The rubber plant is very easy to care for and grow indoors. They require a bit of love and care from the owner and do not demand much. Isn’t that the perfect plant that one would want as a partner?
The Ficus Elastica has become popular among the home growers and crazy indoor planters. This plant can grow fiercely if grown outside in the garden, but if kept indoors in a pot, then the size can be comparatively less.
However, not everyone has got them right. While some owners have their rubber plant thriving, others are struggling with a wide range of issues.
I can understand how difficult it can be for some people to understand what’s wrong with their plant and fix it. I have been there, So in this guide, I shall discuss all the possible problems you can face with your rubber plant along with an in-depth care guide for you all.
Some links in the post are affiliate links and I get a commission from purchases made through links in the post.
Help! What’s wrong with my rubber plant
We have always come across a point when we are facing issues with our rubber plants. It is always a mystery detecting the problem with the plant and solving them.
There is one problem solving the mysteries though. We do not try and resolve all the issues at once. Thus you must always take up one issue at a time and get it fixed.
Sometimes we end up caring a lot, and hence the plant gives upon us.
Let us discuss certain common issues that we come across while taking care of a rubber plant.
Also read: 7 Signs your rubber plant is dying?
Rubber plant leaves curling
The curling leaves of the rubber plant might be because of the insects on the plant. These pests attack the new leaves of the plant, and hence the leaves might curl.
If we come across the leaves’ curling on the entire rubber tree plant, then it is because of uneven moisture in the soil.
The rubber tree plant does not require much water and is very easy to grow.
According to studies, it is suggested to keep the rubber tree plant on the dry side of moist.
I know this might sound weird, but we must feel the soil before watering. Never ever have a fixed regime of watering your rubber plant as this is one of the most common causes of most problems.
When grown in an enclosed environment, the rubber plant gets most of the moisture from the atmosphere and not from the soil. Thus, the ideal humidity is also crucial.
Rubber plant leaves falling off
The problem with the falling off of a rubber plant’s leaves might cause a loss of foliage on the plant.
Generally, the cause of this issue is that the plant is trying to adjust to the environment. Sometimes neglect or too much kindness can also kill the plant.
When the plant is kept near the heating vent or radiators or near a window where the plant experiences draft might shed the leaves. This is the cause of adjustment.
This plant is one of the most tolerant indoor plants; however, we cannot neglect it. The rubber plant requires misting for moisture, and lack of it might lead to the dropping of the leaves.
Underwatering the plant might cause the loss of leaves, whereas overwatering will also lead to the dropping of leaves along with a possible root rot issue.
Rubber plant leaves drooping
To check the explanation for the droopy leaves, we should check what’s required for the plant because droopy leaves can mean a ton of things.
A portion of the basic indications of an unfortunate plant are droopy or wilting leaves, dry, earthy colored leaf edges, yellow leaves, or leaves tumbling off.
Most importantly, we should check if the plant is being under or over-watered.
Light conditions are critical and may make the leaves wither.
Besides, we should check whether the plant is getting enough sunlight.
Ultimately, we ought to likewise check the water that we are using. We ought to consistently water the rubber tree plant with tap water, and the water should be at room temperature.
Also read: Why is my rubber plant drooping leaves?
Rubber plant leaves turning brown
During the winter season, when the warm wet soil mixes with the cold air causes the phenomenon known as edema in the rubber plants.
When overwatered during the winters, the rubber plant continues to take up water until its leaf cells are overfilled and burst. This causes the leaves on the rubber plant to turn brown.
Overwatering may also lead to possible root rot in the rubber plant and cause multiple diseases.
Because of these root rot diseases, which is quite common, the rubber plant will develop brown and droopy leaves.
Eventually, the affected plant will shed its brown and droopy leaves.
To avoid overwatering, it is time to create a water regime for your rubber plant. The rule of thumb of feeling the soil will be the most effective.
Check for the drainage holes and use gravel if necessary. Do not feed the plant with excess water.
Also read: Why is my rubber plant turning brown?
Rubber plant leaves turning yellow
Overwatering is the leading cause of the leaves on the rubber plant turning yellow. As stated earlier, the rubber tree likes to be on the dry side of moist.
Thus, we should always consider feeling the soil before the watering.
