Most of us have experienced the devastation of finding a favorite houseplant awash with yellowing leaves. But somehow, it’s infinitely worse when the plant in question is a fiddle leaf fig.
This is, of course, because their big, dark green, lyre-shaped leaves are half the reason we love these breathtaking beauties. Any sign of discoloration is enough to send even the most seasoned green thumb into a bit of a panic, as yellow leaves almost always mean ill health.
Fortunately, a fiddle leaf fig with yellow leaves is usually easy to resolve. The key to this process is diagnosing the problem, which often isn’t as hard as it sounds, and then moving on to treatment.
Let’s look at all the reasons why your Ficus’s leaves might be yellowing and what you can do to fix this ASAP.
Why are the leaves on my fiddle leaf fig tree turning yellow?
When fiddle leaf fig leaves start to turn yellow, it’s usually a result of too little sunlight, a nutrient deficiency, too much water, or a combination of these factors. In some cases, yellowing leaves can also be caused by insect infestations, transplant shock, or extreme temperature fluctuations.
Not only are yellowing leaves displeasing from an aesthetic point of view, but they’re also usually quite concerning. When a fiddle leaf starts to lose its color, it’s trying to tell you something is wrong or a specific need is not being met.
Let’s look at the potential causes for yellowing leaves in greater detail and how to diagnose them. Your fiddle leaf may also be experiencing a combination of the issues listed below.
1. Too little sunlight
Fiddle leaf figs need plenty of access to sunlight to thrive. They do best with 5 to 6 hours of morning to midday light each day and up to 8 hours if they’re acclimated to live outdoors. Sunlight plays a huge role in a fiddle leaf’s ability to produce chlorophyll and pigment for its big, dark leaves.
To produce chlorophyll, fiddle leaf figs need a combination of energy from the sun and nutrients from the soil. Without this energy, your fiddle leaf fig’s leaves will start to discolor around the veins, first turning lighter green and then going yellow.
Consider if your fiddle leaf fig is receiving sufficient light each day. If not, a lack of sun may be the reason for yellowing leaves.
2. Nutrient deficiencies or a lack of fertilizer
Because nutrients from the soil and energy from the sun work together to keep a fiddle leaf shiny and green, the symptoms of malnutrition present in much the same way as the symptoms of too little sunlight.
Nutrient deficiencies may result from an imbalance in your fiddle leaf’s soil (insufficient organic matter) or an irregular feeding schedule. Is your fiddle leaf receiving regular doses of nitrogen-rich fertilizer during its growing season?
If you’re convinced that your plant is receiving sufficient light and is neither overwatered nor drying out, a nutrient deficiency is generally the culprit behind a fiddle leaf fig having yellow leaves.
Overwatering is a big problem when it comes to fiddle leaf figs. The best soil for fiddle leaf figs is definitely that which is well-draining, but they also love a strict watering regimen or they run the risk of developing “wet feet,” which inevitably turn into root rot. Yellow leaves, often accompanied by brown spots on your fiddle leaf fig, may signify the beginning of a root rot infection.
Fortunately, this is easy to diagnose. Feel the soil around your plant’s roots for sogginess and clumping. If it feels dense and moist, you’re overwatering your fiddle leaf fig, and oxygen cannot reach its leaves. The soil may also take on an unpleasant odor in more advanced stages of a root rot infection.
4. Insect infestations
While far more rare, severe insect infestations on a fiddle leaf fig can also cause discoloration. To determine if this might be the cause of your plant’s ill health, inspect it closely for signs of accompanying symptoms, including holes, webbing, and of course, visible creepy crawlies.
5. Transplant shock
If you’ve recently repotted your fiddle leaf fig and you notice its leaves turning yellow, it may be suffering from transplant shock. This indicates that its roots are not yet properly anchored, and it isn’t taking up the nutrients it needs to thrive.
Have you recently repotted your Ficus? It may need a few weeks or months to get used to its new environment. Transplant shock generally presents with your fiddle leaf fig leaves drooping as well as yellowing leaves.
