The rubber plant, or as they are scientifically known, Ficus Elastica is easy to care for and maintain. But there can be times when you will see the rubbery leaves looking lifeless as the leaves turn brown, indicating that your plant is in trouble. You might be wondering what’s wrong with your rubber plant?
No problem! We are happy to help you rescue your plant with ease and prevent the future from saving your plant leaves from turning brown. Let us find out.
The primary cause of brown leaves in the rubber plant is inadequate watering and sunburn. Overwatering can lead to other problems like root rot and pests, which will lead to brown leaves. At the same time, underwatering and sunburn make the foliage dry and crisp, leading to brown leaves.
There are a lot of other factors that come into play as well. To understand the cause and act immediately, all you need to do is go through the following problems below and identify what your plant is trying to tell you.
Also read: Why is my rubber plant dying?
Table Of Contents
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6 Causes of brown leaves in rubber plants
There can be a lot of factors leading to brown leaves in rubber plants. However, the 6 most important causes are as follows:
Underwatering or overwatering any of them may cause brown edges on leaves.
Easy Identification: If the drooping or browning starts from the bottom leaf, it is a watering issue.
If the soil is drying out very quickly, mostly in 2-3 days, but you are watering in 4-5 days or more, then there is a problem. That’s when you know your plant is under-watered.
Humidity will also get low by not adequately watering or keeping the time gaps between watering very long.
Now, if there are excess weeds on the pot surface, the flow of water moving to the roots may get blocked, or if the plant-soil is having lots of clay due to which water could not reach deep inside the roots causing the roots to dry out.
Overwatering your plants will also harm your plant. You can identify it just by checking the soil condition; it will make the soil soggy and turn your leaves edges brown. Thus you will know that your plant is overwatered.
Too much and too often watering causes brown edges on leaves. Never over water to the point that the soil becomes soggy.
The soil is already drowning, and you are adding more water to it, causing harm to the soil, roots, and then leaves.
So, before watering, always make sure the soil is dry by putting your finger 2 inch down in the soil. It is the perfect indicator that your plant is ready to be watered.
While watering, one should keep in mind the season also. More water is required during Summers and less in winters to ensure the soil is moist but not drowning.
Also read: How much water does the rubber plant need?
Too much chlorine or fluoride in the water
If you are doing everything else right, but still you have brown leaves in your rubber plant, your tap water could be the problem.
Too much chlorine or fluoride in the water you are using can harm your plants. Tap water could be different everywhere, depending on your city or municipality.
Rubber plants along with most other indoor plants can be sensitive to the type of water used on them.
Even if the presence of chlorine and fluoride is good for human beings, our plants don’t do well when the water contains such nutrients. Brown tips can be caused due to the presence of these nutrients in the tap water that you are using to water your plant.
Checking the water supply for the nutrients present in it would be ideal to prevent such issues in the future.
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Root rot may make the leaves lifeless. Root rot may be caused due to several reasons, but to find out if the real issue is root rot or not, you need to check on some points.
If you see brown-edged leaves, you need to check if your plant roots are mushy, brown, and soft, which means the soil is not in good condition. The soil might also have a foul odor, which will tell you it is root rot.
Root rot may be caused due to constricted roots (Tip Too much clay-rich soil may constrict the soil and lead to root rot).
Root rot can be of two types, fungal infection (you can spot it in veins and base of your plant) and bacterial infection (you can spot it on leaves).
Too big pots may also cause root rot because too much soil on the roots doesn’t have enough time to soak all the water from the soil, so they remain wet for too long, causing root rot.
Also read: All about root rot in rubber plant: Signs, Causes & What to do
Easy Identification: If drooping leaves and browning start from the top leaves, it’s a lighting issue.
A lot of direct sunlight might tend to dry out the soil faster and harm the leaves by giving them sunburn or brown edges. Insufficient or direct sunlight both are not recommended.
During winters, if the plant doesn’t get proper light, the leaves might turn brown. As the soil won’t dry quickly, the soil will remain moist for a long time, and the entire plant gets affected.
Also read: How much light do rubber plants need?
Really quick-draining soil
If the soil does not hold onto the water due to the soil being too sandy or quick-draining, then it may cause water deficiency and brown edges on leaves.
This will prevent the soil from maintaining proper humidity and moisture, making the leaves’ edges brown.
Also read: What kind of soil do rubber plants need?
Not enough fertilizer
Fertilizing frequently is very important. If not fertilizing on time, the plant may not get its required nutrients which leads to discoloration and browning.
Fertilizing too soon is also not right. It will affect your plant’s growth and lead to brown edges on leaves.
Also read: Does rubber plant need fertilizer? How much? How often?
My rubber plant leaves are turning brown on the edges
The brown leaf edges are a generic symptom without one specific cause. It could be heat damage as leaves touch any hot surface, the hardness of the water, or too much fertilizer, but more likely, it is improper watering.
There is a possibility that the brown leaves you see are due to inadequate care before you got the plant. It can take a few days before the symptoms start appearing. So don’t over-react.
Your plant may be stressed. The scientific reason is generally the water flow from roots to leaves to maintain its growing system.
But if the plant is stressed due to heat, the water flow system starts reversing its direction from leaves to roots to release heat and stress, making the leaves dry and turn brown.
If you notice that the new growth is coming healthy and the plant is growing then you must not be worried. You can simply trim and prune the damaged leaves entirely or just trim the damaged brown part.
