Rubber plants (ficus elastica) are a great addition to your indoor plants for your living room and bedroom. You need a tall plant to fill up space and make it aesthetically pleasing. However, did you know a tall rubber plant will likely lean towards its side if they are not cared for from an early stage? But why do rubber plants lean, and how can we fix it? Let’s find out!
Inadequate watering, low lighting, and lack of nutrients often lead to the leaning of the rubber tree plant. Some rubber plants also start leaning as they grow taller, so we must support their stems to keep them upright. Moving them to a bright spot, watering, and fertilizing them on time can help prevent leaning.
The rubber plant is not self-supporting; its shoot will likely lean as they grow. However, negligence in their care routine can also make them lean during an early stage. Let’s learn in detail about what makes the rubber plant lean and how we can fix it.
Table Of Contents
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My rubber plant is leaning
There can be multiple reasons for your rubber plant to lean.
Let’s briefly look at the same, and then we shall go into the depth of each of their problems.
|Under-watering||Plant weakening >>Leaning plant body|
|Overwatering||Root rot >> Weak plant >>Leaning plant body|
|Excessive sunlight exposure||Leaf and stem damage >>Leaning|
|Over-fertilizing||Sudden plant growth >>Insufficient roots system to supply sufficient water >>Weak plant >>Leaning plant body|
|Under fertilizing||Inadequate nutrients >>Weak plant >>Leaning|
|Not repotting||Rootbound >>No growth >>Weak foliage >>Leaning|
Let’s dive into the details.
Also read: 7 Signs your rubber plant is dying?
Inadequate lighting conditions
Sunlight plays a significant role in photosynthesis, and rubber plants require a lot of it.
Intense sunlight can burn the leaves, while insufficient light conditions cause weak stems causing the rubber plant to lean.
If the rubber plant starts becoming leggy, leaves start losing their luster, and lower leaves start falling off, these are the symptoms of insufficient light.
Also read: Where to keep your rubber plants?
Your rubber plant is root bounded
Check your rubber plant container and see if it’s big enough for further growth of the plant or not.
It is necessary to repot the rubber plant once every two years.
However, the timeframe may vary depending on how fast the plant is growing.
Check at the bottom of your rubber plant. If it shows roots leaving the drainage hole, it’s time to repot.
A root-bound rubber plant often starts drooping and leaning.
Also read: Does rubber plant likes to be root bounded?
Sometimes you may notice improper growth in your rubber plant.
This improper growth becomes a significant reason for the leaning of the rubber plant.
Leaning sometimes occurs because the plant is growing under stressful circumstances, and the stress can be due to the insufficient nutrients available in the soil.
That mainly happens because the soil keeps losing nutrients over time. Thus, we need to keep fertilizing our rubber plants to ensure healthy and balanced growth.
Most new hobbyist ends up overwatering or underwatering their houseplants. As a result, their rubber plant becomes weak and starts leaning.
Both overwatering and underwatering can lead to a droopy and leaning rubber plant.
While we underwater the rubber plant, the plant uses its water reserves from the stems and leaves, leading to the plant’s leaning.
When we overwater the plant, it leads to root rot as it cannot absorb enough nutrients and water leading to leaning on one side.
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The Impact of Temperature and Humidity
Temperature and humidity play an important role in shaping the rubber plant’s health.
These plants grow well in warm and humid conditions. Still, they can weaken and start leaning if the conditions are unfavorable enough.
Temperature between 20-35°C (68-95°F) and humidity of 50-60% is favorable for their growth.
Pests and diseases that can cause rubber plant leaning
Pests like spider mites and mealybugs can make the plant sick, and they can also lean for this reason.
Diseases like root rot and leaf spot can also weaken the plant, making it lean.
Overwatering can invite pests and diseases and even kill your plant, so you must beware of this.
The Impact of Age and Genetics
Age also plays a part in the health of your rubber plant.
Your rubber plant can lean if it is nearing its life span.
The reason for this is the slow metabolism of the old plant.
Aging rubber plant is also susceptible to diseases and hence leaning.
Genetics also plays a vital role in the health of the rubber plant.
Nutrient absorption depends upon plant genetics, and plants with different genetics do it differently.
Therefore the growth rate also varies, and overgrowth can make the plant lean.
How to fix a leaning rubber plant?
