Despite being notoriously demanding, the Fiddle Leaf Fig remains one of the most loved indoor plants and this trend is not going anywhere any time soon.
The gorgeous leaves of the Ficus Lyrata still have enthusiasts swooning that they don’t mind the extra challenge these plants present.
If you’ve noticed the foliage of your fiddle leaf fig cracking, know that it’s a cry for help.
For Fiddle Leaf fig leaves cracking due to low humidity and too much water in the soil. These two are among the top reasons why your plant’s leaves are cracking. Other causes include insects infestation, nutritional deficiency, poor lighting conditions, or physical damage.
Hopefully, in this article, you’ll be able to narrow down the cause of your problem and how to give your plants the tender loving care that it deserves. Let’s dive in.
Humidity plays a vital role in the health of your Fiddle Leaf Fig. It prefers levels between 30-65%.
This can be a bit tricky especially during winter when the heating is on for longer periods. The dry heat will burn the leaves and cause them to crack. Leaves may also curl due to low humidity.
How to Fix
- Keep your plants away from heat sources such as radiators, refrigerators, exhausts, space heaters, etc.
- To create a less hostile environment for your plant, you may use a humidifier or a pebble tray.
- You can mist the leaves to make the leaves fresh and healthy.
In desperate attempts to keep humidity high enough, one must not make the mistake of overwatering.
Overwatering is the number one killer of a Fiddle Leaf. What makes overwatering so bad?
Common to broad-leafed plants is a condition known as edema. This happens when plant cells absorb too much water and eventually burst.
On a fiddle leaf fig, this presents as small, reddish-brown spots more often than not on new leaves.
When humidity is low and these spots dry out and there is a tendency for them to crack.
Certain fungi, particularly belonging to the species Pythium, Fusarium, Phytophthora, or Rhizoctonia, prey on the sensitive root system of the Fiddle Leaf.
Fungi thrive in wet conditions and when the root system is overwhelmed, there is no way for the plant to absorb water and nutrients.
This is the reason why many people mistake overwatering for under-watering. The plant will look like it’s parched and starved of nutrients.
Without the proper hydration and nutrition, FLF leaves dry up and eventually crack.
Other Bacterial and Fungal Infections
Aside from water-loving fungi attacking the roots, they may also attack the leaves directly.
Lesions caused by fungal infections can be identified through dark brown spots that are almost black.
They tend to appear near the leaf nodes and close to the veins of the leaves. Wet soil can also host a variety of bacteria including some that Fiddle Leafs are susceptible to.
The lesions caused by bacteria will appear closer to the edge and are lighter in color compared to fungal infections.
Untreated, the brown spots tend to dry up and lead to the leaf cracking on the margins.
How to Fix Overwatering Issues
Change your Potting Medium
This is a double-edged sword when it comes to addressing overwatering. For plants that have unwanted bacteria and fungi, you will be removing them.
With the correct mix, you will also be addressing the drainage problem. You can try adding a filler such as a coco peat or a cactus mix to allow water to pass faster through the medium.
Pro tip: Use a sterilized medium to ensure you are not introducing any unwanted bacteria or fungi into the mix.
Some people choose to add pebbles at the base of the container before adding any potting mixture so water does not stand still in the container.
Check Your Drainage
One of the reasons your Fiddle Leafs are overwatered is the container. Some materials are less porous than others.
If you find that water is retained at the base of your container, you may need to create more or bigger drainage holes or you can change the pot altogether.
When watering your FLF, avoid wetting the leaves and water the soil directly to avoid water lodging on the foliage.
Ensure a proper watering schedule
Only water your plants when the top two inches of soil are dry. To read more about the proper watering of Fiddle Leafs, you can read my previous article.
Aside from bacteria and fungi, Fiddle Leaf Cracking can be attributed to an insect infestation. Insects poach on the younger leaves.
The injured portion of these younger leaves turns portions brown and eventually manifests as cracked leaves. Mealybugs are reported as one of the more pervasive culprits.
Mealybugs can be found hiding close to the leaf nodes and undersides of the leaf. They are hard to miss because they look like tiny puffs of cotton.
