Fiddle leaf figs are among the most popular of all the house plants, owing to their exotic looks and the fact that they are quite easy to take care of. But owners make some common mistakes, which may lead to these wonderful plants developing red spots on their leaves. However, what exactly causes these red spots, and what are the cures?
The leading cause of red spots on fiddle leaf figs is edema, also known as moisture stress, which is caused by overwatering. Parasitic insects such as spider mites/false spider mites can also cause red spots. Bacterial/fungal infections, under watering, and sunburns are some less common causes.
This article will explore the seven leading causes of red spots on fiddle leaf figs and their respective fixes. Towards the end, we will also discuss some tips on how to care for your fiddle leaf figs. Let’s get started!
Edema in Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Edema is by far the most common cause of red spots on fiddle leaf fig plants. Edema is a symptom of inappropriate watering of the plant.
Edema is also known as moisture stress. When a fiddle leaf fig plant is watered too much, the roots end up absorbing more water than the leaves are able to transpire. This leads to pressure building up in the leaves until their cells burst. These dead cells appear as the red spots in the leaves.
Edema is a common occurrence in fiddle leaf fig plants. In fact, when the plant is in its growing phase, it can actually be expected. This is because growing plants need more water than mature plants.
Owners should provide excess water during this phase, and some of this excess moisture can lead to dying cells and red spots. This process will eventually even out as the plant matures, and the frequency of watering is gradually decreased.
Fixing the Problem
So, if you notice red spots on fiddle leaves, note the plant’s growth cycle. You may need to increase the frequency of watering if you notice new sprouts in the plants. And when there are none, you need to decrease the amount of watering. For the most part, mild edema is acceptable unless it is leading to root rot.
This balance in watering is crucial as underwatering can have its own problems (we will discuss this later). It is important to mindfully increase and decrease the amount of water you give the fiddle leaf plant. As soon as you curb overwatering, the red spots will gradually disappear.
Spider Mites on Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Spider mites are another very common cause of red spots on fiddle leaf figs. Spider mites are tiny plant parasites that typically live on the underside of a plant’s leaves, where they form protective silk webs (hence the name) and also rupture the plant cells in order to feed on them. This leads to the death of the cells, which then turn into red or brown spots.
Spider mites are tiny creatures, less than a millimeter in size. And they come in a variety of colors that often help them adapt to their environment and make them difficult to detect. So careful inspection is necessary. Even if the mites themselves are well hidden, the characteristic webs are easy to detect. A magnifying glass can be helpful.
Fixing the Problem
Thankfully, spider mites are both easy to detect and to remove. If you typically find them on the underside of a fig leaf fig, you can easily remove them using a jet of water. This water also removes any eggs they might have laid, solving the problem permanently. The affected leaves will slowly improve and lose the red spots after this treatment. Their growth, however, can be permanently stunted.
False Spider Mites on Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Spider mites aren’t the only parasites that attack fiddle leaf figs. There are plenty of other parasites, and some of them even harder to detect than spider mites. False spider mites, for instance, don’t spin the silky webs that are characteristic of spider mites.
Like with spider mites, a careful inspection using a magnifying glass can be helpful. While under the magnifying glass, try to disturb the red spots and see if you notice movement. The movement is a sign of a mite. And if you find no webs around, it is probably a false spider mite.
Fixing the Problem
You can deal with false spider mites the same way you deal with spider mites. A steady jet of water should remove them permanently.
Bacterial Infection in the Fiddle Leaf Fig
While this isn’t as common a cause of the red spots in fiddle leaf fig plants as edema or the attack of pests like spider mites or false spider mites, bacterial infection can sometimes result in red or brown spots appearing on fig leaves.
A bacterial infection is incredibly rare in fiddle leaf fig plants, but it isn’t unheard of. If you have the watering regime in balance and don’t detect any parasites attacking your plant, you need to consider the possibility of a bacterial infection.
