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White spots on fiddle leaf fig plants are caused by either fungal infections, overexposure to sunlight, problems with the water being used, or the dreaded pest invasion.
Ficus Lyrata, or fiddle leaf fig, sometimes tends to develop white spots on its leaves, which may cause its owner some concern. Not all issues are necessarily severe, especially if you see these spots early.
In these situations, you will not want to leave the plant alone and instead address the spots as soon as possible.
The remedy, not surprisingly, depends on the cause of the problem. This article will look at each of these potential causes and what you can do about them.
First, let’s take a look at a more detailed explanation of each of the causes of the white stuff on Fiddle Leaf Figs as listed above.
Various sources confuse new fiddle leaf fig owners by insisting that these plants are difficult to care for. Others say they are easy to look after.
The truth is, all plants are either easy or difficult to care for, depending on how well you take care of their fundamentals.
The most common causes for the condition of white spots in fiddle fig leaves relate to one of four things: water, fungus, bugs, and sunlight.
These may seem like common go-to’s, but by and large, most household plant issues come from problems in these types of areas.
Hard water is found in many regions. In essence, it’s an indication that there are high amounts of calcium and magnesium dissolved in the water.
Hard water may leave your hands feeling slimy after you wash them. It also makes your favorite glass go misty after you drink hard water from it.
White spots are caused by these minerals that get left behind after water evaporates. Hard water, in general, isn’t the best to use on plants. For many, it isn’t fatal, but it would be better to use distilled water instead.
Side note: A quick word on watering. Some people prefer watering their plants at night, others in the day. Fiddle leaf figs seem to enjoy getting watered early in the morning. They like to absorb some moisture before the heat of the day arrives. Regardless, make sure you keep a proper watering schedule that is suitable for your plants.
Some people describe fiddle leaf fig with powdery mildew on their plant leaves. This isn’t a feature of the plant. It is more likely a fungal infection.
It causes powdery, fleecy spots that make the leaves look discolored and is generally not a welcome addition to your plant collection.
First, make sure you know how to properly water your fiddle leaf fig. With most problems involving fungus infections, part of the cause is related to watering – specifically overwatering.
The bad thing about fungal infections is that they do go on to cause more serious damage if not checked.
They tend to spread to and from other plants. They can weaken and ultimately kill the plant, so it’s best to try to take care of this problem as best you can.
New plant owners may not know that their plants, just like people, suffer from sunburn. Some plants do not do well in direct sunlight. Overexposure to the sun’s sharp rays can cause a lush green leaf (like a Fiddle Leaf Fig) to develop white spots.
The fiddle leaf fig does indeed enjoy bright light but not direct sunlight. This is why you will find them in slightly shaded spaces or in filtered light.
Other signs on the leaf will indicate whether the white spots are caused explicitly by sunlight.
For example, they may be turning yellow. Depending on the severity and stage of the sunburn, the edges of the leaves may also be turning brown. This eventually results in unsightly and unhealthy leaves.
Most plants have their enemies in the bug world. Pests can become irritating for plant owners but quite serious and deadly for vulnerable plants.
In the bugs and pest world, mealybugs can be considered the ever-present hostile invader.
Mealybugs appear to the eye as fiddle leaf fig white fuzz; a bit like sticky bits of cotton wool or white powder on fiddle leaf fig leaves.
The white substance is a wax-like residue that covers the mealybug’s body. They love to settle underneath leaves as well.
Preventing any disorder, including white spots on fiddle leaf fig leaves, is a matter of being aware of what causes them and using best practices to avoid the conditions that cause them.
There are specific ways to get rid of spots – like those caused by pests and fungus, as opposed to those caused by sun damage.
Here are some essential remedies and practices to adopt to avoid this pesky condition. These are effective ways to prevent white spots from these most common causes:
We know that direct sunlight causes sunburn, so one easy way to prevent that is to ensure the plant is out of the direct sun. In the case of the sun, once the leaf is sunburnt, there is no remedy to fix the leaf.
Tip: If your plant is indoors, position it in a spot that always has at least a light curtain shading it from sunshine. Making sure your plant has adequate humidity also helps. Try a pebble tray as a solution for that, if necessary.
We also know that hard water may cause white spots. This is an easy one. If your area uses hard water, you will need to invest in a filter or distilled water instead. Some water can also be left overnight for its components to settle.
Lots of fungal infections arise from poor soil drainage and overwatering. Fungus loves moisture, and if your potting soil isn’t the right kind, or your pots don’t have sufficient drainage, it’s an invitation for conditions like root rot and other fungus-related illnesses.
