Why Are My Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves Curling? (And How to Fix)


Have you noticed that there’s something not quite right with your Fiddle Leaf Fig? Not long ago, I realized that the leaves of my Fiddle Leaf Fig tree had started to change – looking visibly dry and curling.

If you’ve seen a similar change in your plant, you may be feeling at a bit of a loss about how to revive it.

Well, you’ve come to the right place! Here I will share with you everything I learned about why Fiddle Leaf Fig leaves curl and how to fix them! 

When the leaves of a Fiddle Leaf Fig curl, the number 1 cause is underwatering. These plants should be watered when the surface of the soil feels dry. Without sufficient water, the leaves will start to curl. Other causes include insufficient sunlight, a lack of nutrients, and too small a pot.

In this article, you’ll find out how to identify what is causing the leaves to curl and how to fix it. Let’s get your plant healthy again!

Causes of Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves Curling

Underwatering

Underwatering your Fiddle Leaf Fig will cause its leaves to curl. When plants don’t get enough moisture, they start to wilt and dry out. One clear indication of this is curling leaves.

Plants require water to carry out many of their life-sustaining processes, and Fiddle Leaf Figs are no different!

Water helps to act as a vessel, allowing nutrients to be carried up to the plant by the roots.

Without sufficient water, the plant dries out and doesn’t have access to enough nutrients. This causes leaves to curl.

How to Fix

Keep a close eye on the soil of your Fiddle Leaf Fig. You should water your plant when the surface of the soil is dry, or very nearly dry. If you wait any longer, you will be underwatering your plant.

Fiddle Leaf Figs also like to get moisture from humidity in the air. They require humidity to be between 30 and 65%.

If you live in a place with dry air, use a humidifier. This will help to avoid problems of underwatering and will keep your Fiddle Leaf Fig happy.

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Overfeeding with Fertilizer

Fiddle Leaf Figs like to be fertilized with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in a ratio of 3:1:2. 

Overuse of fertilizer, or using the wrong amount, will cause the leaves of your Fiddle Leaf Fig to curl.

Overfertilization causes leaf curling because it leads to a build-up of minerals and salt in the soil.

In turn, this is carried up into the leaves of the plant, scorching them and drying them out.

The roots also sustain damage from this and become less effective at carrying necessary nutrients to the leaves. 

Source: Science Direct

How to Fix

Fiddle Leaf Figs only require fertilization during the growing season (not during winter). 

  • Avoid fertilizing your Fiddle Leaf Fig in winter because it will not benefit your plant and it will lead to overfertilization.
  • Use a liquid fertilizer and dilute it using the instructions on the pack. Diluting is necessary to avoid overfertilization.
  • Use a fertilizer with a ratio of 3:2:1, this ratio encourages growth and will not be too much for your Fiddle Leaf Fig.
  • Apply fertilizer a maximum of every other time you water. Avoid fertilizing more frequently than this.

Lack of Nutrition

Fiddle Leaf Figs like a combination of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to keep them in good health.

They use sunlight, via the process of photosynthesis, to convert these nutrients into sugars which they use as food.

A lack of nutrition causes curling leaves because the plant is not able to create its food.

A lack of nutrition can be caused by the nutrients not being present in the soil, damaged roots unable to take up nutrients, or a lack of sunlight meaning the plant can’t create its food.

How to Fix

  • Fertilize your plant frequently, at least once every 1 – 2 weeks, with a 3:2:1 ratio fertilizer.
  • Make sure your Fiddle Leaf Fig receives a lot of bright sunlight for a large proportion of the day to encourage photosynthesis.
  • Be careful not to over fertilize your plant, as this will damage the roots and lead to a nutrient deficiency.
  • Avoid over watering as it can lead to root rot. Rotten roots will not be able to extract nutrients from the soil and deliver them to the leaves.

Temperature Stress

Fiddle Leaf Figs thrives in temperatures between 65 – 75ºF (18 – 29ºC). 

Their leaves can start to curl if they are kept in temperatures which sit outside of this window, or if they experience a sudden change in temperature.

Drafts, fans, air conditioning, and poorly insulated rooms can cause temperatures to change suddenly.

This will cause temperature stress for your Fiddle Leaf Fig. Similarly, heating, direct sunlight, and warm rooms can result in leaf curling.

Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information

How to Fix

Keep a thermometer in the same room as your Fiddle Leaf Fig to give you an accurate reading of the temperature. If the room is too cold or too warm move it to another one.

Avoid placing your Fiddle Leaf Fig near any air conditioning units, fans, drafts, or heaters.

These can dramatically change the temperature of a room in an instant, and the shock will upset your plant.

Root Rot from Overwatering

Root rot happens when the roots have been kept in the soil which has been damp for too long.

