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Fiddle leaf figs are renowned for their beautiful, glossy, green leaves. That’s why if you suddenly notice dark spots or discoloration one day, you’d be right to be concerned. And while there are several problems that can give rise to this, one of these is that your fiddle leaf fig may have a bacterial infection. 

Fortunately, you don’t need to worry too much since the problem is often controllable, especially when detected early. This means that if you follow the steps outlined below, you can easily treat and prevent this.

fiddle leaf fig with a bacterial infection

How can you tell if a fiddle leaf fig has a bacterial infection?

Signs that your fiddle leaf fig has a bacterial infection include yellow or brown spots on the leaves, cracked or strangely shaped leaves or your plant dropping its leaves. Given that these plants are known for having large, glossy leaves, it quickly becomes apparent when there’s a problem, especially if you’re suddenly left with a fiddle leaf fig with no leaves.

You can see more about each of these signs below.

Yellow or brown spots on leaves

Although the symptoms vary based on the infection affecting the plant, certain signs are common symptoms of a fiddle leaf fig bacterial infection. For instance, your fiddle leaf fig may develop yellow leaves or even brown spots on the leaves. Often, these spots are small and will affect all the leaves of the plant.

At the same time, brown spots on your leaves can be indicative of other problems too, so don’t immediately be worried that your fiddle leaf fig has a bacterial infection if you notice this. For example, if your fiddle leaf fig develops root rot, this will also cause dark brown spots – although you can diagnose this from the fact that it tends to affect the bottom leaves only.

brown spot on leaf as one way you can tell if a fiddle leaf fig has a bacterial infection
Source: Reddit

Dropping leaves

Your fiddle leaf fig will lose leaves naturally as it ages. The leaves may turn yellow and fall a little at a time, which is completely natural.

On the other hand, if your plant is dropping large quantities of leaves at once, followed by your fiddle leaf fig not growing new leaves, it could be a sign of a problem, with one of the main ones being that it may have a bacterial infection.

Yellow leaves

A plant’s leaves often turn yellow if it gets too much water or not enough water. This process is known as water stress and can be solved simply by learning how often to water your fiddle leaf fig.

Yellowing leaves could also stem from using water with a high concentration of chemicals or minerals. A lack of sunlight for your fiddle leaf fig could also contribute to this problem.

However, if you’ve never had issues and have continuously watered your plant and placed it in the sunlight as you should, the yellowing leaves may be a sign of your fiddle leaf fig having a bacterial infection.

yellow leaf on a ficus as a sign to get rid of bacteria in your fiddle leaf fig

Irregularly shaped leaves

Irregularly shaped leaves are also a common sign that something isn’t right. As mentioned, fiddle leaf figs are known for their large, glossy leaves, so if they start growing with different shapes than they normally would, you’ve probably got an issue.

You’ll often notice other signs of your fiddle leaf fig having a bacterial infection before this one, as things like brown spots on your fiddle leaf fig tend to come in quicker than a fully grown (if misshapen) leaf. However, if you notice oddly shaped leaves along with one of the other signs on this list, that could be indicative of a bacterial infection

How do I get rid of bacteria in my fiddle leaf fig?

The treatment for a fiddle leaf fig bacterial infection varies slightly based on the type of infection your plant has. However, preventing and stopping the spread tends to include removing affected leaves and repotting the plant. Proper care is also necessary.

1. Remove the affected leaves

First, remove all leaves that have any noticeable signs of infection. This will prevent the germs from continuing to spread.

If your plant has a serious infection, many leaves may be gone when you’re done with the pruning. Don’t panic. Once you treat the infection, the plant will begin to regrow healthily.

2. Spray with bactericide

Using a bactericide is a good idea for really helping to kill the infection as quickly as possible. This helps to minimize damage to your plant and allow it to focus its energy on starting to recover.

.Make sure you spray your entire plant when using this. That includes not only the affected leaves but also leaves that appear to be healthy and the stems, to ensure that any new growth is unaffected.

woman spraying a plant with the best fiddle leaf fig bacterial infection treatment

Best fiddle leaf fig bacterial infection treatment

My pick for the best fiddle leaf fig bacterial infection treatment is Monterey LG 3174 Fungicide & Bactericide. It’s known for its effective disease control of not only bacteria, but other issues like powdery mildew, and is also approved for organic gardening. You can also use it safely inside for houseplants.

If that’s not available at your local plant store, ask the experts there what they would use, as there are plenty of other very effective bactericides as well.

3. Repot the plant

The bacteria can live in the soil or spread to it if it remains in the pot. Therefore, if your plant has a bacterial infection, you’ll need to remove the plant from the soil.

Make sure you clean out the planter well to further get rid of the bacteria. Accomplish this with warm water and a bit of dish soap.

Rinse the pot thoroughly since dish soap can have a drying effect on plants. Specifically, it strips the plant of its natural oils, which can cause it to die.

When you repot your fiddle leaf fig, always place it in fresh, uncontaminated soil. If not, you’ll risk reinfection.

4. Give it proper sunlight

After a bacterial infection, your plant will need ample amounts of indirect sunlight. Sunlight helps ward off bacteria because the germs thrive in moisture. Additionally, ultraviolet (UV) light is known to kill bacteria by damaging their DNA.

5. Regulate watering

As you’re battling the infection, you want to minimize watering. Typically, you should only water it every seven to 10 days at this point. If the soil is still moist after 10 days, you should continue to let it dry until it needs water.

