One of the first and most common signs of trouble in a fiddle leaf fig tree is dropping leaves.
Ficus plants, in general, are prone to leaf loss when they’re stressed, but for the ficus lyrata (fiddle leaf fig), dropping leaves means the plant needs help quickly. Because fiddle leaf fig leaves are so large, it can take months or years to regrow lost foliage. If your fiddle leaf fig is dropping leaves, act now to address the problem and save your plant.
Why Is Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Dropping Leaves?
There are three main causes of leaf drop, and it can be tough to tell which is which. The key to remedying the situation in a hurry is to first figure out what is causing your plant to drop leaves.
Leaf Drop From Shock
The first common cause of leaf drop is shock from being moved.
When you get a new fiddle leaf fig plant, the plant undergoes considerable stress during the move and when it’s placed in a new environment. Fiddle leaf figs do not like change and thrive best in a consistent environment.
The new lighting and humidity may both be significantly lower than what the plant is used to, having been grown in a bright greenhouse with many other plants nearby and high relative humidity. Coupled with the physical trauma of being beaten up during the move, your plant may react to shock by dropping older leaves near the middle and bottom of the plant.
This plant lost over half its leaves, but still made a full recovery.
Leaf Drop From Dry Conditions
The second major cause of leaf drop in a fiddle leaf fig is from dryness. Lack of watering and very dry air can cause a fiddle leaf fig to drop leaves.
Take care not to put your plant in direct sun or near a heating vent, where it is blasted with dry air regularly. Fiddle leaf figs do not like drafts, so picking a spot away from any vents or blasts of hot air is ideal.
This fiddle leaf fig is beyond repair after dying of thirst.
Leaf Drop From Root Rot
The third and very common cause of a fiddle leaf fig dropping leaves is due to root rot, often stemming from a combination of too much water and not enough light.
The telltale sign in this situation is brown or black spots on the leaves. If your plant has dropped spotted leaves, take a look at your drainage and lighting situation pronto.
It’s important to treat root rot immediately, and to protect your plant from bacteria, fungus, and insects, use our Houseplant Leaf Armor. (As an added bonus, the Leaf Armor also cleans and adds shine to your houseplant’s leaves!)
Classic signs of root rot in a fiddle leaf fig leading to leaf drop
What to Do if Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Is Dropping Leaves
If you’ve just purchased your fiddle leaf fig, expect some leaves to drop as it adjusts to its new home. Monitor the total amount of leaves lost to make sure a bigger problem is not at play.
Typically, between 3 and 7 leaves are completely normal for a plant that’s recovering from shock.
Give it Consistency
To help your plant recover, be sure to provide consistency in light, humidity, and watering habits.
Keep your new plant in a bright location without direct sun and away from heating vents or cold drafts. Water once a week or when the top one or two inches of soil are dry. Give your plant a few weeks to settle into its new home. (Using a moisture meter like this one is a great way to tell when your plant is thirsty.)
Check Your Watering
If you suspect that your plant is dropping leaves because of dry air or lack of water, address the situation by making sure you’re watering regularly and keeping your plant in a stable place without hot wind from a heater.
When you do water your plant, make sure that the root ball itself is getting wet.
Some plants with very compact root balls can miss out on waterings because the water flows around the root ball and out of the container. This can make it seem like your plant is well-watered, but the roots are dying of thirst. Water slowly at the base of the trunk to make sure the water is absorbing through the roots.
Address Light and Drainage
If you see black or brown spots on your plant and its dropping leaves, take a look at your drainage and lighting situation immediately. Too large of a container, the wrong soil, and too much water can lead to root rot in a fiddle leaf fig.
Lack of sunlight makes these conditions worse. If your plant is not in a very bright location, move it to a south-facing or large window if you can. If your problem is severe, you will want to repot your plant to a new container with perfect drainage and use fast-draining soil to make sure your plant’s roots can breathe.
As long as your fiddle leaf fig tree still has at least half of its leaves, it can make a full recovery.
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By addressing the problem and providing consistent care, you will give your plant the best chance to stabilize and eventually improve. It may take time, however.
Brown spots on fiddle leaf fig leaves will not heal, so you may want to remove any damaged leaves that are unsightly. New growth may take months to start once your plant has stabilized, so be patient. But now that you’re better in tune to your plant’s health, it will be smooth sailing in the future.
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