Have you ever noticed issues with your rubber plant(Ficus elastica) and wondered how to fix them? In this blog, we will discuss common problems affecting rubber plants and share some easy solutions.
Rubber plants can encounter several common problems, such as drooping or wilting leaves, yellowing or browning leaves, and root rot. Overwatering, insufficient lighting, and pests can also contribute to these problems. However, many of these issues have simple fixes, such as adjusting watering practices, providing adequate light, and addressing any pest infestations promptly.
Please read this article till the end to understand what is wrong with your Rubber plant as we explore all the possible problems and solutions.
Table Of Contents
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What is wrong with your Rubber plants? Why are they looking so sad?
Diagnosing problems with Rubber plants, even small ones, can be challenging. For instance, wilting, yellowing, or white spots.
Primarily, beginners panic when they see such issues because they don’t know what to do.
I receive several messages where people send pictures of their Rubber plants that seem weak, yellowing, wilting, or losing leaves.
They keep asking me what could be wrong with their plants.
Unless you understand the specific care needed, you can’t help the plant become healthy again.
I’ve made it simple for you by sharing all the issues and their reasons. So, let’s dive deep without further delay.
1) Rubber plant leaves are wilting
Wilting leaves is concerning, but fixing is easy. It results from several issues, and here are a few things to check:
Wilting due to Incorrect watering
When you don’t water your rubber plant correctly, the plant’s ability to absorb moisture and nutrients reduces.
Check the soil and start watering if it’s dry.
Make some holes with a chopstick to let the water seep through and reach the roots.
On the contrary, overwatering suffocates the roots and hinders moisture and nutrient uptake, causing wilting like underwatering.
Allow the top few inches to dry out before watering. Reduce watering in winter.
Wilting due to Soil quality
Poor-quality soil also contributes to watering issues.
Soil with poor retention qualities loses moisture and nutrients faster, causing wilted leaves.
Soil with poor drainage holds moisture for too long, suffocates the roots, reduces the plant’s ability to absorb moisture and nutrients, and leads to wilting.
Add perlite or vermiculite to improve drainage and peat moss or organic matter to improve retention qualities.
Browning is quite a serious concern.
Common reasons could be inconsistent watering, low humidity levels, and direct sun exposure.
Direct sunlight exposure causes brown leaves
Direct sunlight can burn Rubber plant leaves, causing brown scorch marks.
Move your plant 1-2 feet away from open windows.
Put up sheer curtains or Venetian blinds in the south-facing windows.
West and east-facing windows can provide good dappled sunlight.
Brown leaves due to Overfertilization
Too much fertilization accumulates the salts in the soil.
These salts burn the roots, turning the foliage brown and dry at the tips and edges.
Flush off the soil with thorough watering. Salt will drain out with water.
Do this 2-3 times until fresh water comes out.
Stop feeding for some weeks until you see signs of recovery.
Dilute your fertilizer before application to half the recommended strength. Or, go for organic fertilizers.
Low humidity causes brown leaves.
Low humidity causes leaves to lose moisture and become dry faster, resulting in browning at the tips and edges.
Check the room’s humidity with a hygrometer and adjust the humidity by installing humidifiers, misting, placing the pot over a pebble tray, and grouping.
3) Rubber plants have yellow leaves.
Yellow leaves are common yet alarming in the Rubber plants. Here are a few reasons:
Irregular watering practices cause yellow leaves
Both overwatering and underwatering hinder the moisture and nutrient uptake in the plant, causing yellow leaves.
I have already discussed this earlier.
You must keep the soil consistently moist throughout the spring and summer.
Try to provide at least 1 inch of water every week.
Reduce it in the winter.
Insufficient sunlight causes yellow leaves.
Lack of sunlight affects chlorophyll production, which is responsible for the leaf color, leading to pale or yellow leaves.
Check the light conditions.
If the light seems low, relocate your plant to a bright area that receives indirect or dappled sunlight for 6-8 hours.