Another reason for the leaves turning yellow is the cold draft that the plant gets if kept near a door or a window.
The cold breeze will shock the plant and cause the leaves to change its color to yellow.
When attacked by the powdery mildew, which appears as white, dusty powder on the plant leaves, will cause the leaves to turn yellow in a rubber plant.
To avoid the fungus from spreading, prune the infected leaves from the plant. We can also use the neem oil solution for powdery mildew.
Rubber plant leaves pointing up
This is a typical process that the plant does on its own. It is a natural phenomenon.
The reason behind the leaves pointing up is because the plant needs sunlight and hence turns the leaves vertical.
All we need to take care of here is to rotate the plant so that the plant receives indirect bright light.
Rubber plant leaves turning brown on edges
The leaves turning brown on edges is the sign that the rubber plant has been overwatered or might have developed root rot.
In this case, the plant will give signs such as yellow or brown leaves on edges and then droopy leaves and eventually fall off the plant.
We should consider removing the affected leaves from the plant so that the problem is curbed.
Another reason behind the brown edges is the light condition.
The rubber tree plant loves indirect bright sunlight, and if we keep the plant in direct sunlight, the leaves on the Ficus Elastica will burn.
The burning is seen by the leaves turning brown at edges.
To prevent this situation, we should keep the plant under a shade or a patio. Keeping it behind a sheer curtain is also a good option.
Rubber plant has white spots
The rubber plant is in like way inclined to dreadful little creatures. The most hazardous part is being trapped by spider mites or mealybugs.
The dreadful little creature bugs are white in covering and feed upon the new leaves of the rubber plant, leaving openings on the leaves or white spots on the leaves.
The most ideal approach to managing the bugs’ attack would be by showering a neem solution on all the leaves.
You can similarly use pesticides to sprinkle on the rubber plant leaves.
If we are using the pesticide, please do follow the instruction that is given by the pesticide. Neem solution is the most common and natural solution for this issue.
Also read: Why does my rubber plant have white spots?
My rubber plant is leggy
The causes of a leggy rubber plant could be many, but generally, it is because of the three most important factors.
Insufficient light can cause the rubber plant to go leggy.
We can cure this by merely changing the rubber plant’s position to a location where it gets bright indirect sunlight.
Another factor for the leggy rubber plant is the water and light requirement.
It is a simple calculation that if a plant gets more light, it needs to be watered more often, and If the plant receives less light, it needs to be watered less.
Please consider providing one hour of bright indirect sunlight every day. I know that it might not be possible for all of you; however, we can give it a try.
Rubber plants are very easy to care for; hence direct sunlight is not necessarily required. However, they do appreciate brightly lit areas.
Finally, if we add too much fertilizer to the plant or too often use fertilizer, it will shock the plant and make them go leggy.
Too much nitrogen or fish fertilizer will cause excessive growth, which is, in turn, harmful for the plant.
Also read: Why is my rubber plant leggy?
My rubber plant is not growing
This issue of the rubber plant not growing is mostly seen by users after a repot. You need not worry as you are not the only one.
Ficus elastica needs good draining soil; hence we should prefer using a standard soil potting mix with a mixture of compost and perlite or pumice.
Perlite or pumice will help the soil in aeration, thus creating room for a better drainage system.
Let the soil dry out and then provide the plant with water.
We often leave beside the pruning for the houseplant, thinking we might just lose the plant.
That’s not the case. Sometimes we need a good pruning for the plant to grow into a healthier and a happier plant. Thus, prune your rubber plant.
My rubber plant is leaning
Often, we purchase a plant, and later it turns to be leaning and looks sad. Even after taking the necessary care, the plant is leaning.
It might be the case that the rubber plant is adjusting with the light requirements from where it was before.
The plant makes adjustments according to its need, and if there is something wrong with the plant, they will send signals that you need to take care of the plant.
Another reason for this cause is overwatering or the unavailability of drainage holes on the pot.
Do check for the drainage holes, and if they are available, do check whether the holes are blocked.
Also, do not allow any excess water to settle on the pot because it might cause a root rot for the plants, and we do not want to face a root rot.
My rubber plant has brown spots on the leaves
The brown spots on leaves, also known as leaf blight, are caused by reasons stated below.
