The Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata) is a fairly demanding plants. But because of its beautiful leaves, it remains one of the most popular houseplants around.
That said, one issue you may come across are fiddle leaf fig leaves cracking.
And will be alarming because it is not something normal you’d usually see.
So, the question is…
Why are your fiddle leaf fig leaves cracking? Physical damage due to traffic, pets or young kids can cause cracks in leaves.
But it can also be caused by lack of humidity and overwatered soil.
In some cases, lack of nutrients, poor lighting and pest infestations will also make fiddle leaf fig leaves crack.
Why are My Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves Cracking?
Fiddle leaf fig leaves cracking sometimes has a simple cause, physical damage.
This can be by you, your kids, pets or visitors. Basically any foot (or paw) traffic that brushes hard against the leaves in the wrong way can cause cracks as well as tears in the leaves.
Similarly if you position the plant in hallways or entryways where there’s a lot of people moving about or through on a daily basis, then this can happen as well.
The good news is that leaf cracks due to physical damage is the easiest to fix.
How to Fix This
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to fix the damaged leaves. And the cracks or tears will not heal or recover.
So, you either need to reshape the leaves or trim off the damaged sections.
The other step is to move the plant away from where it can get damaged.
Often, this requires keeping it away from where most people will pass through in your home. But sometimes there may be a mischievous child or pet that likes playing, poking holes or pawing on the leaves.
If this is the case, you’ll need to move the plant out of the reach of the kids, dogs and cats.
Lack of humidity is another reason for fiddle leaf fig leaves cracking.
In general, the plant prefers humidity between 40% and 65%. However, it can tolerate levels down to 30% as well.
That said, the lower you go, the more you want to watch out for signs that the air is too dry for the plant’s liking.
Once symptom is its leaves will crack.
Another is you’ll see dry, crispy tips on the edges and tips of the leaves. These will turn brown as well.
In most cases, fiddle leaf figs do well indoors.
But there are some instances you need to watch out for.
The most common is winter. Winter tends to dry up the air quite a bit. So, it is a good idea to monitor humidity in certain rooms in your home.
If you’re not sure, use a hygrometer.
I like digital hygrometers because they instantly give you the reading in large numbers.
Thus, you know whether you need to do something.
Similarly, hot, dry summers can cause humidity to decrease. This can lead to fiddle leaf fig leaves cracking as well. At times, you may see the leaves curl also due to lack of moisture.
Then there are more sneaky threats.
These come in the form of appliances like heaters, radiators and air conditioners. When you turn these appliances on, the entire room’s humidity will drop.
And it will stay low for a while after you turn them off too.
How to Fix This
The best way to keep track of humidity levels is to use a hygrometer.
That said, you also want to keep the plant away from rooms with air conditioning, vents, heaters and similar appliances.
During the hot summers and cold winters, you can use a humidifier or a pebble tray if you notice humidity drop significantly.
A simpler method is just to mist the plant’s leaves every few days.
The fiddle leaf fig thrives when placed somewhere with plenty of light. But there’s such a thing as too much light.
Thus, it is very important to keep the plant in medium to bright indirect light indoors.
Outdoors, it does best in partial shade.
Just as importantly, avoid very strong, intense, harsh light. Excess direct sunlight is likewise a no-no.
And if you leave the plant is too much direct sunlight its leaves will experience damage.
The plant itself can tolerate the excess light and it will survive. But the leaves will initially turn yellow or pale then brown as they dry up.
Once this happens, the leaves can easily crack.
Similarly, excess light or too much intensity can scorch foliage leaving you with burn marks.
How to Fix This
Avoid too much direct sunlight. While the fiddle leaf fig plant can tolerate 1-2 hours of this on a daily basis, high intensity light for long periods on a regular basis will eventually damage its foliage.
As such, position the plant where it receives dappled, diffused, filtered or indirect light.
The simplest way to do this is to place it in a spot where the sun’s direct rays never hit the plant. This is especially true during the middle of the day when the sun is most intense.
Indoors, a south facing window is the spot you want to watch out for since the sun is strong coming in from that direction.
So, if you want to position the plant facing the south, keep it at least 3 feet from the window or place sheer curtains to filter some of the light coming in through the window.
Outdoors, avoid full sun.
Instead, keep the plant in a covered location that’s bright as much as possible.
Root rot from overwatering is another cause for fiddle leaf fig leaves cracking.
That said, the leaves cracking become less of a concern as the bigger priority will shift to the root rot and trying to save the plant.
This is why overwatering is very dangerous.
It can lead to issues like root rot and fungal diseases which I discuss below.
Root rot is usually caused by excess water. This can be from watering the plant too often. But it can also happen if the soil does not drain enough of the moisture or the pot you’re using does not have holes at the bottom.
Root rot becomes a problem because once roots rot, they stop functioning.
This means that the parts of the root system don’t absorb water and nutrients from the soil anymore. And it does not matter how much you water the soil or fertilize it.