This tends to happen as a result of overwatering because the soil was not given the opportunity to dry out between watering. But you can save your overwatered fiddle leaf fig with some specific measures.

Poor drainage can also cause overwatering and root rot, because the water can’t escape from the pot and the roots must sit in the moisture.

Root rot causes curling leaves because it results in immense damage to the roots. Roots with rot become soft, mushy, and brown and do not work as they should.

This means that the roots will not be able to extract water and nutrients from the soil, and the suffering plant’s leaves will curl from a lack of these vital components.

How to Fix

Avoid over watering by following these steps:

  • Only water your Fiddle Leaf Fig when the topsoil has dried.
  • Make sure the pot has plenty of large drainage holes.
  • Use a water meter as an accurate way to read if the soil is dry enough to water.
  • Develop a watering schedule and be consistent with watering. This will avoid situations where you may be tempted to water twice in a short period of time to compensate for forgetting to water your plant.
  • Water your Fiddle Leaf Fig with the appropriate amount of water for its size:
Size of Fiddle Leaf FigAmount of Water (per week)
<2ft. (<0.6m)1 cup (240ml)
2 – 3ft. (0.6 – 0.9m)2 cups (480ml)
3 – 6ft. (0.9 – 1.8m)3 cups (720ml)
>6ft. (>1.8m)4 cups (960ml)

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Water Quality

The quality of the water that you use for your Fiddle Leaf Fig can influence its health.

Fiddle Leaf Figs are sensitive to certain components in water. For example, tap water often contains chemicals like fluoride and chlorine.

These can burn the roots, and body, of your plant when they are absorbed.

Similarly, some water can contain a high mineral content. Hard water has a higher concentration of minerals than soft water.

These minerals can cause salt build-up in the soil and inhibit the roots’ ability to absorb necessary nutrients, causing leaves to curl.

Source: ResearchGate

How to Fix

  • Where possible, water your Fiddle Leaf Fig with collected rainwater. This water best represents the water that your plant would have access to in its natural habitat.
  • If you can’t get hold of rainwater, use filtered or distilled water. These contain less minerals and chemicals than tap water.

Too Much or Too Little Light Exposure

Fiddle Leaf Figs enjoy a lot of light, however, it’s still possible to expose them to too much.

Plenty of bright, indirect sunlight, for as many hours as possible, is ideal for these plants. When subjected to direct sunlight, they can struggle.

Direct sunlight can cause the plant to get too hot, meaning it ends up under watered because the water in the soil evaporates too quickly.

Direct sunlight can also result in scorched leaves. Both of these factors lead to leaves curling.

Equally, if a Fiddle Leaf Fig doesn’t get enough light, it doesn’t have enough sunlight to use in its process of photosynthesis.

Therefore, insufficient light will also result in leaves curling from a lack of nutrients.

How to Fix

  • Try to choose a location for your plant where it receives bright, indirect, sunlight.
  • If you still worry that your Fiddle Leaf Fig is getting too much direct sunlight, you can use solar shades on the windows to protect your plant.
  • You may need to move your plant during the day if you have rooms which are only bright for an hour or two at different times.

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Diseases

Fiddle Leaf Fig plants can be especially prone to fungal infections.

Fungal infections can be identified by light brown and tan spots on the leaves, yellowing leaves, and curling leaves.

This bacterial infection can be differentiated from root rot because with root rot the lower leaves are affected first.

With bacterial diseases, the whole plant can exhibit symptoms.

How to Fix

Try to act quickly – as soon as you suspect your plant may be suffering from a fungal infection.

  • If you catch the fungal infection early enough when there are only a few affected leaves, remove them with sharp, sterilized pruning shears. 
  • Repot your plant. 
    • Clean as much soil from the root ball as possible to limit the chance of spreading the infection.
    • Disinfect the new pot before transplanting your Fiddle Leaf Fig.
    • Use new or sterilized soil. 
  • Maintain good care techniques to avoid fungal infections spreading.
    • Don’t overwater, water can spread the fungus.
    • Clean rotting debris, such as old leaves, from the pot. Fungus thrives in these conditions.
    • Sterilize tools between plants.

Insect Infestation

Fiddle Leaf Figs can find themselves unwittingly providing food for a variety of common pests, these include mealybugs, scale, mites, whiteflies, and aphids.

Insects feed off Fiddle Leaf Figs, often visible on either the leaves or stem. In feeding off the plant, they rob vital nutrients from the plant itself.

As a result, your Fiddle Leaf Fig will suffer because it will be losing the nutrients that it requires to feed itself.

In addition, insects like mealybugs can leave behind a residue which creates mould on your plant.

Insect infestations cause leaves to curl because the plant starts to lack nutrients and is damaged by the presence of the bugs.

