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chris_mara61

Fiddle Leaf Fig White Patches

Chris Mara
December 28, 2017
last modified: December 28, 2017

I know there are endless threads on dying fiddle leaf trees but I can’t seem to find anything that resembles this. This started recently and has progressed super super quick. It was first only limited to this leaf but I’m seeing similar spots starting on other leaves that are smaller but still the same white, dry character. For what it’s worth, this is the lowest leaf on the tree. The leaves at the top still look super healthy, which is shown in the second photo. It gets quite a bit of light, even in these dark winter months in Boston. Have been watering thoroughly roughly once a week, when the first 2-3 inches dry out. Any help is appreciated!

Comments (15)

  • PRO
    tapla

    What, if anything, has been added to the soil or sprayed on the plant? Have you washed the leaves with anything? Have the leaves been up against a cold window or is the plant sited near a door where it can be affected by very cold drafts?

    It sounds like you're over-watering. When the top 2-3 inches are dry, the bottom of the pot can still have a part of the o/a soil volume that is 100% saturated. Start checking with a sharpened wood dowel stuck deep into the pot. Don't water until it comes out dry, then fully saturate the soil. Never let the plant sit in the effluent that exits the drain hole(s) when you water.

    If you've allowed the plant to become extremely dry, the soil might be hydrophobic (water-repellent). When that occurs, you might think you're wetting the soil, when in reality the water you supply is running over the surface of the soil and in the crack between the dry soil and pot walls w/o any significant soil penetration - so check that out next time you water to see if that's a factor.

    Al

  • Chris Mara

    Thank you for the response. Much appreciated.

    I’ve added another photo showing where it’s starting on other leaves.

    I have used a small dowel but was under the impression that it should never get completely dry at the bottom of the pot. I added a photo of what the dowel reveals at the bottom of the pot. Some moisture, but not super wet. Dirt sticks to it.

    Unfortunately the plant is near two windows that are drafty, and a hot water radiator, which is obviously hot and dry. I’ve been reluctant to move it because I want it to get proper light.

    I have wiped the leaves off with a drop of dish soap and water on a clean cloth, since I was told it would prevent build-up. I hope this was OK advice.

    I have not added anything to the soil since I bought it (September) since I was told not to repot or fertilize until spring. I have added a photo of the soil, which is definitely not hard and dry and separating from the sides of the pot like I’ve known some of my other plants to do.

  • robin98

    There was a post in Container Gardens in october by Jessica called “Never seen a fiddle leaf fig with this problem”, where the leaves had whitish patches like yours, might be worth reading to see if there’s anything relevant to you :)

  • Chris Mara

    I will search. Thank you!

  • Dave

    If soil sticks to the dowel, do not water yet.

    Also, never ever use dish soap on the leaves. You’re breaking down a protective layer on them by doing so.

    The only soap that would be ok to use in a spray or wipe would be something like dr bronners pure Castile peppermint soap.

  • Chris Mara

    So in other words, I should be letting it go completely dry? It’s amazing how easily you can find wrong information on the web.

    I’ll use some bronners next time. Or just water.

    Is there any way that the patches are from it getting too much sun? That’s the only information I gathered from robin98’s suggested thread that seemed to apply to my situation. ....

  • robin98

    Yeah sorry I realise there was no easy answer in that, I just knew how unusual this particular leaf change seems to be despite all the zillions of posts so thought I’d point it out in case something resonated with you. Good luck!

    Chris Mara thanked robin98
  • Chris Mara

    Oh no, don’t mind reading! It looks very similar to my problem, with all of the fleshy spots. Multiple people seemed to think they were spots from direct sun but I feel like that would be a common issue, for those who have let theirs sit outside on the nice weather, etc

  • Chris Mara

    Here are some updated photos. It has progressed on all bottom leaves and 5 or 6 leaves have dropped. The patches are still fleshy but definitely more brown now too.

    The top leaves are still healthy, making me think that it really didn’t like being near the radiator, so I moved it away.

