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Fiddle leaf figs thrive in moist soil that is allowed to dry out between waterings, but that doesn’t mean they like soggy soil. In fact, if you leave their soil soggy for too long, you may be left with an overwatered fiddle leaf fig that could even develop root rot – which, safe to say, isn’t ideal for your plant.

Proving your fiddle leaf fig plant with a good potting mix that drains well and developing a good watering routine is important to its health. But even if you think you’re doing that perfectly, over watering a fiddle leaf fig is a frequent problem that plagues plants lovers. 

This is why learning how to avoid having an overwatered fiddle leaf fig and what to do to correct it is an important part of caring for your ficus.

Follow these tips to see what an overwatered fiddle leaf fig looks like and what happens if you do this, as well as how to make sure you prevent this happening in future.

person watering plants and trying not to overwater a fiddle leaf fig

What does an overwatered fiddle leaf fig look like?

The most common sign of an overwatered fiddle leaf fig is brown spots appearing in the center of its leaves and around the outer edges. However, fiddle leaf fig leaves turning yellow or even wilting or dropping off can also indicate that your fiddle leaf fig has been getting too much water.

Here’s some more information on what to watch out for:

  • Brown spots on the foliage. These appear both in the center of the leaves and around the outer edges. If the plant is subjected to over watering for a prolonged period, the browning will worsen and overtake larger sections of the leaves.
  • Yellowing of the leaves. Some yellowing of old leaves is normal and isn’t an indication of over watering, as leaves do not live forever, even on the healthiest houseplants. Older leaves turn yellow and die off naturally. But if you notice young leaves turning yellow or see more than an occasional yellowed leaf it is likely a sign your fiddle leaf fig is over watered.
  • Small dark spots or browning leaves that spread from leaf to leaf. This may begin gradually, even sometimes as red spots on your fiddle leaf fig rather than brown, and then suddenly spread to other leaves on the plant.
  • Dropping of leaves. Your fiddle leaf fig’s leaves falling off typically begins with the bottom leaves on your fiddle leaf fig and progresses to upper leaves if left unchecked. In particular, a fiddle leaf fig that has no leaves left is something that should be addressed as quickly as possible in order to save your plant.
  • Wilting or drooping leaves. Plant cells need water to maintain the pressure inside the cells. This is called turgor and is responsible for holding your plant upright. When the soil is too wet, water fills the pores in the soil and prevents the roots from getting the oxygen they need to perform normal plant functions, like transporting moisture to the plant cells. This can cause fiddle leaf fig leaves to droop or wilt.

What happens if you over water a fiddle leaf fig?

Over watering a fiddle leaf fig causes the pores in the soil to fill with water. When this happens roots cannot get oxygen and cannot uptake the water and nutrients they need to flourish. This, in turn can lead to root rot in your fiddle leaf fig, which will eventually kill your plant.

That is, as odd as it seems, an overwatered fiddle leaf fig suffers from a lack of water in the plant tissues, which explains why an overwatered plant shows signs of wilting.

a healthy, not overwatered fiddle leaf fig

If the soil remains wet for too long it can become a breeding ground for the fungi responsible for root rot. If root rot sets in, the roots of your fiddle leaf fig will begin to decay and turn to mush, rendering them incapable of transporting moisture and nutrients to the plant.

For that reason, if left untreated, root rot will eventually kill your fiddle leaf fig plant.

What causes over watering of a fiddle leaf fig?

Over watering a fiddle leaf fig isn’t just about how much water you give the plant. There are other factors at play too. The common reasons may surprise you.

  • Inadequate drainage. Inadequate drainage can lead to over watering as the soil doesn’t drain properly. This can be due to a lack of drainage holes in the plant pot or clogged drainage holes. It is important to provide your fiddle leaf fig with a plant pot that allows for good drainage.
  • The wrong potting mix. Using dense or heavy potting mix, such as all-purpose potting soil, can lead to over watering as water cannot drain through the soil as it should. The best soil for fiddle leaf figs is lightweight and contains peat moss or coco coir, bark, and perlite. You can purchase potting soil designed for fiddle leaf figs.
  • Pots that are too large. Pots that are too large for your fiddle leaf fig plant contain more soil than the plant’s roots need. This means they don’t uptake the water as quickly as they do in a smaller pot, and it remains wet for too long. Changing to a smaller pot may solve your issues with over watering.
  • Following a strict watering schedule. Many plant lovers mistakenly think they need to water their plants on a strict schedule and inadvertently adopt a schedule based on someone else’s recommendations. Because each plant is different and the environment in the home differs, too, following a strict watering schedule can lead to over watering. Instead, you should take into consideration whether your plant’s actually telling you that it needs a drink on a given day.

When it comes to how often you should water a fiddle leaf fig, check the moisture level of the soil before watering your plant and give up the notion that it needs water once a week. During periods of rapid growth, it may need more frequent watering, but during slow growth periods, it may not need to be watered for two weeks.

watering can next to houseplants

How do you save an overwatered fiddle leaf fig?

How you save an overwatered fiddle leaf fig depends on how severe the problem is. Use these tips as your guide to save an overwatered fiddle leaf fig.

