Ask a Question forum: Brown spots on Fiddle Leaf Fig

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Name: Rebekah
Philadelphia, PA (Zone 7b)
rebekahekay
Feb 27, 2018 9:50 AM CST
Hey all!

I've had my FLF for 3 months now and it was doing fine up until a month ago when it started getting brown spots almost everywhere!

It's 3 trunks in a 12 inch planter. The top leaves are healthy (picture) but towards the bottom there are black/brown spots everywhere with a lot of leaf drop. Once the dowel I stick in it is dry (about once a week) I water it thouroughly until the water soaks through and I place it back on it's dry saucer inside of the basket that holds the planter. It's near an east facing window which gets decent indirect light and I also use an overhead supplement light.

It's currently winter in Philadelphia and it's quite dry in my house so I had a humidifier in the area. I also mist about every 4 days and wipe down the leaves every other week. I've searched EVERYTHING and I can't find a definitive answer. Someone please advise!

Thanks,

Rebekah
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
Image
WillC
Feb 27, 2018 10:12 AM CST
Rebekah - Only two conditions will cause that much leaf spotting on your FLF; not enough light and not enough water. It will take a while for those conditions to have enough of an effect to show symptoms.

Retailers like to promote sales of this plant by saying it doesn't need direct sunlight. Indoors, it does benefit from as much direct sun as you can provide. An east window will provide adequate light if the tree is right in front of and very close to the window, which must be completely uncovered during the day and must not have any outside obstructions. Unfortunately, artificial lights don't help this plant very much.

Fiddle-leaf Figs don't tolerate dry soil. They need to be watered a soon as the SURFACE of the soil feels almost, but not quite dry. You don't need to probe the soil with a stick to see if it had dried deeper into the pot, as you might with some other plants.

High humidity is not required for this plant. Misting is not an effective way to increase humidity anyway.

Unfortunately, the existing spots will not recover. You may want to remove any leaves that are so spotted that they look unsightly. New leaves only grow in at the ends of stems, so no new leaves will replace the older leaves lower down. When plants are under stress, they typically lose older lower leaves so they can continue making new ones on top. As long as new leaves remain reasonably healthy and spot-free, you can be sure you are on the right track.

Good luck with it going forward.

BTW - I have a blog post on FLF care in the Blog section of this site.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Rebekah
Philadelphia, PA (Zone 7b)
rebekahekay
Feb 27, 2018 11:09 AM CST
WillC said:Rebekah - Only two conditions will cause that much leaf spotting on your FLF; not enough light and not enough water. It will take a while for those conditions to have enough of an effect to show symptoms.

Retailers like to promote sales of this plant by saying it doesn't need direct sunlight. Indoors, it does benefit from as much direct sun as you can provide. An east window will provide adequate light if the tree is right in front of and very close to the window, which must be completely uncovered during the day and must not have any outside obstructions. Unfortunately, artificial lights don't help this plant very much.

Fiddle-leaf Figs don't tolerate dry soil. They need to be watered a soon as the SURFACE of the soil feels almost, but not quite dry. You don't need to probe the soil with a stick to see if it had dried deeper into the pot, as you might with some other plants.

High humidity is not required for this plant. Misting is not an effective way to increase humidity anyway.

Unfortunately, the existing spots will not recover. You may want to remove any leaves that are so spotted that they look unsightly. New leaves only grow in at the ends of stems, so no new leaves will replace the older leaves lower down. When plants are under stress, they typically lose older lower leaves so they can continue making new ones on top. As long as new leaves remain reasonably healthy and spot-free, you can be sure you are on the right track.

Good luck with it going forward.

BTW - I have a blog post on FLF care in the Blog section of this site.



Hi Will,

Thanks so much for your expertise in this!

I have been concerned with the amount of light it's been getting. My house isn't enough natural light for me as a human let alone the finicky FLF.

With watering, it's been a bit daunting. Everywhere it's stating "it's better to underwater than to overwater". Everytime I do water it, I drench it and let it soak through. I suppose I will start to increase watering.

*Question: Will it really be okay to take off the heavily spotted leaves as you said (there ARE a lot of them)? I've also read that taking off the lower leaves harms the trunk in that it doesn't get enough nutrients to grow stronger. If it doesn't affect the trunk much to take off the dying leaves then I have no qualms with it!

I also plan on separating the trunks and possible propagation come spring. As one of the plants is much healthier than the others.

Again thank you so much! I have 45+ plants in my home that I've had for varying amounts of time and this is the only one I have a problem with Confused
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
Image
WillC
Feb 27, 2018 3:15 PM CST
Hi Rebekah - When plants don't get enough light, they will struggle and there is no substitute for good light. An uncovered, unobstructed east window should be adequate and I suspect it was lack of sufficient water that has been the primary cause of the leaf spots. Therefore, I am optimistic, that yours will be okay going forward.

It is good that you are watering thoroughly when you water, but you may have delayed a bit too long in watering. Underwatering tends to cause leaf discoloration whereas over watering over an extended period will suffocate the roots and kill the plant. That is why you read so often of the dangers of overwatering. This particular plant is pretty hard to over water unless you water every day or so or leave it sitting in water constantly.

Plants receive nutrients from the soil through their roots, not through their leaves. The leaves absorb light that is essential for photosynthesis. Once leaves discolor badly or die, they no longer serve a useful function for the plant. Thus, there is no harm in removing those leaves. But removing them will alter the appearance of the plant, presumably for the better.

I don't recommend trying to divide the two trunks. They have been grown together and their intertwined roots are now as if they are one plant. The rootball can be divided, but it is very traumatic for the plant and you could easily lose both trunks and plants. The two plants do not compete with one another and the smaller one is not infected with a disease. Keep the rootball intact and the plants together.

FLFs do require more light and water than most, so I am not surprised you are struggling with this one. But now you know just what it needs. Crossing Fingers!
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

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