7 Common Reasons for Brown Spots on Fiddle Leaf Figs

The Ficus lyrata is better known as the Fiddle Leaf Fig, thanks to its large and beautifully shaped foliage. This tropical houseplant comes from the rainforests of Western Africa, making it a little tricky to keep in average indoor conditions. When something goes wrong, it’s common for dark spots to appear on the leaves. Prevent the most common causes of brown spots on Fiddle Leaf Fig leaves with these tips.

7 Common Reasons for Brown Spots on Your Fiddle Leaf Fig

7 Common Reasons for Brown Spots on Your Fiddle Leaf Fig

Finding the cause of the brown spots on your houseplant is the first step in preventing future discoloration. There are over a dozen different potential causes, but most brown spots come from these seven most common reasons.

Pest, Disease, or Bacterial Infections

White pests on fiddle leaf fig leaves

A wide range of pests can attack a Fiddle Leaf Fig, and all of them create sunken brown spots in the center of the leaves over time. The most common are spider mites, thrips, and aphids. Bacterial infections can also lead to brown spots and leaf drop. However, the browning will start on the edges of the leaf first, and almost all of the leaves will be affected to some extent.

How To Identify

  • Check the undersides of still healthy leaves for small specks that are black, white, or brown. These can either be the pests themselves or damage left behind by their attacks.
  • Feel the leaves for stickiness, a sign of honeydew-producing pests like aphids.
  • Look for webbing across the surface of the soil or mildew growth.
  • Watch for multiple lighter brown spots per leaf, which indicate bacterial infections.

Best Cures and Remedies to Fix

Pests must be treated based on the specific species, but most are easily handled with horticultural soap and some thorough hand-cleaning. Leaves that are browning from a bacterial infection may recover with less watering and brighter light levels, but they won’t lose the discoloration.

Root Rot

A person inspecting the roots of a young fiddle leaf fig plant

When the Fiddle Leaf Fig soil mix around the roots of this plant stays wet for too long, the outer roots suffocate and rot. It’s hard to detect root rot until dark, almost black spots appear on the leaves. Leaf drop is another sign that the Fiddle Leaf Fig has received too much water.

How To Identify

  • Lift the plant out of its pot and check the outer roots. If you see slimy, darkened, or dead roots, the problem is rot.
  • Check for wilting leaves despite plenty of water, which indicates root rot instead.
  • Watch out for dark, almost black spots in the center of the leaves and leaf drop.

Best Cures and Remedies to Fix

Stop watering as often if you so much as suspect overwatering. You may need to knock the saturated soil mix off the roots and trim away any mushy or darkened material for plants where rot root has already set in. Place the trimmed root mass into a dry pot of soil mix and wait to water for a few days.

For more, see our in-depth guide to watering Fiddle Leaf Figs at home.

Underwatering or Very Dry Growing Conditions

Dark green leaves with brown spots on a fiddle leaf fig plant

While too much water is a common cause of brown spots, Fiddle Leaf Figs also develop browning on their leaves in response to dry conditions. This can be due to low humidity or a lack of watering. The edges will brown, but brown spots will also form in the center of the leaf.

How To Identify

  • Look for crispy edges and wilting that accompany the brown spots in the center of the leaves.
  • Check the soil by lifting the plant out of its pot and checking for dry areas that aren’t absorbing water.

Best Cures and Remedies to Fix

Water more thoroughly, but not necessarily more often. Try setting the plant in a tub and flooding it, giving it 10 to 30 minutes to soak, depending on the size of the root ball. Increase the humidity with a small humidifier or move the plant closer to a source of humidity like a bathroom with a shower.

Overwatering or Very Moist, Damp Growing Conditions

A fiddle leaf fig plant taken out of its pot with soil and roots exposed

Overwatering is one of the most common causes of houseplant issues. 

How To Identify

  • Poke a finger into the soil and see if it’s wet all the way to the top. A better draining soil mix may be needed if it doesn’t dry out a few inches down even after a week.
  • Watch for fungi and mold in the pot, two indicators of excessive moisture.

