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Get your fiddle-leaf fig leaves back to beautiful green: Treating brown spots

Fiddle-leaf figs are beautiful little trees that make excellent houseplants. They are easy to care for in the right conditions, and they are a great way to bring a little nature into your home. Although they can grow to roughly 50 feet tall outdoors, they stay a fairly manageable 6 to 10 feet when grown in containers.

You may occasionally notice brown spots on fiddle -eaf fig leaves, which can be concerning, especially for new gardeners. Several things can cause these fiddle-leaf fig brown spots, but there are easy ways to tell what is causing the spots. Once you know what the cause is, you’ll be able to treat it accordingly.

Root rot

Fiddle-leaf figs need well-draining soil, as they are prone to root rot. Root rot is a fungal infection that causes the roots of a plant to turn brown and rot, leading to a weak plant. The fungus that causes root rot thrives in wet soil. Brown leaf spots caused by root rot will be dark brown or black. Typically, they start at the base or edges of the leaves and spread inward. The leaves will also fall off of the plant. The spots are first visible on the lower leaves, then spread upward.

Check that the pot you planted your fiddle-leaf fig in has proper drainage holes. Make sure they are clear and not blocked by any debris. If the drainage holes are clear, then the issue may be overwatering or your fiddle-leaf fig may be planted in the wrong type of soil. If your plant only has a few small spots, it may be suffering from overwatering but not yet have developed root rot. To check, gently remove your plant from the pot. Roots that are brown, soft, or slimy have root rot.

The easiest way to treat root rot is repotting. Remove as much soil as possible from the roots and trim away any rotting roots. Then repot it in clean, dry soil. You can remove any leaves with heavy spotting, as the existing spots will not go away.

Fiddle leaf fig leaves with dark brown spots caused by root rot


Some gardeners may overcorrect when trying to fix an overwatering issue, leading to an underwatered fiddle-leaf fig. Although they need well-draining soil and can develop root rot, it’s still important they receive a thorough soaking once a week to every two weeks. If the top few inches of the soil are dry, it’s time to water your fiddle-leaf fig.

Brown spots caused by underwatering are a lighter brown than those caused by root rot. They often appear dry and may crinkle or crumble when touched or bent. These spots usually start at the outer edges and spread inward. The leaves may also wilt, especially if it’s hot.

The solution is to water your fiddle-leaf fig. Although this won’t repair the spots that have already formed, it will stop them from spreading. Leaves that only have a few spots may survive, while you should remove those severely affected.

Close-up of a fiddle leaf fig leaf with brown, dry spots from being underwatered

Sun damage

Brown spots from sun damage, also called sunburn, sun scorch, or leaf scorch, can look quite a bit like brown spots from underwatering. They are light brown, although they may not be as dry and crumbly as spots from underwatering. Some sunburns can look white or have red or yellow tints to them. Sunburns usually occur on the tops of leaves and can encompass large, irregularly shaped sections of the leaf.

Too much direct sunlight can cause sun damage. This issue is more common in the summer or it can happen if fiddle-leaf figs are near a reflective surface that may be amplifying the sunlight. Once a leaf has been burned, it won’t return to its previous green color.

If the brown spots on the fiddle-leaf fig are minimal, the leaf likely won’t die, although it will remain burned. It’s best to remove severely burned leaves from the plant entirely. Move the fiddle-leaf fig out of the sunlight or away from the reflective surface to avoid future burns.

A leaf with sun burns on the edges


Edema is easy to recognize, as it looks quite different from other brown spots. Edema is characterized by small reddish-brown spots across the entire leaf. It’s especially common in young leaves, but can persist once the leaf matures. The spots occur when plant cells absorb too much water and pop. Although this sounds serious, it’s usually harmless and the spots will go away as the leaf matures.

Edema may be a sign that your fiddle-leaf fig is slightly overwatered or your watering schedule is too irregular. If it only occurs in a few young leaves, then you can ignore it. If adult leaves are showing signs of edema, then you may need to change your watering schedule.

Using this handy guide to identify the cause of your fiddle-leaf fig’s brown spots, you can determine what you need to do to help your plant recover. Identifying brown spots early can be the key to averting disaster, especially if root rot is causing the spots. However, not every brown spot is something to worry about. Identifying the cause of the spots is important and then hopefully that task is now somewhat easier.

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