Why Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Stinks: Causes and Cure

Fiddle leaf figs are great for brightening up your living room, at least until they start to give off some bizarre smell. What’s the source of this smell and can it be stopped?

Fiddle leaf figs can develop an odor for several reasons, some of which include root rot, pet urine, or neem oil. They can also be plagued by other problems, such as dehydration or bacterial infections. The cause of the smell must be positively identified before it can be remedied.

If your Fiddle Leaf Fig is smelling off, you undoubtedly want to get that fixed as soon as possible. Here are some causes for the bad smell and their cures!

Smelly Fiddle Leaf Figs: Identifying the Cause

As mentioned above, there is more than one reason that your fiddle leaf might smell bad. One of these reasons is pet urine. If your cat has been using the Fiddle Leaf Fig pot as a litterbox, it is not going to smell nice. If you catch your furry friend in the act, you should start discouraging that behavior as soon as possible. You can do this by changing the placement of the plant.

You should put it up on a plant stand or table somewhere in your house that will be difficult for the animal to reach. You can also try things like putting forks in the soil, prongs up. This will make the soil uncomfortable for your cat to walk on, much less use as a bathroom.

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If that’s not the problem, you might want to rethink using neem oil on your fiddle leaf. Neem oil is a strong oil that is often used as a spray to keep unwanted insects away from plants. It can leave a fairly unpleasant smell behind if used frequently.

Another potential and probably most likely reason for your fiddle leaf’s stench is root rot. Root rot is a bacterial infection in the roots and is usually caused by an excess of watering and poor drainage in the soil. If your plant’s roots are just sitting in water all day, it becomes a perfect place for bacteria and fungus to grow.

Some telltale signs might include constantly wet soil, excessive watering, or, of course, a musty smell. Consider cutting back on your watering to see if that helps solve the problem.

Getting Rid of the Stench

Now you know what might be causing the problem. Next, you will obviously want to know how to solve that problem. Here are a couple of tips. If your cat does turn out to be the perpetrator, there are a couple of things you can do. As mentioned above, you should move the plant or put forks/crumpled tin foil in the soil to dissuade the cat from coming back.

Unfortunately, if the plant has been sprayed with urine enough times, simply keeping the cat from coming back might not be enough. If the forks and/or tin foil didn’t work, you can try putting sticky, double-sided tape over the top of the pot. This will prevent the cat from digging in the soil and force it to look elsewhere for a bathroom. Keep in mind, though, you will still need to water the fig, so this may not be the most convenient solution.

If the smell persists, consider investing in an all-natural plant spray that will help to deodorize your fiddle leaf and keep it smelling nice. If neem oil is your problem, the only thing you can really do is stop using it. There are alternatives to neem oil for keeping undesirables out of your figs. Using something like leaf armor spray will most assuredly protect your plant from any potential pests.

If root rot is your issue, the solution is definitely a bit more labor-intensive. If you are certain that root rot is the culprit, the first thing you will need to do is equip yourself with scissors or shears, soap, and water. Remove the plant from the pot and begin inspecting it for root rot. Break the soil away from the root ball so you can have a clear shot. Rinse the roots with water as thoroughly and gently as possible.

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Once you have rinsed the roots, start carefully trimming the rotten spots away. You will probably need to trim/prune some foliage as well. Trimming too much of it will force the root system to work harder. Trimming it down a little will give the root system time to grow back and get stronger (you will need to trim as much foliage as roots).

Once you are certain that all the rotted areas are gone, toss the old soil. Give the pot or planter a thorough scrub with bleach and water. This will get rid of any remaining fungus or bacteria and hopefully prevent it from coming back. If you want to take extra measures, you can even dip your fig’s roots in a fungicide solution. Doing so can provide the roots with added strength to fight off any future root rot.

Once you have cleaned everything, you are ready to repot in clean, new soil. Keep your watering carefully monitored and make sure there is space for the water to drain out.

Keeping Your Fiddle Leaf Fig Healthy

Hopefully, you have now been able to banish the nasty rotten smells and your fiddle leaf fig is smelling normal and clean again. So, now what? If you are anxious to avoid problems for your fig in the future, you should do everything you can to care for it and keep it healthy. Here are a few ways to do that:

Keep in mind that fiddle leaf figs love the sun. If possible, position your fig in front of an east-facing window so it can take in plenty of sunlight during the day. Rotate it every few months so that all the leaves get a healthy dose of sunlight. It might also be a good idea to give the leaves a quick wipe down every once in a while to prevent dust from settling.

Make sure the top inch of soil is all the way dry before you go in to water it again. As mentioned above, excess water can sit and cause the roots to rot. Make sure you’re using lukewarm or room temperature water. If the water is too cold, it will send your plant into shock.

Check regularly to make sure the plant is draining properly. Again, figs need to be warm, so keep them in a room with a fairly nice temperature (65-75˚F). As long as you spray for pests regularly and keep it away from pets, and your fiddle leaf fig should live a long and healthy life!

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