Brown spots on fiddle leaf fig leaves can be frustrating and confusing. It’s disheartening to see brown spots spoiling the beautiful large green leaves of your ficus lyrata. What’s worse, brown spots on fiddle leaf fig leaves can be difficult to treat if you don’t know what is causing them. There are actually four main causes of brown spots.
What Causes Brown Spots on Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves?
There are four common causes of brown spots on a fiddle leaf fig plant.
- Root rot
- Bacterial infection
- Insect damage
To tell the difference, you’ll need to look closely at your plant and examine what’s going wrong.
Examine your fiddle leaf fig to determine the following:
- Do the brown spots start at the edge of the leaf or in the center of the leaf?
- Are they very dark brown (almost black) or lighter brown (more tan in color)?
- Do you see many spots on each leaf or just one large brown area?
- Do the brown spots result in the leaves eventually falling off?
- Are they affecting older leaves near the bottom of your plant or younger new leaves near the top of your plant?
Once you’ve taken a good look at your brown spots and reviewed the characteristics, it’s time to figure out what the cause is.
Here are the most common causes of brown spots on a fiddle leaf fig, in order of prevalence:
Brown Spots on Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves Caused by Root Rot
The most common cause of brown leaves on a fiddle leaf fig is due to a fungal infection from the roots sitting in too much moisture.
Over-watering and poor drainage causes root rot, which spreads from the roots to the leaves of your plant. The roots of a fiddle leaf fig need to slightly dry out between waterings to function properly. Once the leaves are affected by the fungal infection, they will slowly turn brown and then eventually fall off.
The only way to be certain that your plant has root rot is to remove the pot and inspect the roots.
Signs of Root Rot
If the roots are brown and mushy, root rot is the culprit.
You’ll need to remove the damaged roots and the leaves with brown spots and then repot your plant, taking care not to over-water in the future. A moisture meter will help you determine when your plant is thirsty. However, you can make a diagnosis of root rot and treat your plant without repotting it.
One interesting feature of root rot is that it tends to affect older leaves first, as your plant attempts to save the newer growth that is closer to valuable sunlight.
If you notice more brown spots on your older growth near the bottom of the plant, root rot could be to blame.
Another key symptom of root rot is leaves that are dropping.
The brown spots may start as small black spots, then will get larger, until the entire leaf drops. If you think your plant has root rot, you can use a moisture meter like this one to take a moisture reading near the bottom of the roots. If your reading is very wet, root rot is likely the cause.
If you suspect you’ve been over-watering your plant or it has poor drainage, root rot is probably the cause of your brown spots on fiddle leaf fig leaves.
Not enough sunlight can make this problem worse. Too large of a pot can also cause your plant’s roots to remain too wet between waterings.
Fungal Root Rot Case Study
See photos of a plant that has fungal root rot and watch as Claire, from The Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant Resource Center, shares the steps to take for the reader to save her plant.
How to Treat Brown Spots Caused By Root Rot
Generally, root rot is very treatable, especially if you catch it early.
Since root rot is generally a problem of poor drainage, you’ll want to address your drainage immediately. Make sure you have a well-draining container, fast-draining potting soil, and that you aren’t watering too frequently.
The next thing you’ll want to do is assess the damage. If there are just a few brown spots on the leaves, you do not need to repot your plant. Let your plant dry out for two weeks or more until the roots have adequate time to recover. Remove the affected leaves and make sure your plant has enough sunlight.
If you’re not sure whether your plant has wet roots, you can use a moisture meter to make sure the roots are drying out between waterings. Then your plant should recover with proper drainage and watering. Take a look at our Ultimate Watering Guide here to learn more about proper watering.
However, if the damage is severe or spreading rapidly, you’ll want to perform root surgery and repot your fiddle leaf fig.
Remove your plant from its pot and hose down the root ball. Cut away any brown, mushy roots. Make sure you have proper drainage and repot with fast-draining house plant soil like this. Follow good watering practices in the future to make sure the problem doesn’t reoccur.
If your fiddle leaf fig still needs help or you would like to protect it in the future, we’ve spent over a year creating a treatment to protect your plant from root rot infections.
Our Root Rot Treatment is a natural plant bio-stimulator, enhancing your plant’s existing immune response and promoting growth.
This treatment was designed with input from microbiologists, fiddle leaf fig growers, and botanists. It provides protection against the common Pythium, Phytophthora, and pseudo-fungi that cause root rot in fiddle leaf figs. It’s gentle and safe for your plant, designed to be used every time you water, along with fiddle leaf fig plant food. Get your Root Rot Treatment today on Amazon.
Brown Spots on Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves From a Bacterial Infection
Bacterial infections can be some of the most stubborn and frustrating problems to fight.
If your plant has some of the symptoms of root rot but doesn’t respond to treatments, a bacterial infection may be to blame.
This is unfortunately very common in plants purchased from big-box stores. One key characteristic of bacterial brown spots is they are less black and more brown in color. Our Root Rot Treatment treats most bacterial infections in fiddle leaf figs.