As a result, the plant itself becomes deficient in water and nutrients.
This is why fiddle leaf fig with root rot develop yellow and brown leaves.
Yellow leaves are caused by the nutrient deficiencies. Brown leaves are caused by the lack of moisture.
For the latter, the leaves will also be dry and crispy. After a while they start cracking as well.
How to Fix This
The key to avoiding root rot is to not overwater the plant.
This usually takes a 3 pronged approach.
- Allow part of the soil to partially dry between waterings
- Use potting soil that is well-draining
- Make sure the that pot you use has drainage holes
Together, these measures will prevent root rot from happening.
The key is to avoid soil to stay wet as the fiddle leaf fig plant hates wet feet. And it is the wet soil or excess moisture in the soil that causes the roots to suffocate, die and later rot.
On the other hand, in case the cause of your fiddle leaf fig leaves cracking is root rot, then the goal is to save the plant.
Here, unpot the plant and check the roots.
You’ll likely see black, mushy roots that have a foul smell.
To save your fiddle leaf fig plant from root rot, prune the rotten roots and prepare a pot with fresh, dry, well-draining soil.
Then repot the plant into that new container.
Don’t water the soil for a while to allow the plant to recover.
As for the cracked leaves, they won’t heal or become whole again. Thus, you can trim them off or trim off a section of the leaf to reshape it.
Lack of Nutrients
Like other plants, the fiddle leaf fig needs fertilizer to be healthy and grow. Plant food is important because it supplies the nutrients to ensure there are no deficiencies.
As such, it is a good idea to feed the plant to make sure this does not happen.
That because nutrient deficiencies can lead to yellow or pale leaves as well as a weak plant. It can also cause fiddle leaf fig leaves to crack.
But then using fertilizer, it is important to be aware that too much plant food is actually worse than not feeding the plant at all.
That’s because overfertilizing the plant can damage its roots and leaves.
And if you go overboard, it can eventually endanger the plant as well.
Commercial fertilizers contain salts along with the nutrients. Unfortunately, plants hate these salts.
The big problem here is that the more you feed the plant, not only are you giving it more nutrients but also more salts.
These salts will build up in the soil as this happens.
And salts tend to draw water which makes it difficult for the roots to absorb sufficient moisture to support itself.
As a result, the more you overfertilize, the higher the risk of the plant becoming underwatered.
Just as importantly, roots absorb nutrients through water. So, it also becomes malnourished.
As the plant lacks water the leaves will become dry, turn brown and crack.
But by then, you’ve got other problems to deal with as well.
How to Fix This
If you have not fed your fiddle leaf fig for a few years, then it is a good idea to start applying fertilizer.
However, the key to feeding the fiddle leaf fig plant or any other houseplant is moderation. That is, avoid overdoing it.
Instead, just follow the instructions in the label.
It can be tempting to give the plant more food since it sounds logical that it will grow faster with more fertilizer.
While true, there are side effects to doing this and the risks far outweigh the benefits.
So, instead, just use a 3-1-2 NPK fertilizer. Apply this once a month during the plant’s growing season. Then stop during fall and winter.
Dilute the dose by half the recommended strength as well.
Try not to skip the fertilizer as lack of nutrition is not ideal for the plant’s health or growth.
But at the same time, never overfeed the plant.
In case, you’ve noticed that your fiddle leaf fig leaves are cracking due to excess fertilizer, then you have a couple of options.
- Flush the soil
- Repot the plant
Flushing the soil means to run water through the soil for a few minutes. This will carry out excess salts, minerals and debris along with the water.
Try to change positions in the soil where you pour the water as well.
After flushing the soil, don’t forget to let it completely drain. This will allow you to avoid overwatering.
The second option is to repot the plant.
Repotting is a more aggressive solution. But it also ensures that you take the plant’s roots out of the over fertilized soil immediately.
This lets it start fresh in new soil without any fertilizer at all.
Let the plant rest and don’t fertilize it for a while as it recovers.
Fiddle leaf fig leaves cracking can also happen due to diseases.
Here, the main cause of the disease will almost always be too much water.
Unfortunately, overwatering the soil as well as wetting the leaves too much are the most common reasons for bacterial and fungal diseases.
The thing is that different infections have varying symptoms.
But there are a few diseases that will cause the leaves to dry up and later crack.
How to Fix This
When it comes to bacterial and fungal disease, the treatment will depend on the kind of pathogen that caused the issue.
Thus, the solution can vary.
However, it is important to note that not all bacterial and fungal infections have solutions.
Some require cutting down on water to dry the plant which helps limit the disease. From there you hope it clears out because the environment becomes hostile to its growth.
Sadly, some diseases like systemic bacterial infections have no cure. And they will eventually take the plant.
With fungal disease, you do have the option of fungicides which always helps.
As such, the best way to deal with diseases it to avoid them altogether.
So, your best bet is to avoid overwatering the plant as well as getting the leaves wet when you water.