Fixing the Problem
To curb bacterial infections, you could try spraying your plant/leaves with protection. This Houseplant Resource Center Plant Leaf Armor Spray, for instance, not only keeps your leaves safe from bacteria, but it also helps keep the leaves shiny and clean.
There are also some other preventive measures you could try. The use of well-draining soil and keeping the plant away from other potential bacterial host plants can help prevent infections on your fiddle leaf fig plant.
If a leaf is already too infected, you can also try cutting the leaves off and repotting it in a different pot.
Fungal Infection/Root Rot on the Fiddle Leaf Fig
We talked about over watering and moisture stress when we discussed edema above. But overwatering can also lead to another more serious problem that could, in turn, cause irreversible red spots.
If you water your fiddle leaf fig plant excessively, the excess moisture in the roots can invite fungal infection. In turn, this leads to root rot, which can lead the leaves to develop red spots and eventually die.
A good drainage system is key. Without good soil drainage, the plant roots will always have more moisture than the plant needs.
If you suspect root rot, the first thing you need to do is to inspect the root. Carefully remove the plant from its pot and check the roots. If they are firm, there is no root rot. But if they’ve turned brown and mushy, then you know the culprit.
Fixing the Problem
To fix the problem, repot the plant and leave it to dry for a few weeks (do not water it during this period). This is the optimal solution if the leaves only have a few red spots in them. If the infection has spread well beyond a few spots, you might want to consider pruning the dead leaves off.
You will also have to cut off the root system’s brown mushy parts since these are the parts that have succumbed to the fungal infection. Then repot the plant and leave it to dry for a few weeks. Make sure the plant gets sufficient sunlight during this period.
Underwatering Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
We’ve talked plenty about overwatering effects, including moisture stress and fungal infections leading to root rot. Underwatering a fiddle leaf fig plant can also lead to red or brown dots forming in its leaves.
Most plant owners react to the edema by under watering their fiddle leaf fig plants. And in some cases, owners may actually forget to water their plants. The plant’s natural reaction to this is intuitive. If there is a lack of sufficient water in the soil’s root zone, the roots lose their natural ability to absorb minerals from the soil. This can lead to the browning and eventual death of the leaves.
Fixing the Problem
The seasonal changes in the requirements of the fiddle leaf fig plant also need to be considered. During the warmer seasons (spring and summer), the fiddle leaf fig plant needs more water than in the dryer seasons (fall and winter). So make sure to set your watering regime accordingly.
And of course, we have already discussed how growing fiddle leaf fig plants need to be watered more on average compared to a mature plant.
Sunburnt Fiddle Leaf Fig
While sunburn isn’t the leading cause of red spots appearing on fiddle leaf fig plants, they aren’t unheard of. Fiddle leaf fig plants typically need to be kept in bright environments. But they absolutely hate direct sunlight. If you place your plant in direct sunlight for long enough, you will start to notice weird bleachy spots (white, red, or brown) appear on the plants’ leaves.
Fixing the Problem
To fix the problems caused by a sunburn, the first thing to do is to prune off the affected leaves. Unfortunately, those are already beyond saving. Following this is the most crucial step: relocate the plant! Find an adequately bright place but has no direct source of light and put your plant there. Pretty soon, it will start to thrive once again.
Telling the Difference Between an Overwatered and Underwatered Fiddle Leaf Fig
One thing that’s probably clear to the reader at this point is that erratic watering habits are the leading cause of red spots on fiddle leaf figs. Both overwatering and under watering can bear these consequences.
But the preventive measures and fixes are drastically different (and even contradictory) for these two scenarios. So looking at the symptoms, how can one tell the difference between an over watered and an under-watered fiddle-leaf fig?
Symptoms of an Overwatered Fiddle Leaf Fig
- Red spots appear around the center of the leaf as opposed to the edges.
- The bottom leaves typically get these red/brown spots before the other leaves. In an under-watered plant, the whole plant gets affected at once.
- The bottom leaves will first start to drop and turn yellow before any of the other leaves in the plant.
