun and now my FLF is out in the sun for 8+ hours 🙂

        Thanks for the invasive root reminder.

  • Hi Emily. Thanks for your blog post!

    About 3 weeks ago I received a mature, 5′ tall fig tree. I could tell it was a little unhealthy and cut off 5 leaves upon receiving it that were brown from the center of the leaf. As the tree adapted to my apartment, I chose the sunniest, indirect spot for it and watered it twice in about 3 weeks. Leaves continue to turn yellow and fall near the bottom. As well as these big brown spots conintue to get worse all over. The brown spots are rarely on the edge of the leaf which leads me to believe it has a bacterial infection. What’s your take on this? I’m really doing my best to save it at this point.
    I repotted it last week as well as it had outgrown it’s pot. Roots looked healthy, very light brown, fresh soil. I just spotted some little ants in the soil which are new critters to me. I haven’t been able to identify them.

    • Hey Jen, from the sounds of the leaves yellowing and dropping from the bottom and brown spots starting from the middle of the leaf, it sounds like an overwatering issue. As long as the soil you chose is well draining and you’re only watering when the top 1-2 inches of soil feels dry, the issue should stop. If you notice it continues, try stretching out your watering by an extra 4-5 days and see if you can keep in directly in front of a window – lots of light should help 🙂

  • Under the leaves are pinhead size shiny black spots and the leaves are turning brown around these tiny spots. Are these bugs, fungus, ? Should I remove the leaves, repot, or ?
    I am at a loss on how to deal with this.
    Thank you for advice on this problem.

    • Hey Gayle, it is a little tricky to know what the issue is from what you’ve said… Can you try see if the black dots can be removed or if they are damage/part of the plant? That should help confirm if they are a pest or more of a fungus. I would keep an eye on them and see if they spread or if not then they could just be past damage. If they are growing quite large then it could be an overwatering issue – make sure to only water when the top 2″ of soil is dry and make sure they plant is getting lots of light!

    • Emily, thank you for your quick reply. Upon closer examination. I believe Thrips are what is causing the problem. The leaves have become brown and dry with little areas of tiny black spots under the leaves. I noticed the movement of some very tiny black insects that were not seen before. I removed all the damaged leaves and sprayed the plant with fungicide/insecticide on both sides of the leaves. I also added a systemic to the soil. My plan is to watch the plants for a couple of weeks and if the problem persists, then I am going to dispose of them. I am not sure where the Thrips came from but they seem to spread from one plant to the other.

  • Hi! I was wondering about potential rust fungus vs edema on my FLF. I just brought one home today and I was hoping to rescue it. Older leaves have red/brown spots on the underside of the leaves and a few new growths have definite edema. Any recommendations for potential rust? I’m worried about it spreading to my other healthy plants.

    • Hey Mandee, were you able to identify if it was rust or edema? I haven’t heard of rust affecting FLFs before. On a quick Google image search, they do look quite different! I would guess it is most likely edema, which isn’t a disease as such that would spread. To be on the safe side I would keep it away from your other plants for a week or two (lots of people do this as a ‘quarantine’ in case their new plants accidentally introduce pests!)

      • Hi Emily. Thank you for responding so quickly! I really appreciate it! I’m going with edema. Unfortunately most of the leaves have it. I ended up repotting it yesterday and will still be quarantining it for a week or two, just incase. I’m really hoping to end up with a nice healthy Fiddle leaf. It just needs a lot of TLC and much less watering! I

  • Christina Weiblen
    June 11, 2020 7:20 am

    Hi Emily,
    I’m a new fiddle leaf owner and made the mistake of going all in! I bought a large bush fiddle leaf with three branches. I made the newbie mistake of overwatering it and realized I had to replant it due to root rot. Two of the three branches are thriving again and growing new leafs but the third branch still has a lot of brown leaves. I want to keep the bush like shape big many are falling off. Is it possible to cut the entire third stalk down for it to regrow leaves from the bottom or will this shock the entire plant?

    • Hey Christina, cutting the stalk down is definitely an option for new growth. Leaves can’t regrow where they have fallen in the past so cutting it down will allow for new branches and growth that will help with that bushy style. Hope that helps!