    I’ve watered only when it completely dries out and tip it over to let it drain fully. That being said, I’m itching to repot it (it’s still in the plastic pot from the nursery) and put rocks in the bottom to ensure it completely drains. When is the earliest I can do this? It’s tempting on these 55 degree days but it’s still winter....

  • Kenzie Lattimer
    did you ever figure out what was wrong? mine is doing the same thing almost and leaves are dropping ☹️
  • PRO
    tapla

    Were you also using dish soap on the foliage?

    Al

  • Kenzie Lattimer

    I have used a mixture of a little dishsoap and oil for bug repellent every once in a while about 6 months now, but this just started happening to mine last week and is rapidly taking all my tree's leaves ☹️

  • PRO
    tapla

    Most household cleaning products have more than 1 phytotoxic (poison to plants) ingredients. Dawn has 7 or 8. I know you'll find a lot of people who will claim, "I've always used X and it's never harmed my plants", but that has no bearing on the fact that dishsoap dissolves cuticular wax and root lipid membranes; neither does the fact that because effects might not be immediately conspicuous they don't exist. Loss of cuticular waxes limits the plant's ability to keep foliage hydrated and leaves foliage more susceptible to diseases.


    Al

  • Kenzie Lattimer
    interesting that folks would recommend using it on your plants then? well that's just great. hopefully it perks up soon rather than die. is there anything you suggest to possibly detox the plant?
  • PRO
    tapla

    It's known with 100% certainty that household cleaners like Dawn, Ivory, Palmolive, et al, damage/dissolve cutin, cutan, suberin, lipids, waxes, and other hydrophobic (water-repellent) substances that are synthesized by the plant and provide a protective coating. The function of these water repellent compounds is to A) limit water loss from the aerial parts of all terrestrial plants, B) block the entry of pathogenic fungi and bacteria, and C) they cause water to bead up on the plant's leaf surface and run off, which effectively removes light-blocking dust and debris from leaves. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence of the damage caused by these household cleaners, you'll still have a vocal group of naysayers suggesting that because they are unable to immediately discern the damage these products cause, they must surely be completely safe, and all should follow the clarion call that "It works for me"!

    As long as your plant is healthy and you're providing cultural (growing) conditions that aren't at or beyond what the plant is genetically programmed to tolerate, you'll be pleasantly surprised by its resiliency. Your plant has internal chemical messengers that will signal 'plant central' when a leaf becomes a deficit instead of an asset. When the plant gets the message it's to its advantage to shed the offending leaf, the plant will begin to remove any mobile nutrients and biocompounds from the spoiled foliage, then shed it. If you can tolerate the blemished leaves, leave them on the tree until they are all brown or shed. It might be helpful to take the plant into the shower and allow room temp water (will feel quite cool to the skin) to spray on the leaves for several minutes. If you have a hand-held spray device in the shower, use it to thoroughly spray the leaves' undersides. While you have it in the shower, slowly pour a volume of room temp water equal to about 10X the volume of the pot the plant is in through the soil. This will remove any accumulation of salts that might have occurred.

    Beyond that, make sure you're monitoring moisture levels so you're watering on an 'as needed' basis instead of according to the calendar. If you offer appropriate light levels, temperatures, and start a well-considered nutritional supplementation program, your plant should fare very well. If you use an appropriate soil (one you can water to beyond the point of saturation w/o the need to worry that your plant's root system will suffer from prolonged soil saturation), and can keep the watering intervals, and light/temperature levels close to the 'sweet spot', your plant will fare well.

    If you can be patient until a more appropriate time to work on the tree (June in the Northern Hemisphere) we can fix things by forcing your tree to grow a brand new flush of growth. The new leaves will be pristine in appearance and perfectly attuned to light levels where the plant is sited.

    Plants have natural rhythms. Working with those rhythms instead of at cross-purposes with them makes things much easier on the plant, and satisfies the itch you have to nurture much more effectively than simply forging ahead w/o a plan that benefits the plant.

    You should find this useful.


    Al

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