We’ve received this question a lot through our email account and our Facebook group: Can my fiddle leaf fig tree be saved?
The interesting thing is, the fiddle leaf figs in question range from fairly healthy-looking plants with a few spots to a completely dried-out stick.
At what point is a fiddle leaf fig beyond saving? What is that point of no return?
Let’s talk about some common fiddle leaf fig issues that cause owners to consider starting over, and when your tree is “totaled” and it’s time to forget about it.
When to Give Up on a Fiddle Leaf Fig
The short answer: A fiddle leaf fig tree is beyond hope when the tree is actually dead and its biological systems are no longer functioning.
How can you tell if your tree is dead?
Nick the stem with a knife. If the plant is still moist and soft inside and “bleeds” sap, your tree is alive! If you’re up for a challenge, you can revive it.
But if the tree is dried out below the surface and doesn’t bleed when you cut it, this means that no sap is flowing and the tree has given up the ghost. No matter what you do, you can’t revive it at this point.
However, just because a tree is still alive doesn’t mean you actually want to put in the work to revive it. While it’s definitely possible to bring a fiddle back from a naked stick, it takes a lot of care and patience! In many cases, it’s easier to just start over.
And then there are some cases where a tree is headed downhill and it’s better to quit while you’re ahead, or before your tree potentially spreads diseases to your other houseplants!
Let’s walk through a few conditions and whether you should keep trying or give up on your fiddle.
Mild to moderate root rot
Root rot is a condition that can eventually spread and kill your plant, but if you catch it early enough, it’s very treatable!
If you notice brown veining or dark-brown or black spots forming on the lower leaves, root rot is setting in. Try our Root Supplement or nip the problem in the bud and repot the plant into fresh soil and a clean pot. Make sure to trim away any rotting roots. With proper watering, our Root Supplement, and great light, your tree should recover within a few short weeks or months!
Mild to moderate bacterial infection
Like root rot, bacterial infections can spread and wipe out a fiddle leaf fig, but you can still salvage your fiddle if you catch this condition in the early stages. If you notice medium-brown spots on leaves all over the tree, use a clean pair of shears or a knife to carefully remove the affected leaves. Throw the leaves away, don’t compost them!
You may also want to repot the plant into fresh soil and a clean pot. Go a little easier on the water for a while and make sure your tree gets plenty of light. It should recover soon!
Yellowing leaves are usually an early sign of overwatering or insufficient light. But those are easy fixes! Yellow leaves can also indicate a nutrient deficiency, which you can easily take care of by adding a gentle liquid fertilizer to your care routine.
We highly recommend Fiddle Leaf Fig Food because it’s perfectly balanced for fiddles and is designed to be used with each watering, so you won’t have to remember a schedule! Easiest fix ever!
Mild to moderate leaf drop
It’s normal for fiddles to drop their older (lower) leaves when they’re done with them, so if your plant drops a lower leaf every once in a while, that’s a good thing!
If your plant drops a few leaves, that could indicate an issue like root shock from being moved or a change in your care routine that your plant doesn’t like. But losing a few leaves here or there doesn’t mean your tree is dying. It just means it’s time for you to pay closer attention to your plant’s needs!
Did you skip a watering or forget to get a plant sitter when you went out of town for a week? It happens!
If you notice dry, light-brown spots on some of your leaves or even if your fiddle drops a few leaves due to underwatering, there’s still hope! Just resume your normal watering routine (or increase it) and keep a closer eye on the condition of your soil.
Within a few weeks or a couple months at most, your tree should recover and start growing new, healthy leaves!
If almost all of your leaves have dried out due to severe dehydration and several of your branches have died, you may be better off calling it quits and getting a new fiddle.
Technically, you can revive your fiddle if part of the trunk or stem is still alive, but it will take a lot of time and care. You’d need to cut off all the dead parts and basically start over from there, and a lot of fiddle owners just don’t want to do that. Consider this your “practice fiddle” and start over with a new, healthy tree. And make sure to water it this time around!
Severe bacterial infection
Once a bacterial infection has spread to most of the leaves, it is very difficult to treat. On top of that, infections like this can actually spread to your other houseplants!
If those medium-brown spots keep spreading no matter what you do, it’s time to call it quits for the sake of your sanity and the health of your other houseplants. Carefully dispose of your fiddle in the garbage where it won’t come in contact with other plants, and be sure to thoroughly clean its pot if you plan to reuse it.
Severe root rot
If most of your fiddle’s root system has rotted away or if your tree has lost nearly all of its leaves due to root rot, it might be easier to get a new plant.
As with bacterial infection, make sure to dispose of the plant where it won’t come in contact with other plants. Root rot doesn’t spread as readily as other bacterial infections, but it can still spread to other houseplants if you’re not careful! Be sure to clean the pot thoroughly before using it for another plant.
Complete leaf loss
If your tree has dropped all—or almost all—of its leaves, there’s no shame in getting a new plant, even if the stem or trunk is still technically alive.
Severe leaf loss often indicates a serious problem that could also be affecting the roots, so healing the tree and encouraging it to grow again will take a lot of work, and it will be a long time before your tree is back to anything resembling its former glory. If you’re not up to it, it’s okay to get a new fiddle. No judgment here.
It’s not uncommon for fiddle leaf fig owners to go through a couple fiddles before they really get the hang of fiddle leaf fig care, and that’s okay!
If you get a lot of pleasure out of reviving plants that are at death’s door, by all means, bring that fiddle back to life! But if you just want a lively green plant to brighten up your space, it’s okay to give it a few tries.
Try these resources to improve your fiddle leaf fig care skills!
Fiddle Leaf Fig Resource Center Facebook Group
The Fiddle Leaf Fig Expert Book