Fiddle Leaf Figs have a reputation for being fussy. Evidence for this is clear in the many causes of yellowing leaves in Fiddle Leaf Figs, and the frequency with which they occur. But yellowing leaves don’t have to be a big mystery. Take a look at these common causes, identify which is the most likely based on your conditions and care, and apply the relevant fix to get your plant back to good health.
Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves Turning Yellow – The Essentials
Yellow leaves are common in Fiddle Leaf Figs, caused by a number of issues, including incorrect watering, nutrient issues, inadequate drainage, incorrect pot size, poor sunlight levels, or pests and diseases. Age can also cause leaves to yellow and fall of the plant, as well as sudden changes in the environment.
13 Common Reasons Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves Are Turning Yellow
Here you’ll find the most common reasons for Fiddle Leaf Fig leaves turning yellow and the best tips to follow to ensure your plant remains in tip-top shape.
1) Lack of Water
Fiddle Leaf Figs rely on water for photosynthesis, to keep the leaves upright, to keep the plant cool, and to deliver nutrients where they are needed. In short, water is vital to plant health.
Without adequate moisture, the leaves on your fiddle leaf fig will begin to droop. This is because the cells of the plant lack moisture, unable to keep the upright shape. If the lack of moisture continues, the leaves will begin to yellow and drop off the plant.
If you notice the leaves starting to fall over, water your plant immediately. At that point it is likely already too late, so adjust your watering schedule and test the soil more frequently. Be aware of changes in environmental conditions that can alter the soil’s moisture content day to day.
Too much moisture is also not a good thing. While most plants are water lovers, excessive moisture in the soil creates the wrong conditions for good root health. The moisture begins to rot the roots, and the waterlogging prevents any oxygen from reaching them too.
When your Fiddle Leaf has root rot, the roots stop taking up water and nutrients. The leaves start to droop and turn yellow. These signs are similar to underwatering, with the only difference being the saturation of the soil.
Severe cases of root rot require immediate repotting to save the plant. Remove all the old soil, prune the affected roots and repot into brand new soil to avoid spreading the fungus to the healthy new root growth.
Avoid overwatering completely by testing the soil before you water. If the top layer is still moist, hold off and test again in another day or two.
3) Lack of Nutrients
Fiddle Leaf Figs are quick growers, adding a maximum of two feet to their height each year. This rapid growth requires fuel, one part of which is nutrients. A range of nutrients are needed in different amounts to keep the plant healthy, the most important of which are the macronutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Any nutrient deficiency, whether it be in macronutrients or secondary nutrients, will stunt plant growth. It will also cause the leaves to yellow, particularly if nitrogen is the problem.
Since Fiddle Leaf Figs need frequent repotting, nutrient deficiency is unlikely. However, if you’ve kept your plant in the same pot for a few years without fertilizing, it is possible.
Fertilize your tree with a 3-1-2 fertilizer through spring and summer and top up the soil often, even if the tree is full-sized. Soil degrades over time and does not hold onto nutrients any longer, requiring repotting to get the plant back to good health.
Some newbie houseplant owners may think that since fertilizer is said to improve growth, adding more fertilizer will only make the tree grow faster or better. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Overfertilization results in a build-up of salts in the soil. This excess burns the roots and leaves and can turn them yellow.
Never apply more fertilizer than is recommended on the bottle. If you are repotting every year into high-quality soil, fertilizer may not even be necessary. It’s far better to add too little fertilizer than too much.
5) Poor Drainage
Drainage is a non-negotiable in any container plant. Without drainage holes, the water collects around the roots, stagnating and causing root rot. These conditions will quickly cause the leaves to turn yellow, as in overwatering.
Drainage is also an important property of the chosen soil mix. Soils with closely packed particles do not drain well and hold onto too much moisture, especially indoors where evaporation levels are lower.
Choose a well-draining soil mix amended with perlite to increase the spaces between particles. Ensure your chosen container has even drainage holes along the bottom, or drill holes if you are making your own container. Rocks at the bottom are not a replacement for drainage holes and cause the water to stagnate, attracting bacteria.
6) Root Bound
Outdoors, the roots of these 40-foot-tall trees reach all the way along the canopy, so it’s no surprise they are known to outgrow pots quickly. Even in large pots, you will soon find roots growing through the drainage holes or out the top of the pot. In extreme cases, the thick roots can even crack plastic pots.
When the roots have no more space to expand, growth becomes stunted. The roots wrap around each other, becoming tangled and making it difficult to take up water or nutrients. This causes the leaves to turn yellow and drop off the plant.
As soon as you notice roots circling around the bottom of the pot and peeking through the drainage holes, it’s time to repot. This is usually required once per year in young plants and once every two or three years in older plants.
7) Root Rot
Root rot is caused by various types of fungus that grow in moist and warm environments. If this fungus resides in your soil, whether brought in from the nursery or transferred from a repotting, it can eat away at the roots and cause them to die off.
