The Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata) is one of the most iconic and respected tropical houseplants. It usually takes the form of a small tree or tall shrub. While it may have a bold look when healthy and covered with thick, glossy leaves, Fiddle Leaf Figs are unfortunately prone to dropping leaves any time it is stressed. Keeping the plant in the preferred conditions is the key to preventing unnecessary leaf drop.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Dropping Leaves – The Essentials:
- Some leaf loss is natural due to the aging process of the plant.
- For unnatural leaf loss, watering issues are the most common cause.
- Leaves that go yellow, droop or develop brown spots and tips before dropping signify a problem with the plant.
- Try to examine wilting or drooping leaves before they detach entirely and dry up to determine what might be causing the problem.
9 Common Reasons Your Fiddle Leaf Figs Leaves are Dropping
A Fiddle Leaf Fig can lose leaf for over a dozen reasons, but only a few of them are common enough to worry about. The majority of leaf loss will occur due to one of the following nine reasons.
1. Too Much Water
There are many guides out there that recommend a watering routine for the Fiddle Leaf Fig that leads to leaf drop. Even temporary excessive watering can lead to the loss of foliage.
If the soil remains saturated long enough, a large number of leaves may drop at once due to the more severe problem of root rot. It’s tricky to save a plant that is losing leaves from overwatering, but it may take removing the saturated soil and starting with a fresh potting mix. If only a few leaves were lost so far, just watering less may work.
2. Too Little Water
Of course, not giving the plant enough water also leads to leaf drop.
Fiddle Leaf Figs do prefer a steady supply of water, not to mention relatively humid air. You can give your plant just the right amount of water and still experience leaf drop due to dryness if the soil is not absorbing the water evenly.
Lifting the Fig from the pot and checking it after a thorough watering will help reveal areas that remain dry, leading to water stress and leaf drop.
3. Lack of Humidity
As a native to a tropical area, the Ficus lyrata needs more humidity than the average home environment provides. Most people keep their homes around 40% ambient humidity, while this houseplant prefers 60% or higher.
If you can, place the plant near a humidifier or at least a humid room like a bathroom. At the very least, keep Fiddle Leaf Figs away from heating vents and dehumidifiers. Leaves dropping from a lack of humidity will dry up from the leaf tips first.
4. Temperature Fluctuations
Any sudden change in temperature around the Fiddle Leaf Fig will result in at least minor leaf dropping. Drafts are shocking to this sensitive houseplant, whether they’re hot air from a heater or cold air from an open window. Keep them away from exterior doors that are opened regularly, especially in winter.
Leaves lost to drafts or temperature issues may not yellow or discolor at all before dropping suddenly. As long as the drafts don’t continue, replacement leaves should bud and sprout soon enough.
5. Root Bound
One common reason a mature houseplant shows signs of being dry even when you’re giving it plenty of water is that it’s root-bound. When the roots become too tightly packed in the container, they crowd the outside and bottom of the pot. This exposes them to extra air, drying them out within hours of watering.
Lifting the plant from its pot will reveal how badly root-bound it has become. If the plant can’t be lifted easily, it’s likely root-bound and ready for repotting.
6. Change in Light Levels
Fiddle Leaf Figs don’t want too much direct sunlight, but they do want plenty of bright and mostly indirect light. When winter approaches and sunlight levels drop naturally, it’s likely for the plant to lose a leaf or two in response.
Using artificial lighting is the best way to keep light levels stable all year round. It’s also an easier way to prevent sun scalding while providing sufficient lighting.
It’s also prudent to remove any excess dust build-up on your fiddle leaf fig’s leaves monthly.
7. Disease and Pests
When conditions regarding watering or light haven’t changed, but leaves continue to drop, it’s likely a pest or disease affecting the plant. The pests that affect the Fiddle Leaf Fig are often so tiny that they’re hard to notice, such as mites or aphids. Look carefully on the undersides of the healthy leaves, not just the ones that have dropped.
Signs of disease include dark or sunken spots on the leaves, web-like mold on the soil’s surface, and withering stems.
8. Lack of Fertilizer
Fiddle Leaf Figs don’t need a lot of fertilizer, but they do need nutrients at least once every few months during the growing season. Going a year or two without any doses of fertilizer will leave the Fig dropping leaves at some point.
These Fiddle Leaf Fig leaves will yellow, usually from the inner veins of the leaf first, and then shrivel and drop. Don’t give the plant a big dose of fertilizer in hopes of reversing the problem. Start with a half-strength amount of what the fertilizer manufacturer recommends, then follow up two months later with a full-strength treatment to boost new growth without burning the roots.
Like most larger houseplants, Fiddle Leaf Figs naturally lose leaves as they age. Older leaves towards the bottom of the plant eventually get too old for the plant to support. They generally won’t turn yellow or develop dry tips before dropping off, two signs that indicate another issue with the plant.
Older leaves are usually lost first, whether the cause is age or a problem. However, only one to two leaves will be lost at once if the process is natural. Other reasons can cause far more leaves to drop off suddenly, leaving half the plant missing at once.
Growing Happy, Healthy Fiddle Leaf Figs at Home
Leaf drop can’t either be prevented since it’s part of the natural aging process for the plant. However, you can still reduce the loss of healthy leaves with proper Fiddle Leaf Fig care.
Start with the appropriate soil mix, which should drain quickly but still hold enough moisture to keep this tropical rainforest plant happy. Learn to water by checking the soil with your finger rather than trying to time it by the number of days per cycle. A Fiddle Leaf Fig should only be watered after the first two inches of soil are fully dry.
This plant prefers bright light levels, but it can be scalded by too much direct light. Fertilize at least once every three months, taking a break over the winter, and plan to repot once a year if the plant is growing well. You can also consider propagating your Fiddle Leaf Fig once it’s reached a stage of maturity.
Avoid cold drafts and keep the plant above 65 degrees F at all times to prevent leaf drop. Fiddle Leaf Fig pests and diseases are relatively rare, but mites can attack and are particularly hard to notice.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Dropping Leaves FAQs:
Is some leaf drop normal for Fiddle Leaf Fig trees?
Mature plants will eventually lose some leaves from the bottom. However, natural Fiddle Leaf Fig leaf loss will not show signs of damage like discoloration or dark spots. Only a few leaves will be lost each season this way as well.
Will fallen FLF leaves grow back?
Once the cause of the leaf loss is correct, the plant should replace the lost leaves within a month or two. New buds will appear at the top of the plant, not down where the old leaves dropped off. Leaves are almost always lost from the bottom first. This can give the plant a top-heavy look. It’s something you can correct with careful pruning to encourage leafing towards the bottom of the stem.
How long do FLF plants take to reach maturity?
The Fiddle Leaf Fig resembles its mature form within 4 to 5 years of growth, but it takes up to 15 years to reach full height. Growth will continue until at least the 10-year point, at which the plant may begin to only focus on replacing lost leaves. It becomes more challenging for the plant to replace its leaves after reaching maturity, so it needs the best care to keep its leaves healthy and happy.
Growing a magnificent Fiddle Leaf Fig takes some focus and dedication. Yet your reward is one of the most beautiful houseplants available today. By focusing on providing the right amount of water, keeping light levels consistent, and avoiding hot or cold drafts, you can keep your plant’s leaves in place and prevent them from dropping off without warning.
For more, see our in-depth guide to the meaning and symbolism of fig trees.