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Spots on Fiddle Leaf Fig

Brianna Ford
December 22, 2018

So I have had this plant for a few months, and this isn’t my first fiddle leaf fig. However, I haven’t come across this problem with my other tree. This one has some rust looking spots on it, and I’m not sure exactly what it is. I’ve included photos down below, and any advice or information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!!

Comments (3)

  • PRO

    Need more information like how many leaves are involved? where the leaves are on the plant, what you're doing insofar as the cultural conditions you've provided? any moves, even temporary, into significantly brighter light? Sudden chill in recent past?

    Most concerning is the first photo. Is any part of the lesion wet or slimy? Leaf spots that have a yellow (is it yellow, or is that a trick of the light?) halo and the spread of which is temporarily halted by leaf veins can mean a bacterial leaf spot disease. If the halo is another color and the lesion is and has always been dry - it could be from over-watering or something else cultural in its recent past. I'm assuming image 1 and 3 are top and bottom views of the same lesion? Are the last 2 images also a top and bottom view of the same abnormality?


    Brianna Ford thanked tapla
  • Brianna Ford

    Thank you for your response! Any advice is greatly appreciated. So I would say about 8 leaves have some a spot or a rust colored area. I’ve included a photo of the full plant to give you a better idea of its size. It’s in fast draining soil (fine pine bark mixture) and I water it once a week. It was moved to my residence about 6 months ago and faces a north west window in my apartment with plenty of light. My other Fiddle Leaf Fig does well with this lighting. There hasn’t been extreme weather temperature changes.

    Regarding the first photo, it is not wet or slimy. Just dry. I’ve attached another photo of that spot. It’s slighlty yellow but more of a tan/light brown color. 1 and 3 are the same leaf. All other photos are different leaves. Once again, thank you!

  • PRO

    Probably not any reason for much concern. If your soil drains well enough that you can flush it w/o worry that it will remain soggy, you should do that at least every 4th watering - more often is better. By 'flushing', I mean fully saturate the soil and continue watering so that what you would guess to be 15-20% of the entire volume of water you applied exits the pot. I see your plant is too big to cart around, so you should be sure the bottom of the pot is well above the bottom of the collection saucer or cache pot, so any effluent that exits the drain has no pathway back into the soil.

    Something like this ^^^, but on a larger scale. The closer the ratio of nutrients in the fertilizer you use, the less critical it is to flush frequently, but it's still important. Flushing is like hitting the fertilizer 'reset' button - it resets the total amount of dissolved solids (fertilizer and tapwater salts) in the soil solution to near zero, and it corrects nutritional imbalances, which can seriously limit the plant's ability to absorb other nutrients, depending on which nutrients happen to be present in excess. These created deficiencies occur even when there is an ample supply of the nutrient being made deficient by the excess. An example is easier to understand. Let's say you decide to add an iron supplement because you think your plant needs to be greener. If you're very lucky and there is an actual iron deficiency - no problem; but, if there is an ample amount of iron in the soil solution, it can (and does) cause a manganese deficiency. You don't really need to retain all this information, but it's good to know there are reasons and what they are, for flushing soils and making sure your fertilizer and watering practices aren't the source of limitations. That's our job, and pretty much our only job - to recognize limiting factors and correct them to the best of our ability.

    It looks like all the spots are related to over-watering, a high level of salts in the soil, or a combination - because they often go hand in hand.

    Probably time for a pruning next summer, yes?

    Edited to say: You might want to consider using a 'tell', to 'tell' you when it's time to water, instead of picking a day of the week as your 'watering day'. It's not uncommon for the top 2-3" of soil in taller pots to feel bone dry, while the soil below that level is 100% saturated. I wrote this a while ago about using a tell:

    How to Use a 'TELL'

    Over-watering saps vitality and is one of the most common plant assassins, so learning to avoid it is worth the small effort. Plants make and store their own energy source – photosynthate - (sugar/glucose). Functioning roots need energy to drive their metabolic processes, and in order to get it, they use oxygen to burn (oxidize) their food. From this, we can see that terrestrial plants need air (oxygen) in the soil to drive root function. Many off-the-shelf soils hold too much water and not enough air to support good root health, which is a prerequisite to a healthy plant. Watering in small sips leads to a build-up of dissolved solids (salts) in the soil, which limits a plant's ability to absorb water – so watering in sips simply moves us to the other horn of a dilemma. It creates another problem that requires resolution. Better, would be to simply adopt a soil that drains well enough to allow watering to beyond the saturation point, so we're flushing the soil of accumulating dissolved solids whenever we water; this, w/o the plant being forced to pay a tax in the form of reduced vitality, due to prolong periods of soil saturation. Sometimes, though, that's not a course we can immediately steer, which makes controlling how often we water a very important factor.

    In many cases, we can judge whether or not a planting needs watering by hefting the pot. This is especially true if the pot is made from light material, like plastic, but doesn't work (as) well when the pot is made from heavier material, like clay, or when the size/weight of the pot precludes grabbing it with one hand to judge its weight and gauge the need for water.

    Fingers stuck an inch or two into the soil work ok for shallow pots, but not for deep pots. Deep pots might have 3 or more inches of soil that feels totally dry, while the lower several inches of the soil is 100% saturated. Obviously, the lack of oxygen in the root zone situation can wreak havoc with root health and cause the loss of a very notable measure of your plant's potential. Inexpensive watering meters don't even measure moisture levels, they measure electrical conductivity. Clean the tip and insert it into a cup of distilled water and witness the fact it reads 'DRY'.

    One of the most reliable methods of checking a planting's need for water is using a 'tell'. You can use a bamboo skewer in a pinch, but a wooden dowel rod of about 5/16” (75-85mm) would work better. They usually come 48” (120cm) long and can usually be cut in half and serve as a pair. Sharpen all 4 ends in a pencil sharpener and slightly blunt the tip so it's about the diameter of the head on a straight pin. Push the wooden tell deep into the soil. Don't worry, it won't harm the root system. If the plant is quite root-bound, you might need to try several places until you find one where you can push it all the way to the pot's bottom. Leave it a few seconds, then withdraw it and inspect the tip for moisture. For most plantings, withhold water until the tell comes out dry or nearly so. If you see signs of wilting, adjust the interval between waterings so drought stress isn't a recurring issue.


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