The Fiddle Leaf Fig tree is a tropical plant native to the rain forests of western and central Africa. It is a gorgeous plant that sports large green leaves and is a favorite among the ardent following of houseplant fans. Despite its popularity, fiddle leaf figs are not the easiest houseplant to maintain and may suffer from stunted growth if not taken care of properly.
Some of the most common causes for your Fiddle Leaf Fig to not grow are irregular watering, poor drainage, improper lighting, lack of humidity, and pest infestations. These factors must be optimally controlled to ensure healthy growth in the plant.
Although there are several reasons why the fiddle leaf figs may not be growing, most of them are relatively easy to fix. The first step in treating a disease is in understanding the cause of the disease, and the same reasoning applies here as well. Read the rest of this article to understand the reasons why your fiddle leaf fig is not growing.
Lack of a Regulated Watering Schedule
Plants need water to grow. It helps them in carrying out their metabolic functions, no difference with the fiddle leaf fig. A dry fiddle leaf fig will not have the resources to grow. You can let the soil dry out a bit between watering.
An ideal way to know when the fiddle leaf fig needs watering is when the top couple of inches in the pot is mostly dry. The Dr. Meter S10 Soil Moisture Sensor Meter has a sensor probe that ensures accurate and instant testing results.
Too much moisture in the soil is also not good for the plant as it leads to root rot. Having a moisture meter helps detect this. Another way to know that the plant is overwatered is by looking at its leaves. If the leaves soften and get dark brown spots from the inside of the leaf, it may be getting too much water. Knowing this will help contain the damage in the plant.
You can space out your watering schedule from once a week to 10 days. When you do water, it is important to give the plant a generous drink until any excess drains out the pot’s bottom. When the leaves curl or develop crisp brown edges, or when the soil seems to have receded from the pot, it may be because the plant is not getting enough water or the air is too dry.
It is better to have an under-watered fiddle leaf fig than an overwatered one, as root rot and poorly draining soil are often harder to fix.
Fungal Infection Due to Root Rot
Sometimes fiddle leaf figs develop brown spots due to fungal infection from the roots sitting in too much moisture. Overwatering and poor drainage often lead to root rot. If not controlled in time, the decay then spreads to the leaves of the plant stunting its growth and eventually killing it.
If there are only a few brown spots on the leaves, then let the plant dry out for a couple of weeks so that the roots have adequate time to recover from the excess moisture in the soil. However, if these brown spots have spread to more than just a few spots, then it will be good to check the roots for rot.
The best way to ascertain that the fiddle leaf fig has root rot is by actually removing the pot and inspecting the roots. If the roots are brown or black and are mushy, then it is a sure sign of root rot. Immediately stop watering and place the plant in a dry area with adequate light so that the soil dries up. However, if the root rot is too much, it is better to prune out the affected roots and repot it.
Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Is Not Being Fertilized Frequently
Fiddle leaf figs need a lot of fertilizer to grow. The health of the plant and the large leaves is dependent on how often it is being treated with fertilizer. Even though plants get their energy from the sunlight, they also need certain other nutrients to thrive. The soil provides this nourishment.
Most potting soils are enriched with nutrients, but the nutrients deplete over time as the plant uses them. The soil in which a fiddle leaf fig is planted needs to be supplemented with fertilizer. Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree Plant Food is a liquid fertilizer that you can mix with water in a watering can and feed it to the plant every one to two weeks.
Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Needs Repotting
Another common reason for stunted growth in fiddle leaf figs is that they may be outgrowing their pot. When a plant starts getting rootbound, the roots will wrap around itself tightly and stop branching out or absorbing the water or nutrients necessary to support growth.
An easy way to know whether a plant is rootbound or not is by checking for any roots that may be popping out the top of the soil or coming out the bottom of the pot.
When your fiddle leaf fig seems too big for the pot, it may be time to move it to a larger pot. This will give the plant more room to grow and get taller. It is also good to fully repot the plant by removing as much soil from the roots as you can and planting it in fresh new soil. This will give the plant fresh nutrients to grow in rather than reuse the old soil, which has now lost its nutrients.
Most fiddle leaf figs need to be repotted every two to three years. Repotting sounds intimidating, especially with delicate plants like the fiddle leaf figs, but it doesn’t have to be.
This video tells you everything you need to know about repotting your fiddle leaf fig:
Improper Light for Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Fiddle leaf figs can be very sensitive to their environments. They can be affected by the lighting also. If you are keeping it indoors, the plant will do well in front of a window where it can get a lot of sunlight. However, it is important to be gentle with the plant and not move it drastically from one area to another with stark differences in terms of air quality and light intensity.
Keep the plant in a place where it receives indirect light, and then gradually move it to direct sunlight. This will help the plant avoid any trauma, and eventually help it thrive. Fiddle leaf figs need to store up a decent amount of energy through photosynthesis in order to grow consistently large and healthy leaves, and having sufficient light is vital for photosynthesis.
Poor Quality Potting Soil for Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Fiddle leaf figs grow best in soil that is nutrient-rich, has good drainage, and is slightly moist. Well-draining soil is necessary so as not to keep the roots damp. Damp roots lead to root rot over time. Nutrient-rich soil is necessary as the fiddle leaf figs need all the nutrients to grow its unique and large leaves. It is also necessary for the plant’s overall health.
The fiddle leaf fig likes its soil slightly moist with a brief drying-out period between the watering sessions. Whenever the top 2 inches (5.08 cm) of the soil dries, it is an indicator that it needs watering. Allowing the soil to dry more than a few inches is likely to lead to leaf loss. Conversely, too much moisture in the soil may lead to root rot, causing the plant to die over time.