To fix your rubber plant and prevent leaning, we need to take care of the lighting, fertilization, and watering schedule in the first place. Let’s dive into the details of each of these.
Provide bright indirect lighting
Rubber plants must be placed in a bright area and protected from direct sunlight.
Hence, it is suggested to keep your rubber plant near the east or west-facing window under the early morning or evening sun.
You can also keep it near a south-facing window but make sure you have a sheer curtain to filter the light so that it keeps getting light.
That will ensure that your plant gets enough indirect light, yet it isn’t damaged by intense direct sunlight.
A medium-bright light spot filtered by a sheer curtain is often the perfect place to keep the rubber plant as it provides the plant with indirect, bright, and natural light.
Suppose you have placed your rubber plant at a spot where you cannot provide enough natural light to the rubber plant.
In that case, artificial light can be used as an alternative source for supplementing natural lighting.
The best thing about artificial light sources are that you can control the light according to the plant’s requirements.
Lack of light can also make it leaning so avoid keeping it in dark spots.
I personally love this versatile grow light for my plants that I got from Amazon.
Also read: How much light do rubber plants need?
Watering the plant right
Rubber plants can sometimes tolerate underwatering.
Even during the summer and spring, the growing season, they need more water than the rest of the year.
Watering the rubber plant once a week is good enough to make the plant happy. But do check the soil moisture before watering it.
And for the fall and winter seasons, watering the rubber plant once every two weeks works fine as the growth slows down.
Anything more may lead to various problems due to overwatering.
However, you should not follow a fixed regime for watering as the water needs may vary.
It is recommended to feel the soil and water your rubber plant only when the soil feels dry.
You don’t want the soil to get completely dried out, but it shouldn’t be wet, either.
You can also use a moisture meter to understand the moisture level in the soil. Water the plant when the dial gets to the red mark.
And remember, whenever watering the rubber plant, water it thoroughly.
That means waiting for the water to seep from the bottom of the pot while watering. It ensures that all your plant’s roots get their fair share of water and nutrients.
To fulfill the nutrient requirements of the rubber plant, we use fertilizer.
Various fertilizer is available in the market, which can be mind-boggling for a new owner.
I have a straightforward recommendation for you all. If you want synthetic fertilizer, then a no-brainer choice would be Jack’s Classic 20-20-20 All-Purpose Fertilizer.
However, if you are an organic person like me, you might consider using Espoma Indoor Liquid Plant Food.
How frequently do I fertilize my rubber plant?
The frequency of fertilizing shall depend upon what type of fertilizer you use. Most importantly, it depends on the plant’s growth.
Almost every houseplant, including the rubber plant, goes through two phases every year. i.e., The growing phase and the dormant phase.
The growing season occurs during the summer and spring seasons when the plant grows significantly in size.
So, fertilizing the rubber plant once a month or even once every alternate month is enough for the growing season.
The dormant period starts in the fall and remains throughout the winter.
As the plant shows no significant growth, we don’t need to supplement the rubber plant with too many fertilizers.
Repotting your rubber plant
It is crucial to repot your rubber plant every other year.
A root-bound plant can suffer from slow growth leading to a weak and leaning plant.
So, if your rubber plant is sitting in a small pot for more than 2 years, it is time to repot.
The best time to repot the rubber plant is in spring and early summer so that it could settle down in its new home before winter.
Tips to consider before repotting
When you think of repotting the plant, water it a day before repotting to prepare the soil and plant.
To satisfy the plant, the ideal pot size is one size bigger than the previous one.
The pot must have enough drainage holes in it to ensure the excellent drainage of extra water.
Purchase some potting soil mix with a balance of peat, sand, perlite and vermiculite instead of using your local garden soil as garden soil is not suitable for your houseplants.
I personally use Miracle Grow potting soil, which is readily available on Amazon.
Prevention and cure of pests
Regularly check for signs of pests, such as yellowing or curling leaves, and remove any affected leaves or branches.
Clean the rubber plant occasionally and keep it debris-free.
Clean containers and sterile potting soil can help keep the pests away.
Avoid over-fertilizing, which can attract pests.
The use of natural pest repellents, such as neem oil or insecticidal soap, can also keep the pests away.
You can follow the below instruction for treatment:
- For mild infestations, gently wash the rubber plant with water and dish soap, which can suffocate and kill pests.