Invest in good potting soil and potting mix as a given. Start by using peat-based soil with some perlite.
In general, the potting mix you use should be high in organic material. Good drainage is imperative.
Poor air circulation is also a possible factor. If a plant isn’t getting enough fresh air, specific symptoms may occur. Among them is powdery mildew that causes Fiddle Leaf Fig trees to get white spots.
A weekly (or fortnightly) spray with neem oil will help prevent mealybugs from settling in for a squat. The oil will also help with other pests, and simultaneously help shine up those beautiful leaves.
Regarding problems with Fiddle Leaf Fig plants, it’s essential to be as confident as possible about what caused the white spots on your precious plant.
The idea would be to address the cause effectively and quickly. In most cases, you will need to use a solution to clean the plant. But the specific answer depends on the grounds.
If white spots on fiddle leaves are caused by hard water, an excellent old-fashioned soapy solution will work just fine to get rid of hard water deposits.
But the key is to use soap that is chemical and detergent-free as far as possible. Soap with too many additives may discolor your leaves, so that’s pretty counter-productive.
Mix one teaspoon of detergent-free liquid soap in half a gallon of water – make sure it’s distilled water! Use a spray bottle to apply the solution to the leaves and allow the plant to absorb for three to five minutes.
Next, use a soft cloth (microfiber is best) and wipe the leaves gently. Try to get the deposits off, but do not damage the leaves in the process.
You don’t need to wipe the leaf completely dry – some of the more stubborn mineral spots may need extra time to be broken down by the soap solution.
As mentioned, you can’t fix a sunburnt leaf. The best course of action is to prune the affected leaves and allow your plant to push its resources into new leaves.
If you plan on moving your Fiddle Leaf Fig plant to an outdoor location, and direct sunlight will be inevitable, there is a strategy you can try.
Again, just like people, Fiddle leaf figs can condition themselves to the sun to some degree.
Move the plant outdoors for a short while at first. Over time, gradually expose the plant to more sun in the daytime.
Eventually, the plant may become conditioned to manage outdoor conditions and some more direct sunlight during the course of a day.
Note: It’s still likely to burn if the sun is direct for too long, though.
The best option when dealing with these eternal plant enemies is an organic pesticide solution. Organic pesticides use less or no chemicals that could otherwise be harmful to other aspects of our ecosystem.
If you prefer a homemade solution, try some rubbing alcohol and dish soap. Yes, a solution made with rubbing alcohol (70% strength should do), and a light squeeze of dish soap works well for bugs.
Combined with four cups of water to give you a reasonably practical “medicine” to combat mealy bugs.
Put the solution in a spray bottle and spray the affected leaves. This is a long-haul battle, so be prepared to spray once or twice a week.
The solution should kill the mealybugs and, assuming the leaves aren’t yet too damaged, should save the leaves.
If you discover that your plant has a powdery mildew infection, your priority is to try to ensure that the condition does not spread.
A seemingly reasonable action might be to try to moisturize the plant and wipe off the mildew. Do not do this.
In fact, avoid misting or watering the plant if you see mildew. Water can spread the infection as it drips down onto other leaves and into the soil.
Similarly, trying to rub it off as with mealybugs may also exacerbate the condition, spreading the mildew instead of getting rid of it. Here’s what to do instead:
- Isolate the plant from your other plants. These infections can spread.
- Place the plant in a space where there is lots of air and average humidity. An open window (out of direct sunlight) is what you’re going for.
- Remove the affected leaves if possible. Cut them away and remember to disinfect your pruning shears or scissors after each cut.
- With a more severe infection that has spread over large areas of the plant, you may need to employ a baking soda spray. Mix one teaspoon of baking soda into four cups of water. Use your spray bottle and spray this on the leaves.
This baking soda solution is really a last attempt to save a heavily infected plant. Hopefully, you’ll have spotted the fungus early enough to avoid this.
The Ficus Lyrata is a beautiful plant and for a detailed guide on how to care for your fiddle leaf fig, take a look at my How Often to Water Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree article.
Take a look at this detailed guide looking at other fiddle leaf problems you might be experiencing, including drooping leaves, brown and yellow spots, and more.
Fiddle Leaf white spots can be unsightly, but there are usually easy solutions to the problem.
Keep your plants out of the direct sun. If you live in a hard water area, water your plants with bottled or distilled water instead.
Water adequately and provide a healthy dose of anti-bug treatment. With those four principles in mind, your Fiddle Leaf Fig should enjoy a healthy life.