It might be that the plant is suffering from fungal root rot or bacterial root rot.
Now, how do we differentiate these?
Fungal root rot has darker brown spots on the leaves and starts from the plant’s base and spreads out to the veins.
In bacterial root rot, the plant suffers from brown spots on the leaves or the leaves’ edges and spreads from the spot. They are lighter spots.
This issue might also be because of a sunburn. If the plant has suffered sunburn, we will notice the brown spots on the leaves’ upper portion and not below.
We can keep the plant in a place where it gets indirect bright sunlight and not direct daylight for a sunburn issue.
If there are holes in the leaves along with the brown spots, it could be an insect infestation. Do check if it is an insect infestation. We can use a neem oil solution for the infestation.
My rubber plant is dying
All that care and love is sometimes not enough for the plant, or we might have killed the plant with kindness.
If we have tried everything to revive the plant and give up on you, try repotting the plant to another pot.
The plant might need some time to adjust to the repotting and will thrive if all the requirements are met.
Even if we fail the repotting, we have one last option to bring back the plant from the dead.
Yes, that’s correct. With the help of propagation, we might be able to revive the rubber plant and give it a new life.
The propagation process will require a bit of effort, but that will bring you joy and might be fruitful if you choose to nurture the plant well.
Also read: How to save a dying rubber plant?
Rubber plant overview
|Common Name||Rubber Tree, Rubber tree plant, Rubber plant|
|Latin Name||Ficus Elastica|
|Light Requirement||Indirect Bright Sunlight|
|Insects and Diseases||Mites, scales, aphids, whitefly, root rot|
|Origin||India and Malaysia|
|Issues||Generates Sap which irritates the eye|
Also read: How fast do rubber plants grow?
Is rubber plant good for indoors?
According to a study conducted by NASA, it is said that certain houseplants help improve the air quality and the rubber tree plant is on that list.
Rubber plants help reduce the formaldehyde available in the surrounding and carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, which is very harmful.
Being a pollen-free plant, it does not irritate the owner as some might be allergic to pollen. Thus, a rubber plant can also be used for business households and hospitals.
With all these endearing qualities, the rubber tree plant makes for a perfect indoor houseplant. It is very easy to care for and does not require much attention.
Rubber plant care requirements
Now, we move toward the care requirements for the rubber tree plant and learn about the plant’s needs individually.
We will also try to answer the frequently asked questions from our readers and owners of the rubber tree plant.
Let us jump right into it.
Rubber plant light requirements
The rubber tree requires bright indirect sunlight. Choosing a North window or east or west-facing window is also sufficient for the plant.
If the plant is kept outside in the garden, consider using shade for the plant, else it might get a sunburn, and we will see brown spots on the edges of the leaves.
If kept indoors, please try to keep it behind the sheer curtain so that
the plant does not get direct sunlight.
Do rubber plants need direct sunlight?
No, the rubber plant loves indirect bright sunlight, and hence we do not keep the plant out in the direct sunlight.
Direct sunlight will cause the leaf to burn, and we can see this by the brown spots on the edge of the rubber tree leaf.
Can rubber plants tolerate low light?
The rubber plant is tolerant of extreme conditions and makes a good partner. It can grow well in the full sun or low light conditions.
We need to take care of the movement of the plant. Never move it from one extreme to another.
If we move it from one extreme to another, the plant will go into a shock and might shed its leaves.
Also read: Where to keep your rubber plants?
Rubber plant watering schedule
The rubber tree plant being tolerant of extreme conditions, can go for a few days without water. We need to apply the rule of thumb while watering the rubber tree plant.
Feel the soil. We will need to take our finger or a spoon and try to dig up to 1-2 inches below the soil. Never water the plant by checking the topsoil only.
This beautiful houseplant is prone to root rot if overwatered. Throw away the excess water that might have been collected from the drainage holes.
Also read: Root rot in rubber plants: Causes+Solution
How do I know if my rubber plant needs water?
It is never sure in case of houseplants whether they require water because the topsoil looks dry. We need to always check the plant by feeling the soil.
The rubber plant needs to stay on the dry side of moist. The amount of water depends on the size of the plant and the pot. Thus, always feel the soil before watering.