Pruning and trimming will encourage new growth and will not affect your overall plant health.
Also read: What is wrong with my rubber plant?
Tips to prevent brown leaves in rubber plants
After killing a lot of rubber plants and learning with the experience, I finally feel like I have mastered the art of balancing everything out. Here are a few tips if you are just getting started.
Provide an adequate amount of water
Start watering if under watering is the case and stop watering if the plant is overwatered.
Proper watering is a must to keep your plant healthy. Ideally, a 4 -5 days gap is right for our plant and keeps the soil moist.
Before watering, make sure the soil is dry by placing your finger in the soil a few inches to check.
Make sure the excess water is coming out of the drainage holes. Also, chop off brown or dead leaves.
Also read: Overwatering vs Underwatering
Look for signs of root rot and fix it immediately
It doesn’t matter what kind of infection causes root rot or different reasons to root rot; the treatment is the same.
First of all, chop and remove dark, brown, and mushy roots and then clean the roots under running water.
You can also use some soap (any soap) to clean the roots as it helps kill bacteria and fungus. Now, Repot in a larger container.
Provide proper drainage by making holes on the base of the container and line pebbles or pumice stones over which you can plant your plant.
Repot with soil that is fast draining but not excessive draining. It should be able to hold moisture.
Get rid of heavily damaged leaves (don’t cut off more than 50% of its leaves if too many of them are damaged). Watering the plant timely goes along.
A quick tip: Digging too much or unnecessarily repotting or too much root pruning of a root-bound plant can cause root damage and reduce uptake by the plant causing browning of leaves’ edges.
Also, appropriate pruning of the branches and leaves will help reduce the stress on roots, and reducing its water requirement will help recover your roots fast.
Use a water softener or use an alternate source of water
Start watering with soft water. Use rainwater (great for your plant), or you can use distilled water (2nd best solution), or you can fill a bucket with water and leave it overnight (it will help evaporate chlorine) and use it the next day to water your plant. It indeed works in eliminating chlorine-rich tap water.
Fluoride in water causes similar problems. Interestingly, suppose you plant your rubber plant in slightly acidic soil, pH 6.0 to 6.5.
In that case, this will prevent the fluoride from being available for absorption by your plant, and your plant will generally do better in slightly acidic soil anyway. This will help save your rubber plants from fluoride.
The mulching process is also an excellent way to prevent the leaves from turning brown if the environment is too hot to keep the soil moist.
Providing adequate lighting for the plant
Bright indirect sunlight is what your plant is thriving the most. The noon sun will burn the leaves and dry out the soil very fast, so a west-facing balcony is a great option.
Another perfect spot is near the window with beautiful sheer curtains to filter the direct sunlight.
You should keep the plant in an area where it can easily get the early morning sun and late noon sun ideally to keep the plant healthy.
If the brown leaves are caused due to excessive sunlight, you can keep the plants away from direct sunlight. Also, Keep your rubber plants away from heating and cooling vents.
If your rubber plant is properly potted and close to a sunny window, it would need thorough watering as soon as the soil’s surface is dry.
If it is in a large pot or away from the window, then allow the top inch of soil to dry between watering.
If you want to keep your plant outdoors, provide shade over the plant to protect it from direct sunlight.
If the temperature goes up To 85 degrees Fahrenheit or more, you really need to protect your plant else; it might even lead to your rubber plant’s death.
Also Read: How Much Light Do Rubber Plants Need?
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Use an appropriate soil mixture
You would want good organic peat-based potting soil (something natural).
Adding organic material to the garden soil along with cocopeat, perlite, or vermiculite can help the soil retain moisture for a more extended period. This will help in improving the overall health of the soil.
And of course, don’t forget to provide proper drainage holes to flush the excess water out.
Maintaining the right soil moisture is much more challenging if the soil is heavy. So we have here the ideal mix :
- Take 2 parts of Miracle Grow Indoor potting mix
- Mix a part of perlite/pumice/coarse sand into the mix
Please keep checking the soil. It should neither be too compact (may cause root rot or damaged roots) nor too loose(drain the water too fast, making your plant dry).
Also Read: What Kind Of Soil Is Good For Rubber Plants?
Provide the right balance of fertilizer
Fertilizing is the backbone of keeping your plants healthy and going. Optimum Fertilizer and instant watering after applying the fertilizer are also necessary.
Once a month is good enough for a rubber plant. Balancing fertilizer is crucial to maintaining the health of the plant.
Fertilize your plant if it is not fertilized enough. Next time, fertilize every month during summer with some nitrogen-rich fertilizer like seaweed.
You can add compost twice a month is also enough. Mix ½ teaspoon of 10-10-10 nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium with 1 gallon of water. Apply this every 3-4 weeks.
If overfertilized, flush the pot thoroughly with soft water exposing it to sunlight to quickly get rid of over-fertilized soil. The next time you fertilize your plant keeps in mind the right proportion of the fertilizer.
Also read: Do rubber plants need fertilizer? How much?
Keep cleaning your leaves to prevent any buildups on them. Dust off and make the plant look shiny and lustrous. It will also help to remove any bug bugging around your plant.
Also, keep inspecting your plant every few days and spend some time listening to what it is trying to tell you. Be careful taking the plant out of the soil, don’t rip the roots.
Sources: Stress Generation In Aerial Roots Of Ficus Elastica, Growth of rubber plants, Ficus Elastica care
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