1. Allow the soil to dry out before watering your fiddle leaf fig again.

If you have accidentally over-watered your fiddle leaf fig and the soil is too soggy, letting the soil dry out is a quick solution.

Check the moisture level in the soil frequently and do not water your fiddle leaf fig again until the soil feels dry to the touch 1 to 2 inches below the surface.

2. Check that the plant pot has drainage holes and that the drainage holes are clear

Pots without drainage holes pose the risk of creating water-logged soil sitting in the pot. If your pot does not have drainage holes, repot your fiddle leaf fig in a pot that does (or drill holes in the existing pot).

Sometimes, drainage holes can get clogged with soil or roots and prevent the pot from draining properly. If the drainage holes in your pot are clogged, clear the debris from the holes.

3. Check that your soil drains well

Poorly draining soil is a common reason for soil to remain soggy. Fiddle leaf figs need soil that drains well. All-purpose potting soil is too heavy and dense for fiddle leaf figs.

If your fiddle leaf fig’s soil isn’t draining well, repot the plant with fresh soil. For best results, use a potting mixture designed for fiddle leaf figs. These mixtures contain a combination of coco coir, aged bark, and perlite.

someone repotting a plant as a way to save an overwatered fiddle leaf fig

4. Check that the pot is the right size

As mentioned earlier, a pot that’s too large can cause over watering issues as it will hold more water than the plant needs. This can lead to the soil staying wet for longer periods than intended.

That’s why this may be when you need to repot your fiddle leaf fig to fix any overwatering issues. This can also be a good opportunity for the pot to be cleaned and for fresh, better draining soil to be added, meaning that you can actually solve several potential issues at once with this solution.

Take a look here for some ideas for the best planters for your fiddle leaf fig tree.

5. Check your watering schedule

While you could have had the best intentions, all that water has to come from somewhere and so there’s a good chance that you could be watering your fiddle leaf fig too frequently.

For that reason don’t stick to a set schedule. Instead, going forward, really check if your plant is actually thirsty when you go to water it. If it’s not, give it a few more days and check again.

Does overwatering cause root rot in your fiddle leaf fig?

Root rot is the term used to describe plant diseases that cause the roots of your plants to decay. It is caused by several fungi, namely Fusarium, Clitocybe tabescens, and Armillaria mellea. These fungi thrive in wet soil.

Over watering indirectly causes root rot in your fiddle leaf figs because it creates the ideal conditions for these aggressive fungi to live.

To avoid root rot in your fiddle leaf fig plant, it is important to allow the soil to dry out between waterings and to empty saucers and catch basins to prevent soggy soil.

Signs your fiddle leaf fig has Root Rot

Root rot can occur and progress quickly and needs to be detected early to save your plants. Learning what to look for is an important part of fiddle leaf fig plant care. Watch for these signs of root rot.

  • A foul or sour odor comes from the soil. In advanced stages, you will be able to smell root rot in the soil. If you detect unusual odors coming from your plant’s soil, there is a good chance it has root rot.
  • Wilted or drooping leaves. When plants suffer from root rot, they cannot get the moisture they need to maintain the pressure in their cells. This may present as wilting and drooping of the leaves. If you notice your fiddle leaf fig leaves drooping, even though the soil is wet, it may be suffering from root rot.
  • Browning and spotted leaves. Browning and spotted leaves are a telltale sign your fiddle leaf fig may be suffering from root rot. If you notice fiddle leaf fig brown spots or see large sections of brown overtaking healthy leaves, root rot could be the culprit.
  • Leaf drop. Fiddle leaf figs with root rot begin to shed their leaves as the plant cannot get the moisture and nutrients it needs to survive. If ignored the problem will progress until all the leaves die and drop from the plant.

How to fix root rot in an overwatered fiddle leaf fig

If your fiddle leaf fig has been subjected to over watering and sat in waterlogged soil for too long, it may have developed root rot. This devastating disease is caused by several fungi that thrive in wet soil. Correcting the problem takes quick action on your part.

  1. Remove the plant from the existing plant pot.
  2. Shake the plant to remove as much soil from the roots as you can (and believe it or not, another way to thicken your fiddle leaf fig’s trunk is by shaking it – seriously!).
  3. Rinse the remaining soil from the roots with the sprayer at your sink. If this is not possible, take your fiddle leaf fig plant outside (weather permitting, of course) and use the garden hose to rinse the roots.
  4. Examine the roots closely and remove all roots that are discolored or brown and mushy. Root rot destroys fiddle leaf fig roots. These roots must be removed.
  5. Fill a new plant pot halfway with fresh fiddle leaf fig potting mix.
  6. Position the plant in the pot so the remaining roots are spread out over the soil.
  7. Place the crown of the plant (the point where the roots and stems meet) at the soil level as you build up around the roots with fresh soil.
  8. Pat the soil down with your hands lightly to secure the plant in place. Firming the soil down also removes air pockets in the soil making it easier for your plant to get water and nutrients.
  9. Water the plant to moisten the soil and place it in its original location.
  10. Let the soil dry until the top 1 to 2 inches of soil feels dry to your touch before watering your fiddle leaf fig again.
someone repotting a plant as a way to fix an overwatered fiddle leaf fig

Can root rot spread to other plants?

