Rubber plant also called as ficus elastica, is a popular house plant that can grow pretty tall. Often plant owners wonder if they should repot their rubber plant or let it sit in the same pot they got. Another common thought that comes to the mind is, do rubber plants like to be root bound or not? I did thorough research on it, and here is what I have learned.
Rubber plant doesn’t like to be root bound. Rootbound is a condition where the plants’ roots have no more space to grow and expand. This can lead to stunted growth, droopy leaves, and lack of oxygen and water supply in the plant leading to various other issues. At this stage, you must consider repotting your plant.
But how would you know if your plant is root bounded or not? What are the signs you must look out for? Also, how can you fix the same? Let’s dive into the details.
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How can you tell if your rubber plant is root bound?
Plants were supposed to be grown in-ground where they have enough space to expand their roots.
However, we humans have confined them to a small pot where they have limited resources to grow.
If you have a healthy and thriving plant, your plants’ roots are likely to grow and expand.
It will reach a point where the roots have filled the container entirely, and they have no more space to expand.
That will further lead to some problems in the plant. The problems include:
- Breakdown of the soil, leading to a lack of moisture and nutrients for the plant.
- Lack of space for the roots of the plant to grow, leading to damage to the roots and plant as a whole.
Once the plant reaches a point where its root no longer has enough space to expand, it will start suffering. Some of the signs that your plant has become root-bound are:
- Stunted growth
- Yellow/brown leaves from the bottom
- Drooping of bottom leaves
- Roots start showing from the top of the soil
- The roots start coming out of bottom holes
- The pot starts losing its shape and may even crack out
If left without any intervention, your rubber plant will start dying. If your rubber plant’s soil is drying really quick or if the soil is getting crusty and has cracks, then chances are you have a root-bound rubber plant.
Also Read: Why Are My Rubber Plant Leaves Turning Brown (Causes+What To Do)
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How to check if your rubber plant is root bound?
As your plants grow, they will outgrow their pot at some point in time sooner or later.
If your rubber plant is showing any of the above signs, you need to check your plant’s roots. To check the roots of your plants, you can follow these simple steps:
- Take the plant to a sink or your service spot and lay the container on its side.
- Loosen the soil out and gently bring the plant out of the container.
- You can also use a long thin serrated knife to run around the edges of the container to get the plant out
- If you are still struggling to get the plant out, you might have to break the container.
- Once out, examine the root ball of the plant.
At this stage you may encounter these three scenarios:
|Root just began wrapping around the root ball||Slightly root bounded|
|Roots started forming mats around the root ball||Root bounded|
|Roots have formed a solid mat and no soil can be seen||Severely root bounded|
If you see that your rubber plant shows any signs of being root bound, you need to repot the plant immediately.
Can a rubber plant die from being root bound?
A rubber plant is not going to die immediately just because of being root-bound. However, when a plant is rootbound, they suffer from various other problems. These includes:
As the rubber plants start getting root-bound, the soil will eventually break and get displaced.
That will subsequently lower the soil’s moisture-holding capacity, and as a result, the soil starts drying out quickly.
In most cases, that will result in dehydration in the plants, leading to droopy leaves and other rubber plants’ problems.
Also read: How much water does your rubber plants need?
Lack of nutrients
Water and soil are two crucial factors required for the growth of the plant.
Once the plant starts getting root bound, the soil gets displaced, and thus, the nutrients in the soil start going down.
The soil also holds little water, and therefore, the soil is unable to replenish the lost nutrients from the water as well. Thus, your rubber plant is likely to suffer.
As the roots have grown to their maximum capacity and now they don’t have much space to expand, your plant’s growth will start slow down.
The roots will also no longer absorb water and nutrients properly, which leads to poor growth of the plant.
The roots of the rubber plant can also get damaged if it gets root bounded.
The root will tangle within themselves, and some of them may eventually start rotting or getting brown.
That could be a threat to your rubber plant’s life as a damaged root can be something they may not recover from.
The risk of damaging the root while repotting is also present if the plant is severely root-bound.
Ideal pot size for ficus elastica
You can have a rubber plant in a 1-3 gallon pot, and it shall do absolutely fine. The rule of the thumb is to repot the plant into a pot that is 2-inch larger than the current one.
For example: If your rubber plant is currently potted in a 6-inch container, move it to an 8-inch pot when you decide to repot the plant.
Moving a plant to a container too big can also be bad for their well being. Thus, make sure you choose an appropriate size container for your rubber plant.
Also read: Why you must not repot a plant in too big of a pot?
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When should you repot a rubber plant?
Ideally, you should only repot a rubber plant every two to three years. A healthy rubber plant is likely to outgrow a pot withing three years.
However, it would be best if you did not repot them very often as it can stress the plant out, leading to slow growth.
If you just got a new plant home and are unsure about what you must do, begin checking for root-bound signs.
You may also examine the roots as we discussed earlier and then decide whether it is a good idea to repot the rubber plant or not.
What if you don’t have space for a larger pot
If you don’t want to repot your rubber plant or do not have enough space for the same, you can apply these tricks:
- Take the plant out of the pot and give it a nice trim. Make sure you trim at least 25-30% of its foliage and 15-20% of its root.
- Once done, add some fresh potting mix and repot the plant in the same pot and move it to bright indirect light.
- Add some slow-releasing fertilizer along with an ample amount of water.
- Keep the soil moist at all times.
Although this might slow the plant’s growth and may stress the plant in the short term, your plant will bounce back soon with healthy and fresh growth.
Please note: This is not an ideal procedure. It is always recommended to move the plant into a larger pot and provide proper care to them.
However, if you have some constants, you can give this ninja trick a try.
Sources: Stress Generation In Aerial Roots Of Ficus Elastica, Growth of rubber plants, Ficus Elastica care
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