6. Keep your plant’s leaves dry

While watering your plant from time to time when it’s recovering from a bacterial infection is important, the rest of your plant should be kept as dry as possible. In particular avoid spraying the leaves with water during this time.

This is because if you have water on your leaves, this could eventually drip down to other leaves if it doesn’t evaporate. In addition, when getting the water on the leaf, tiny droplets can splash off and land on other leaves. Both of these can have the effect of spreading the infection and make things even worse.

person drying ficus leaves as a way to prevent fiddle leaf fig bacterial infections

How to prevent fiddle leaf fig bacterial infections

Ideally, you want to prevent bacterial infections in your fiddle leaf fig before they happen. The process to treat them can be time consuming. In some cases, you may not be able to treat the infection.

1. Water your plant only when it needs it

If you’re overwatering your fiddle leaf fig plant, you could be providing the optimal breeding ground for bacteria to grow and breed. You don’t want to underwater your fiddle leaf fig, either though, because this can also lead to health problems with your plant.

You should monitor the soil. You want the soil to dry out completely in between waterings. However, never wait until you see soil shrinkage, which is when the soil begins pulling away from the sides of the pot.

As a general rule, water your fiddle leaf fig at the same time each week and give it the same amount of hydration each time. To give you an idea of how much to water, a tree that’s less than two feet only needs one cup of water weekly. A plant that’s taller than two feet should get about two cups of water each week.

Make sure the soil drains completely. You don’t want your plant to rest in water. When this happens, the plant won’t process the water.

You’ll then have stagnant water sitting in your pot that can grow pathogens and weaken the plant’s structure.

2. Have proper drainage

Ensuring the soil can drain easily may assist in keeping your plant from getting overwatered. Firstly, make sure you place your plant in a fiddle leaf fig pot with proper drainage holes. If it doesn’t have these already, you can add them yourself by drilling.

You should also consider applying a layer of gravel to the bottom of the pot before you pour soil into it. Finally, make sure you’re using what’s considered the best soil for fiddle leaf figs to ensure your plant is living in its preferred growing conditions.

3. Repot your plant regularly

Since you can’t see bacteria, they could be growing in your soil without you knowing. Prevent this from occurring by repotting your plant every one to two years.

4. Give your plant adequate sunlight

Since the fiddle leaf fig originates in Africa, it requires a great deal of sunlight to grow. The sunlight can also prevent the soil from remaining damp. Plus, UV light is known to kill pathogens, as briefly noted above.

Situate your plant in a south-facing window. That way, the plant will receive light all-day long rather than a few times during the day like it would in a north-facing window.

fiddle leaf fig getting sunlight

5. Consider a soil with a copper compound

A copper compound can help prevent bacteria. It releases ions into the soil, which are known to ward off certain strains.

6. Use clean tools and hands

Cross-contamination can trigger a bacterial infection in your fiddle leaf fig. That’s why you should clean your tools before you touch your plant. 

If you’re going to pluck leaves off or inspect the leaves with your hands, always wash your hands with antibacterial soap first.

7. Monitor plants carefully

Inspect all your plants regularly. As soon as you notice signs of a bacterial infection, intervene immediately.

8. Keep the pot free from debris

Whenever you notice leaves or other debris on the top of the soil, remove it immediately. These could have fallen naturally but could also have fallen due to a problem. If that problem is that your fiddle leaf fig has a bacterial infection, you want to remove the affected leaves as quickly as possible to avoid them infecting the rest of your plant.

How do you treat bacterial root rot in fiddle leaf figs?

Root rot is an infection caused by over-watering your plant. Since bacteria thrive in moisture, your first step is to eliminate the moisture and so allow the soil to dry out completely, which may take up to two weeks. You should also consider repotting your plant in fresh soil that easily drains.

Additionally, you’ll need to remove any yellow or brown leaves.

Ideally, if you’re unsure if your plant has root rot from a fungus or a bacterial infection, it can help to use a product that’s both a fungicide and a bactericide.

What’s the difference between root rot vs bacterial infection in a fiddle leaf fig?

Bacterial infection spots tend to be lighter than root rot spots. For instance, dark brown or black spots are common with root rot, while lighter brown or tan spots are more often synonymous with a bacterial infection. In addition, root rot often only targets the bottom of the plant, while a bacterial infection may affect the entire plant.

That’s not always the case though, so keep an eye on the color of the spots which tend to be a better indicator of what the problem is here. For instance, red spots on your fiddle leaf fig can often be a sign of some of the main problems that you hear about when brown spots appear.

Root rot can arise from bacteria in the soil affecting the roots, particularly if the soil is too moist. This infection can also originate from a fungal infection that attacks the roots, while a bacterial infection always comes from a bacterium.

As a main differentiating factor, if you dig up a plant with root rot, you would visibly notice roots rotting. With a bacterial infection in your fiddle leaf fig, this doesn’t occur.

What’s the difference between a bacterial infection and a fungal infection in my fiddle leaf fig?

A fungal infection usually causes more distinguishable symptoms. For instance, your plant might develop a white powder on them if they’re infected with a fungus. A bacterial infection, however, is often first seen through discoloration on the leaves.

Although your plant must come in direct contact with a bacterial infection, a fungus releases spores that can travel to your plant and infect it.

The treatment for both is relatively the same. Often, you can find a spray that’s both a bactericide and a fungicide, so if you’re not sure whether you’re dealing with a fungal infection or a bacterial infection on your fiddle leaf fig, that may be the safest option.