If you’ve owned a Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata) for some time, you know there’s nothing quite like discovering a new leaf emerging from a stem tip on your beloved houseplant. While new growth typically indicates that your Fig is healthy and growing, there’s actually quite a bit you can learn about your plant just by watching how these new leaves grow in.
What should you expect from new growth on Fiddle Leaf Figs? New leaves will periodically emerge from the apical bud at the end of your plant’s stems and branches. Leaves start small and thin, but as they unfurl and begin to grow, they size up and darken in color quickly.
If new growth looks stunted, wrinkled, discolored, or spotted, or the leaves drop from the plant, your Fig is likely suffering from a care issue that needs to be addressed. Typically, there shouldn’t be a lot of issues with the new leaves, but if they grow in strangely or look stunted, there are usually some easy measures you can take to improve the overall health of your plant to ensure it continues putting out healthy growth.
How Much New Growth Should You Expect on a Fiddle Leaf Fig?
When your Fig is getting the resources and care it needs to thrive, it can put out anywhere between a few inches to one or two feet of new growth in a single season. Obviously, there are a lot of factors that contribute to how much your individual plant grows, but Fiddle Leaf Figs are moderately vigorous growers, so the potential to push out several inches is always there.
In my own experience with Figs, I typically see six to eight inches of growth in a season. This has a lot to do with where I live, where they are placed in my home, and how consistent I am with the care I give them.
Regardless of how much they grow, Fiddle Leaf Figs will always put out new growth from the apical bud, located at the tips of any stems or branches on the plant. New leaves emerge from a sheath covering the bud tissue, and the stem continues to push out new growth until another leaf emerges.
Although the amount of growth tends to come in periodic bursts rather than in a consistent fashion, a healthy plant should be producing a new leaf about once a month (or perhaps six weeks in less ideal conditions). Keep in mind that Fiddle Leaf Figs often go dormant in the winter months, so you shouldn’t expect to see much, if any, growth during this time.
What Do New Fiddle Leaf Fig Leaves Look Like?
It is pretty exciting when your Fig pushes out a new leaf, although they can look a bit odd when they first emerge. Do not worry! This is totally normal.
As the new leaf emerges from the sheath, it is still tightly wound up and needs a few days to unfurl. During this time, the new growth can look very discolored or even totally yellow. However, as it unfurls, your Fig will be pushing resources and water to the new leaf, giving it everything it needs to grow in size and start producing more chlorophyll. This will allow it to start photosynthesizing, and, within a few days, you will see it take on a healthy, dark green hue.
These new leaves will obviously start out pretty small. Again, this is nothing to worry about. As long as your plant is properly cared for, it will have plenty of water and nutrients to push to these baby leaves, helping them grow to their proper size within several days. If you watch this process closely, you may be amazed at how fast a new leaf can emerge and size up on a healthy Fig.
New Leaf Problems
Sometimes, however, issues may arise. These issues may range from new growth looking unhealthy, grow in strangely or stunted, or even falling off. If you witness anything that looks strange, you may be dealing with a health or care issue that needs to be addressed.
New Leaves Stay Smaller Than Older Ones
One very common issue that can be worrisome is that, while your Fig is pushing out new growth, the new leaves grow to a certain point but never get to the size of the older leaves on the plant. While this isn’t a serious issue, it does indicate that something is going on with your Fig, and you will want to address it.
Over time, as your plant continues to grow and put out small leaves (while occasionally dropping larger, older leaves), the amount your plant can photosynthesize is reduced and, therefore, won’t be able to create its own resources efficiently. Overall, this results in a slower growth rate and a general drop in wellness for your Fig.
New leaves require both nutrients and lots of water to grow large. If you find that your Fig consistently puts out smaller leaves than previously, you should review your watering habits and consider fertilizing your plant more often.
New Leaves Fall Off
A very distressing occasion is when you find your plant pushing a new leaf, but then it suddenly drops off the plant. Leaf drop can happen to a Fiddle Leaf due to various reasons, but it often affects the older parts of the plant first. If you notice new growth dropping, it’s likely due to one thing: improper watering.
Figs are very sensitive to how much water is available to them, and both over-and underwatering can wreak havoc on your plant. However, in the case of new growth, the more common culprit is often underwatering. If you notice new leaves that are shriveled, wilted or have turned brown and brittle before dropping, your plant doesn’t have enough water to push to the new growth. Remember, new leaves require lots of water to grow quickly to their proper size, so if it is in short supply, they can dry out fast, and the plant will discard them to conserve resources. Just be careful not to overdo it.
There are other issues that contribute to leaf drop, but they are often systemic care problems that impact the entire plant rather than just new growth. Overwatering, nutrient deficiencies, pest issues, and shock due to large fluctuations in environmental factors can all cause a Fiddle Leaf to drop leaves, including new growth, but these are often bigger issues that take precedence over the well-being of emerging leaves.
