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Do Rubber Plants Like To Be Root Bound? (+Ideal Pot Size & Repotting)

Rubber plants are famous for their large, lush green leaves. They are moderate to fast growers and can reach 6-8 feet within a few years. The root system grows relatively fast, but they are finicky. Now the question is, will they like being rootbound? 

Rubber plants don’t like being root-bound. Although they may tolerate this condition temporarily, they will eventually suffer. Roots develop fast and will need room to grow flexibly. Repot your plant whenever the roots peek out of the drainage holes or grow circularly. 

Are you wondering if the Rubber plant likes to stay root-bound? You have come to the right place. This article will explore whether the plant likes to be root-bound and how to prevent highly root-bound conditions and ensure it stays happy and healthy. 

Rubber Plant repotting (2)

I have done my best to address all of your concerns in the article below. However, if you still have any questions or are confused about the article, you can receive personalized one-on-one assistance from me by leaving a comment below. I will respond to your comment within a few hours.

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Do Rubber plants like to be rootbound: Understanding their growth rate  

Rubber plants, or Ficus Elastica, are moderate to fast growers. 

They develop 24 inches per season.

Outdoors, the Rubber plants can grow around 50-100 feet tall, but indoors, they reach about 8-10 feet tall within a few years.  

Their root system can grow moderately faster and become overcrowded very quickly. 

As the roots grow, they need room for flexible growth and expansion. 

Rubber plants grow aerial roots and buttressing roots to support their heights. 

These roots like to spread out. 

If the space in your pot is insufficient, you will see them circling and wrapping densely around the root ball. 

This condition is called root bound

Now the question is, will the Rubber plants like to stay root-bound like this

Due to the Rubber plant’s fast growth, the roots also develop quickly. 

However, they cannot remain root-bound for an extended period. 

The roots cannot spread appropriately within a limited amount of space. 

They start curling and form a fixed mass. 

If the roots lack sufficient space for proper growth, they will compete forcefully for nutrients and moisture. 

Ultimately, the roots will struggle to pass the nutrients and moisture to the other plant parts, and the plant begins to suffer. 

So, Rubber plants do not like to be root-bound. They might tolerate it for some time but won’t enjoy it too long. 

It will badly affect the plant’s health. 

Adverse effects of root bound in Rubber plants 

Rubber Plant leaves curling (2)

If the roots are healthy, the plant will stay healthy because roots transfer the moisture and nutrients to the other plant parts. 

I’ve grown Rubber plants for years and witnessed them becoming root-bound multiple times.

Once, a few of my plants suffered too much for staying root-bound for a little longer because I neglected them and did not repot them. 

From my experience and close observation, here are some negative impacts I have had on my root-bound Rubber plants:

Soil dries out quickly

When excessive roots start growing, they take up the maximum space of the pot. 

As a result, there is a minimal amount of soil left. 

So, it cannot hold enough moisture and dries out faster. 

Sometimes, the soil gets pushed out of the pot to the outside. 

Lack of nutrition and moisture 

When soil reduces, the amount of moisture and nutrients the soil can hold also reduces. 

Half the water drains out and escapes from the drainage holes. 

In a root-bound condition, the roots start curling and grow circularly. 

Over time, they become compact, and the transfer of nutrients and moisture becomes difficult. 

It makes the plant suffer from underwatering and nutrient deficiency, which further causes yellowing or defoliation. 

Stunted growth and yellow leaves 

When the roots get curled and compact, it becomes difficult for them to pass on the nutrients and moisture to the other parts of the plant.

Moreover, maximum soil gets moved from place and pushed out. 

If the soil cannot fully cover the roots, water can flow out very quickly from the drainage holes. 

As a result, the plant has stunted growth and too many yellow leaves. These leaves will fall off the plant over time. 

The cells of the leaves dry out and break, and the leaves deform due to dehydration

The plant loses the energy to hold these leaves and lose them. 

Damaged root system 

When the roots remain curled and compact for too long, they get damaged. 

Tightly packed roots can start rotting and become brown. 

The compact roots press against each other and become susceptible to root rot. 

When the roots are highly curled, and they keep circling, they become entangled with each other. 

When you try to repot, you can damage the roots more while untangling them. 

Signs of a root bound Rubber plant 

Rubber plant repot

As a beginner, it is impossible to understand whether the plant is root-bound. You need to look out for signs that signify the condition. 

Recently, I got a few messages from my readers. 

They were new growers and wanted to learn the signs of root-bound and the right time to repot so they wouldn’t make any mistakes. 

If you are a new Rubber plant grower and it’s already been one year, your plant might have been root-bound by now. 

Here are some signs you will get in your Rubber plant that indicate root bound: 

Roots coming out of the drainage holes 

One of the common signs that will tell you that the plant is root-bound is roots coming out of the drainage holes. 

When roots become extremely root-bound, they will try to grow even from the smallest empty spaces. 

That’s when it will start growing out from the drainage holes. 

Roots circulating at the soil surface and pot edges 

As I said, the roots will begin to grow from wherever they find space and start spreading. 

Along with roots from the drainage holes, they will grow circularly around the pot edges and come out of the soil surface. You will be able to notice some rubber plant roots above the soil.

Swollen pot 

As long as they get space, the roots will keep growing and circling the pot edges. 

The pot becomes significantly filled up with the roots. 

If you observe closely, the pot will seem slightly swollen due to the extreme root growth. 

Too many yellow, wilted, and dried leaves

Since the amount of soil reduces, it cannot hold enough moisture and nutrients. 

Too many leaves are wilting, drying, yellowing, or browning, and a series of leaves falling off after losing color. 