- Perhaps the most drastic of all the symptoms is when you could actually inspect the root for rots. If the root has turned brown and mushy, then that is a clear sign of overwatering.
Symptoms of an Underwatered Fiddle Leaf Fig
- Red spots typically appear around the edges of a fiddle leaf’s leaves as opposed to the center.
- Red/brown spots start appearing all over the plant, which affect every leaf from the top to the bottom. This doesn’t happen with overwatered plants, where only the bottom leaves are affected first.
- You may also start to notice some leaves anywhere in the plant turning droopy and yellow. With an overwatered fiddle leaf fig, the bottom leaf gets affected first.
Routine Maintenance Tips for Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
We’ve discussed all the possible causes of red spots on fiddle leaf figs and their fixes. But there are a few routine maintenance tips that you could follow to avoid this problem altogether.
Regulate the amount and temperature of water you give your Fiddle Leaf Fig
A growing fiddle leaf fig plant needs to be watered regularly. You may start to notice some red spots during this phase, but these will usually pass as the growing plant needs more water than usual.
Once mature, a good rule of thumb is to wait until 2-3 inches of the topsoil is dry before you water it again. This usually amounts to watering the plant once every week during the warmer seasons. This is, of course, assuming that the pot and the soil in it have good drainage.
Also, make sure you always water the plant with water that is at room temperature. Water that is too hot or too cold could easily trigger a shock in the plant, which could lead to unwanted complications.
Put your Fiddle Leaf Fig in a place that is bright but doesn’t expose it to direct sunlight
Fiddle leaf fig plants need a good amount of light like any other plant. But they cannot handle intense direct light. It is recommended that you put the plant in a place where it will get bright but indirect light.
The best way to ensure that your fiddle leaf fig gets the right amount of light is to place it against a window that gets good morning or evening light. Afternoon sunlight is usually too intense for the plant to handle and could lead to sunburns.
Another factor to consider when exposing your plant to light is its size. Smaller fiddle leaf figs need less light than mature plants. So you can just place it in a bright room with indirect sunlight. And as the plant matures, place it by a window where it gets morning or evening sunlight.
Make changes in the watering and lighting patterns for your Fiddle Leaf Fig based on seasonal changes
Seasonal changes need to be accounted for in both of the previous two factors. During the colder (and dryer) seasons, a fiddle leaf fig tree needs to be watered less than usual. If you continue to water it in the same frequency as you would in the warmer months, the excess water can lead to root rot or moisture stress. Both of these problems can, in turn, trigger red spots.
Also, during the colder months, you need to place the plant at least 2-4 feet away from the window as direct exposure to cold air could affect the plant’s health.
Your best bet will be to place the plant by a east/west facing window during the warmer months. Then come winter, move it to the brightest room in your house, keeping it at a healthy distance from the window.
Regularly clean the leaves of your Fiddle Leaf Fig and prune the top to maintain the height
In terms of maintenance, fiddle leaf fig plants have a few basic requirements. It is generally recommended that you regularly clean the leaves (preferably with a spray that can also double as bacterial/fungal protection).
Another thing you need to be mindful of is the height of the plant. If left unchecked, a fiddle leaf fig plant soon turns into a fiddle leaf fig tree that can grow to be taller than your room. To avoid this, occasionally prune the topmost point of growth of your plant. This will encourage the plant to branch off instead of growing upwards. This is a healthy way to keep the height of your plant in check.
Fiddle leaf figs make wonderful house plants. But sometimes they will succumb to red spots which typically appear because of over or under-watering. Understanding the changing ‘water needs’ of the plant and setting a proper watering regime can help deal with this problem.
Other causes include parasitic insects like spider mites, which can be dealt with by a jet of water, bacterial/fungal infection, which can be dealt with by maintaining proper soil drainage. It is also keeping other host plants away and sunburns which can be dealt with by relocating the plant to a place where it gets adequate but indirect light.