Use fluorescent or LED lights if needed.
Yellow leaves due to Pests and diseases
Pests like aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites suck the plant sap and weaken the plant.
These make the leaves yellow and deformed.
Diseases like powdery mildew can turn the leaves yellow over time.
To fight infestations:
- Isolate your plant and remove the leaves.
- Spray neem oil on the infected leaves. The oil works for both. Concentrate on the underside of the leaves for pests.
- Release natural predators like ladybugs and lacewings to let them munch on the bugs.
- If pest infestation is vast, use chemical insecticides, pesticides, and systemic processes.
- For diseases, spray chemical fungicides on the infected parts.
- Use homemade fungicide by adding 1 part baking soda with 10 parts water and spraying it on the infected leaves.
Yellow leaves due to Aging
Sometimes, it is just aging.
The leaves have become quite old, slowly turning yellow or brown.
Over time, they will fall off the plant.
Note: Sometimes, leaves turn brown after yellowing.
4) Leaves falling off my Rubber plant
Rubber plants are loved for their lush green leaves.
But it is disappointing if these leaves fall off the plant.
Let’s see which reasons cause defoliation:
Watering stress causes leaves to fall
The very first reason is watering stress.
Remember how I explained how improper watering practices and soil quality can affect the plant’s health and lead to discolored leaves?
These leaves will fall off the plant over time. Correcting the watering routines to stop the plant from losing leaves.
Sudden changes causing leaves to fall
Rubber plants are hardy when adapted to their surrounding environment, but sudden changes can shock the plant and lead to leaf loss.
Changes in light levels, temperature changes, and repotting shock are the common reasons.
The light level changes according to the weather.
The change in light levels can shock your plant and lead to some defoliation.
But don’t worry. With time, it will adjust again and stop losing leaves.
Extreme or sudden temperature changes can also cause leaf loss as sudden changes shock the plant.
To avoid this, keep the temperature between 65°F and 85°F.
Keep your plant away from hot or cold air vents and open windows.
If your plant is losing leaves after recent repotting, it’s due to transplant shock.
Keep caring for the plant and it will thrive back. Repot only during the early spring or summer.
You will sometimes notice the Rubber plant leaves curling inwards or outwards. Here are a few things to check:
Pests causing the leaves of your rubber plant to curl
If new leaves curl, it could be a pest infestation.
Check your plant closely, concentrating on the underside of the leaves.
If you find pests, use neem oil or wipe them with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Release natural predators like ladybugs and lacewings.
Low humidity causes leaves to curl
In low humidity, the leaves curl inward to prevent moisture from evaporating.
Check the humidity level with a hygrometer.
If it’s below 50-60%, adjust it by misting, installing humidifiers, using pebble trays, and grouping.
Uneven moisture distribution resulting in curled leaves
It is not concerning and is a rare issue.
Leaves curl to preserve maximum moisture.
Make sure that the water spreads out evenly in the soil.
Over time, your Rubber plant grows only tall and leggy.
There are three main reasons behind it:
Lack of sunlight makes your rubber plant leggy
When the plant does not receive enough sunlight, it will grow towards the sunlight for some light source and become leggy.
Incorrect light orientation also does the same.
The side that doesn’t receive enough light will become leggy.
To fix this, shift your plant to a bright location receiving dappled sunlight. A west or east-facing window works better.
Every side of the plant should receive sufficient sunlight consistently.
Use artificial lights, like fluorescent or LED lights, for the Rubber plants.
Keep them on for 10-12 hours, then turn them off.
Overfertilization makes your rubber plant leggy.
Fertilizers encourage plant growth, but excessive use of fertilizers, especially nitrogen, leads to uncontrolled and leggy growth.
Stop feeding and prune the leggy part.
Don’t fertilize for now, and start when you notice new growth.
Change your fertilizer if the nitrogen content is high, and go for these two fertilizers:
- Espoma Organic Indoor! Plant Food has an NPK value of 2-2-2.
