What to Do if Your Fiddle Leaf Fig is Dropping Leaves

By | 2018-09-15T17:45:36+00:00 July 1st, 2018|Drainage, Leaf Drop, Light, Plant Care, Problems|2 Comments

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 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 to make matters more confusing, it can be tough to tell which is which. The trick is to figure out what is causing your plant to drop leaves so you can remedy the situation in a hurry.

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.

What to Do if Your Fiddle Leaf Fig is Dropping Leaves 1

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 a spot away from any vents or blasts of hot air is ideal.

What to Do if Your Fiddle Leaf Fig is Dropping Leaves 2

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.

What to Do if Your Fiddle Leaf Fig is Dropping Leaves 3

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.

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. 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.

To learn more, read The Fiddle Leaf Fig Expert, your complete guide to growing healthy fiddle leaf fig plants. The book is available in full-color paperback or Kindle edition on Amazon now!

Are you starving your fiddle leaf fig?

By | 2018-09-15T17:45:36+00:00 July 1st, 2018|Drainage, Leaf Drop, Light, Plant Care, Problems|2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Linda Salazar October 23, 2018 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Hi Claire, I live in La Mesa and just finished watching your Fiddle Leaf webinar and have a question about watering…I know you mentioned that you water your fiddle leaf once a week. I purchased a (large) fiddle leaf fig in May from Walter Anderson nursery.  It lost about 5 or 6 leaves at first probably from shock, and then it was doing pretty well.  I was only watering every 10-14 days but I think maybe when summer hit I did not step up the watering. This week during our Santa Ana it dropped about a dozen leaves (mostly yellow and near the bottom of the plant), especially in the last 3 days so I was freaking out a little.  It was pretty dry according to my moisture meter and it looked like the leaves were drooping.  It looks a little more perky today after giving it water last night. (20% of the water ran through) So I guess my question is, how much water do you give yours?  Mine is in a 14″ pot.

    Thank you!

    • Claire Akin October 24, 2018 at 4:50 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your question – I water mine every two weeks and water until they drain. You can also do once a week and water less (2 cups or so). For my outdoor plants, I give them a good soak every two weeks. Better to water too little than too much, but if they get droopy, water right away. Hope that helps! Claire

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