Potting and soil essentials when repotting a Rubber plant  

Rubber plant pot

The only solution to fix a root-bound plant is to repot it to a new pot with new soil. 

The new pot will be slightly bigger as you will give the roots extra room to grow flexibly. 

You need new soil because the soil can deplete and lose its quality over time. 

The new soil will provide fresh nutrients and will have a better ability to drain and retain moisture. 

Let’s understand what type of pot and soil to use while repotting: 

Pot size for rubber plant

Choose a pot that is only 1-2 inches bigger than the old one. You can also choose a 2-4 inch bigger pot. 

It depends on how fast your Rubber plant is growing. 

You can use a 1-2 inch bigger pot if the plant grows moderately. 

But if it grows faster, go for a pot 2-4 inches bigger than the old one. 

Some houseplant owners use a slightly bigger pot, for instance, 4-6 inches bigger than the old one. 

You can do the same if you don’t repot the Rubber plant every year, but every 2-3 years. 

Do not go for a huge pot. Big pot holds too much soil; when watered, it retains excess moisture and stays wet for too long. 

Eventually, it causes overwatering and root rot. 

 Also, consider the pot material. If you overwater the plant, go for a terracotta pot. 

If you water less often, use a plastic pot. 

Soil type while repotting 

Rubber plants need soil that drains the extra water while retaining the required moisture. 

While they enjoy consistently moist soil, they hate sitting in soggy soil. 

Any well-drained, all-purpose commercial soil mix will work for the Rubber plant. 

You can also prefer your own soil mix recipe. 

For example, use equal parts of peat or potting soil, pine bark, and coarse sand or perlite

The peat or potting soil will help retain the moisture, and coarse sand or perlite will help drainage. 

The pine bark will also help in drainage and aeration. 

Make sure the soil pH remains around 5.5 to 7. 

You can visit our Rubber Plant Soil article to learn more about the soil requirements and other soil mix recipes for Rubber plants. 

Repotting Schedule for Rubber Plants 

The right time to repot the Rubber plants is during the first growing seasons, i.e., early spring to early summer. 

Since the plant has emerged from dormancy, it will start its active growth. Repotting can shock and stress the plant a bit. 

During the Rubber plant’s active season, it will quickly recover from the stress and thrive after some time. 

I often discuss gardening basics and tips with my readers when they ask me for any doubts. 

I also discuss with some of my expert gardening friends when I need to know something essential or learn something new and share it with others. 

I learned that the repotting season can depend on the living region. 

Generally, it is always early spring or summer. 

But you can also perform it in late winter in temperate climates. 

It is the time when the weather starts rising slowly, and in the early spring, the Rubber plant will come out of dormancy. 

The plant will soon start growing actively and quickly recover from the repotting shock. 

Repotting should be done every 1-2 years during the active months. 

Repotting guidelines for Rubber plant: Step-by-step repotting process 

Rubber Plant repotting

Now that you know that Rubber plants do not like staying root bound, it is time to repot it to a new pot. 

Below, I am sharing a simple step-by-step guide to the Rubber plant repotting process. Let’s begin. 

  • Removing the plant from the pot might be difficult since you will be repotting after 1-2 years. Therefore, water the plant 1-2 days before repotting to soften the soil. This will make the removal easier. 
  • Gently remove the plant from the pot. Tap the edges and bottom of the pot to loosen the soil if needed. Avoid damaging the root system. 
  • After that, remove the maximum soil around the root system and examine the condition of the roots. 
  • Prune some leaves, around 25-30%. Also prune a few roots, especially the brown roots and some long thin roots, around 15-20% only. More than that would stress the plant. 
  • Take the new pot and fill half of it up with a new potting mix
  • Now, plant the Rubber plant at the center and fill the surroundings with some more potting mix. Tap the sides of an even soil surface. 
  • Do not fill the pot full at the pot’s top edge. While watering, water might spill out. Leave a 1/2 or 1-inch space. 
  • Water the plant and keep the soil consistently moist. 
  • Keep the plant in a place with bright, indirect sunlight. A west or east-facing window will be ideal. 
  • Avoid fertilizing right now. Since the soil medium is new, it is filled with nutrients. It will provide enough nutrition for the time being. 

After repotting, the plant may experience shock and stress due to the sudden change in its environment. But don’t worry. 

Keep caring for the plant; it will soon come out of stress and grow new leaves. 

Then, you can start feeding the plant with a balanced liquid fertilizer with NPK 10-10-10

Final thoughts 

Rubber plants do not like being root-bound. It may tolerate for some time, but ultimately, it will start suffering. Keeping the plant root-bound will adversely affect the plant. The amount of soil reduces and dries and drains faster, causing underwatering and lack of nutrients. The plant stops growing, and the root system is damaged due to pressure and entanglement. 

Repot your Rubber plant every 1-2 years during the early spring or summer. It will keep your plant from becoming extremely root-bound. If you want to wait until the plant shows signs of root-bound, check for signs of roots coming out of the drainage holes or growing in a circular motion. 

Don’t let the plant stay rootbound for too long. After repotting, take good care of the plant. Provide enough sunlight, keep the soil moist, and provide warm temperatures and 50-60% humidity. Avoid cold drafts and direct sun exposure.

What kind of fertilizer should I use after repotting the Rubber plants? 

You can choose a slow-release or a liquid fertilizer. If you use slow-release, feed the plant every 4 to 6 weeks. For liquid fertilizers, use every 2-4 weeks. Don’t feed until the plant recovers from repotting shock and starts new growth. 

How often should I water the Rubber plant after repotting?

You should try to keep the soil consistently moist. Generally, you can apply 1 inch of water once a week. But let the top few inches dry out before every watering session.

Reference: Rubber plant Wikipedia

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