Have you ever seen white, powdery, fluffy stuff growing on your fig leaves?
Your mind might immediately jump to mold because it does look a lot like the fluffy mold you might get on bread or fruit left out too long.
But you might actually be looking at powdery mildew.
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that can affect certain indoor and outdoor plants, including fiddle leaf figs. It’s often caused by poor air circulation due to overcrowding or just a lack of air movement in the environment.
Powdery mildew is easy to recognize.
It starts as small, chalky white or grey spots on your fiddle leaf fig leaves that grow larger and fluffier over time. It comes off easily when you rub it with your finger (don’t go nuts with this though, because you don’t want those spores to spread!).
The problem with powdery mildew is that, in addition to being unattractive, it can weaken your fiddle leaf fig and make it more vulnerable to pests, other diseases, and eventually kill your tree! It can also spread easily to other susceptible houseplants, so it’s important to nip it in the bud as soon as you notice an issue.
How to Prevent Powdery Mildew
Powdery mildew thrives in stagnant, low-light conditions at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so it makes sense that this would be a risk for indoor plants! Here are our top three tips to keep powdery mildew at bay.
#1: Airflow is your best friend.
The best way to prevent this disease is to keep up airflow around your plants. Don’t overcrowd your plants, even though the super-lush jungle look is so much fun! Leave some doors open in your home if possible, open a window when the temperature is moderate, and try turning on a fan (but don’t aim it right at your fiddle leaf fig. They hate drafts!).
Powdery mildew tends to show up in low light conditions, so make sure your fiddle leaf fig is getting plenty of bright, yet indirect light from a window or grow lights. This will also keep your tree green and promote growth!
#3: Prune overcrowded areas.
It’s important to create airflow both around your plant and in your plant, so make sure to prune your plant if the leaves start getting crowded. Make sure to use a very clean, sharp set of pruning shears to avoid crushing any stems or spreading fungus or diseases from plant to plant. Try these tips for pruning your fiddle leaf fig.
#4: Avoid misting.
Wet leaves are more susceptible to powdery mildew (and misting can spread the spores), so opt for a humidifier if you live in a very dry climate.
How to Treat Powdery Mildew
So you’ve realized your fiddle leaf fig has powdery mildew. Now what?
We won’t lie, this can be a tricky condition to treat! But full recovery is possible!
#1: Isolate the plant.
This prevents the spread of powdery mildew to your other plants and gives the sick plant more room to breathe.
#2: Increase airflow.
Airflow is the key to preventing and treating powdery mildew. Turn on a fan (but don’t point it at the tree), open some windows and doors, and make sure the plant has plenty of room.
#3: Remove the affected areas if possible.
If you notice powdery mildew on just a few leaves, you can remove them with a sharp, clean pair of pruning shears. (Note: make sure to clean the shears thoroughly afterward so you don’t infect other plants!) As with regular pruning, you can remove up to 10% of the leaves without shocking your fiddle leaf fig.
#4: If all else fails, break out the neem oil.
Neem oil is fantastic for treating plant diseases. If you can’t remove the affected leaves or if the fungus spreads anyway, apply a neem oil based product to the leaves every few days. This will smother the fungus and protect the leaves from further infection.
#5: Try baking soda:
If you don’t want to use neem oil or if your infection persists, try baking soda. Mix one teaspoon into one quart of water and spray both sides of your leaves liberally (this is the one exception where misting is allowed!).
What NOT to do when your fiddle leaf fig is infected:
This is a time when you don’t want new growth for the fungus to attack.
Don’t mist the leaves or let the leaves get wet when you water.
Spores can spread to other leaves as the water drips, so stop misting the moment you notice powdery mildew on your plants.
Don’t simply wipe the fungus off.
While powdery mildew does rub off easily, this only spreads the spores and causes more problems!
In this case, prevention is the key to a healthy plant, but you can still rescue your fiddle leaf fig from the clutches of powdery mildew if your prevention efforts fail. Good luck!