5 Reasons Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree is Dying (or is it?)

5 Reasons Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree is Dying (or is it?)

The Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree, or Ficus lyrata, is a striking plant featuring large, waxy leaves. It's a joy to see these plants reach towards the ceiling with vibrant foliage. However, you may find yourself wondering if your tree is dying. Chances are, even if it looks like it's dying, it's likely not. Here's how to rejuvenate your fiddle-leaf fig and return it to the lush state it had at the nursery or garden store.

This plant is notorious for its sensitivity, but with the right knowledge, you can prevent the common issues that lead to browning or dying leaves.

5 reasons your fiddle is dying

Reasons Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree May Be Struggling, and Solutions

1. Not enough moisture

The Ficus lyrata is a tropical, moisture-loving plant. It grows best in humid climates. In-home trees can be bombarded with dry air from air conditioning and heaters. Over time, your ficus leaves will brown or crack.

brown cracked leaves

Solution: Keep your houseplant away from air vents that blow hot or cold air—they really hate the drastic changes in temperature too. If you're in a dry climate, consider a spritz to the foliage once or twice per week. A humidifier may also be a practical companion to the area.

2. Too much water

The biggest, most common mistake people make is over-watering their plants in general. The best practice is to wait until the planter soil is almost completely dry before drenching it with water. While your ficus loves moisture, it doesn’t want to be sitting in soggy soil all the time. Overwatering will cause disease and result in an unhealthy tree in general. Usually, overwatered fiddle leaf plants show in brown or reddish spots on the leaves which is typically from developing disease. 

Overwatered fiddle leaf

Solution: Check for proper drainage in your pot to make sure that excess water is able to escape. Let the soil of your fiddle leaf tree dry up enough so that the roots can also dry out a little. Then, go ahead and give a little water, but don't flood the soil.

(Note: This is not the full solution if your fiddle leaf has developed root rot. In this case, more measures must be taken to remove the decaying matter.)

Read: The importance of letting the water drain out of your plant

3. Wrong amount of light (too much/too little)

Your fiddle-leaf tree wants lots of bright, indirect light. If your tree is placed in an area that gets sun, make sure its no more than 2 straight hours of direct light (they love early morning direct light). Conversely, if your tree is tucked away in a dark room, prepare for poor growth and even dropping leaves.

Solution: Place your ficus near a window that gets filtered light all day long, or at least 6 hours per day. When in doubt, supplement the sunlight with an overhead grow light.

4. Wrong soil, grow media, or planter

Not all soil is created equal, especially when it comes to indoor plants. The wrong soil will make it difficult for your Fiddle Leaf plant to stay healthy. Avoid premixed, pre-fed soils that may be inappropriate for this species of plant, especially if housed indoors. Also, your tree should be in a planter that allows water drainage. Soggy roots are a death sentence for these plants.

Solution: Ensure your tree is in a planter with appropriate drainage holes for water to escape. Further, we always use a blend of 30-40% coco coir and the remaining amount in an aeration material (or a combination of materials) such as perlite, pumice, horticultural charcoal, or sand. We love coco coir because its an eco-conscious material that helps hold nutrients and moisture while resisting pests and disease. Coir is the perfect grow media, especially for all indoor plants as it helps resist both overwatering and under watering. Perlite is ideal for proper aeration and drainage. 

Note: this media combo contains no natural nutrients, so you’ll need to make sure to add some plant food at each watering.

5. Not enough nutrition

Just like us, your fiddle-leaf fig plant needs food in the proper balance. Look for a plant food or fertilizer with the ratio of 3-1-2 (but we don't mean literally 3%-1%, 2% values). This is especially important if you’re using coir grow media or other soilless media, as they are void of any soil nutrients.  

Read: What does 3-1-2 NPK really mean?

Solution: Provide a dose of Fiddle Leaf Treats™ Plant Food Fertilizer with each watering during the grow season (Spring and Fall), and once per month in the off-season. Fiddle Leaf Treats is the perfect regular plant food for these trees. It’s specifically formulated for the Fiddle-Leaf plant to encourage beautiful, big, green leaves without over-stimulating the roots. It’s also gentle enough to use regularly.

all you need to know about fiddle leaf fig trees

Resilience of Fiddle-Leaf Fig Trees

It's important to note that fiddle-leaf fig trees, although finicky, are remarkably resilient. You can often remediate the soil and roots, and even drastic measures like cutting them back to the trunk can result in healthy regrowth under the right conditions. These conditions include appropriate light exposure and water frequency. With proper care, these plants can bounce back from various stressors and thrive once again.

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