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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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10 Comments. Leave new

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

    Reply
    • 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 🙂

      Reply
  • 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

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
    • 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! 🙂

      Reply
  • 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! 😢
    Ps
    Thankyou for all your info!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply

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