Fiddle leaf fig leaves curling is something you should always pay attention to. That’s because it is your plant telling you that something is not right.
This could be a simple issue. But it can also be something more serious.
Therefore, it is important to start investigating to try to identify the cause of the curling leaves in your fiddle leaf fig plant.
Why are your fiddle leaf fig leaves curling? Underwatering is usually the most common reason for leaf curl in fiddle leaf figs. But root rot can also be the underlying cause.
Of the two, the latter is more serious. So, it is important to make sure if it is lack of water or too much water causing it. Additionally, too much or too little fertilizer can also be a cause.
Why are My Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves Curling?
Underwatering is usually the most common cause for fiddle leaf fig leaves curling. This is the plant’s way of responding to its lack of water.
When leaves curl, the surface area of the leaves become smaller (compared to when fully open).
This reduces the water loss to transpiration.
The fiddle leaf fig does this to conserve whatever moisture it has remaining because it already knowns that its roots are not getting more water from the dry soil.
In addition to curling leaves, you’ll also see browning.
This usually begins on the edges of the leaves, not the middle.
And the longer the plant stays underwatered, more leaves will start turning brown.
Eventually, if you don’t water the plant, the leaves will start dropping as well.
How to Fix This
Ideally, prevention is the better than fixing an underwatered plant.
To avoid underwatering in the first place, check the soil every few days. I like to feel the surface of the soil every 4 days or half a week.
You can likewise do it weekly if you’re busy.
All it takes is 2 seconds to feel the soil.
If the soil feels dry, stick your finger into the soil until it reaches a depth of 2 inches below the surface. if this level is completely dry, it is time to water.
But if the soil feels moist or wet on the surface or the even at 2 inches deep, just move on with your day and feel the soil again 4 days or a week after.
So, if you suspect your fiddle leaf fig leaves curling is due to underwatering, feel the soil down 2 inches from the surface.
If it feels dry at that level, water the plant.
Soak the entire root ball then allow the plant to completely drain after.
Nutrient deficiencies prevent the plant from growing properly and staying healthy.
That’s because it needs nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to fuel its growth, development and other processes.
Additionally, don’t skimp of the micronutrients as well.
Those will cause other issues if the plant does not get them.
In addition to the nutrients, the fiddle leaf fig also needs sunlight. This allows it to perform photosynthesis.
Photosynthesis is the process by which is uses light to convert the nutrients it has absorbed from the soil to create sugars (which is uses as food).
These sugars provide the plant energy to support all its functions and processes including growth and leaf development.
So, the lack of nutrients will cause fiddle leaf fig leaves to curl among other things as the plant isn’t able to produce enough food to create the energy needed to support itself.
How to Fix This
Fertilize your fiddle leaf fig regularly during its growing season. These are the warm months of spring and summer when the plant is actively growing.
Use a balanced liquid fertilizer once every 2-4 weeks.
Start with once a month and see how the plant responds. If it isn’t growing as fast as it should, move up to 2 weeks. Otherwise just stay at every 4 weeks.
Avoid overfeeding the plant since this can lead to fertilizer burn which will damage the roots.
Don’t feed the plant during fall and winter.
In addition to fertilizer, also make sure the plant gets medium to bright, indirect light.
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Don’t feed the plant when it isn’t actively growing. And don’t use more fertilizer than needed.
It is also not a good idea to apply more frequently than suggested.
The reason is the fertilizers not only contain nutrients but also salts. And as salts build up in the soil they become toxic to plants, including the fiddle leaf fig.
Here, the salts can cause damage in a few ways leading to fiddle leaf fig leaves curling.
One is because salts draw water. As such, this will dry the soil faster or reduce the amount of moisture available to the plant.
The lack of water will lead to leaf curl as the plant tries to conserve moisture.
Another way is when the salts are carried up to the leaves of the plant. When this happens, they will dry out the plant. And if there is a lot of salt buildup, it can burn the leaves as well.
Finally, the roots can likewise sustain fertilizer burn.
Depending on how much salt buildup there is, it can damage a few roots or affect more roots. In either case, the roots’ ability to function are compromised.
And they are unable to absorb as much water and nutrients as they use to.
Both water and nutrient insufficiency cause fiddle leaf fig leaves curling.
How to Fix This
Only feed the plant as instructed.
The simplest way is to follow the instructions on the label of the plant. Note that if you’re feeding a fiddle leaf fig in a pot indoors, only use half the suggested strength in the label.
This will prevent overfertilizing.
If your fiddle leaf fig is growing in the ground outdoors, then use full strength.
Once a month application during spring and summer is usually enough. But you can up the rate to once every 2 weeks if the plant is not growing as expected.
Stop feeding by fall. And restart next spring.
The fiddle leaf fig enjoys moderate temperatures between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
It can also tolerate about 10 degrees Fahrenheit downwards and about 15 degrees Fahrenheit upwards. But avoid going considerably farther than that.
If you do, you fiddle leaf fig leaves can curl due to the temperature extremes.
This will cause it to stress. And in doing so, you see its leaves curl.
In addition to that, they can wilt, get discolored and later on fall off as well.
Besides temperature extremes, avoid sudden changes or fluctuations. The plant does not like that. And it can also experience similar side effects from this.
