“Help! S.O.S! Mayday! 911! My fiddle leaf fig is dying, and I don’t know what to do!” By far, this is the most common distress signal we hear from readers and community members here at fiddleleaffigplant.com.
Inevitably, the answer falls into one of four categories: Environment, a disease, pests, or the caregiver’s own treatment. Let’s take a look at each one.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Killer Number One: Your Tree’s Environment
The best houseplant strategist will read up on what a ficus lyrata needs before considering bringing one home. Instead though, many of us impulsively grab one simply because they’re on the clearance rack at the local home improvement store. Who can resist?
Sadly, when the tree suffers, then its new owner is apt to hop online and – often, too late – seek advice.
The most common threat to a fiddle leaf fig’s health is its environment.
- Light: According to horticulturists at the University of Florida, this plant grows naturally in part shade/part sun or even full sun. In other words, your tree loves light. Is it getting enough?
- Humidity: Native to West Africa, these plants thrive in the humid air of the tropics. Many Western homeowners keep their air indoors dry, running an air conditioner in summer and cranking the furnace and winter. To counter this environmental factor, simply run a humidifier nearby.
- Kindness: Believe it or not, plants respond to the spoken word. “There is evidence that plants respond to sound,” says Rich Marini, PhD, Head horticulturist at Penn State University. IKEA’s recent headline making experiment supports this claim, showing two plants that received contrasting verbal communications from passersby. One wilted — the one that was bullied — and the other flourished. Commit to kindness in the home, and your tree will thank you.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Killer Number Two: Disease
When a ficus lyrata’s environment isn’t ideal, it’s more susceptible to disease. There are three bacterial and seven fungal infections known to plague the ficus family: crown gall, pseudomonas leaf spot, and xanthomonos leaf spot are each caused by a specific bacterium, while anthracnose, botrytis blight, corynespora leaf spot, myrothecium leaf spot, rhizoctonia root rot, phytophthora/pythium and southern blight represent the fungal threats facing your plant.
Symptoms of disease include yellowing, shriveled or droopy leaves, brown spots, leaf drop, stunted new growth, and eventually, death. By far, the most common fiddle leaf fig disease is root rot, a condition which presents one, some of, or even all of these symptoms.
To treat root rot, first make sure your diagnosis is accurate. Then, pull your plant out of its pot, identify and cut away wet, mushy, dark roots, and let your tree dry out a bit.
Then, repot your plants root ball in fresh, quickly-drying soil and a planter pot with plenty of drainage.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Killer Number Three: Insects
Another threat to your ficus lyrata is an unseen insect infestation. We say “unseen” because often, by the time a fiddle leaf fig caregiver is aware of the problem, it’s already out of control.
Spider mites, mealy bugs, and fungus gnats are the most common pests known to plague the ficus lyrata.
Each bug manifest differently: spider mites are characterized by tiny rust colored clusters of dots with the silky web.
Mealy bugs appear with a cottony substance and wet, honeydew. Fungus gnats can be entirely invisible or show themselves in a cloud of fruit fly looking swarms when you or a family member walks by.
The good news is that treatment options for these pests are generally simple and effective.
That is, if you’re willing to employ some consistent observation and diligence, chances are good you’ll be able to get rid of the buggers. Take a look at how to rid yourself of these pests.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Killer Number Four: Overcorrection of the Above Three Problems (The “Black Thumb”)
Unfortunately, A caregiver’s own loving attention often kills a fiddle leaf fig tree.That’s because when one of the three problems above manifests, humans (especially us plant-loving ones) tend to overtreat the problem. Here are a few of the most common examples:
- Overwatering, trying to keep the soil moist out of fear of the plant’s thirst
- Drastic environmental changes, like moving a plant from a dark corner straight into direct sunlight or bringing a tree home from a moist greenhouse into your dry, climate controlled home.
- Excessive insect eradication. Finding bugs can be unnerving, and many fiddle leaf fig caregivers go overboard in treating the problem. An overzealous pest treatment can be just as harmful to the plant as the infestation itself.
By now, you should know exactly what’s harming your favorite houseplant. Diagnosis is the first step to correcting the problem and preventing a future recurrence. The next step is to learn exactly how to treat every issue and improve your fiddle leaf fig’s environment so it has what it needs to combat deprivation, disease, and insects naturally on its own. For that, grab a copy of the new book, The Fiddle Leaf Fig Expert. It’s your ultimate handbook for growing healthy, happy ficus lyrata plants.
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