How to Save A Fiddle Leaf Fig With No Leaves

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

Yes! Fiddle leaf figs roots are actually pretty resilient – it’s just their leaves that have a flair for the dramatic and swoon to the ground at the slightest inconvenience.

So don’t worry. Fiddle leaf figs are perfectly capable of regrowing their leaves, and I’m going to teach you how.

Step 1 – figure out why it dropped its leaves

This is critical. Something made it lose its leaves, and if you don’t work out what it was, you’ll be doomed to repeat your fate.

The first clue is the soil. Is it wet? Dry? How do the roots look?

Forget all the stuff you know – it doesn’t matter if you watered it yesterday – if the soil is bone dry, your plant is dehydrated.

There is a tonne of information out there about fiddle leaf figs, and one of the pervasive myths is that they do best if you give them a cup of water once a week.

This is great…if it works. And it could if you live in a pretty specific, stable climate. Somewhere that’s warm but not hot year-round.

Fiddle leaf figs like to drink deeply. They come from the rainforest and are used to having as much water as they want.

Thoroughly soak the soil – wait for the soil to be pretty much dry again – repeat.

The other side of the coin here is overwatering. If you overwater, you cut off oxygen to the roots and they rot. If you find that the soil is staying wet for more than a couple of weeks, then you need to add something like perlite to your soil mix so it doesn’t retain as much water.

It’s difficult to tell if you’re over or underwatering by looking at the plant itself. You need to look at the soil and the roots. If the roots are dried out, you’re underwatering. If they’re mushy and fall apart, they’re rotting.

There are also other things to watch out for:

  • Is the pot too big?
  • Is the pot too small? Does it need repotting?
  • When did you last fertilise it? Does it need feeding?

If you have severe root rot, you’ll have to take cuttings and propagate them – I have an article on propagating wet sticks which will be helpful here.

Once you’ve determined whether or not the roots are the issue consider these aspects:

  • Is your Fiddle leaf fig getting enough light? Too much light?

If it’s not getting enough light, give it more. If it’s getting too much light and leaves are burning, you can always wait for new growth to come in – it should be better adapted to the brighter light.

  • How’s your humidity?

Fiddle leaf figs come from the rainforest – they like a humid environment. Consider a humidifier to increase the humidity to 60% or so.

  • Check for pests

Thrips can be a pain on fiddle leaf figs, so wash the leaves down even if you can’t see anything

  • Check for draughts

If your fiddle leaf is close to a regularly opened door or window, consider moving it.

Step 2 – cut it back

I know it’s painful, especially if you have a fiddle leaf fig with a really long trunk, but it’s not going to regrow leaves all along it. The bottom will be bare.

If it has a decent root system, then it may grow multiple leaves at once, so it can recover pretty quickly.

So consider how much bare stem you want (some people like a topiary-type tree, so if that’s you, leave a lot of bare stem) and leave it a couple of nodes taller than that.

You can always propagate the parts you chopped off and put them back in with the main plant for a bushier look.

Step 3 – put it in a suitable potting mix

If you buy a fiddle leaf fig from a reputable garden centre in the UK, it’s likely that it’s come in a perfectly suitable potting mix. They’re actually not that fussy.

However, if you buy it from a supermarket or something, it may be in something that’s too dense. You don’t need to replace it – just get rid of about a quarter of the potting mix and add in some perlite.

It’s difficult to avoid the roots entirely but try your best not to disturb them, even if that means that you’re barely mixing the perlite with the old soil. It’ll mix in over time.

For those of you living in hot countries, you may run into a similar issue, because a lot of people keep fiddle leaf figs outdoors, so the potting mix needs to be denser to retain water. Same advice – mix in some perlite but try not to disturb the roots.

Step 4 – put it in good light

Fiddle leaf figs come from below the canopy of the African rainforests, so they get dappled light.

HOWEVER bright dappled light in Africa is pretty much the same as bright, direct light in the UK, so give your FLF as much light as you can.

I would recommend acclimating it, so moving it gradually into brighter light. As the light increases, the plant releases hormones that protect it from the sun, but by acclimating it slowly you give it time to produce those hormones.

My fiddle leaf fig lives right in my south-facing window and grows like a champ.

Step 5 – check it everyday

The best way I’ve found to speed up the recovery of a plant with no leaves is to check on it every day. Check the soil, wipe the leaves, and check for new growth.

By checking the soil every day, you won’t accidentally water it a day late, and wiping the leaves every day reduces the chances of pests setting up camp on a stressed plant.

Being a day late with watering doesn’t matter at all in the great scheme of things, but when you’re regrowing leaves it can really amp things up if your plant is having all its needs met in a timely fashion.

Final thoughts

There isn’t really anything special you have to do to get your fiddle leaf fig to regrow its leaves. It wants to grow (despite a lot of evidence to the contrary), so you just need to fix the issue that caused it to lose its leaves and then nurture it back to health by checking in on it every day.

The good news is that they’re pretty chill once they’re in a spot they like and get enough water. It’s a bit like baking bread – there’s a steep learning curve ironing out minute things that you didn’t think mattered (like leaving your flf in a draught) but once you have that stuff cracked it seems pretty simple.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

Leave a comment