  • Hi! I just bought my fiddle leaf fig from Home Depot and some have brown spots underneath the leaves any idea what that could be? Thank you in advance.

    • hey Elauni! As you can see from above, there’s lots of things that can cause browning on Fiddle Leafs. Without seeing it or knowing the conditions it was in, its always going to be a little tricky to tell what the problem was. As long as they’re not continuing to spread then your Fiddle Leaf should be fine. Ensuring it has the right light and watering after bringing it home will be key 🙂

  • My FLF has brown spots and a few have holes In the middle of the leaf and some leaves are splitting from the tip. Some leaves are crispy all around the edge and some just have crispy tips. What’s wrong? I use a moisture meter, but the soil does feel quite dry at the top. I’m scared of overwatering it, though!

    • Sounds like it is most likely dry! Try feeling if the first 1-2 inches of soil is dry with your finger and always water until the excess drains. Read the above section on underwatering and dryness for help! 🙂

      • Thank you for your response, I am getting super frustrated. Would underwatering cause small brown spots to appear on the leaf which then turn into holes? I am seeing more and more leaves with brown spots turning into holes. None of the leaves seem to be wilting at all, so I guess that threw me off. Would repotting it at this point be too stressful? Thank you for your time, no one really seems to know the answer and I am frustrated. I’ve never had issues like this with a plant before!

        • I have the same problem as Natasha (above). I even have a brand new leaf that already has holes with brown all around it. I’d post pictures, but I don’t see how :/

          • Similarly I’d check your watering to ensure its not drying out or getting too much. If new leaves are getting holes, this can happen while they’re developing if the air is dry. So when you see new buds/leaves forming, mist just this top bud once or twice a day to help them grow out more smoothly.

        • Sometimes its not possible to know exactly why things happen with plants but it is normal for past damage or browning to eventually turn into cracks and holes. Basically browning is that section of the leaf dying off. So its normal that it will eventually deteriorate to a crack or a hole. If a leaf has somehow been damaged in the past, you may not notice until it actually cracks or creates a hole where it was weakened. The only other thing it could be is if its getting direct light, it could possibly be sunburn that has been intensified through a window to create the browning & then holes.
          Making sure you’re watering until the excess drains is best and creating a more humid environment will also help with dryness – here’s a post of humidity if you need help.

  • Sherrylynn Edwards
    May 22, 2020 1:06 am

    Hi there,
    My fiddle leaf fig is getting brown spots on the upper leaves with yellowing around them, and other parts of the leaf as well. Also at the bottom of the stem there is some brown, but other stems are fine and green. I did recently have two new leaves open up but at the same time, had to prune away at some because they had big patches of brown with yellowing. Please help. I’m worrying and unsure of how to fix it. Thank you!!

    • Its quite normal for the stem to go brown, starting at the bottom up – this is just a sign that the plant is maturing. Eventually the whole trunk will be brown and woody. However the browning & yellowing on the leaves sounds like it could be overwatering and possibly combined with not enough light. Overwatering can sometimes start to show as yellowing. Make sure you’re only watering when the top 1-2 inches of soil is dry and move it to a brighter location (in front of a window is best) if you can 🙂

  • The under side of my leaves are a light orangey brown color. Is this from not enough water? And do you think I need to prune the leaves that are brown or with more water will they come back to life?

    • Hey Jodi, it could have happened for a number of reasons however I don’t think it would have to do with watering (dryness starts from the outer edges as mentioned above). I would try fertilizing it and making sure it has enough light to stay healthy. Unfortunately damage can’t be reversed but if you’ve managed to stop it from continuing, then that’s a good sign!

  • Hello and thanks the useful information. My beautiful fiddle leaf was accidentally left out a few days ago and go horrible sunburn. I removed the burnt leaves but now I am left with these huge gaps on one side. How do I encourage the develop new leaves to fill in those gaps? Is he in shock to the point that anything else can harm him now? I feel so sad for my baby. I apologized profusely.