If the soil feels moist, do not water the plant. Leave it for a few days and then water it again.
Do rubber plants need much water?
As stated earlier, the rubber plant needs to stay moist and not wet. The amount of water is dependent on the size of the plant and the pot.
On an average, you need to water your plant every 5-7 days. Make sure you water them thoroughly whenever you do so that water reaches every root corner of the plant and not only the top part.
Should you mist rubber plant?
Yes, misting is necessary for the rubber plant. The rubber plant loves humidity, and misting will help attain the perfect amount of moisture required by the rubber plant.
Is tap water safe for rubber plant?
Tap water is safe for indoor houseplants. However, please do check if the tap water has excess chlorine in it.
If there is excess chlorine, it might harm the plants.
Consider boiling the water and then let it cool down to room temperature before feeding your plant with water.
You can also fill a bucket of water and let it sit for a night and use the water the next day. The chlorine shall be eliminated by this process as well.
Rubber plant soil requirements
Good drainage is a must for the rubber plant as they do not like to sit on the water.
Rubber plants are medium plants. This means that they are neither succulents nor tender plants. They require water as much as it needs for the photosynthesis process.
The rubber tree is prone to root rot if the soil is not drained properly and if it is allowed to sit on the water.
For the type of soil, we need soil with good drainage.
We should use standard potting soil along with a mixture of perlite or pumice and compost. Perlite will help in aeration in the soil, thus increasing drainage.
The ideal mix would be:
- 60% of garden soil
- 20% cocopeat
- 10% Perlite
- 10% compost
Also read: Does rubber plants like to be root bound?
Rubber plants fertilizer need
The rubber plant grows massively when it is fed with nutrients. We can use standard fertilizer, which is readily available like Miracle-Gro.
Specific fish fertilizer is also rich in Nitrogen content and can be used as fertilizer for the rubber plant.
There is one key to using fertilizer correctly.
Always follow the instructions and never think to add a bit extra.
Another crucial point is that less is always better for the plant.
I know it sounds weird, but I have used less than the prescribed amount to be on the safe side, and it has worked out well.
Should I fertilize my rubber plant?
Yes, we should fertilize our rubber plant once a month during the growing season that is from early spring to late summer.
Avoid feeding the plant during the winters as it will not help.
What do you feed a rubber plant?
We can use any type of fertilizer for the rubber plant, such as Vermicompost or compost or seaweed solution.
We can also choose the chemical fertilizer available. But, avoid chemical fertilizer and try going all-natural.
Rubber plant temperature range
Perfect rubber tree temperature ranges from 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The plant is highly tolerant of extreme conditions. If the temperature is increased from 80, we will need to mist the plant regularly.
When the plant is in mid-year, then we should consider keeping the plant on the patio.
Move the plant away from the cold draft that it faces during the winters when the temperature is well below 40. The plant will be shocked by the draft, and it will cause issues to the plant.
Can I put my rubber tree plant outside in the summer?
Yes, we can move the rubber tree outside during the summer season, but try keeping the plant on the patio or under a shade during the mid-year.
They are tolerant of extreme environments but never move the plant from one extreme to another immediately.
Do rubber plants like heat?
Rubber plants grow fine outside in the sun as well as indoors in low light without any issues. However, too much direct heat will cause sunburn or might cause the plant to droop.
Keep the rubber tree plants away from the radiators and other heat vents.
Rubber plants humidity
The rubber tree plant loves humidity, and we should consider misting the plant frequently.
During the winter, the humidity is low, and we should mist the plant more. Also, change the position of the plant during the winters.
Try keeping it away from the cold draft. Space like the washroom has higher humidity.
We may also use a humidifier for this purpose.
Pests of rubber plants
Mostly all the houseplants are prone to insects or pests. In the case of a rubber plant, they are prone to mites, scales, aphids, and whiteflies.
If there are pests on your rubber tree plant, they will mostly attack the new leaves and will leave holes behind.
Check for any insect infestation on the plant and use a neem oil solution for 2 weeks.
We say it for 2 weeks because this will help us eliminate the pests and the eggs that the pests might have laid on the plant.
Rubber Plant Species Overview
There are multiple types of rubber tree plants that are grown all over the world.
The ficus elastica decora is one of the most common rubber plants that we grow.
