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What Causes My Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves To Turn Brown?

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There are many reasons why fiddle leaf fig leaves turn brown. It can be difficult to determine precisely why this is happening to your plant. More often than not, overwatering is the culprit.

The Ficus Lyrata is from Africa and prefers bright, indirect sunlight, moderate humidity, and dry soil.

As with all plants, excessive watering causes root rot, browning leaves, stems, and eventually plant death.

In addition to root rot, the leaves of your Ficus lyrata may turn brown because of thirst, fungal or bacterial infection, or damage by plant pests.

In this article, we discuss overwatering, and four other reasons for Fiddle Leaf fig leaves to turn brown. Read on to learn more.

Root Rot And What To Do About It

When the soil surrounding the roots of your Fiddle Leaf Fig stays soggy, the fungus will grow. This will impact the roots of your plant, causing them to rot.

When this happens, the roots die, and the stems and leaves of the plant suffer from a lack of nutrients.

Eventually, the rot spreads from the roots to the stems and leaves. 

You’ll usually notice browning at first on mature leaves because the plant will redirect nutrients to new growth as a survival tactic.

However, if you catch the problem soon enough, you may be able to save your plant by simply withholding water and allowing the soil to dry out. 

You can speed this along by tipping the plant on its side to allow excess moisture to run out of the soil if necessary.

Next, disturb the soil by turning it with a fork or poking a few holes with a pencil. This will help allow more air into the soil. 

Be sure your plant is well situated in an area that receives bright, indirect sunlight and good air circulation.

This will help dry the soil and discourage fungal growth. Trim off damaged leaves.

Repot In Extreme Cases

If your fiddle leaf fig has been sitting in soggy soil for a long time, you may need to remove it from the soil, prune away mushy roots, and rinse the roots.

It would also be best to allow the plant to air overnight before repotting it into completely fresh, light, airy soil and a new, or sterilized, pot.

Before repotting, trim away damaged leaves.

Allow the plant to stand unwatered for about a week. This may cause some wilted leaves, but this is a temporary reaction to lack of water.

At the end of the week, provide a thorough watering, allowing water to run through the potting soil and out the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. 

Do not allow the plant to stand in water; do not water again until the top few inches of soil are dry. 

Bacterial Infection And What To Do About It

If your fiddle leaf fig suffers from a bacterial infection, you will see that the leaves initially turn yellow and then brown spots spread across them.

You will notice this development on new growth rather than on mature leaves.

If you catch this problem very early, you may be able to save your plant. 

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Begin by pruning away all affected leaves with a clean, sharp, sterilized cutting implement.
  • Next, remove the plant from its pot and give the roots a rinse to remove all soil.
  • Then, prune away any dead or dying roots with a clean, sharp, sterilized cutting implement. 
  • You may wish to spray the roots with a 50/50 mix of peroxide and distilled (or boiled and cooled) water.
  • As with root rot, allow the roots to air overnight and repot into entirely new, light, airy soil and a new or sterilized container. 
  • Place the plant in an area with bright, indirect sunlight and good air circulation.
  • Allow the plant to stand dry for a week or so.
  • Commence soak and dry watering as you would with root rot. 

Underwatering And What To Do About It

The brown spots caused by thirst look slightly different than those caused by bacteria or fungus. This is because thirst causes crispy brown leaf edges.

The browning caused by bacteria or fungus is usually soft or mushy and spreads across the leaf.

When your plant is thirsty, the leaves will droop. If this goes on too long, the edges of the leaves will start to brown.

When you examine your plant, you may see that the soil has separated from the edge of the pot because it has dried out.

When you lift the pot, you will find that it feels very light for its size. 

When this is the case, the solution is simple. First, give your plant a good, deep watering. 

When a plant is this dry, simply pouring water through the soil may not be enough because the soil may not retain water.

In this case, you may need to set the pot into a tub or bowl of water for half an hour or so. 

Set a timer so you don’t accidentally forget and leave it soaking for an extended period because this will cause you other problems. 

Employ soak and dry watering moving forward, and mist your plant several times a week to keep the leaves from drying. 

Location is also an important consideration for Ficus lyrata suffering from thirst.

Be sure your plant is not sitting in an area where a heating or cooling vent is blasting. It should not be sitting in harsh, direct sunlight. 

Place your plant in a setting where it will receive bright, indirect sunlight and gentle air circulation.

Placing it among other plants (not too crowded) can help increase humidity levels around it so that it doesn’t dry out so quickly. 

Placing the plant on a pebble tray with a bit of water in the bottom will also help increase humidity levels.

If the air in your home is generally dry, you may wish to invest in a humidifier to improve air quality for your plants and you. 

Pest Problems And What To Do About It

Unfortunately, any problems listed so far can lead to pest problems because weakened plants are very attractive to pests, such as spider mites, mealy bugs, scale insects, and the like.

These creatures suck the sap out of your plants and leave brown spots, webs, frass, and honeydew in their wake. 

It’s important to inspect your plants regularly for signs of invaders. The sooner you notice and deal with them, the more luck you’ll have getting rid of them. 

As soon as you notice any sign of pests on a plant, quarantine that plant and clean the area where it has been with a bleach solution or something containing pine or cedar.

These cleaning products will help eradicate pests on surfaces. 

If your plant has been near drapes or other fabrics, wash or vacuum them to eliminate any bugs lurking on the fibers. Then, spray with a disinfectant product. 

Give your affected plant a good rinsing in the sink or shower or with the garden hose if it’s warm outside.

You may want to repot it into a clean pot to get rid of any pests that may be lurking in the soil. 

Treat the plant with insecticidal soap or neem oil spray, and use this spray on any of your other plants that may have been affected. 

Be sure to spray all leaves and stems thoroughly. You may also wish to create a soil drench using neem oil to discourage soil dwellers.

Finally, continue treating your plant(s) for 2 to 4 weeks to be sure of getting rid of adult pests and any new hatchlings. 

Shock And What To Do About It

If your plant is exposed to excessive heat or cold, it may exhibit brown leaves.

New plants may also negatively react when brought home, or plants may show signs of distress when moved from one location to another. 

Avoid all this by providing your plants with a consistently warm setting, sheltered from drafts, properly humid, and endowed with bright, indirect sunlight.

In addition, give your plants a consistent schedule of soak and dry watering.

These are all key elements to keeping almost any plant happy and preventing brown leaves on Fiddle Leaf Figs. 

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