Root Rot in Fiddle Leaf Fig Plants Causes, Signs and Solutions
There are several issues that you may face with your fiddle leaf fig. And one of those issues is root rot. Yellow or brown spots on fiddle leaf fig leaves and inhibited growth are signs of root rot.
Although common, if left untreated, your favorite plant could end up dying. You can tell apart a rotting root from a good one by merely observing and feeling it.
Healthy roots are firm and flexible. But if the roots are mushy with a rotten smell, it has fallen victim to root rot.
Root rot simply means that the roots of your plant are decomposing, which ultimately leads to the decay of the root system. The primary causes of root rot are overwatering and lack of proper drainage. To deal with root rot, you must uproot your plant, clip the rotten roots, treat the rest of the roots with hydrogen peroxide solution and then repot your plant in fresh, well-draining soil.
In this guide, we discuss everything you need to know about root rot, how you can diagnose the problem, how you can prevent it, and how you can treat it.
Causes of Fiddle Leaf Fig Root Rot
Root rot is a common occurrence in fiddle leaf figs also called Ficus Lyrata. It occurs because your plant is sitting in too much water. The excess water in the soil could be a result of overwatering.
New and enthusiastic plant parents mistakenly overwater their fiddle leaf figs. Your plant roots need to be kept moist but never soggy.
Some of the causes of root rot in fiddle leaf figs are:
- Poor drainage
- Bacterial or fungal infections
- Poorly functioning root system
- High humidity conditions
When you overwater your plant, the bacteria and fungi present in the soil will start to thrive and attack your plant. This leads to root decay, which inhibits your plant’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Apart from overwatering, a poor drainage system will hurt your plant. The stagnant water in the soil will cut off the oxygen to your plant. What’s more, once the root rot starts, it doesn’t stop with the root system. Its effect can be felt all the way up the plant system and the leaves, as well.
So, how do you tell that your plant is suffering from root rot? Here are a few telltale signs to watch out for.
Signs of Root Rot in Fiddle Leaf Figs
Below are the symptoms of root rot to help you diagnose root rot in your plant correctly.
Leaves Turning Brown
Fiddle leaf fig leaves turning brown is one of the first signs that root rot is setting in.
And not only the leaves but the roots too. Yes, color is an indication of root rot. Healthy roots are white, but unhealthy roots will be brown or black.
Initially, the browning will appear as little spots. But if the root rot is left unchecked, the spots could spread till the whole leaf has turned brown. Eventually, the spots could darken and turn dark brown or black.
If it is fungal root rot, you will notice these spots at the leaf base near the stem. The spots can also appear near the edges of the leaves and make their way around the plant.
Although not common, root infection can also manifest as brown spots in the center of the leaves.
This fungal infection is caused by excess water and poor drainage. When leaves are brown rather than green, it means they have no chlorophyll. When there is no chlorophyll, the leaves will be unable to absorb sunlight for photosynthesis (food making process in plants).
Keep in mind that browning is caused not just because of root rot, but also due to pest infestation, bacterial infection and lack of water. So, you should examine the roots to ensure that it is root rot that is actually causing the problem.
Soft, Mushy Roots
Apart from color change, a change in the texture of the root is another sign that root rot has occurred. The roots will become soft, slimy and mushy rather than their usual firm self.
Furthermore, the rotten roots will feel soggy and wet because they are sitting in waterlogged soil.
Algae Around the Base
You will notice algae or mold thriving around the base of your fiddle leaf fig. This is common in plants with root rot. Algae and mold love wet and moist environments.
If you have not been keeping to a proper watering schedule and have constantly overwatered your plant, then you have created just the perfect environment for algae and mold to multiply!
If you notice algae or mold, examine the plant – you might have a root rot deep down.
Drooping and Yellow Leaves
The effect of root rot manifests in the leaves of fiddle leaf figs. If you notice your once majestic and robust fiddle leaf fig leaves drooping, then there is a possibility of root rot.
This happens because of overwatering. It means your plant is feeling stifled and unable to take up water, nutrients and oxygen, all of which it needs to thrive.
In addition, the foliage will become yellow because of poor nutrition. This indicates that your roots are not functioning as they should.
When the stem droops, it could be because of root rot. Note that the weight of the large leaves of your fiddle leaf figs can cause the stems to droop a little. But if you notice unusual drooping stems (much more than usual) it could be due to root rot.
