Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaf Curling | Causes and How To Fix

There’s something magical about the fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata). I mean, what else explains the sheer popularity of this notoriously finicky houseplant?

Fiddle leaf figs aren’t difficult just for the thrill of it. But they do have very specific demands when it comes to their environment and maintenance schedule. If you stray from these needs even slightly, your fiddle leaf fig will quickly reward you with curled leaves or another unsightly symptom.

In this article, I list the most common causes of fiddle leaf fig leaf curling and the steps you can take to fix it.

What Causes Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves To Curl?

These popular and in more recent times common house plants aren’t shy about letting you know something is wrong with their growing conditions. Curling leaves are just one way these plants respond to stress or disease. The tricky part is narrowing down what is causing your fiddle leaf fig to respond so negatively.

Most stressors that can trigger curling leaves come from the plant’s growing environment. If you notice this symptom on your own houseplant, there could be something wrong with your fiddle leaf fig’s location, watering schedule, or nutrition. Some cases of curling leaves are also caused by invading pests or diseases.

Water Stress

In my experience, curled leaves – often accompanied by yellow leaves – are frequently traced back to water problems. Potential causes include not watering enough, watering too often, and poor soil drainage.

While fiddle leaf figs like to dry out almost completely between waterings, leaving your plant unwatered for too long can make the leaves curl. You might also notice that the leaf margins turn brown or feel dry to the touch.

Overwatering your fiddle leaf fig can cause the leaves to curl or droop toward the ground. This can also be a symptom of advanced root rot. Root rot — a disease often brought on by overly damp soil — eats away at the root system until the fiddle leaf fig can’t take in water, nutrients, or oxygen.

If your watering schedule is on the up-and-up, poor soil drainage could be to blame. Fiddle leaf figs require fast-draining soil to ensure excess moisture doesn’t pool around the roots. Ensure your plant’s container has adequate drainage holes.

fiddle leaf fig curled and brown leaves

Tap Water Quality

Fiddle leaf figs are one of several popular houseplants that dislike unfiltered tap water. Many municipalities add chemicals like chlorine and fluoride to their drinking water. These chemicals are perfectly safe for us but can place significant stress on more sensitive plants.

Distilled water and collected rainwater are generally seen as the best options for watering houseplants. Alternatively, you can leave regular tap water out to sit for at least 24 hours to remove most of the chlorine via evaporation. 

Harsh Sunlight

These plants prefer bright, indirect light when grown indoors. Exposure to intense sunlight will quickly dry out a fiddle leaf fig and can even leave burn marks on the foliage.

If excess sun exposure is at fault, you’ll probably notice the most curling along the edges of the leaves. Placing the fiddle leaf fig in a more dimly lit location and watering if necessary will prevent further damage and help the curled leaves return to normal.

Low Humidity

Extremely dry air can trigger symptoms reminiscent of underwatering. In this case, moisture is pulled directly from the leaves, causing them to curl up.

I’ve found that the ideal humidity for fiddle leaf figs differs depending on who you ask. But in my experience, 40 to 60% humidity is a good range to strive for. 

You can boost the relative humidity around your plant as needed using a household humidifier or pebble tray. Note that rapidly fluctuating humidity can also cause stress, so try to keep the level consistent.

fiddle leaf fig likely underwatered/in low humidity

Temperature Shock

Fiddle-leaf figs are subtropical plants that love warm weather. They don’t have much patience for the cold or rapidly fluctuating temperatures. 

According to North Carolina State University, these houseplants require temperatures above 55°F to remain healthy. Conditions above 90°F can also stress your fiddle leaf fig and trigger leaf curling.

Pest Damage

Common pests like spider mites, mealy bugs, and scale can cause fiddle leaf figs to curl up. These pests all feed on sap found in plant leaves. Your fiddle leaf fig’s foliage will become more and more dehydrated as the infestation worsens.

You can control mild infestations by spraying your fiddle leaf fig with a strong stream of water to knock pests off of the plant. I also recommend the use of Neem oil and similar treatments to prevent and manage infestations. 

Chemical pesticides should be a last resort and are almost never necessary when dealing with indoor plants. If you do turn to one of these products, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully.

Over-Fertilizing

Your fiddle leaf fig’s leaves might curl up and turn brown if you apply too strong of fertilizer or fertilize too often. Fertilizer burn can also be a side effect of poor watering practices.

The University of California recommends feeding twice per year with an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer. Dilute the fertilizer to half-strength to minimize the chance of over-feeding.

Most fertilizers contain nutrients in the form of chemical salts. While these salts are very effective at delivering valuable nutrition, they will rob plant roots of moisture if left in the soil. Flushing your fiddle leaf fig’s soil by watering until water flows freely from the container’s drainage holes is the best way to remove salt buildup.

Disease

Fiddle leaf figs are fairly hard against bacterial and fungal infections but that doesn’t mean curling leaves are never caused by an underlying disease. Keep an eye out for other signs of disease like bacterial lesions or fungal spores that form in infected leaves.

It’s hard to treat houseplant diseases without a strong diagnosis, so you might need to call in a professional if you think your fiddle leaf fig is truly ill. I recommend reaching out to your local Extension Office or a similar resource if possible.

For more information about house plants with curling leaves, here’s a link that may be of interest: Why Are My Rubber Tree Leaves Curling?

FAQs Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaf Curling

Why Is My Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaning?

Your fiddle leaf fig might be leaning because it’s not getting enough sunlight. Other potential reasons include underwatering and poor nutrition. In addition to addressing these issues, you can tie your fiddle leaf fig to a bamboo stake for some extra support.

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.