- Jack’s Classic Water Soluble All Purpose Fertilizer, 20-20-20.
Also, avoid using overly rich soil.
You can consult our Rubber Plant Soil Article, where we have shared some perfect soil mixes.
Lack of proper pruning making your rubber plant leggy
Rubber plants are fast to moderate growers and can grow quite tall.
If you don’t prune them regularly, they will keep growing tall and become leggy at some point.
When people ask me how to prune to avoid leggy growth, here’s what I suggest to them:
- Prune the dead and damaged leaves. This will encourage new growth.
- Do some horizontal trimming of the back of the thin, irregular branches at the back. Remove these around 4-6 inches.
- Prune some top leaves before the leaf nodes and the top part to maintain height and desired shape.
- Trim off a few branches and leaves from the center to prevent dense growth.
7) Brown spots on Rubber plant leaves
Brown spots on the leaves can be concerning. Here are three main reasons:
Bacterial or fungal diseases causing brown spots
Brown spots on the Rubber plant leaves indicate fungal or bacterial diseases, like root rot, anthracnose, or bacterial blight.
The best way out is prevention, as some are untreatable. However, some can be cured.
Here’s what you should do:
- Isolate your plant and remove the infected leaves.
- Spray commercial fungicide to the infected parts of the plant.
- Make homemade fungicide by adding 1 part baking soda with 10 parts water. Mix it well and spray it on the plant.
- If it’s root rot, remove the plant, cut off the brown and mushy stems, spray some fungicide on the roots, and repot your plant to a new pot with a new soil mix.
- Avoid excessive watering and use soil with sound drainage. Avoid overhead watering.
Pests carry some diseases.
Therefore, your first step should be to monitor and control pests.
I have already shared earlier how to deal with pests.
Pests causing brown spots
Pests like scale insects (brown) attach themselves to the leaves.
It looks like your leaves have brown spots.
White scales are mistaken as white spots.
Dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and wipe the infested areas, or keep them with tweezers.
For natural control, release ladybugs and lacewings.
Several reasons can lead to white marks on the Rubber plant leaves, but let’s talk about some common reasons:
Edema causes white marks
When the roots absorb moisture faster than the leaves can transpire, it causes the cells to expand and burst and make blisters.
These blisters erupt and cause white spots called Edema.
It mostly happens when you overwater in humid climates.
Stop overwatering and adjust the humidity levels (50-60%) to fix this.
Water the plant only when the top few inches are dry.
Reduce humidity by installing a dehumidifier and improving airflow.
Powdery mildew causing white marks
Powdery mildew appears as white powder scattered on the leaves.
The reasons are high humidity with low air circulation.
Thankfully, fixing the disease is easier than other diseases.
Remove the infected leaves and spray some neem oil.
Additionally, use some chemical or organic fungicides and increase airflow.
White marks due to Frost damage
Excessive cold damages the cells and tissues of the Rubber plant leaves.
Over time, large white spots develop on the surface.
Avoid cold drafts by keeping your plant away from cold air vents, balconies, and open doors and windows.
Remove discolored or damaged leaves and relocate your plant to a room with temperatures between 65-80°F and humidity of 50-60%.
There are several reasons behind it, but commonly, three reasons can kill your plant:
Rubber plant dying due to Improper watering
Overwatering and poor drainage lead to root rot.
Once the root rot fungi develop around the roots, it becomes challenging to save your plant.
Avoid overwatering the plant and use well-drained soil. Repot your plant if needed.
Rubber plants dying due to Pests and diseases
Pests and diseases can kill your plant in no time if you don’t control their spreading.
First, they weaken your plant and then kill it over time.
I have already shared earlier how you can deal with pests and diseases.
Do follow them to eliminate the bugs and prevent diseases.
Rubber plant dying due to Damaged roots
Along with root rot and pests, roots can also be damaged during transplant.
Besides managing root rot and pests, be careful while repotting.
Handle the roots carefully and try not to hurt them.
