Botanically known as Ficus lyrata, Fiddle Leaf Figs are one of the most recognizable houseplants around. Their characteristic fiddle-shaped leaves and tall stems are the ideal interior design statement. Unfortunately, like all houseplants, Fiddle Leaf Figs are susceptible to a few common bugs, pests, and diseases that require immediate attention to keep your plants in good health.
Dealing With Common Fiddle Leaf Fig Pests & Diseases – The Essentials
Fiddle Leaf Figs are susceptible to mealybug, aphid, spider mite, and scale infestations. Flying pests like whiteflies and fungus gnats are also common, as well as root rot and bacterial disease. There are many solutions, including horticultural oil and sticky traps, but prevention is the greatest weapon against these issues.
The Most Common Fiddle Leaf Fig Pests and Diseases
Common on houseplants in warm and humid environments, mealybugs are small white insects that leave traces of white powder all over your Fiddle Leaf foliage. They also lay eggs around the leaves and in areas where the branches meet the main stem.
These small insects feed on the sap in the leaves. The foliage becomes deformed and can begin to yellow, droop and die off if the infestation is severe. They tend to prefer new and vulnerable leaves, stunting the growth of the plant.
Horticultural oil or insecticidal soaps will suffocate the pests and remove the powdery substance they leave behind.
Rapidly spreading and hard to control, aphids are tough pests to face. While they are more common in outdoor gardens (particularly vegetable gardens), they can make their way indoors and to your Fiddle Leaf Fig.
Look around the branches and undersides of the leaves for pear-shaped green, white, or brown bugs. One small bug is difficult to spot, but they are usually found in large colonies, making them incredibly easy to identify.
Neem oil is most effective for aphid problems. This will suffocate the existing bugs and prevent any eggs from hatching and growing the colony.
Another soft-bodied pest, whiteflies, also feed on the plant sap of large Fiddle Leaf Fig leaves. Due to their small wings and ability to fly, they will generally jump off the plant if you shake it gently. However, they find the leaves irresistible, quickly settling back on the plant the minute you turn your back.
Whitefly infestations will stunt the growth of your plant. They also leave a substance known as honeydew behind, which attracts ants and encourages mold growth.
Draw them away from the leaves with a sticky trap to control the infestation.
Identified by the characteristic webs they leave behind, spider mites attack a wide range of houseplants, including Fiddle Leaf Figs. They may be hard to spot during the early stages of infestation, but a closer look at the points where leaves and branches meet the main stem should reveal the white webbing characteristic of these bugs.
Hiding away from sight, these spider family members feed on the cells of the plant. Affected leaves develop spots and may drop off the plant altogether if the problem is severe.
Horticultural oils will quickly rid the leaves of these pests and the webs. Be sure to check other nearby houseplants as spider mites can rapidly spread.
Camouflaged by the color of the branches, scale is tough to spot on Fiddle Leaf Figs. It is also one of the most damaging pests, feeding on plant tissue and impairing the transport systems that move water and nutrients around the plant.
If you don’t spot these small brown bugs on your plant, looking similar to leaf nodes, you will certainly notice the problems they cause. Scale-infested Fiddle Leaf Figs will drop their leaves and can grow mold thanks to the honeydew these bugs leave behind.
Causing irreparable damage, scale is also hard to get rid of. Frequent applications of insecticidal soaps are the best way to tackle the problem, but may not get rid of it altogether.
Annoying many houseplants and their owners, fungus gnats lay eggs in moist soil and hang around your houseplant leaves where the air is warm and humid.
They may not be the most damaging bugs on this list, but they are certainly the most frustrating, especially when they migrate from your plants to fly around your head.
These flying bugs are quickly drawn to sticky traps left in the soil of your Fiddle Leaf tree. Once they have laid eggs in the soil, repotting is the only certain way to stop the spread of these pests.
Experienced houseplant parents will be familiar with the dreaded root rot, a disease that can quickly kill your plant if not dealt with immediately. There are several kinds of fungus that can cause root rot, growing and spreading in consistently moist and warm soil.
Fiddle Leaf Figs with bad cases of root rot are unable to draw up water and nutrients, slowing growth. Without trimming the roots and repotting, the plant will ultimately die.
Bacterial Leaf Spot
Yellowing leaves and brown spots on the large fiddle-shaped leaves are tell-tale signs of a bacterial problem. These diseases are not common, luckily as they are very difficult to remove once they’ve taken hold.
Quick action is needed to prevent the spread of bacterial disease. Prune any affected fiddle leaf fig leaves immediately and keep an eye out for any new signs of problems. In severe cases, you may need to destroy the plant to avoid spreading it to your other houseplants.
Pesticide and Insecticide Options/Solutions
Horticultural Oil & Canola Oil
Oil-based substances are effective at suffocating houseplant pests, including those that plague Fiddle Leaf Figs. Neem oil is the most common option, but other vegetable-based oils like Canola oil are also used.
Applied as a spray directly to the leaves, they also prevent eggs from hatching but can burn the leaves if the plant is placed in direct sunlight.
Similar to oils in function, insecticidal soaps also suffocate houseplant pests. There are several recipes for homemade insecticidal soaps, but they can be purchased from nurseries or online. These soaps are ideal for removing the honeydew that aphids and scale leave behind, preventing mold growth.
Pesticides are a stronger solution for out-of-control infestations. They are typically recommended as a last resort due to their potential toxicity to humans and pets. However, if you don’t want to get rid of your tree altogether, careful use can help resolve the problem.
To tackle flying pests, try sticky traps. Covered in a sticky substance, these strips draw flying pests with a strong scent and trap them there. They can be an eye-sore but are well worth it for the benefits they provide.
How to Use Pesticides & Insecticides for Fiddle Leaf Figs
Pesticide application will depend on the product you are using. Most are diluted in water and placed in a misting bottle, sprayed directly onto the leaves. Once suffocated, the pests can be wiped off the leaves and discarded.
When applying, add your chosen pesticide to every leaf, carefully covering the top and underside. Even if you don’t see them, the small pests are easy to miss and can hide out in unexpected places. Wash your hands immediately after use and clean any tools you used for pruning at the same time.
Managing Pests & Diseases
To avoid dealing with severe pest and disease problems, practice prevention methods. Fiddle Leaf Figs come with their own pest and disease management systems that work best when the plant is healthy and thriving.
Keep up your watering routine, ensure the plants have enough light, and keep the temperature and humidity stable. Monitor your tree for signs of stress and resolve any problems as soon as possible. It’s also worth fertilizing your fiddle leaf figs in spring and summer to help boost growth and vitality.
Pests and diseases are most common in warm and humid environments with little airflow. If there is plenty of moisture around your plants, ensure enough space on all sides. This will prevent moisture build-up in cramped areas that can cause disease. It’s also prudent to remove any excess dust build-up on your fiddle leaf fig’s leaves each month.
Take extra care with propagated fiddle leaf figs, particularly during the early stages of their development.
For more, see our in-depth guide on the best positions for fiddle leaf figs to thrive in the home.
Pests and diseases are challenging for any houseplant owner to manage. As they can be complex plants to care for, it is particularly stressful for Fiddle Leaf Fig owners. However, with a few fixes and preventative measures, your trees can be carefully nursed back to health.
For more, see our in-depth guide to the meaning and symbolism of fig trees.
Madison is a writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She writes and photographs for various online and print publications in the gardening sphere and is the author of the book The Next-Generation Gardener.