Skip to Content

4 Causes of Holes in Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves (And Solutions)

In fiddle leaf figs, the first sign of a cry for help almost always appears on the leaves. The same is true for fiddle leaf fig leaves with holes, cracks, or tears. 

When it comes to holes, they’re more than just an eyesore. They could also indicate a more serious underlying problem with your fiddle leaf fig.

Common bugs like beetles, snails, caterpillars, and slugs are often the cause of holes in fiddle leaf fig leaves. Weekly spraying using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or broad-spectrum insecticide will help eliminate the bugs. Other possible culprits include fertilizer burn, lack of humidity, physical trauma, diseases, and nutrient deficiencies.

Common Causes of Holes in Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves

[1] Insect Damage

Insect Damage Causing Holes in Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves
Insect Damage Causing Holes in Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves

At first, insect infestation may not seem like a potential cause. It makes even less sense if it’s an indoor fiddle leaf fig. After all, it’s sheltered away from common outdoor bugs.

However, pests could invade your indoor fiddle leaf fig in a number of ways…

  • Brought from infested nurseries or greenhouses by newly-homed plants
  • They hitchhike on other plants
  • Blown indoors through open doors, windows, etc.
  • They hitched a ride on your garden clothes, tools, gear, etc.
  • Perhaps the eggs or larvae were already in the growing medium
  • They could have overwintered in plant debris

When it comes to leaf holes, the real culprit is pest feeding activity. They can cause serious damage to the foliage.

Remember that the majority of bugs extract sap from the foliage with their sharp mouthparts. They cause leaf damage by drilling holes in the foliage.

Other bugs eat the tenders of the foliage.

In either case, their feeding activities will pierce the foliage. A rapid nutrient loss will also cause your fiddle leaf fig to become stunted.

In most cases, the feeding areas will become dry. Surrounding tissue almost always dies, causing dead areas to fall and form distinctive holes.

It is important to note that holes caused by pest infestations vary in shape and size. Others are irregular, while others are perfectly circular, angular, or oval.

Meanwhile, pest damage can take the form of scalloped edges. Let’s look at the potential causes of each type of hole.

Irregular Holes

Fiddle leaf figs can withstand a light insect infestation. Large infestations, on the other hand, can cause irregular holes to form on the leaves.

If you notice irregular holes in the foliage, the following insects may be to blame:

Irregular Tunnels are Left by Liriomyza Melanogaster

Leaf miners like Liriomyza melanogaster are a gardener’s worst nightmare.

For one, they are hard to spot as they’re only active at night. So, while the holes are apparent, the culprits may not be there to see.

That can compound the problem, especially when your plant’s health is fast declining. These leaf-mining bugs emerge at night to either lay eggs or feed on the leaves.

They’re said to be leaf miners because they burrow tunnels into the epidermis of the leaves while feeding. They lay their eggs into these distinct turns that appear as tight, irregular coils.

Once the eggs hatch and larvae escape the tunnels, you will notice irregular holes appear in the foliage. The holes usually taper outwards to form scars at the end.

The leaves of your fiddle leaf fig may also take a yellowed or stippled look. This often results from puncturing that the female bugs drill into the leaves to feed and deposit their eggs.

In addition to puncturing holes, the feeding action of larvae and adults can significantly hamper photosynthesis. As such, the affected leaves may turn yellow, wilt, and drop prematurely.

The damaged areas on the leaves may also act as points of entry for disease-causing bacteria and fungi.

How to Control and Manage Liriomyza Melanogaster

Consider using biological methods before you resort to chemical controls. I prefer the use of natural predators like parasitic wasps to control Liriomyza Melanogaster adults and larvae. 

For kill-sprays, consider using a broad-spectrum insecticide or neem oil. It’s best to spray your fiddle leaf fig before dusk. Right in time to kill the bugs as they come out of their hideouts.

Spinosad is another effective treatment for leaf-mining insects. It’s a low-impact, non-toxic way to get rid of adults. Spinosad concentrate (Check the latest price on Amazon here) is a concoction of microbes that kill leaf miners. 

Bush Crickets

If you notice irregular holes on upper leaves, bush crickets are likely responsible. They are foliar feeders that love broadleaf plants like fiddle leaf figs.

Like Liriomyza melanogaster, female adults deposit eggs in mines or tunnels they drill into the foliage and stems of your plant.

A large infestation can be pretty destructive. You will see a spray of irregular holes all over the leaves of your fig. 

Note that some species of bush crickets deposit their eggs in the growing medium. Even so, the bug’s feeding activity is what causes irregular cuts and holes in the foliage.

They are particularly invasive in the late months of summer. They stay inactive most of the day on window ledges and nearby bushes. When the dusk comes, they hop on your fiddle leaf fig and start feeding on it.