- For more intense infestations, use an insecticide specifically designed for rubber plants. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully and avoid overusing pesticides.
- If your rubber plant is severely infested, it may be necessary to discard it to prevent the spread of pests to other plants.
How do I keep my rubber plant upright?
Long Rubber plants can’t stand alone, as they are not self-supporting.
When we grow rubber plants indoors, their stems are not as sturdy as those big rubber trees grown outdoors.
It’s a fact that the taller they grow, the droopier they get.
So, it is typical for a rubber plant to start leaning as they grow taller.
But you can quickly fix this problem.
Generally, it’s the natural behavior of the rubber plant to lean down once it grows taller. But you can consider the below points to help them stay upright:
- Prune the rubber plant from the top and encourage side growth
- Support the tall plant using a wooden dowel.
- Addressing the root issues of your plant.
- You can also use a plant brace to hold your plant upright.
Lets discuss the above points in detail:
Gardner often clips the rubber plants from the plant’s tip with the help of pruners or shears to regenerate the stem stronger and promote new growth which prevents it from leaning.
Late spring or early summer is the growing season for houseplants.
The rubber plant also responds better to pruning as they heal faster during that time and can grow new branches.
The growth of your rubber plant slows down during winter; hence it’s pretty stressful for the plant if you decide to prune them at that time.
Now, here’s how this pruning thing is done. Just cut the top part of the plant, and it’s done. Unlike other plants, rubber plants grow from the tip.
At first, it may feel painful to see your lovely plant clipped off, but your plant will grow perfectly healthy later.
You can also use the healthy pruned part for its propagation with a few drops of rooting hormone.
If your plant is not too tall and mature right now, and you want to limit pruning your plant, then here’s what to do now so that your plant doesn’t lean in the future.
When your rubber plant is about 2 feet tall, dig some garden stakes up to 2-3 inches deeper in the pot of your rubber plant to support the plant.
Make sure to take the best care of your plant to grow them vertically stronger and never cut them down in the future.
However, there’s a lot of science behind the effect of pruning.
But that’s a different topic, so we won’t go much deeper into it, but pruning is always beneficial for the rubber plant, and it eventually helps the plant improve its growth by strengthening its stem.
So, I would recommend pruning your plant from an early stage and supporting them as well when they grow taller.
Addressing root issue
Another reason for leaning is root rot, which needs to be addressed as quickly as possible.
If you think your plant is not underwatered and all the other aspects are taken care of, then there must be some problem with the roots due to which your plant is leaning.
Check the roots and prune the damaged roots. If the roots are infected, you need to use a fungicide.
Give your plant time to heal from the disease before watering it.
If you do not want to prune your plant and all the external factors are fine, and it is leaning due to growth only, consider using plant braces to hold it upright.
These braces are usually made of plastic or metal and are tightly attached to the plant stem to hold them.
Here are a few quick tips to remember and follow to keep your plant even in better condition:
- Keep the rubber plant away from room heaters and AC hot air.
- Provide the plant with some fertilizer during the growing season.
- Rubber plants are resistant to pests and diseases if grown in well-lit areas.
- Spray the plant with pest oil solution and wipe it with a cotton ball. It will protect the plant from pests attack.
- Keep cleaning the plant leaf to clear the dust from the leaf surface, which will help the plant in breathing.
- Moist the plant frequently. It helps in boosting the humidity in a very effective way.
If you have come thus far, reading this article, you would have understood that leaning is a common issue that can occur due to multiple reasons, like lack of sunlight, overwatering or weak stems. This can become a severe condition if we do not address it early.
It is crucial to identify the underlying cause and take appropriate steps to address rubber plant leaning. For example, if the plant is leaning due to weak stems, staking it or pruning it can help promote more robust growth. If the plant is leaning due to a lack of sunlight, moving it to a brighter location can help.
It is vital to provide proper care and maintenance to the rubber plant, along with regular watering, fertilization, and cleaning. The rubber plant can recover from leaning and grow healthy and strong with proper care.
How do you strengthen a rubber plant?
If you provide adequate lighting and watering conditions to your plant, take proper care, and prune it regularly. In that case, your rubber plant will grow robust.
Why is my rubber plant leaves bending?
Both over and underwatering can cause this. So you must check your watering schedule and assess the situation accordingly.
Is milk good for rubber plant?
Never use milk to clean your rubber plant. It can invite pests and infections.