How to Fix

When you first notice insects on your plant, you should act quickly.

Luckily, the solution is simple enough: wipe down your plant with a soapy wet rag, paying attention to the leaves and stem.

Repeat this action every few days until there are no more insects.

You can also spray the treatment on to your plant, using 1 tsp of dish soap mixed with 1 liter of water.

Neem oil is an organic and effective method of eliminating insects from your fiddle leaf fig.

Low Humidity

Fiddle Leaf Figs like a humid environment. Their ideal humidity levels are between 30 – 65%.

If it is not humid enough, this will affect your Fiddle Leaf Fig in the following ways:

  1. The soil will dry out too quickly after watering, causing dehydration and curling leaves.
  2. The plant will lose moisture through its pores, and this moisture is not easy to replace through water from the roots alone. This will cause your Fiddle Leaf Fig to dry out and its leaves will curl.

How to Fix

There are a few tricks for increasing humidity if you live in a dry environment:

  • Use a humidifier. These are easy enough to buy and instantly increase the humidity in your home.
  • Group plants together. As the water evaporates from one plant, it provides moisture in the air for the other.
  • Use pebble trays. Fill a tray/dish with clean pebbles and sit the plant pot in the tray. Put water in the tray, but don’t let the pot sit in the water. The water will evaporate slowly and create moisture around your plant.

Soil Type 

Fiddle Leaf Figs need light soil which drains easily and is well aerated.

If they do not have this, they can experience problems with root aeration (the roots can’t breathe!).

Poor soil can also encourage problems relating to bacteria or fungal growth, and salt or chemical build up.

All of the above, caused by using the wrong soil type, will cause your Fiddle Leaf Fig’s leaves to curl.

The roots will be struggling to work properly bringing water and nutrients to the plant.

How to Fix

When repotting your Fiddle Leaf Fig, choose a potting mix which says it drains well.

Instead of using soil alone, place a 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5cm) layer of gravel at the bottom of the container, and then put the soil on top. This will help with drainage.

Pot Size

When repotting your Fiddle Leaf Fig, you need to make sure not to choose a pot which is too big or too small.

The new pot should be, at most, 6 inches (15cm) larger in diameter than the previous pot.

If planted in too large a pot, Fiddle Leaf Figs can suffer from root rot, mineral build up, or underwatering.

The soil retains too much moisture and minerals, or the large area of the soil may make you falsely believe that it doesn’t need to be watered yet.

Too small a pot will lead to your Fiddle Leaf Fig becoming pot bound. The roots will become damaged, and there won’t be enough soil to provide sufficient nutrition to your plant.

Incorrect pot size will cause the leaves of your Fiddle Leaf Fig to curl because it will not be getting enough nutrients and water.

How to Fix

  • Measure the diameter of the pot your Fiddle Leaf Fig came in.
  • Its next pot should be 3 – 4 inches (7.5 – 10cm) wider in diameter.
  • When repotting, don’t use a pot which is more than 6 inches (15cm) larger in diameter than the previous pot.

How to Prevent Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves Curling

  • Develop a watering schedule to prevent under or overwatering. Water after the same interval each time, and use the correct amount of water depending on the size of your Fiddle Leaf Fig. Only water when the topsoil has dried.
  • Avoid overfertilizing. Use a diluted liquid fertilizer and don’t fertilize during your Fiddle Leaf Fig’s dormant stage.
  • Keep your Fiddle Leaf Fig in a place with lots of bright, indirect sunlight.
  • Use collected rainwater, distilled, or filtered water when possible to avoid a build-up of minerals and chemicals in the soil.
  • Keep humidity between 30 – 65%.
  • Make sure the pot is neither too big nor too small.

FAQs

1. Why are my Fiddle Leaf Fig leaves wrinkling?

Wrinkling leaves happen because of damage to the roots. Normally, this is light damage that was caused by recent repotting, or a brief spell when the soil got too dry. Resume a consistent watering schedule to stop further wrinkling.

2. Why are my Fiddle Leaf Fig leaves turning brown and falling off?

Brown, dropping leaves indicate overwatering root rot or fungal infection. Allow the soil to dry out for a bit before watering again. If this doesn’t solve the problem, repot your plant in new soil, cutting off any roots infected by rot.

3. Why are my Fiddle Leaf Fig leaves cracking?

Cracking leaves are caused by low humidity or overwatering. Check the humidity in your home, it should be between 30 – 65%. If it is too low, use a humidifier or pebble tray. To avoid overwatering: make sure the topsoil is dry before watering and stick to a watering schedule. 

Arifur Rahman

I'm the owner of gardenforindoor.com. After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I'm serving as a civil service officer at the Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh. I started Garden For Indoor to make your indoor gardening journey easy and enjoyable.

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