That’s when you hear their distinct mating calls. They can rattle the air around your plant with the buzzing noise. If you switch on the lights, they’ll scatter or suddenly go mum.

Bush-Cricket

How to Control and Manage Brush Crickets on Fiddle Leaf Fig

Bush crickets often congregate when mating. Incidentally, that’s the period they do the most damage. They’re stuffing themselves in preparation for reproduction.

They usually do so at night in well-lit places. So, it is best to switch off outdoor floodlights and lights in rooms where your plant is at night.

Before reaching for chemical insecticides, try attracting natural enemies like cats, spiders, lizards, and some birds. This is especially helpful if your plant is parked outdoors.

Another low-impact method is to pick the bush crickets by hand and destroy them. Of course, I don’t recommend this if you tend to be squeamish. 

Lay some glue board traps around your fiddle leaf fig. Pour a little cornmeal on the board to lure the bush crickets to the traps.

Insecticidal baits are another viable option. I highly recommend baits containing hydramethylnon, propoxur, or carbaryl (Check the latest price on Amazon here).

For indoor plants, use diatomaceous earth to deter bush crickets. It’s an abrasive powder that will kill insects by dehydrating their bodies.

For insecticidal sprays, I prefer neem oil or any non-toxic horticultural oils. Spray your plant thoroughly every 7-10 days until you rid it of bush crickets.

Slugs and Snails

Snails and slugs are usually responsible for centered irregular holes. These slimy critters feed on the tender foliage and leave small to medium-sized holes. 

The majority of the holes are found in the middle of leaves. However, a heavy infestation will strip your fiddle leaf fig naked.

For instance, snails rasp irregular holes into the leaves. They are reminiscent of the holes found on classic Swiss cheeses.

The most apparent sign is trails of slime on the stems and leaves of your fiddle leaf fig. The actual pests are either black or brown in color.

Slugs have characteristic small antennae on their foreheads. On the other hand, snails have circular, hard-shelled backs. That’s how to tell them apart.

How to Eradicate Slugs and Snails from your Fiddle Leaf Fig

Because of their slimy bodies, these pests are often attracted to cool, wet plants. Thus, you must avoid overwatering or splashing water on your fiddle leaf fig.

Handpicking is another effective control. Be sure to look for them in their usual hideouts. These include rock undersides, under mulch, and plant debris.

Lay a DIY trap by placing shallow saucers filled with beer close to your fiddle leaf fig. You must refill the saucers often and remove trapped slugs & snails.

If you aren’t into DIY, you can opt for a store-bought slug and snail trap. I’ve found that iron phosphate-based traps can curb slugs and snails in no time.

Use diatomaceous earth to create a barrier around your fiddle leaf fig. Copper and salt barriers can be used, but they aren’t as effective.

Caterpillars

Caterpillars are the most probable cause of irregular holes found at the edges of the foliage. 

Leaves fed upon by caterpillars may have ragged or chewed edges. They’re heavy-feeders that will likely cause the leaves to turn yellow. 

If left to their own means, caterpillars can also strip your fiddle leaf fig bare. They then move on to the next plant. 

How to Get Rid of Caterpillars from your Fiddle Leaf Fig

Caterpillars don’t take long before they morph into helpful insects like butterflies. So, you can leave them alone if they are few.

However, there are various control measures for large infestations, including:

  • Handpicking
  • Use of natural enemies like parasitic wasps and attracting larvae-eating birds.
  • Using Bacillus thuringiensis spray (Check the latest price on Amazon here). It’s a biological spray that’s effective against most pests in the larval stage. Re-apply weekly until fully controlled. (Source: University of California, Davis)
  • Use floating row covers to shelter your fiddle leaf fig. They help deter adult moths and butterflies from laying eggs around your plant.

Earwigs (Forficula auriculata)

Like leaf-mining bugs and bush crickets, earwigs prefer feeding at night. 

The majority of earwigs feed on aphids and other small bugs. However, others love nibbling on the foliage tenders of plants like fiddle leaf figs.

Earwigs rarely fly. You’ll find them hiding under wet debris, rocks, and mulch.

Jagged holes in fiddle leaf fig leaves are the work of earwigs. They feed on the leaves at night, especially after you irrigate your plant. 

In gardens, they attack after a heavy downpour. The runoff usually drives them out of their hiding. In turn, they seek refuge on your plant.

Earwigs

How to Control and Manage Earwig Infestations

Earwigs (Forficula auricularia) are easy to control and treat:

  • Spray your fiddle leaf fig using a Spinosad-based insecticide
  • Set corn syrup traps. You can also fill shallow saucers with molasses or heavy soy sauce
  • Vacuum earwigs from the leaves of your plant
  • Spray with neem oil product labeled for indoor plants

Flea Beetles

Flea beetle infestations are announced by the presence of many tiny irregular holes. Stunted growth and general wilting are other common symptoms.