Rubber plants stop growing for various reasons, but the common problem is with soil or poor fertilization.
If the plant has stopped growing in cold weather, it has gone dormant.
Improper pH levels stunt your rubber plant’s growth
Rubber plants need a soil pH of 5.5 to 7.
Improper pH levels can hinder nutrient uptake, causing stunted growth.
While making your own soil mix or buying any commercial mix, you must ensure the pH remains around 5.5 to 7.
If the pH is improper, adjust it by adding lime to increase the pH or elemental sulfur to lower the pH level.
Poor fertilization causes stunted growth in your rubber plant
Not enough nutrients can harm the plant, causing slow or stunted growth.
If your plant is not growing, recall the last time you have fertilized.
You know the reason if it’s been several months or a year.
The rule is to fertilize the plant every 2-4 weeks with a balanced liquid fertilizer having 10-10-10 NPK.
For slow release, apply every 4-6 weeks.
Rubber plant not growing due to Repotting stress.
After repotting, the plant gets a shock due to the changes in its growing conditions.
So, you may not find any growth in the plant.
But with proper care and maintenance, you will see new growth after a few weeks.
Rubber plant not growing due to Winter dormancy
If the plant is not growing in winter, it is normal.
The plant prefers warm weather and becomes dormant in winter.
While resting, it conserves energy to thrive when spring arrives.
Stop feeding, keep the soil consistently moist, and provide bright indirect sunlight.
Very few reasons are responsible for it:
Soil is compact due to Clayey soil
Clayey soil is highly compact and can cause overwatering.
If you have clayey soil, replace the soil and repot with a new potting soil. Don’t use garden soil.
If it’s not the right season, add drainage materials, like coarse sand, perlite, or vermiculite, and check the soil’s moisture level before every watering.
Underwatering and dry weather making soil compact
Prolonged underwatering conditions, especially in summer, also turn the soil compact.
Keep the soil moist to prevent the issue.
If the soil gets hard, use a fork or chopstick to make holes and water the plant to let it seep through and add moisture.
If the weather is dry, increase humidity to 50-60%.
Essential Rubber Plant Care Tips
You can prevent all the above issues by maintaining the plant’s health and following all the essential care tips.
Here are some essential tips to follow:
- Let the Rubber plants have bright, indirect sunlight for 6-8 hours. For lowlight areas, use Grow lights.
- Water the plant for consistently moist soil. Provide at least 1 inch of water daily, and allow the top few inches to dry before watering. Reduce it in winter.
- Use well-drained soil that can drain excess moisture while holding the needed amount.
- Fertilize the Rubber plant every 2-4 weeks with a balanced liquid fertilizer and every 4-6 weeks with slow-release. Dilute your fertilizer to half the strength. Avoid winter feeding.
- Maintain 65-80°F temperatures and 50-60% humidity around the Rubber plants. Avoid hot and cold drafts.
- Prune your plant regularly in the active months to maintain its shape and size. You can propagate with the pruned parts to get more Rubber plants.
- Check out for pests and diseases and take immediate action to prevent the issue from spreading. This will keep your plant healthy. You can spray neem oil solution every 15 days to keep pests and diseases at bay.
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Rubber plants can have several issues if conditions are made favorable. As a beginner, it is tough to understand what is wrong with the plant.
As a beginner, if you are facing any issues as a Rubber plant grower, I hope this guide helps you find out what is wrong with your plant. We have shared every problem the Rubber plant might face, the common reasons, and how you can deal with it.
Also, follow the essential Rubber plant care tips to minimize these issues and keep your plant healthy and happening.
What should I do with the discolored leaves?
These leaves will ultimately fall off on their own. You can also remove them if you don’t enjoy their sight. It will encourage fast leaf growth as the plant can concentrate on new growth.
Should I remove the drooping or wilted leaves?
Until these leaves haven’t lost their color, you don’t have to remove them. Once you have solved its leading cause, these leaves will perk up.
Reference: Rubber plant Wikipedia