  • Hi Emily! Thanks for your helpful guide on brown spots! I just got a FLF about 4 weeks ago now. It’s not a very big one, more medium sized. He’s been doing all right for the most part. When I got him he already had 2 leaves with small brown spots on them mostly in the very middle of the leaves kind of following the middle spine of the leaf. One of the spots was bigger than the other. I just recently noticed that the bigger brown spot seems to have spread a bit and there is a bit of a yellow discoloration around it now. I have a photo but I don’t think I can upload pictures here?? What do you think is the cause of this?? I’ve been watering when the top 2-3″ are dry (I poke a chopstick into the soil to check) and I make sure when I water him that I water until water drains out the bottom. I’ve probably watered him about every 1-1.5 weeks on average so far? He’s sitting by a north facing window supplemented with a single grow light bulb. Thanks so much for any help you can give me!

    • Hey Angela, Its hard for me to say without knowing the plant’s environment or seeing a photo. Spots from the middle of the leaf are generally due to overwatering however it sounds like your watering is ok. It could partly be due to it getting used to a new location, in which case I would just keep an eye on the spots unless they get extreme. If the soil is too compacted it can also act like overwatering, so if the spots worsen and you suspect this, you may want to look into repotting it into fresh soil. For now I would just keep an eye on it & allow it to settle in. All the best!

  • I am dealing with the same “did I over water or under water” and different descriptions of each from different websites make me feel like it is both issues. I removed the plant from the pot and I don’t see any rotted roots. People have told me that the roots could be rotting in the center of the root bulb but I don’t understand how I am supposed to remove them if they are in the center. The leaves are crispy, mostly just on the edges and are both light brown and dark brown. Help!

    • Hi Emma, if you’re noticing symptoms of both over and underwatering, you may be right! Because browning damage does not ‘recover’, you may be noticing signs of past overwatering while the plant is currently suffering from dryness, or vice versa, if that makes sense. However if the leaves are crispy and the browning is mostly on the edges of the leaves, I would say it is most likely dry. Remember that FLFs need to be fully saturated when watering, to ensure the whole rootball gets a drink. This means watering until the excess drains rather than giving them a set amount.
      If you are still concerned it could be overwatered or that there’s root rot, I would say it could be a good idea to go ahead and repot. This will allow you to remove all the soil to check the roots in the center too. Here’s a guide on repotting that can help. All the best!

  • 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!

  • Terri Blakely
    November 6, 2019 7:49 am

    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

      • Hi Emily,

        Thank you for the helpful article about FLFs.
        I recently (Jul 30th) purchased a FLF which is 2′ from the top of the pot. All the leaves were healthy and I’ve only watered it once after checking the top 2″ of the soil and with 1 cup of water.

        I’ve recently noticed that few very dark spots have started developing on three leaves. I went back to pictures from day 1 and examined to see that the dark spots did not exist when I brought it home. And the dark spots are at the edges bleeding into the leaf. I am unsure if it is because of root rot since I’ve only watered it once. Also, the plastic pot has big enough drainage holes and I do not see any roots really growing out of it. Is there a way I can send pictures to give a clear idea?

        Thanks in advance!

        • Hi Madhuri, it definitely sounds like a watering issue which is common when you first bring a FLF home, as it does take a little while to get familiar with them and it can also take a little time for them to adapt to their new environment. You could wiggle the plant out of the pot to see how damp the rest of the soil is to check for overwatering, but I think the best thing to do would be to be consistent from now on – only watering when the top 2″ feels dry and watering thoroughly. Also make sure it is in a bright location, in front of a window is best.
          As your plant gets used to the new environment it can go through some changes, but it should settle in eventually 🙂

          • Hi Emily,
            Thank you for the reply and your immense patience in answering all of us who come to you with sometimes the same question laid out in different ways. Appreciate you taking time and replying clearly.

            I have a few more concerns about the course I need to take.

            1. Would you suggest that I repot it? In a bigger pot and thoroughly water it after I repot?
            2. I live in east bay, California. Currently the plant is sitting in front of a NW facing window. I understand it’s not the ideal amount of light for a FLF. Do you think it’ll acclimate to the light conditions?
            3. Every time I water it, is thorough watering the way to go or a measured amount (1 cup).
            Thanks in advance! You’re awesome!

  • 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! 🙂

  • 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.

  • 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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