The Leaves of Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Are Unable to Breathe
Plants absorb light through their leaves. They also breathe in carbon dioxide from their leaves. Often the accumulation of dust and dirt on the leaves stops the plant from efficiently carrying out its photosynthesis process.
It is ideal to gently wipe the leaves with room temperature water every three to four months. You can also shower the plant thoroughly once every six months to keep it clean. This helps avoid pests from infesting the plant and ensures that the leaves are able to absorb and process sunlight more efficiently.
In this video, you can see some of the best ways to clean your fiddle leaf fig leaves:
Seasons Affect the Growth of Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Fiddle leaf figs appear to have a slowdown in growth during the autumn and winter months. This is because the fig is conserving energy to make it through the winter months. It is during spring and summer that the plant tends to grow the most as it gets added energy from the longer daylight time during these seasons.
It is recommended that any activity such as pruning or repotting that you plan to do to the fiddle leaf fig, should be done at the beginning of a new season of growth such as spring and summer. These plants are very sensitive to change, and they need extra reserves of energy, that they get during spring and summer, to cope with any activity that introduces a huge change in their environments.
Fiddle Leaf Figs Are Sensitive to Temperature
Temperatures between 60 – 75°F (15 – 24°C) are suitable for your fiddle leaf figs. However, they do not do very well in temperatures lower than 55°F (12°C). Using a humidifier or misting the leaves with tepid water helps the plants retain some warmth during harsh winters.
Bacterial Infection of Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
If the leaves of the fiddle leaf figs begin to yellow or develop brown spots, the plant could be suffering from bacterial infection. These symptoms may sometimes be confused with that of root rot. With root rot, the leaves tend to remain dark green but have brown spots, whereas, with a bacterial leaf spot, the leaf turns yellow as the brown spot spreads.
Bacterial infection feeds on new growth. If the newer leaves in your plant are yellowing faster, it is likely due to bacterial infection. Both root rot and bacterial leaf spot will cause the leaves of the plant to fall off eventually.
Pest Infestation of Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Spider mite, scale, and other pests may sometimes infect the plant, though it is rare with fiddle leaf figs. But any sort of pest infestation may slow the growth of the plant. A quick and easy way to spot these infestations is by looking for small spots on the leaves that turn to holes.
Luckily it is easy to treat these infestations by using neem oil products or making a solution of one tablespoon of baking soda and one teaspoon of mineral oil in a small spray container filled with water and spraying it in the affected areas. It is also helpful to keep infected plants away from the other houseplants to slow the spread.
Low Humidity is a Problem for Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
These plants are used to hot and moderately humid climates. The ideal humidity for a fiddle leaf fig is between 30 – 65%. The humidity in an average household is usually sufficient for these plants. Still, if you live in an arid climate, you can increase the humidity by misting the plant or placing a humidity tray.
Leaves that are brown on the edges and dry indicate low humidity. When the humidity levels are too low, it can cause the air to be dry, causing the leaves’ brown edges. This also impacts the growth of new shoots from the plant.
Fiddle Leaf Figs Are Prone to Sunburn
If the leaves on the fiddle leaf fig are turning pale or yellow and then developing brown spots in areas where direct sunlight touches them, then it is a sign of sunburn. Change the position of the plant by moving it slightly away from direct sunlight. Direct sunlight is often the cause behind creating the light brown spots that may cause the leaves to look bleached.
These spots will predominantly be on the top leaves and sometimes can show some red/yellow coloring. If this happens, it is advisable to get rid of the sunburned leaves and place the plant that offers shade from the sun’s direct rays.
Fiddle Leaf Figs Grow Bigger in Bigger Pots
Roots of the fiddle leaf figs tend to sprawl. A pot size that is big enough to accommodate this will also lead to the better overall health of the plant, and the plant will tend to grow bigger.
However, in a small size pot, this is not the case as the roots do not get enough space to stretch and flourish. It is ideal to graduate the fiddle leaf fig to incrementally larger pots over its lifetime.
Lack of a Proper Drainage System
When potting your fiddle leaf fig, make sure that the pot has a good drainage system. This will help the soil to dry up between watering sessions and prevent wet feet. The planter pot should have sufficient drainage holes to let the water out. Additionally, you need to add gravel and pebbles at the bottom of the pot in order to prevent the soil from clogging up the drainage holes.
Pruning Helps Restore the Health of of Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Leaves that have developed spots or are in varying stages of wilting and falling need to be pruned away using pruning shears. Start by pruning back any damaged leaves. This will help your plant to send out more nutrients to its healthy leaves, making them stronger.
Also, remove any crossing branches that take up the breathing space of the fiddle leaf fig. These plants require breathing room for healthy growth, and crisscrossing branches will only crowd and take away their ability to breathe.
To properly prune the fiddle leaf fig tree, make the cuttings an inch away from the tree’s trunk. This is done to avoid inflicting any damage to the main trunk. If you prune improperly, it may also lead to stunted growth in the plant. On the other hand, a well-pruned plant will sprout more branches from where the cuttings were made.
Fiddle Leaf Figs Are Sensitive to Stress
These plants can be stressed quite easily. This often leads them to shed their leaves or develop warped and curly leaves. Oftentimes, when a fiddle leaf fig is repotted or moved to a new spot, it suffers a bit of trauma in their roots due to the repotting. But if you wait till new growth appears, the plant would have healed from the trauma by then, and the new leaves should return to their original healthy state.
This article contains the general symptoms for stunted growth and a few remedial measures that can be taken to reverse this. However, it is important to remember that each plant is a unique living being, and their needs may vary depending on the climate, the quality of air and water, and many other factors. Pay attention to these little details as they will have a huge impact on the growth of your fiddle leaf fig.