Root rot can spread to other plants via infected soil or garden tools. It cannot spread through the air or suddenly infect nearby plants. This is why, when treating root rot, you should take care not to accidentally spread the fungi responsible for root rot with careless gardening practices.

To avoid spreading a fungal or bacterial infection from your fiddle leaf fig, make sure you do the following when treating root rot in your houseplants:

  • Disinfect tools. Get in the habit of disinfecting garden clippers, knives, and any other tools you use to trim or tend to your fiddle leaf fig plants. You can use alcohol or a mixture of nine parts water and one part household bleach to disinfect your tools.
  • Disinfect plant pots. If you repot a fiddle leaf fig plant that has been infected with root rot, the plant pot needs to be disinfected before it can be used again. Wash it with hot, soapy water, rinse, and then let the pot sit in a bleach and water solution for 10 to 15 minutes. Let it air dry before using the pot again.
  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands with hot soapy water or use a hand sanitizer on your hands after handling plants with root rot to avoid spreading pathogens to other plants.
  • Do not reuse potting soil. The soil from a plant with root rot still contains the fungi and pathogens that caused the issue in the first place. Throw the contaminated potting soil away. It cannot be reused safely.

Does fiddle leaf fig edema go away?

If your fiddle leaf fig looks like it has a red or brown rash on its new leaves it is likely suffering from edema. If your overwatering issues are corrected, fiddle leaf fig edema will go away through these spots potentially disappearing, or at least becoming smaller, and new leaves growing on your fiddle leaf fig normally.

Edema occurs when the plant’s roots take in more water than the plant can use. This causes a buildup of pressure in plant cells. Eventually, the cells burst to leave behind the telltale spots.

Some edema is perfectly normal for your fiddle leaf fig, especially when it is experiencing rapid growth. The tiny spot may even go away as the leaf matures.

Being diligent and providing your fiddle leaf fig with the water it needs and avoiding overwatering usually takes care of the problem and the edema will go away on its own. Failing to correct over watering may, however, lead to dead or dying foliage.

How to avoid having an overwatered fiddle leaf fig in future?

fiddle leaf figs prefer moist soil that dries out between waterings. Giving them the water, they need is vital to their health, but too much water can lead to poor health and erratic growth.

1. Water your fiddle leaf fig when the top 1 to 2 inches of the soil dries

The soil in the bottom of the pot should not dry out completely, but it shouldn’t be soggy either. Allow your plant’s soil to dry out after watering it.

2. Check the soil moisture before watering

Insert your finger into the soil to a depth of 1 to 2 inches (depending on the depth of the plant pot) to check the moisture level of the soil. If it feels dry, it is time to water your fiddle leaf fig.

You can also buy an inexpensive moisture meter to measure the moisture level in your soil. The advantage of a moisture meter is that it has a long probe and allows you to measure the moisture at the root level too.

healthy fiddle leaf fig

3. Water your fiddle leaf fig about once a week in the spring and summer

Your fiddle leaf fig goes through a period of active growth that begins in the early spring and lasts through the summer. During this time, it will need more frequent watering.

Water your fiddle leaf fig once a week, or more often if the soil dries quickly, during the spring and summer.

4. Reduce watering in the fall and winter

When fall arrives your fiddle leaf fig will slow down its growth as it enters dormancy. Dormancy is a period of rest when the plant shows little growth. This is the plant’s way of recovering from the rapid growth it experienced during the summer.

Your fiddle leaf fig needs less water when it is dormant. Use care to let it dry out sufficiently between waterings. You may need to wait 10 days or more between waterings in the fall and winter.

Do fiddle leaf fig trees need a lot of water?

Your fiddle leaf fig needs moist soil that dries out between waterings. Many factors determine how much water your fiddle leaf fig needs. Learning to take your cues from the plant will help you develop a good watering routine.

Keep these things in mind, so you can always provide the moisture your fiddle leaf fig needs.

  • Fiddle leaf figs need more water in the spring and summer when they are actively growing.
  • Fiddle leaf figs need less water in the fall and winter when they are dormant.
  • High humidity levels will cause the soil to remain moist longer.
  • Warm, dry air in the winter from your heating system may dry the soil in your fiddle leaf fig’s pot quickly. Avoid growing your fiddle leaf fig near heat vents.
  • Large fiddle leaf fig plants need more water than small plants.
  • Porous plant pots, like Terracotta, cause the soil to dry out faster than non-porous pots (like plastic or ceramic) do.

In summary, checking the moisture before watering the plant, making sure the pot has good fiddle leaf fig potting soil and adequate drainage, and adjusting your watering routine as the seasons change will help keep your fiddle leaf fig healthy and happy.

Overall, fiddle leaf figs need moist soil to thrive but, like most plants, will suffer if they are over watered. Learning to identify the signs of over watering and how to correct it is an important part of fiddle leaf fig care.