New Leaves Are Discolored or Have Spots
A common issue that people encounter when watching their new leaves emerge is the discoloration of new growth. Remember, it isn’t out of the ordinary to have new leaves that look very pale green, or even yellow, to start with. This new tissue is just emerging out into the open, and it can take a few days to green up.
However, despite the color of the emerging leaf, the new growth can become covered in tiny, red, or brown spots, even as the leaf begins to turn a darker green. This is called edema, a condition where the new leaf tissue absorbs too much water too quickly, causing the new cells in the leaf structure to actually burst open, leaving these tiny red spots.
Although not very pretty, it isn’t actually a very serious problem. Remember, your Fig is trying to push water and nutrients to the new tissue to make sure it has enough resources to grow in size. Sometimes, the plant has more than enough of what it needs, and the new leaves are inundated with too much water.
Generally, you can help your plant avoid this condition by watering your Fig properly. Ensure both the soil and the planter have good drainage and fertilize your plant correctly. Plants use many of the minerals and salts in the soil and additive feeds to help regulate water throughout their structures, so being on top of supplemental feedings can help avoid edema.
New Leaves Have Holes
If you notice new growth on your Fiddle Leaf Fig with holes in it, you are likely dealing with a watering or humidity issue. As new leaves emerge from the apical bud, they are tightly wrapped. As they unfurl, they need a combination of moisture both in the air and within the plant to smoothly unfold.
If the humidity is too low or the plant is underwatered, a new leaf can stick to itself as it tries to open up to the point where the delicate tissues actually stretch and tear. These leaves will often have jagged, uneven holes and look a bit deformed as they grow larger.
A pest infestation can also cause new leaves to develop holes, but this is usually a much less common scenario. Any holes due to pests will be much smaller than the obvious tears due to dryness, and you’ll likely find them all over the plant rather than just in the new growth.
New Leaves Are Heavily Wrinkled
There may be times that a new leaf emerging from your Fiddle Leaf looks heavily wrinkled. Usually, as the leaf grows in size, a large section of it, often near the end of the leaf, becomes puckered and wavy. This wrinkling becomes more apparent as the leaf grows in size and often remains after the leaf is fully grown. This condition can also be attributed to low humidity or a lack of moisture within the plant. Rather than tearing a hole in the leave due to dryness, the tissue stretches and sticks as the leaf begins to unfurl, causing wrinkling as the leaf matures.
Again, this isn’t a serious issue but indicates that you should review your watering habits to make sure your plant has the moisture it needs. If you suspect the humidity levels are too low in your home, you may want to supplement with a humidifier.
How to Encourage Healthy New Leaves on Your Fiddle Leaf
While there are some issues that can occasionally impact the health of your Fiddle Leaf Fig’s new growth, the good news is that, in most cases, these instances don’t indicate a serious health issue. Think of any new leaf on your plant as an opportunity for a mini-wellness checkup to help you fine-tune how you care for your Fig. If you see any signs of abnormal growth, it is an excellent time to make small adjustments in care or environment for your Fig.
First and foremost, dial in how you water your Fig. Underwatering can cause stunted, deformed growth while overwatering will contribute to the likeliness of edema. These houseplants thrive in consistently damp soil, so the trick is to avoid either extreme.
This is best achieved by watering only when the top two inches of soil have dried out to the touch. Stick your finger down in the soil to ensure it has dried, and then water your plant deeply, allowing excess liquid to drain from the bottom of the pot. You should also be sure that your Fig is planted in well-drained soil to retain the right amount of moisture for your Fig.
Aside from proper watering, you should also be feeding your Fiddle Leaf with a well-balanced, liquid fertilizer about once a month during the growing season. This ensures your plant isn’t dealing with any nutrient deficiencies and has everything it needs to properly regulate water distribution and push new growth.
You should also consider how dry your home is. Because we rely on air conditioning or central heat to regulate the temperatures in our homes, the air tends to be on the drier side. Fiddle Leaf Figs thrive in humidity levels closer to 50%, so if you suspect your home is lower than that, you may want to add a humidifier to your plant’s room.
I find this to be the easiest solution with the most consistent results. People have reported having success with adding a pebble tray filled with water under their plant or by regularly misting, but in my experience, these tend to be more cumbersome solutions that offer minimal benefits.
In general, just remember that proper plant care, especially when it comes to watering, goes a long way in keeping the new growth on your Fig filling in beautifully. There will be times when, despite your best efforts, some of these issues creep up. These usually aren’t indications of a serious issue and can be a good reminder to adjust your care habits accordingly.
Putting It All Together
It’s always exciting to see new growth on a Fiddle Leaf Fig! It means that, overall, your plant is happy and healthy, and more importantly, it has what it needs to create new growth. Occasionally, you will see some odd colors, leaf shapes, or deformities on these new leaves, but remember not to panic. This is usually just an indication that your plant needs some minor adjustments in its care.
As long as you are paying attention, you’ll be able to give your Fiddle Leaf Fig what it needs, both regarding its care and environment, to ensure that it keeps churning out beautiful, healthy new leaves time and time again!