Unpleasant Smell from the Soil
An unpleasant, rotten smell will accompany the root rot. This will not be the case if the roots are healthy. If you perceive a damp, musty smell, it means that the root rot has been there for a while now.
If you don’t smell anything, don’t eliminate root rot just yet. It could be because the decay has just started. In this case, you should remove the plant from the pot to check for root rot. And if you get a musty smell, it clearly points to root rot.
How to Fix Root Rot in Fiddle Leaf Figs
The first step to solving any problem is early diagnosis of the problem early. And if some roots are still healthy, you will need to clean the roots and repot your fiddle leaf fig plant.
Here is a step-by-step guide for dealing with root rot issues in fiddle leaf figs.
Rinse the Plant Thoroughly
Gently remove the fiddle leaf fig plant from the container. Rinse it with warm water. And be careful not to damage your plant any further.
Shake off as much of the soil as possible, or you could wash off the soil from the roots so that you can take a closer look at the plants and assess the damage.
Be sure to get rid of the old soil.
Assess for Root Rot
Healthy roots feel firm and are white in color. If you find roots that are brown or black and feel soft and slimy to touch, those roots are rotten. You will need to get rid of the rotten roots before repotting your fiddle leaf fig.
Prune the Damaged Roots
Using a pair of sharp shears, prune the root ball. This will remove the infected sections of the root. Ensure that you make clean cuts.
Get rid of all the rotten roots, including roots that have the slightest trace of rot in them. Otherwise, your lovely fiddle leaf fig plant could be reinfected.
When pruning, don’t snip away too much off the plant since this can send your plant into shock. A good rule of thumb is to prune no more than 30%.
Consider snipping other damaged parts of the plant, such as the leaves, so that your plant looks good again.
Repot Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
Once you have eliminated all the damaged roots, your fiddle leaf fig is ready for repotting. Repotting will give you a healthy and happy fiddle leaf fig.
You can give your plant a new home. This means a new pot and fresh soil mix. We stress this because when you use either the old container or soil, there is a probability that the roots could be reinfected, and lead to root rot can again.
Seeing that poor drainage is one of the leading causes of root rot, you need to ensure that the new container has enough drainage holes. This will allow the excess water to flow out. The soil you use for repotting your fiddle leaf fig should also be well-draining.
Place your fiddle leaf fig in the new pot and fill it with the fresh soil mix you have prepared. To avoid making the soil super compact, don’t press it in. It must be loosely packed. You can add some gravel or stones at the bottom of the pot for improved drainage.
Water Your Fiddle Leaf Fig
After repotting the plant, water your plant so that it can start recovering and growing. The soil should be absolutely dry between waterings. As overwatering could have led to root rot in the first place, maintain a proper watering schedule, to begin with.
Overwatering once is fine, but when you do it far too frequently, you are going to have root rot problems to deal with.
How to Care for Fiddle Leaf Figs after Repotting
There are a few things you must do to ensure your fiddle leaf figs thrive well post repotting. Repotting is stressful enough on your new plant. How well it recovers depends on how well you take care of your plant after repotting.
- Do not overwater your fiddle leaf figs. You should ensure that the soil is dry before you water. How can you ensure that? We have an easy trick for you. Just stick your finger 1 to 2 inches into the soil. If it’s moist, avoid watering. Allowing the soil to dry out will make the pathogens withdraw from the roots and push them well into the soil where the conditions are moist to their liking.
- Don’t fertilize immediately after repotting. Yes, your plant needs fertilizer, but not when it is recovering after repotting. Give your fiddle leaf fig some time to recover before applying fertilizer.
- Ensure that your plant gets a lot of bright indirect light – at least 6 to 8 hours every day. Good lighting is one of the best possible defences against pathogens such as root rot bacteria.
- Plant your fiddle leaf fig in soil that drains efficiently.
- The soil should be well aerated too. This way, the oxygen will reach the plant’s roots, prevent moisture build-up and enable the water to drain as it should.
Final Thoughts on Root Rot in Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
Fiddle leaf figs are beautiful plants that boast luscious leaves that will boost the aesthetic of any space. There is no need to panic about root rot affecting your fiddle leaf fig plant. When you notice the first signs of root rot, repot your fiddle leaf fig at once. With proper lighting, sticking to a proper watering schedule, providing sufficient draining and ensuring well-draining and airy soil, your fiddle leaf fig is sure to be happy again.