As mentioned, root rot is detrimental to plant health. If the roots stop functioning correctly, the leaves will start to drop or turn yellow, typically beginning with the oldest leaves first.
The only way to completely resolve root rot is to repot and change the soil completely. Trim off any damaged roots back to the healthy growth. If you want to reuse the same pot, make sure you clean it thoroughly with soap and water first to remove any fungi that may remain on the pot.
8) Inappropriate Temperature & Humidity
Native to western Africa, Fiddle Leaf Figs love the heat. They are also accustomed to high humidity levels in their rainforest habitats, fluctuating between 70% and 90% throughout the year.
If temperatures reach too far beyond the ideal range of 60F and 75F, the plant will stop growing. They can face cold damage or heat stress after prolonged periods that cause the leaves to turn yellow. They may change to brown or black in severe cases and fall off the plant.
Low humidity also causes the leaves to dry out due to a lack of moisture. They may start to change color to a pale yellow, but will typically start browning at the tips first.
Keep temperatures and humidity high, but most importantly, consistent throughout the year, to prevent this problem. A combined temperature and humidity meter placed near your Fiddle Leaf Fig will help you keep an eye on the conditions between the seasons.
For more, see our in-depth guide on the best positions for fiddle leaf figs to thrive in the home.
9) Cold Drafts
Most houseplant owners will know adequate airflow is essential in preventing pests and diseases from attacking your plants. But airflow and being in the path of a strong draft are two different things.
While a light breeze flowing through the leaves is essential, strong drafts (and particularly cold ones) dry out the soil and damage the leaves. The rapid changes in temperature as a result of these drafts cause stress, turning the leaves yellow. Leaf drop due to cold drafts is also common.
Keep your trees out of the path of any drafts traveling through your home and far away from any air conditioners. If you notice leaves starting to yellow due to this issue, move the plant to a warmer spot immediately to recover.
10) Poor Light Conditions
Fiddle Leaf Figs are unique houseplants in that they can handle some direct sunlight if they are slowly introduced to it. But their minimum requirements are bright indirect light for the entire day.
Moderate to low light environments are not suitable for these fast-growing trees. Under these conditions, the plant will likely stop growing, developing yellowing leaves over time from the base of the plant. No new leaves will develop, and older ones may start to fall off the plant.
Keep your Fiddle Leaf in front of a south-facing window covered by a sheer curtain to prevent this problem. Some direct morning sun is also suitable. Watch the color of the leaves and draw the curtains if the leaves begin to burn or the plant gets too hot.
It’s also prudent to remove any excess dust build-up on your fiddle leaf fig’s leaves each month.
Aging is a natural part of life, even for houseplants. Fiddle Leaf Figs cannot hold onto all their leaves forever. Older leaves, especially those toward the bottom of the plant, may occasionally turn yellow, then brown, and fall off the plant as part of its natural lifecycle.
One or two old leaves dropping off is no cause for concern. If newer leaves start yellowing, or if more than a few turn yellow at the same time, you likely have a different problem on your hands.
12) Pests & Diseases
Fiddle Leaf Figs are not immune to pest and disease damage. In fact, there are quite a few pests and diseases that can plague these vulnerable plants. Pest damage is more common and can quickly result in yellowing leaves.
Most pests hang on to the foliage or stems of these trees and feed on the plant sap or tissues. This damages the cells and transport systems of the plant, causing those areas to die off. Yellow spots will start to develop, spreading across the entire leaf as the problem worsens.
Always keep an eye out for signs of pests and diseases to tackle the problem as soon as possible. The earlier it is spotted, the easier the pest will be to remove.
13) Changes In Conditions
Most houseplants do not like dramatic changes in their care or conditions. However, the Fiddle Leaf Fig in particular is incredibly sensitive to change. They do not like fluctuations in environment or changes in care and will start to display signs of stress the second conditions are prolonged.
One of those signs of stress is yellowing leaves. Leaf drop is also common, especially in leaves that have already turned completely yellow.
Try to keep conditions as consistent as possible throughout the year, especially if you live in a region with vast differences between seasons.
Can Yellow Leaves Turn Green Again?
From experience, unless the yellowing was caused by a nutrient deficiency, yellow leaves are unlikely to turn green again on your fiddle leaf fig.
Should I Remove Yellow Leaves?
Most yellow leaves will fall off the plant on their own, but you can remove them with a clean pair of shears to make the plant more aesthetically pleasing.
Prevention & Care for Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Yellowing leaves are easy to prevent when the plant is given the right care. Ensure these conditions are met to keep your plant healthy and able to deal with issues on its own:
- Bright indirect light with some direct morning sun
- Well-draining, airy soil
- Frequent repotting
- High temperature and humidity
- Regular watering
There are many reasons your Fiddle Leaf Fig leaves can turn yellow, and the issue is quite common. Luckily, there are also many easy fixes to resolve the problem. But, the best defense is prevention by giving your tree the right care and environmental conditions to thrive.
For more, see our in-depth guide to the meaning and symbolism of fig trees.