They usually feed on leaf matter between the mains veins.

Very often, you can mistake flea beetle damage for slug/snail infestation. These bugs are very small (no more than an eighth inch long).

They come in many colors. The vast majority are brown or bluish, while others can be metallic gray, black, or bronze.

Flea Beetles

How to Get Rid of Flea Beetles from your Fiddle Leaf Fig

Flea beetles are relatively mobile and spread fast. Early treatment is the key:

  • Spray with an indoor safe insecticide. I prefer Spinosad, but cyfluthrin and pyrethrin-based pesticides can also do the trick.
  • Protect your fiddle leaf figs using a floating-row or drawstring cover
  • Encourage natural enemies like parasitic braconid wasps
  • Set up yellow sticky traps. They’re usually attracted to the color yellow. 

Oval or Angular Lesions

You should eliminate debris around your fiddle leaf fig. And for a good reason: they usually host fungi and bacteria that cause angular or oval lesions on the leaves.

Anthracnose is the most common of the fungal leaf spot diseases. It’s caused by Anthracnose fungi that overwinter and survive in damp leaf debris.

Other common symptoms of anthracnose include:

  • Small yellow or brown spots that darken as time goes by
  • The spots may merge to form large blotches that cover the foliage
  • The spots and patches may dry out to form holes
  • Infected leaves become distorted, curled, and may drop off prematurely

How to Control Anthracnose

Apply broad-spectrum copper-based fungicide every 5-7 days until you thoroughly treat the fungal disease

While fungicides can stop the spread, you can also use homemade controls. These include:

  • Garlic spray
  • Baking soda
  • Apple cider vinegar solution

Control spider mites early as they’re known to spread anthracnose fungi

Note that cutworms can also cut elongated oval holes in your fiddle leaf figs. They usually appear between the leaf veins.

Scalloped Edges

Holes with scalloped edges are a sign of pests that use chewing as a method for feeding. These often include beetles, caterpillars, weevils, certain cutworms, and even slugs.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Leaf yellowing and stunting
  • Leaf dieback
  • Distorted, curled, or twisted growth of new leaves or shoots
  • Premature leaf drop

How to Get Rid of Chewing Bugs

There are an array of chewing pests that can result in scalloped edges. Therefore, you must use a multi-prong control measure to treat them. These include:

  • Dubbing affected areas using alcohol-soaked cloths or cotton swabs
  • Pick large bugs like caterpillars by hand. Squish and discard them safely.
  • Encourage natural predators like predatory beetles, parasitic wasps, birds, etc.
  • Spray using neem oil, Spinosad, insecticidal soap, or broad-spectrum pesticides
  • Set up a diatomaceous earth barrier around your fiddle leaf fig. It’s the best method for getting rid of snails, slugs, and leaf miners.
  • Use commercial baits and traps. You can also DIY yours at home using cornmeal, molasses, corn syrup, or beer.
  • Take your fiddle leaf fig outdoors or in the shower. Then blast the bugs off using a strong stream of water.

[2] Physical Damage

Very often overlooked, physical trauma is the most prevalent cause of holes in fiddle leaf fig leaves. The leaves can be punctured, torn, or scratched.

Trauma often occurs during transportation. It may also occur if you place your plant in a high-traffic area. The pets, kids, and movers may bump into them.

Some pets can also bite, chew, or rub against the foliage. So, if you have ruled out pests, this is most likely the cause.

Physical Damage

How to Fix

Proper care should help your fiddle leaf fig perk up.

Consider placing a barrier in front of your plant. It should help deter kids, pests, and other actors.

[3] Boron Deficiency

Nutrient deficiency is another common cause of holes in plants. If the leaves on your fiddle leaf fig have dead holes and a rusty appearance, your plant may be lacking boron.

Other indications of boron deficiency include:

  • Short and thickened roots
  • New leaves are brittle and feel papery or leathery
  • Hollow, ragged, and rough stems
  • Twisted, curled, or distorted new growths
Boron Deficiency on Fiddle Leaf Fig
Boron Deficiency on Fiddle Leaf Fig

How to Fix Boron Deficiency

To inject more boron into the soil, apply borax or boric acid.

You can apply it as a foliar or soil fertilizer

[4] Insufficient Humidity Can Result in Holes in Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves

Low humidity is particularly tough on new foliage. If they’re too dry, they will crack or develop holes as they stretch out and unfurl.

The baby leaf buds may also become stuck due to insufficient humidity. They will crack, tear, and puncture as they develop.

How to Fix

It’s easy: boost humidity levels around your fiddle leaf tips. How so?

  • Put together a pebble water tray and place it near your plant
  • Mist your fiddle leaf fig regularly to elevate relative humidity levels
  • Use a humidifier

Consider lubricating the leaf buds as they mature as well.