How to Treat an Overwatered Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata)

An overwatered fiddle leaf fig can be very discouraging to look at as a plant owner.

That’s because a once majestic looking plant now looks sad with brown or yellow leaves that are wilting and falling off.

If you see this happening, it means something is wrong and your fiddle leaf fig is asking for help.

An overwatered fiddle leaf fig will develop yellow or brown leaves. You’ll see it stop growing and possibly have spots on its leaves as well.

This is usually caused by watering the plant too often. Although, it can be from incorrect soil or a pot with insufficient drainage.

To save an overwatered fiddle leaf fig, it is important to drain the excess moisture and allow the plant to dry as quickly as possible. If there is root rot, you’ll need to prune the rotten roots and repot the plant.

Signs of Overwatered Fiddle Leaf Fig

Below are the signs of an overwatered fiddle leaf fig. As a plant owner and gardener, it is very important to know these signs so you can identify the problem.

One of the biggest issues with fixing plant problems is diagnosing what’s wrong.

And misdiagnosis can cause further damage to the plant.

So, by knowing the different symptoms of overwatering, you’ll be able to figure out what’s causing the issues and how to treat your overwatered fiddle leaf fig.

 

Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves are a common sign of overwatering. And whenever I see them, I always check the soil to verify whether there is overwatering.

If I am still unsure or cannot confirm it, I often just unpot the plant can take a quick look at the roots.

The reason I’m very aggressive with overwatering is that it can lead to root rot.

This is why overwatering is the number one cause of houseplant death.

So, I always tend to be more conservative. Better safe than sorry, right?

In most cases, you’ll see the yellowing affect the lower leaves first.

Note that yellow leaves can mean other problems as well. This is why I make the extra checks on the soil and the roots.

Additionally, natural yellowing can happen due to aging.

But in this case, only a few leaves will turn yellow at a time.

With overwatering, you’ll see more and more leaves turn yellow as long as the problem is not fixed.

 

Stunted Growth

Fiddle leaf figs are good growers. And you can expect them to produce new growth every 4 to 6 weeks. The plant also gets bigger especially during the spring and summer.

If you notice slower growth or even stunted growth, the overwatering can be the cause.

That said, stunted growth usually means something more serious.

On the other hand, slower growth can sometimes just mean that the plant isn’t getting enough light or fertilizer.

So again, this is not a definitive sign of overwatering.

And it needs to be confirmed in combination with other signs.

 

Edema

Edema is swelling or bloating. And this can happen when the roots take in too much water.

You’ll see uneven sections in the leaves due to the excess water.

After a while, the cells in the leaves will burst as they cannot stretch enough to contain the excess moisture.

This leaves you with spot on the leaves.

 

Leaves Turning Brown

Brown leaves are a more serious sign. They usually mean that the leaves are not getting enough moisture.

And you’ll see the leaves turn brown on the edges and later in the middle.

If the problem persists, you’ll see more and more leaves turn brown.

So why are the leaves underwatered when the plant is overwatered?

That’s because the roots are already sustaining damage and some are dying or dead.

Therefore, fewer roots or less of them functioning at 100% results in you fiddle leaf fig not getting enough nutrients and water.

Since the leaves are the farthest points from the roots, they experience the shortage first, especially on the edges.

 

Root Rot

Root rot is a very serious problem.

And it tells you that your fiddle leaf fig has been overwatered for quite a while now or it has been consistently been overwatered.

As a result, the roots have drowned in too much water causing them to suffocate and die.

This is how root rot occurs.

And you’ll easily be able to tell when you unpot the plant and check the roots.

Before you get the roots, you’ll already experience a foul odor. That’s the rotten roots.

Rotten roots will be dark colored as well, either brown or black. They will be mushy and break easily.

 

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How to Fix Overwatered Fiddle Leaf Fig

Once you’ve confirmed that overwatering is the actual problem, the next important thing to focus on is to save your overwatered fiddle leaf fig.

Note that there are still a few scenarios that can still pop out at you.

So, I’ll go through each of those below and discuss what you can do to fix each one of them step by step.

 

Stop Watering

This first thing to do is to stop water, at least temporarily.

At this point, your fiddle leaf fig is already suffering from excess moisture. There’s no need to overwhelm it even more.

Instead, stop adding water until you’ve fixed the problem.

Then allow the plant to recover before you gradually start watering again.

This will prevent worsening any possible problems that have already occurred.

 

Check If There is Root Rot

The next step is to check if there is root rot.

The biggest problem with overwatering is that it can lead to root rot. However, not all overwatered fiddle leaf figs will experience root rot.

And depending on whether root rot is present or not, your approach to saving and reviving your overwatered fiddle leaf fig will vary.

In order to check, carefully take the plant out of its pot.

If your fiddle leaf fig is already big, tip it on its side and gently slide out the root ball. Don’t try to lift the plant up from the pot.

This could cause you to injure or strain your back.

Additionally, you do not want to pull the plant out of the pot using its stems. This can damage the plant especially if the stems have gotten soggy or softer due to overwatering.

Once you’ve gotten the plant out of its container, remove the excess dirt and soil from the root system.

This will allow you to get a clear look at all the roots.

If the soil is stubborn and there is a lot of particles sticking to the roots, use water to make it easier to remove the soil.

You can use a garden hose, showerhead, the sink or bathtub to do this.

Finally, check the roots for rotting.

Look at each and every root. You’re looking for any possible rotten roots.

Rotten roots are dark colored, usually brown or black. They also stink which you’ll probably smell before you even look closely at the roots.

