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7 Reasons Why Fig Tree Leaves Are Curling Up (And How To Fix It)

A lot of folks dream about harvesting juicy figs right from trees in their own backyards. Personally, I think there’s something really special about growing your own fruit. But, as with any gardening adventure, it’s not always smooth sailing. That’s why it’s common to run into a bunch of questions, especially when it comes to nurturing fig trees.

When fig tree leaves start curling, the usual suspects include not enough water during the hot spells, fungal infections, or abrupt shifts in temperature. To get those leaves back to their happy state, give your fig tree a good drink when the top 2 inches of soil feel dry, consider moving it to a spot that gets a bit less sun, treat it with a fungicide, and shield it from any unexpected cold weather.

1. Underwatering

Fig tree leaves curling

Dry soil is often the main reason behind fig leaves curling up. When the weather’s hot and dry, the soil can lose moisture pretty fast, and a windy day will just speed up that process.

This holds particularly true for fig trees that have just been planted. They’re especially vulnerable to dry conditions in their first year. By curling their leaves, fig trees are cleverly reducing the surface area that’s exposed, which helps cut down on water loss and prevents them from drying out.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Feel the soil with your fingers or use a moisture meter to check its wetness. If the top couple of inches are dry, it’s watering time.
  2. Give your fig tree a thorough watering, making sure you moisten the soil deeply around it.
  3. Wait until the soil’s top 2 inches dry out before you water again.

2. Harsh Sun

In the spring, the sun isn’t usually as intense as it gets in the summer. As fig leaves start to unfurl, they’re greeted by a gentler sun, and issues are few and far between.

However, as summer rolls in, the sun ramps up its game, shining brighter and for longer hours each day. Sometimes, this shift is so sudden that the leaves can’t adjust quickly enough. To cope, they start curling up, effectively minimizing their exposure.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. If you can, provide some shade for your fig tree temporarily.
  2. Boost your watering routine slightly for a bit to help it deal with the extra heat.
  3. If your fig is in a pot, move it to a spot where it’ll catch direct sunlight only in the morning.

3. Health Problems

Fig tree leaves curled because of Taphrina deformans.

Tree leaves curled because of Taphrina deformans.

Leaf curl can also be a sign of a disease known as Taphrina deformans. This condition is noticeable by the curling of the leaves, which may also turn yellow and develop bumps.

This disease often takes hold when a fig tree is in a very moist environment. Other stress factors might speed up its spread.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Treat the leaves with a copper-based fungicide.
  2. If possible, relocate the tree to a drier spot or find ways to cut down on the humidity near the tree.
  3. Make sure there’s good air circulation around the tree.

4. Temperature Fluctuations

Fig tree leaves curled because of temperature stress.

Fig tree leaves curled because of temperature stress.

Sudden swings in temperature can also lead to leaf curl. Often in late spring, you might find it warm during the day but then the temperature takes a nosedive come nightfall. Or, it could be the other way around: cool spring days suddenly give way to warmth.

These shifts can be quite stressful for a fig tree. In response, the tree might curl its leaves inward to reduce exposure and conserve moisture. Sometimes, the leaves might even take on a red or burgundy hue as part of this protective measure.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. For fig trees in pots, move them to a warmer spot when the temperature is expected to drop at night.
  2. If the curling results from a sudden increase in temperature, provide some shade for the plant temporarily.
  3. Boost your watering regimen slightly for a short while to help the tree cope with stress.
  4. Consider applying a one-time dose of a low-concentration, all-purpose liquid fertilizer to give the tree a little extra support.

5. Overwatering

Fig tree leaves curling because of overwatering

Fig tree leaves curling because of overwatering

Fig trees naturally thrive in well-drained soils, meaning they’re not fans of having their roots soaked for too long.

When the roots are waterlogged for extended periods, they can’t get enough oxygen, leading to root rot. This stress often causes the leaves to curl downward, starting from the tips, and may even turn the leaves yellow.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Cut back on how often you’re watering.
  2. Wait to water the fig tree until the top two inches of soil have dried out.
  3. For fig trees in pots, make sure to use containers with good drainage holes.
  4. If the tree is in a spot that stays too moist, consider moving it to a location with drier conditions.

6. Fertilizer Issues

Fig tree leaves curled because of improper fertilization.

Fig tree leaves curled because of improper fertilization.

Getting fertilization wrong with fig trees can spell trouble, often showing up as curled leaves. There are a couple of ways this can happen.

If you go overboard with fertilizer, you might see the leaves turning brown and their tips starting to curl.

On the other hand, if the soil’s too alkaline, the tree struggles to take up essential trace elements, leading to chlorosis (yellowing of the leaves) and curling.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Be careful not to over-fertilize.
  2. Stick to fertilizing just once a year, ideally in early spring.
  3. To adjust soil pH, mix in compost or use other acidifying products available on the market.

7. Pests

Fig tree leaves curled because of whiteflies.

Fig tree leaves curled because of whiteflies.

Pest infestations can also lead to curled leaves on fig trees. Several culprits could be at play, but aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites are often the main offenders.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Give the fig tree a good spray with horticultural oil.
  2. If the problem persists, don’t hesitate to apply another round of spray.
  3. Consider introducing ladybugs as a natural pest control alternative.

Annette Holbrook

Tuesday 11th of July 2023

Help my Fig tree has leaves that are being curled inwards with a white binding, is it butterflies laying inside the leaves??

Igor Viznyy

Friday 14th of July 2023

It's possible that the curled leaves on your fig tree are a result of an infestation by insects, such as caterpillars or larvae. However, without further information or visual inspection, it's difficult to determine the exact cause. Here are a few common possibilities:

Fig Leafroller Caterpillar: Fig leafroller caterpillars are known to curl fig leaves and bind them with silk threads. These caterpillars feed on the leaves, causing damage in the process. They can be green or brown in color, and they often roll themselves up in the leaf for protection.

Fig Rust Mite: Fig rust mites are tiny pests that can cause curling and distortion of fig leaves. They feed on the leaves, causing them to pucker and develop a whitish or silvery appearance.

Aphids or Whiteflies: Both aphids and whiteflies are common sap-sucking insects that can cause leaf curling. They excrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which can lead to the growth of black sooty mold on the leaves.

To identify the specific cause and determine the appropriate treatment, it's best to closely examine the affected leaves and any nearby insects. You can gently uncurl the leaves and check for the presence of caterpillars, larvae, or any other insects. If you're unsure about the identification or need advice on treatment options, you may want to consult with a local gardening expert, agricultural extension service, or a plant nursery for further assistance. They will be able to provide more specific guidance based on your location and the specific symptoms you observe.

Barbara Bowen

Friday 5th of May 2023

I have a fiddle leaf tree its leaves are pulling hard to the ceiling. I’m cleaning lots of dirt off leaves today hoping it can breath better any tips please?

Igor Viznyy

Friday 5th of May 2023

Most likely your fiddle leaf tree needs more sun. Place it closer to the window. It is ideal if you keep it in a south-facing window.