6. Extreme shifts in temperature
Like many humans, fiddle leaf figs don’t enjoy change. In fact, they’re very easily affected by it and will visibly make this known by drooping, wilting, refusing to grow, or through your fiddle leaf fig developing yellow leaves. It’s not very common, but if you’ve checked all other possible reasons off your diagnoses list, temperature and humidity may warrant investigation.
If your plant has been moved to a new location or is close to an air conditioner or drafty window, it may be experiencing a shock. In terms of humidity, fiddle leaf figs need 30% to 65% humidity in the space they inhabit to remain healthy. Check if the conditions in your fiddle leaf’s environment are conducive to its health.
How do you fix yellow leaves on a fiddle leaf fig?
Fixing yellow leaves on a fiddle leaf fig entails first diagnosing the problem. It may be related to insufficient light, too little fertilizer, improper drainage and overwatering, an infection, or improper growing conditions. Based on this, fixing your fiddle leaf fig’s yellow leaves requires alleviating the cause of the problem.
Once you know why your fiddle leaf fig is unhappy, it’s infinitely easier to help it recover. Fortunately, there are only a few reasons why leaves turn yellow, and it’s quite easy to figure out which one may be the culprit, as detailed in the previous section of this post.
Most of the time, yellow leaves are not a death sentence for your plant, but they should never be disregarded, and you should treat your fiddle leaf as soon as possible.
1. Provide your fiddle leaf with access to sunlight
Fiddle leaf figs love sunlight, and it’s an integral part of their wellbeing. If your fiddle leaf is yellowing from insufficient light, you need to move it to a spot where it can get the energy it needs from the sun.
That being said, you don’t want to shock your plant, so you will need to acclimate it to its new spot gently. Move it gradually closer to the sun, first for fifteen minutes a day, and then longer and longer over time. Try to set it near an East or South-facing window that receives gentler morning sun.
2. Feed your fiddle leaf regularly
If your fiddle leaf fig is lacking nutrients as a result of poor soil quality or irregular feeding, you can address this with a dose of nitrogen-rich, preferably organic fertilizer for your fiddle leaf fig. Fiddle leaves use loads of energy, and if you’re growing them at home, fertilizer is par for the course.
Stick to a rigid feeding schedule of monthly fertilizer doses during the growing season, which is then tapered off during fall and winter. If you suspect your soil is problematic, test its pH levels (they should be 5.5 to 7) and consider repotting your fiddle leaf fig during dormancy.
3. Ensure proper drainage and a regulated watering schedule
If you suspect your fiddle leaf may be in the throes of developing root rot, you’re going to want to make very sure you’re not overwatering it. Start by checking that none of the holes in your fiddle leaf fig’s pot are blocked or clogged and that there are enough of them.
Next, give your plant a chance to dry out. This means letting the top few inches of soil get completely dry before watering. Once you start watering your plant again, stick to a consistent schedule. If the infection is quite far gone, you may need to repot and prune your fiddle leaf fig to remove any decaying or molding roots.
FYI: These tips on how often you should water a fiddle leaf fig will definitely help you get your watering schedule back on track.
4. Treat your fiddle leaf for pests
Fortunately, pests are quite easy to get rid of on a fiddle leaf fig. Treat your plant with insecticidal soap or neem oil, making sure to clean each leaf afterward thoroughly. In no time, your big-leafed baby should be pest-free.
5. Ensure your fiddle leaf is happy in its environment
Hands-down, the most difficult fiddle leaf fig problem to diagnose is pure, unadulterated displeasure with its environment. It’s a game of deduction. Nothing else wrong? Sometimes, fiddle leaf figs just don’t like where they’re situated.
To avoid this, keep your fiddle leaf in an area that does not experience temperature fluctuations or artificial coldness or warmth and where there is lots of sun and humidity.
Should you remove yellow leaves from a fiddle leaf fig?
To keep your plant looking its best, you may be tempted to remove your fiddle leaf fig’s yellow leaves. However, eliminating multiple leaves at once can be distressing for your plant, so prune them away gradually, preferably waiting for full leaves to turn yellow before removing them.
