Fig Tree Leaf Drop - Why Do Fig Trees Lose Leaves

Fallen Yellow Fig Tree Leaf
fig leaf
(Image credit: NURVOLCANO)

Fig trees are popular home and landscape plants throughout the United States. Although beloved by many, figs can be fickle plants, responding dramatically to changes in their environment. If your fig tree is dropping leaves, this may be a normal response, considering it's a deciduous tree, but it could also be a form of protest to growing conditions.

Do Fig Trees Lose Leaves?

Leaf drop on figs is a common problem, but it's not usually fatal if you can figure out why your plant's leaves are suddenly falling. The most common causes of fig tree leaf drop include:

  • Winter - The chill of late fall signals to figs that it's time to go dormant and spend the winter in deep sleep. Dormancy is vital to many fig species and a perfectly normal part of their life cycles. Yearly leaf drop is nothing to worry about -- new leaves will emerge in spring.
  • Abrupt Environmental Changes - Figs stress easily, so if you intend to change the lighting, humidity, or temperature of your fig's environment by moving the tree, make sure you do so slowly. Gradually expose your fig to the new conditions, starting with just an hour a day and increasing its time in the new spot over the course of about two weeks. Slow-moving will help prevent shock and keep the leaves on your fig, where they belong.
  • Improper Watering - Watering some plants is trickier than others and this is doubly true for figs. Both overwatering and underwatering can result in fig tree leaf drop. Instead of watering on a schedule, water your fig any time the soil, 1 inch (2.5 cm.) below the surface, is dry to the touch. Water deeply, until plenty of water comes out through the bottom of the pot, discarding the excess when it finishes draining.
  • Pests - Scale insects and spider mites are common fig pests that can cause leaf drop with their feeding activities. Scale insects often blend in, looking more like a fungus or unusual growth on the plant than typical insects. Spider mites are too small to see with the naked eye, but you may notice fine silk threads on your fig's leaves. Both can be smothered with weekly neem oil treatments.
Kristi Waterworth

Kristi Waterworth was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for many years, answering countless queries on plant pests and diseases.