Fiddle leaf with pink veins?

saraha(4)January 22, 2011

Hello everyone,

I'm writing after painstakingly attempting to solve this problem but it seems no one else has posted about it that I've been able to find. I'm going to post a pretty detailed account of its care in hopes I can be as clear as possible.

My indoor fiddle leaf (seven feet tall, in an area with morning to afternoon bright filtered light) was received eight months ago from craigslist. I potted it (it was somehow still in it's plastic) and it was doing great with new shoots from main trunk and established stems.

In August I brought it from Boston to Minnesota and assumed that it's stagnant growth was dormancy or shock but in the last two months, it has developed brown tips and spots on the interior of top canopy leaves.

I have been extremely careful as to not over water, letting the soil dry almost completely between watering. I have not seen any signs of insects save a few fungus gnats in August. It also may be important to note that I do not mist the leaves. I did, however, notice a new leaf in August that sprouted slightly wrinkled and with a pink margin. This, however, disappeared after the leaf grew.

Last weekend I leached the soil in fear of soluble salt accumulation.

Today I noticed the presence of pink/magenta coloring on the veins of the lower, newest leaves (which developed last July). They are especially visible from the lower side of the leaves.

I am at a complete loss as to what this could be and if it is related to the larger leaves' browning tips.

Thank you all in advance!


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Is it possible that you might have a Macaranga spp instead of a Ficus?

    Bookmark   January 22, 2011 at 8:25PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

There are a lot of mixed signals in your post. That's not to say that your post isn't easy to understand, just that the symptoms indicate there are probably more than one thing going on.

That the growth was stalled in Aug, when the plant should be growing most robustly, is troubling and probably indicates a chronic issue. When you repotted, did you do anything to facilitate the new roots colonization of the new soil? Root-bound plants usually display a lack of branch extension & loss of leaves on the lower part and interior of the plant, so tufts of leaves at the ends of branches are common.

A build-up of soluble salts may have been the problem or contributing to the problem, so hopefully you've flushed thoroughly and repeatedly. I should ask if you had been fertilizing the plant regularly, and with what? what dose? how often?

The pinkness usually indicates a build-up of a red/purple pigment (anthocyanin), which can be caused by a number of issues. This may not interest you, but it may give you helpful hints if you want to keep searching. One of the most common cause of purple leaves is a deficiency of phosphorus (p)(which is why I asked about your fertilizing program) because P is required to make ATP and ATP is needed to turn sugars to starch and to load sugar into the phloem for transport. So - no P - no ATP - no move sugars/starches - anthocyanin (purple pigment) builds up - plant parts turn pink/red/purple.
A P deficiency is not the only suspect cause of purple leaves. Nearly any environmental condition that puts the brakes on growth and the accompanying use of sugars, but does not limit sugar production (photosynthesis) can cause anthocyanin buildup and purple leaves. Stalled growth due to tight roots is a suspect because it inhibits growth while photosynthesis (sugar making) continues.

If only the outer edges of the leaves show purple/pink ....., it may be a K or Mg deficiency. If the center of the leaves also show purple, it could be too much Ca in the soil or the result of too much water in the soil blocking uptake of P and Mg.

The spots sound like still another issue. Can you describe them? Are there rings or halos around the spots? Do the spots stop at leaf veins or cross them?

There is no need to mist this plant. It's leaves have layers of cells rich in cuticular wax to help conserve moisture during dry periods, though it would be happiest at RH levels higher than 40%.

You can read the link I'm going to leave you with below. Maybe with some more information and dialog, we can figure something out.


Here is a link that might be useful: More about Ficus in containers

    Bookmark   January 22, 2011 at 8:52PM
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Ronalawn82, I do have a fiddle leaf (though I had never heard of the macaranga plant, however the pink pattern is a similar hue).

Al, I am familiar with your knowledge of ficus and have referred back to your post a number of times - thank you! I should clarify: when I got the plant I potted up, placed it in a sunny location in my apartment, and it back-budded beautifully until my move. It has been holding a few buds (that have not dried up and still show signs of life) for at least three months. There has been no loss of leaves on the bottom of the plant (these actually look the best). At this time would you suggest re-potting?

I was fertilizing regularly until a month ago with a liquid 10-15-10 mix as directed (7 drops per quart). I have fertilized my plants through the winter and just recently found out that there is some controversy re. doing this during our darker days.

I can post a few photos Monday, but in the meantime here is an image of a similar pink-pattern:

There are no rings or halos around the spots. They are brown and asymmetrical. They cross the veins, becoming darker and dry with age. When they are between the veins, they become perforated and leave a hole in the leaf. Originally I passed this off as a symptom of neglect from the prior owner but as they are appearing to spread on the upper leaves it's on me!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2011 at 11:44PM
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saraha, I have seen a Fiddle leaf fig do something similar when it was well watered and then had to be moved to a location of less light. The mature leaves in random locations started browning. The only remedy was to first trim the leaves to preserve whatever 'green' tissue we could. As the shape of the leaves became atypical they were removed entirely. It took almost 3 months of judicious watering and some regular pruning to restore an acceptable appearance to the plant. Now, a year later it looks quite pleasing in the local library.
That pink coloration of the veins, occurring at the time it did (after leaching) and on the newer leaves, suggests a reaction to a recent change. Potassium deficiency comes to mind but I am thinking of another (grass) crop. There is the possibility that the plant is suffering a general nutritional deficiency. If this is the case, one expects nitrogen deficiency to show up also. My dealings with the fiddle leaf fig has taught me that the paling of the leaves can be so subtle that only when fertilizer was applied and the leaves started to green up did I realize that the plant had been showing signs of a nitrogen shortage for some time.
I hope that this helps.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 2:19AM
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