Indoors, this is usually less of a problem since homes have relatively consistent temperatures.
However, keep the plant away from air conditioners and cold drafts. Rooms with poor insulation or that tend to experience significant temperature drops at night are also no-no’s.
On the other hand, avoid heaters, radiators, ovens, stoves and fire places.
Areas with no ventilation or air flow that get very hot are also bad. So with excessively strong direct sunlight.
How to Fix This
The best way to keep track of temperature in your home is to use a digital thermometer.
This allows you to see the temperature just by glancing at the screen.
Therefore, if it gets too warm or too cold, you can move the plant to a better spot with more moderate temperature.
Root rot happens because of overwatering.
When you keep adding water before the soil is dry enough, this causes the roots to eventually be overwatered.
Since the soil is not given enough time to dry, water just keeps building up.
After a while, the fiddle leaf fig’s roots start drowning from all the water. This prevents them to breathe.
Unfortunately, oxygen is just as vital to roots as water is.
If the water does not drain or dry soon enough, the roots die of suffocation. This leads to root rot.
Root rot causes fiddle leaf fig leaves to curl because the damages roots are now dead. So, they don’t function.
This prevents the plant from absorbing enough moisture and nutrients like it used to. As a result, you don’t only see leaf curling but a host of other problems like leaf discoloration, wilting and later leaf drop.
The plant will also get weaker over time.
That said, it is not only overwatering that causes root rot.
Poor drainage or insufficient drainage can do this as well.
Soil that holds too much moisture like dense, compacted or heavy soils will retain too much water. So, even if you allow the soil to dry between waterings, the soil holds on to moisture for too long.
In doing so, it can also drown the roots.
Finally, there’s the pot’s drainage.
The pot you use needs to have holes at the bottom so the excess liquid can drip out. Otherwise, water that drains from the soil just builds up at the bottom of the pot.
This defeats your efforts of allowing the soil to dry between waterings then using well-draining soil because the soil still stays wet in the end.
How to Fix This
Avoid overwatering. Use well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes the bottom.
When watering, wait until at least the top 2 inches of soil has dried before you add more water.
This will prevent overwatering.
If your fiddle leaf fig leaves are curling because the plant is already overwatered, then it is important to fix the issue.
Unpot the plant and check the roots.
Rotten roots have a foul smell. This will usually be the first thing you notice.
Then check the roots. Remove excess dirt and soil if you need. The goal is to see all the roots clearly. This will let you know if there is root rot. And if there is, to what extent.
Healthy roots are white, flexible and feel firm to the touch. On the other hand, rotten roots are soft, black or brown and mushy. In fact, many roots will just get squished when you feel or touch them.
If there is root rot, note how much of the root system is rotten.
if all or nearly all the roots are rotten, there is no saving the plant. But if only a small portion of the root system is rotten, you can still save it.
In case there is no root rot, repot the plant in a new pot with fresh, dry soil. Then thank your lucky stars.
If there is root rot, prune the rotten roots.
If you pruned more than 1/3 of the root system, also prune the corresponding amount of plant above the soil.
Reducing the plant’s size will help the fewer, remaining roots survive and recover.
Then repot the plant in dry soil.
Fiddle leaf figs enjoy moderate to high humidity. Ideally, it prefers humidity between 40% and 60%. But it can tolerate humidity of 30% and above without harm or any problems.
This makes it somewhat easier to care for the plant indoors.
However, if you live somewhere with dry air, humidity can still get too low at times.
Lack of humidity will cause fiddle leaf fig leaves curling.
Additionally, you’ll also see the edges of the leaves turn brown. And the longer it stays in this condition, more and more leaves will turn brown and curl as well.
Lack of moisture in the air causes this.
So, it is important to help the plant out once you see these symptoms.
How to Fix This
You’ll need to increase humidity around the plant.
Note that you only need to increase humidity in the air surrounding the plant. You don’t have to go through the trouble of increasing humidity in the entire room or your entire home.
This makes the task easier.
Better yet, you have many options.
The more straightforward approach is to use a humidifier. Buying a humidifier does cost some money though. And you’ll have to decide on how much capacity the device has.
The simplest options are to move the plant to the bathroom or group all your houseplants together.
The bathroom usually has the highest humidity in any home because of all the water we use there. In most cases, humidity usually runs between 40% and 60% there.
On the other hand, if you have many houseplants, group them side by side.
When they transpire, the moisture that evaporates from their leaves increase humidity in the air above the entire group.
Set up a pebble tray or humidity tray.
These are pretty much the same thing. But they use different setups. So, use what you think is easier to DIY. Both take about 10-15 minutes to make and you can use old things you already have at home.
With a pebble tray, fill the tray with water and put pebbles in the middle.
Place the pot above the pebbles. But before you do, make sure the pebbles have a flat top and they clear the top of the water line. The pot should not get wet.
With a humidity tray, get a tray that’s bigger than the size of the pot. Then place a grate on top of the tray. Ideally, use something like a grill grate which has wide holes between the grates.
Fill the tray with water.
Then place the plant on the grate.
In both cases, as the water evaporates it increases humidity around the plant.
Make sure to refill the water once it gets depleted.