Yellow leaves can render a plant lackluster and unappealing, but it’s important to remember that these leaves are still alive. Removing more than 10% to 20% of a fiddle leaf’s foliage at once can cause irreparable harm and distress as a fiddle leaf fig with no leaves can’t photosynthesize and grow.
If the yellow leaves on your fiddle leaf fig are already quite far gone and accompanied by brown spots, tears, or holes, then it’s best to prune them away with sterilized, sharp tools. If they’re only mildly discolored, leave some of them on the tree until your fiddle leaf fig’s leaves fall off naturally.
Alternatively, remove your yellow leaves in stages, sticking to one or two every week.
Can yellow leaves on a fiddle leaf fig turn green again?
Yellow leaves on fiddle leaf figs are highly unlikely to turn green again. The best you can do is prevent yellowing from occurring in the future by identifying the cause of the issue and alleviating it for future growth.
Sadly, yellow fiddle leaf fig leaves are not long for this world and will continue to degrade whether attached to your tree or not. Some plant parents may prefer to prune them away and make room for new growth, while others might let them drop naturally to avoid shocking their plants.
This is your choice and depends on what’s best for your plant and the number of affected leaves. Ideally, it would be best if you inspected your fiddle leaf regularly for any signs of discoloration before the issue becomes too advanced.
What causes a fiddle leaf fig to have yellow leaves and brown spots?
The combination of a fiddle leaf fig having yellow leaves and brown spots always indicates either fungal or bacterial root rot. Root rot results from overwatering and insufficient drainage and should be treated as a matter of urgency.
Root rot in fiddle leaf figs is a common problem with this finicky plant and is easy to diagnose by the tell-tale brown spots accompanying their leaves’ yellow discoloration. This, together with an inconsistent watering schedule and moist, dense soil, should tell you everything you need to know about what is afflicting your plant.
Root rot develops when overly moist soil prevents oxygen from traveling via a plant’s roots to its stem and leaves. That same soil is also a playground for fungi and bacteria to breed and spread.
What to do about a fiddle leaf fig having yellow leaves after repotting?
Some fiddle leaf figs suffer from a phenomenon known as transplant shock after being repotted. This is stress caused by the physical shock of a drastic change to its environment. To recover your plant, provide it with ideal growing conditions and allow it time to adjust.
When a plant suffers from transplant shock, there isn’t much you can do other than provide it with plenty of TLC and give it the time it needs to adjust.
This means sticking to a consistent watering schedule, making sure it has plenty of light and humidity and avoiding any other major changes until it starts to feel better.
It may take weeks or months, but with some extra love, your fiddle leaf will recover and thrive once again.
Is it normal for fiddle leaf fig tree leaves to turn yellow in autumn?
Both indoor and outdoor fiddle leaf figs may experience discoloration and lose foliage in autumn/fall due to cooler temperatures and less sunshine. Exposure to temperatures below 50F (10C) makes it more likely for fiddle leaf figs to drop leaves as they prefer warmer, more humid climates.
In autumn, a few yellow leaves are no cause for concern for this plant, especially if your fiddle leaf fig lives outdoors. This is due to the drop in temperature and is a standard part of a deciduous plant’s growth process.
Indoors, you can regulate leaf discoloration by providing artificial light and humidity for your fiddle leaf fig if you deem it necessary. You may also want to taper off your watering schedule until temperatures pick up again.
Is it ok if my fiddle leaf fig tree leaves are turning yellow in summer?
Fiddle leaf figs are heat-loving plants, so if your leaves start turning yellow in summer, it may be a sign that your plant is not used to the heat and needs acclimation. Alternatively, they may be turning yellow from overwatering or underwatering.
Fiddle leaf figs grown and bought domestically are not super tolerant to big swings in temperature, especially if they’re young and not yet established. Yellow leaves on a fiddle leaf fig during summer may indicate that your plant is stressed by sudden heat (and possibly too much light).
You may also need to adjust your watering regime to suit the changing weather. Are you perhaps overcompensating for the heat with too much water? Or are you forgetting about the hot weather and watering your plant too seldom, causing it to dry out and leading to having an underwatered fiddle leaf fig?
Either way, check your soil regularly and water once the top inch has dried.