Best Cures and Remedies to Fix

Only water a Fiddle Leaf Fig when the first two inches of soil are completely dry. Avoid watering by looks or schedule alone. Let an overwatered plant go a week or two without any watering so the soil can dry out. Consider switching to a soil mix with better drainage if it’s a recurring problem. Don’t let the plant sit in a saucer or other container that holds runoff water.


A fiddle leaf fig growing next to a sunny, open window

While this type of houseplant prefers bright light for at least six hours a day, they don’t like direct light for more than brief periods. Too much direct sunlight leads to sunburn, also known as sun-scald. These leaves are likely to turn yellow and droop in a small area first, then develop a flat brown patch in that damaged area.

How To Identify

  • Watch out for color loss and yellowing in just part of a healthy leaf.
  • Check that sun exposure isn’t shifting dramatically as the seasons pass and the sun’s angle changes.
  • Expect some leaf drop after moving a plant or causing sunburn since Fiddle Leaf Figs react that way to any substantial light change.

Best Cures and Remedies to Fix

Keep Fiddle Leaf Figs away from windows that might provide too much direct sunlight. Once sunburn sets in, all you can do is prevent further damage. Minor damage may discolor a leaf, but it’s unlikely to cause it to drop. More extensive burns will lead to leaf drop.

For more, see our in-depth guide on the best position for Fiddle Leaf Figs to thrive in the home.

Lack of Light

Brown patches on a fiddle leaf fig plant in a dark room

Much like with watering, too little light cause discoloration just as much as excessive light exposure. These spots will be dark, soft, or sunken and form near the stem or veins in the leaf.

How To Identify

  • Check for a lighter color and less of a sheen on shaded leaves than those on the sunny side of the plant.
  • Rule out other common causes to determine if lighting issues are the problem.

Best Cures and Remedies to Fix

Don’t try to rotate the plant to provide light to leaves on all sides. Only artificial lighting will work for more even growth since turning the plant just leads to leaf drop. Move the plant closer to a window if necessary, or install new plant lights to encourage healthy new growth.

It’s also prudent to remove dust from fiddle leaf fig leaves monthly.

Over or Under Fertilizing

Small brown patches on a large fiddle leaf fig leaf

Fiddle Leaf Figs need one or two fertilizer doses per summer, but not much more than that. Over-fertilizing is a common cause of brown spots on both the edges and center of the leaves. When insufficient fertilizer is provided for the houseplant, light-colored browning occurs from the veins outward.

How To Identify

  • Look for browning either from the edges inward, which indicates over-fertilizing, or from the veins outward for under-fertilizing.

Best Cures and Remedies to Fix

Under-fertilizing is easily remedied with a dose of balanced houseplant fertilizer. Use a diluted application at first, then follow up with a full-strength application two months later. Avoid fertilizing too often and replace the potting mix if you suspect that has been a problem.

Do Some Brown Spots Naturally Occur on Fiddle Leaf Figs?

Large, sunken, flaky, or dry brown spots indicate problems with the Fiddle Leaf Fig. But very small discolorations, especially on the underside of the leaf, may be natural and no big deal. 

These tiny brown to red spots are known as edema and simply indicate the plant took in a lot of water at once. They may fade to a silver or light brown and are often confused for pest damage. 

These naturally occurring brown spots are not a problem unless you see other signs of pests.

Growing Happy, Healthy Fiddle Leaf Figs at Home

Vibrant green and healthy fiddle leaf fig leaves.

Fiddle Leaf Figs need a loose, well-draining soil mix with plenty of organic material in it. Let the plant dry out to the top two inches of soil before watering. 

Find a location that provides higher than average humidity and warm temperatures year-round. This houseplant needs bright light but no direct sunlight, which can be tricky unless you use artificial lighting. 

Fertilize fiddle leaf fig plants at least twice per growing season and up to once a month if needed. It needs repotting annually, at least during periods of rapid fiddle leaf fig plant growth.

Wrapping Up

Growing a Fiddle Leaf Fig to its full height and width requires years of care. Prepare to deal with the occasional brown spot as a sign that the plant needs a slight adjustment to its conditions.

For more, see our in-depth guide to the meaning and symbolism of fig trees.

Editorial Director | andrew@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.

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