Rotten roots are also soft and mushy when you touch them. They’ll easily break and tear.

Don’t worry if you do break them. They’re useless at this point anyways.

Rotten roots don’t function anymore. And they will never recover or heal.

Healthy roots are white in color and have no smell or an light earthy smell. The are firm when touched and very flexible as well.

You’ll easily tell the difference.

If all the roots are healthy, then there is no root rot. And you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Fixing and saving your overwatered fiddle leaf fig will also be easier.

If there is root rot present, even just a few of them, immediate action is necessary.

Root rot spreads quickly. And the worse its gets, the lower the likelihood you can save your overwatered fiddle leaf fig.

 

If There is No Root Rot, Let It Drain and Dry

If there is no root rot, then your main goal is to allow your overwatered fiddle leaf fig to dry as quickly as possible.

This prevents the possibility of root rot developing.

And it allows the plant to get out of its overwatered state and begin recovering.

The first step is to pour out any excess moisture.

If there is any water pooling on the surface of the soil or you feel any excess liquid in the pot, then tip the pot to its side and try to drain and pour out all the water from the soil and pot.

Next, aerate the soil.

You can poke holes using a sick into the soil to allow air to enter. This will help speed up the soil’s drying process.

Additionally, it will allow air to reach the roots.

With overwatering, excess liquid will push out all the air from the gaps between the soil particles. This makes the hard for the roots to get enough oxygen to stay healthy and function well.

This is one reason why you see leaf discoloration.

Another option is to turn the soil.

This allows more air to quickly get in between the soil particles.

From here, you can keep your fiddle leaf fig in medium to bright indirect light in a warm location with good ventilation.

This will allow the soil to dry faster.

That said, if the overwatering is a bit more serious, you can likewise take more aggressive measures.

In this case, take the plant out of the pot.

Then remove the excess soil from the roots.

Now, place the root ball over a several old newspapers. This will help absorb the excess moisture.

You’ll keep the plant out of its pot to let the root ball dry faster.

This will take several hours for a smaller fiddle leaf fig. And it will take several days for a larger plant.

The goal is to let the soil dry faster by exposing it to air.

Make sure to keep the unpotted plant is a secure place in your home with medium to bright indirect light, moderate to warm temperature and good air circulation.

Avoid direct sunlight, cold areas, windy or drafty spaces. Also, keep it away from air conditioned or heated rooms.

Once the root ball has dried, you can repot the plant in freshy dry soil.

Then slowly start watering again.

Make sure to adjust your watering schedule to avoid overwatering your fiddle leaf fig in the future.

This second method is more aggressive. But it also lets the soil dry much faster to begin recovery.

 

If There is Root Rot, Repot Your Plant

If your overwatered fiddle leaf fig has root rot, then you’ll need to take more drastic action.

Now, you’re going up against time.

Keep in mind that root rot will keep spreading. And it does so at a fast rate.

So, don’t wait a few days before you start. Instead, start treatment immediately.

The first step is to take the plant out of its pot.

Then remove any excess soil from the roots. Again, use water to make it easier to remove all the soil.

However, in this case, be more careful with the soil.

Don’t just slush it around. You’ll want to collect the soil and throw it in the trash.

Do not let the soil touch any of your other houseplants as they may still harbor some pathogens.

Your next step is to prune all the rotten roots.

Sterilize a pair of scissors or pruning shears. You can also use a knife. Then start cutting off all the rotten roots.

Be careful not to cut off any healthy roots. You want to preserve all the healthy roots.

Then throw away all the rotten roots.

Once you’re left with all healthy roots, soak the root ball into fungicide solution.

This will eradicate any fungal disease that may have caused the root rot. Doing so prevents that same problem from causing the plant to rot later on after you’ve repotted your fiddle leaf fig.

You’ll also need to disinfect the pot the plant was in.

You can use a hydrogen peroxide solution or bleach solution for this.

Then allow both the pot and the plant’s roots to dry.

I prefer to just throw away the used soil since they may harbor some pathogens as well. However, some gardeners will take the time to disinfect them in a microwave or oven. Others use different methods as well.

If you plant to reuse the soil for other plants, make sure you properly sterilize and disinfect it. Otherwise, it can cause the other plant to suffer the same root rot problem.

I don’t like taking the extra risk and doing the extra work. So, I just carefully discard the soil.

Finally, repot your fiddle leaf fig.

Once the roots of your fiddle leaf fig have dried, you can now repot it.

You’ll likely need a new smaller pot since you pruned part of the root system. Make sure the pot you use is clean. And it has drainage holes.

Choose a container that it 2 inches wider than the size of your fiddle leaf fig’s root system.

Don’t overpot the plant or use a container that is too small.

Also, get enough fresh, dry soil to fill the new pot. Make sure you use well-draining soil.

 

Adjust Your Watering Schedule

The main reason why fiddle leaf fig suffer from overwatering is people end up watering the plant too often.

Fiddle leaf figs only need watering every 1-2 weeks.

More specifically, you want to wait for the top 2 inches of soil to dry between waterings. Doing so prevents you from adding more water when the plant’s soil is still moist or wet.

This helps prevent overwatering and root rot.

If you do not like to get your hands dirty, you can use a moisture meter.

This lets you stick the probe into the soil and the device will tell you if the soil is dry, moist or wet.

And you can water accordingly.

In addition to knowing when to water your fiddle leaf fig, make sure you use well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes.

This will allow excess moisture to drip out instead of building up in the soil.

Thus, they help prevent waterlogging and overwatering.

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