Look for these characteristics on your leaves to diagnose a bacterial infection:
- Bacterial leaf spot will attack all areas of a plant, including older, larger leaves, but especially young, new leaves. If you see small leaves with stunted growth, yellowing, and brown spots, consider a bacterial problem.
- Bacteria will cause many brown spots per leaf, not just one large brown area.
- Bacterial spots have irregular margins and can occur anywhere on the leaf, including near the edge of the leaf or where the leaf meets the stem
- Yellowing of leaves in addition to the brown spots is another sign of a bacterial infection. With root rot, the leaves will typically remain dark green with dark brown spots, but with bacterial leaf spot, the leaf will turn yellow as the brown spot spreads.
Both root rot and bacterial leaf spot will cause your leaves to eventually fall off.
How to Treat Brown Spots From a Bacterial Infection
Unfortunately, this is one of the hardest conditions to treat in a fiddle leaf fig.
The key is to treat the spots as early as you can before the damage spreads too far. The treatment is similar to treating root rot: you’ll want to make sure your plant’s roots dry out between waterings and that it’s getting plenty of sun.
If the damage is not severe, cut off all of the leaves with brown spots and repot your plant with fresh, sterile soil in a container with good drainage. Give it plenty of light and go easy on watering until it recovers.
Consider using our Leaf Armor, which was designed to protect your houseplant from not just bacteria, but also from insects and fungus.
Another good way to treat bacterial infections is to put your fiddle leaf fig outside in the shade to recover, depending on your climate. Fresh air, plenty of sunlight, and warm conditions can help your plant recover. Just be sure that your plant is protected from direct sunlight and doesn’t get too cold (less than 50 degrees) or too hot (greater than 95 degrees).
However, if your plant has more than 50% of the leaves affected by brown spots and the condition is spreading, you may be better off starting over. Discard the plant and start fresh with a healthy specimen. You may want to contact the store where you purchased your plant to see if they’ll replace it.
Brown Spots on Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves Due to Dryness
Dry plant brown spots are somewhat easier to diagnose, as they will have dry tan or lighter brown areas that start at the edge of the leaf and cause the leaf to curl.
Your plant will overall look wilted or dry at times and the soil may have receded from the pot (shrinkage). This can cause the water to run between the pot and the soil and never reach the root ball.
If you’ve forgotten to water your plant on a regular basis or if it’s in a very dry environment, brown spots may occur.
The relative humidity for your plant should be between 30-65%, so if your home humidity is much lower or your plant is near a heater, you may need to create more humidity for your fiddle leaf fig by misting or changing locations.
How to Treat Brown Areas on a Dry Plant
If you notice soil shrinkage, you’ll want to repot your plant to make sure your root ball is getting adequate water.
If your fiddle leaf fig is in a very dry environment or near a heater, consider moving it to another location. Water regularly (try once a week) and monitor your plant to make sure it’s getting enough moisture.
You can try misting every one to three days or using a humidifier near your plant if your home is very dry, though this is not typically necessary unless a heater is running near your plant.
Brown Spots on Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves From Insect Damage
Insect damage in a fiddle leaf fig plant is thankfully less common.
The giveaway to diagnose insect damage is small dark spots that damage the plant leaves that turn into holes in the leaves. This happens more commonly in the new, tender growth.
You can also look out for any insects on your plant (use a magnifying glass) or any white or gray insect webs. If you find any evidence of insects living on your plant, you’ll know this is the cause of your brown spots.
How to Treat Brown Spots from Insect Damage
Insect infestations are easy to treat.
Use our Leaf Armor, designed for houseplants to protect against insects, bacteria, and fungus. (This product works just like neem oil but without the unpleasant smell! As an added bonus, the Leaf Armor also cleans and adds shine to your houseplant’s leaves.)
Spray all the leaves of your fiddle leaf fig thoroughly. Turn each leaf to spray the underside and don’t forget where the leaf meets the stem. Wait two weeks, inspect again, then repeat the spraying process if needed.
Keeping Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Healthy in the Future
Now that you’ve diagnosed the cause of your fiddle leaf fig plant’s brown spots and you have a Root Rot Treatment, you’ll want to make sure you keep your plant healthy in the future.
Make sure your plant has the proper soil and drainage, follow watering best practices, and make sure to fertilize with Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant Food each time you water to keep your plant strong.
Grab the Essentials for Your Fiddle Leaf Fig:
- Premium Fiddle Leaf Fig Potting Soil
- Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant Food
- Root Rot Treatment to treat one of the most common issues affecting fiddle leaf figs.
- Houseplant Leaf Armor to protect against insects, bacteria, and fungus (As an added bonus, it also cleans and adds shine to your plant’s leaves!)
- Moisture meter to always know when your plant is thirsty.
- Houseplant Propagation Promoter to propagate more quickly and with more success.
To learn more:
- To learn more, sign up for our free Fiddle Leaf Fig Care 101 Webinar or enroll in our free Fiddle Leaf Fig Course for advanced fiddle leaf fig care.
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