Discovering brown leaves on your beloved fiddle leaf fig plant can be a real bummer. It can be disheartening when you don’t understand why your leaves are turning brown, and it can lead to some frustration. The good news is that there are generally only four main culprits for your fiddle leaf fig leaves to turn brown. Don’t worry; chances are good that we’ll be able to fix your plant from yellowing and turning brown and get it back to its old happy green self!
Well, the most common reasons for the leaves to be turning brown are root rot from too much water, bacterial infection, dryness from underwatering or low humidity, or insect damage.
Not to worry, you’ve come to the right place. I will walk you through these four main reasons for brown leaves and show you what to look for to determine the problem at hand.
One of the most common reasons that fiddle leaf fig leaves turn brown is root rot. This is a fungal infection caused by the roots sitting in too much moisture in their pot home. Basically, the plant gets mushy roots, which is why having your plants on a steady watering schedule is helpful.
As you can imagine, an abundance of moisture in the pot results from overwatering and poor soil drainage. Once your roots are infected, they can turn brown and mushy and unable to transport nutrients to the rest of the plant. Hence, the leaves turn brown due to a lack of nutrients.
Typically root rot will affect older leaves on the plant first, leaving the younger, healthier leaves intact. This is because your plant is prioritizing the young leaves with its limited ability to distribute nutrients.
If you suspect the problem is root rot, gently remove the topsoil or the entire root system from its pot if needed and inspect the roots.
The solution: If your leaves have just a few brown spots, then simply let your plant dry out for a week or two with some good sunlight, giving the roots enough time to recover. Also, remove any infected leaves with brown areas to make room for new growth.
If there are multiple infected leaves, and the roots look pretty brown and mushy, you will want to cut away and remove both the damaged roots and leaves. Then re-pot and try to water less in the future. Using a better draining soil or pot is also a good move here if you are repotting.
Here is an example of root-rot.
A bacterial infection on your fiddle leaf fig plant can have similar symptoms to root rot. The main sign that your beautiful plant has a bacterial infection is the leaves turning yellow in addition to brown spots.
When the problem is root rot, the leaves will usually keep their dark green coloring as the brown spots appear and spread. When the problem is a bacterial infection, the entire leaf will begin to turn yellow as the brown spots spread.
Another difference between root rot and a bacterial infection is that the latter generally is seen more on newer leaves compared to older leaves that the root rot is seen on. If your newer leaves are dying while the older ones are looking healthy, a bacterial infection is probably the culprit.
The unfortunate news here is that a bacterial infection can be a bit more difficult to heal than root rot is. The earlier you can catch the infection, the better the chances of saving the plant.
The solution: First off, you will want to remove all of the leaves that have brown spots on them. These leaves are already infected and probably can’t be saved. Next, repot your plant with fresh soil.
Once your plant has been repotted, make sure to place it in a spot that gets good sunlight. Take it easy on the watering for a few weeks as the plant works to recover.
Diagnosing brown spots on your leaves from dryness is a bit simpler than the other causes listed above. The leaves will turn a tan color and start at the edge of the leaf.
The leaf will begin to curl, and the entire plant can look noticeably dry and wilted. If you notice the soil receding from the edge of the pot, then dryness is almost definitely your problem.
The Solution: First things first, take a look at where you have the fiddle leaf fig plant located. Is it near a heating vent, or in intense sunlight? Try moving it to a better location in your house.
Next, it’s time for some water. Give your plant a nice watering and continue to do so about once a week. Keep checking in on the plant regularly to monitor its improvement. Misting your plant twice a week or setting up a humidifier can also be included for the first couple of weeks as you nurse it back to full strength.
Going forwards, make sure to be watering a bit more than you were before noticing the dry, wilted leaves.
If you want more information about humidifiers for plants, I have a blog post: The Best Humidifiers for Plants.
Brown spots on your fiddle leaf fig plant may stem from insect damage. This isn’t a very common problem, but nevertheless is certainly possible that you have spider mites, aphids, or fungus gnats.
The telltale sign of insect damage is very small, dark red or brown spots that will then turn into holes on the leaves.
Take a close look at the plant and see if you can observe any small insects. Make sure to search on the underside of the leaf. If you can see little bugs or weblike material, then they are definitely responsible for the leaf damage.
Don’t panic. Insects are typically easy to deal with.
The solution: First off, you’ll want to quarantine the plant away from all of your other plants. Taking the plant outside is the best option if the weather permits. We want to make sure we keep the rest of the plant family healthy.
Next, let’s eradicate these pesky insects. I recommend using a neem oil product or an organic insecticidal soap. Neem oil works great but can be smelly (it can smell like sulfur).
Spray all of the leaves with your neem oil or insecticide thoroughly, including the underside and where the leaf attaches to the stem. Give it a week or two and inspect the plant again. Repeat as necessary until the infestation is eliminated.
If your plant has fungus gnats, you can resolve that issue with Sticky Yellow Traps.
Answer: You should water your fiddle leaf fig plant when the top 3-4 inches of soil is dry. This can be once a week, but it is important to monitor the soil and adjust accordingly.
Answer: The telltale sign of insect damage is very small, dark red or brown spots that will then turn into holes on the leaves. Take a close look at the plant and see if you can observe any small insects. Make sure to search on the underside of the leaf. If you can see little bugs or weblike material, then they are definitely responsible for the leaf damage.
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