More difficult to spot are spider mites. While mites are microscopic, they leave evidence of their presence: webs, usually on younger leaves.
A second indication of the presence of these pests can be found on the underside of the leaves as well.
If you notice small, clustered, black dots, that may be a sign of an infestation as well.
Other common insects known to leach of Ficus Lyrata are scale, aphids, and whiteflies.
Thankfully, dealing with insects is a lot easier than dealing with bacteria and fungi since they are easier to spot and identify.
How to Fix
Spider mites can be easily removed by thorough washing with water. Be sure to dry the leaves to discourage bacterial and fungal growth. Mealybugs are a little more stubborn.
You’ll need to manually remove them. Carefully inspect the undersides and leaf nodes for the presence of mealybugs. Once you see an egg, dab it with some rubbing alcohol.
Neem oil is also said to control insect infestations. You may follow the manufacturer’s dilution recommendation when applying this.
It’s important to know that while you might not be able to eliminate the crawlers, at least keeping them at bay will help your Fiddle Leaf Fig have a fighting chance, especially the new leaves.
Cutaway infected areas, keeping in mind to reduce the foliage by 10-15% otherwise causing shock to the already vulnerable plant.
It may be a good idea to separate plants that are harboring insects. This will limit the outbreak.
In fact, to be on the cautious side, whenever you want to bring in a new plant, quarantine them first.
The complete life cycle of a mealybug for example is about six to eight weeks.
Isolation of around 3 weeks is recommended before introducing new plants to the rest.
That amount of time should be sufficient enough to determine if any unwanted insects are in fact present.
It doesn’t take too much to keep a Fiddle Leaf Plant happy. It prefers low NPK levels with a ratio of 3:1:2 Without this proper nutrition, your plant’s leaves may begin to crack.
As mentioned above, root rot may prevent your plant from absorbing the nutrients in the soil. Plant nutrition is a balancing act; it is also possible to over-fertilize.
When the salts and nutrients build up in the soil, by the principles of osmosis, water (along with water-soluble nutrients) is drawn away from the roots.
Resulting in plants that appear underwatered and malnourished. Leaves in this condition are prone to dry and crack.
How to Fix
Observe a proper fertilization regimen, with a diluted liquid fertilizer given at the most, every other watering.
Improper Light Can Cause Cracking
It’s a known fact that Fiddle Leafs love light. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
FLF can exhibit leaf scorch if left in the sun for too long or too soon. The sunburned spot will appear light brown and is prone to cracking.
How to Fix
Find a bright spot with filtered light for your plant. FLFs can actually thrive in direct sunlight but need to be acclimatized, especially when moving your plant from indoor to outdoor.
Try gentle morning sun for 1-2 hours for a few days and then work your way up from there.
Some cracks in Fiddle Leaf Figs are caused by bigger “predators”. Pets and small children may accidentally cause mechanical damage to your fiddle leaf as they share the same space.
In some cases, even you, the plant enthusiast may cause damage to your fiddle leaf when moving it around.
Also, if your plant happens to be in a place where there is a draft, the wind may cause trauma to the leaves.
How to Fix
Keep your beloved Fiddles out of harm’s way, separating your curious pets and kids.
It may come to a point that you have to decide whether to fence your plants in or fence your pets or children. For that, only you can decide which is more appropriate.
If you are the cause of the damage, the plant may be too heavy or large to move by yourself.
In which case, you can look for a friend or family member to help you, or add wheels to the base of your planter. Also, prepare a clear path when you need to move your plant around.
Unfortunately, once your FLF leaves are damaged, they hardly heal themselves.
The best thing you can do is to create an environment that prevents damages, to begin with.
To keep your fiddle leaf figs from cracking, go easy on the watering and keep the humidity at an optimal level.
Be sure to provide the proper nutrition and be on the lookout for pests, large and small.
If there is one thing that you should take away after reading this article, it’s this: Fiddle Leafs are just looking for its natural habitat, the lowland tropical rainforest of Western Africa.
If you’re attentive and can recreate similar conditions inside your home, you’ll have a very happy Fiddle Leaf Fig and it will show.