Even when kept in the best conditions, the fiddle leaf fig is considered somewhat of a drama queen in the plant world.
These fickle figs, as I like to call them, are known for dropping their leaves when they aren’t happy and sometimes it can be hard to tell exactly why they aren’t happy. Thankfully, sunburn is generally very easy to identify and treat.
Sunburned Fiddle Leaf Fig Care: Step by Step
In this article, we will discuss the signs of sunburn in fiddle leaf figs, how to treat it, and what your plant needs to bounce back and thrive in your home.
Is my plant sunburned?
If the tops of your fiddle leaf fig’s leaves are exhibiting white or brown spots and are beginning to look crispy, this is likely due to sunburn. While fiddle leaf figs can thrive in direct sunlight in the wild, it is because they were grown that way since the time they were tiny baby plants.
However, to help more people have success with them as houseplants, most plant growers now grow them in greenhouses with indirect light. This is one of the reasons you can have difficulty finding a spot in your home where your fig will thrive without suffering from light deficiencies or sunburns.
Treating sunburned fiddle leaf figs
If you are certain your fiddle leaf fig is suffering from a sunburn, you will need to relocate it to another area in your house. The ideal space for your plant is likely a few feet from a south-facing window. Here your plant will be able to get steady indirect light all day.
Fiddle leaf figs can also thrive in east-facing windows with supplemental lighting from a plant bulb. They will enjoy the gentle direct morning rays that come from the east, but won’t be light deficient due to the plant bulb.
Once you relocate your fig you will want to remove any leaves that are currently sunburned. These should be the top leaves and the leaves that were closest to the window in its last spot.
You will want to be sure when removing leaves that you use sterilized shears and wear gloves as fiddle leaf figs can be irritating to the skin and bacteria on shears can lead to infections in your plant.
Once your fiddle leaf fig is trimmed and in its new location, you will want to make sure it receives optimal care for the best chance of recovery. Like I said earlier in the article, these plants are very fickle and seem to die at the drop of a hat, so giving them the very best care is the only way to ensure they will survive in your home.
Fiddle leaf figs thrive in moderate to high levels of humidity, around 40-60%. If your fig is still rather small, you can accomplish this with a pebble tray, but if it is large you will need to use a humidifier.
To make a pebble tray you will need a shallow tray that is roughly 2-4” larger than the rim of your plant pot. Fill the tray with stones or pebbles, and then fill it with water to just below the pebble line. As the water evaporates, it will raise the humidity around your plant and keep it happy.
You will want to water your fiddle leaf fig when its soil is starting to dry out. Test this by placing your finger about 2” into the soil. If the top 2 are dry you can water them, if they are still wet, wait a few more days.
I usually water my fiddle leaf about once a week, but you will need to get to know your plant to know exactly how often it wants to be watered.
To help your recovering fig to grow new leaves, you will want to make sure it has plenty of nutrients. Fertilizing with a 3-1-2 fertilizer once a month will ensure your plant has everything it needs to grow.
Generally, you will only want to fertilize your plant in the spring and summer, but if you live in a tropical climate where it is warm all year, you may want to continue fertilizing every other month in the fall.
If liquid fertilizer isn’t your thing, you can also use slow-release pellets. These will release nutrients into the soil every time you water your plant. Keep an eye out for yellowing leaves if using pellets as they aren’t the ideal nutrient ratio for fiddle leaf figs.
Since fiddle leaf figs naturally grow in the tropical rainforests of Africa, they don’t like to get too hot or too cold. The ideal temperature for these plants is between 65-75, but they can survive down to 60 and up to 80. Avoid dramatic temperature fluctuations as these can cause your plant to become stressed.
Also, try to keep your plant away from vents, fireplaces, or stoves as the heat from these can dry out your fickle fig.
If your plant is recovering from sunburn you will likely want to wait to repot it. Fiddle leaf figs can be sensitive to being repotted and while it is necessary from time to time, it is best to only have one stressor at a time. Wait for your plant to completely recover from a sunburn before repotting it into new soil.
For most fiddle leaf figs repotting will need to occur every 2-3 years. This is to make sure the fig’s roots have plenty of room to grow and to make sure there are plenty of nutrients in the soil.
Old soil can start having trouble holding water and nutrients after a while, and small amounts are washed out of the pot every time you water. This means that it is necessary to repot into fresh soil every few years.
Don’t get discouraged
I can’t say it enough, fiddle leaf figs are not easy plants. If you are a newer plant keeper, don’t get discouraged if your fiddle leaf fig has issues. Sometimes, even when you give them what should be ideal care, they simply don’t thrive.
You may go through a few fiddle leaf figs before you find one that does well in your home and, unfortunately, losing figs in the process is pretty normal even for experienced plant keepers like myself. It took me 4 tries to find a fiddle leaf fig that was happy in my home, but now that I’ve found one that likes me, he seems to be thriving.
If you are having trouble finding a fiddle leaf that thrives in your home, try going to different plant sources for your plants.
Most fiddle leaf figs at large chains, for example, come from CostaFarms in Florida, but you may find that an independently owned plant store has fiddle leaf figs from another source. Try one of these and see if they do better for you.
Keep away from pets
If you have pets in your home, it is imperative that you keep fiddle leaf figs away from them. These plants are highly toxic and can cause severe symptoms and even death in cats and dogs if ingested. Even if your pet typically doesn’t chew on plants, it isn’t worth the risk in my opinion. Keep it in an area your pet can’t get to or don’t keep it at all.
Keep away from small children
For the same reason, it is bad for pets, fiddle leaf figs can also be bad for children. Touching the plants can cause mild irritation, but if a child breaks a leaf and is exposed to the sap from the plant, this can be very irritating and may even require a doctor’s visit.
If your child does get the sap from a fiddle leaf fig on them, be sure to wash it off thoroughly and then consult with your doctor for the best course of action.