Some other types of rubber plants available are;
- Variegated rubber plants
- Burgundy rubber plants
- Ficus Robusta
- Ficus macrocarpa
- Ficus carica
- Ficus benghalensis
- Benjamina ficus (fig tree)
Cleaning the leaves of your rubber plant
We never want ourselves to be dirty. In the same way, we do not want our plants to be messy.
The rubber tree plant has waxy foliage and is prone to get dirty. Thus, consider cleaning the rubber tree plant with a wet cloth.
Cleaning the rubber tree plant will help the plant get healthier growth.
Pruning your rubber plant
We might try to avoid the pruning of our houseplant in fear that something might happen to them.
Trust me, that’s not the case. Pruning helps the plant with healthier and bushier growth. With pruning, we remove all those leaves that might not revive and just die.
Do not worry because the plant will grow new leaves. With pruning, we are giving the plant an option to grow newer leaves.
The key to pruning is to use a clean/disinfected pair of pruners/clippers/scissors.
This will be the golden rule of pruning because we do not want any transfer of disease from another plant to our rubber plant or any disease transfer from the infected scissors.
We need to cut the stem from the top. The rate of growth is higher when we prune the plant from the plant.
Repotting your rubber plant
When thinking about repotting a rubber plant, we need to take care of a few things. We might have to take this step if we face issues with our plant or right after purchase.
The type of pot that’s required, the environment that the rubber plant is kept in, and the type of soil that will be used.
For the type of pot, I prefer terracotta pots or ceramic pots because they have better drainage and absorb water well. No matter what type of pot you use, provide drainage holes.
Next comes the type of soil that we will use. We need standard potting soil and mix it with some compost, or we can even use a fair amount of peat moss.
Peat moss will help in the aeration and create good drainage for the soil.
Finally, the environment where we will place the pot is equally essential. The plant needs indirect bright sunlight and waters your plant with some love.
Give the plant sometimes, and we will soon see the root structure develop on the new pot.
Propagating your rubber plant
Propagating might be the last way to revive the unhealthy plant and is the best way to multiply your rubber plants.
We can propagate the rubber plant both through water propagation and soil propagation.
We need to cut the plant below the node for both the processes but remember the golden rule first. Disinfect the scissors/pruners with some rubbing alcohol before pruning.
We cut below the node because the plant needs some room for the development of the root structure.
It is at your discretion whether you want to opt for water propagation or soil propagation.
If we choose water propagation, the roots will first develop into water roots and then need to be repotted in the soil.
Else we can directly propagate the rubber plant into the soil.
If the humidity, watering, and the light conditions are perfect, and up to the mark, we will see the development of roots within 3-5 weeks.
Rubber plant and pets
Rubber plants produce a sap-like liquid called latex, which comes out of the plant when there is any nibbling in the stem or leaves.
This sap-like liquid sticks when it comes in contact and is dried like rubber. This sap is irritant to the eye and the very reason for wearing gloves when we prune the plant.
The rubber plant is unsafe for children and pets and should be kept out of their reach. We can keep them on an upper shelf.
Also read: Are rubber plant pet friendly?
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Looking for a readymade indoor plant soil mix that you can open and pour? Check out rePotme. They offer a wide range of readymade soil premixes for all your indoor plants.
Are rubber plant toxic to cats & dogs?
There are many varieties of rubber plants available. From the list, the Ficus elastica and the Indian rubber plant are toxic to cats and other pets.
They will cause stomach irritation or diarrhea if ingested.
If we want to opt for a pet-friendly rubber plant, we can choose from the genus Peperomia. They are non-toxic and are smaller varieties of rubber plants and often referred to as baby rubber plants.
Due to the leaves’ structure, which looks like plastic, the pets might not nibble the plants. Do check if your pets are attracted to the plant.
If the answer is yes, then consider changing the placement of the plant.
If your pets have attacked the plant and have eaten the plant, then do not worry. First, analyze the amount they have eaten and consider referring to a vet.
Source: Rubber plant disease diagnosis, Major problem in a rubber plant, Pest problem in a rubber plant, Stress Generation In Aerial Roots Of Ficus Elastica, Growth of rubber plants, Ficus Elastica care, White root rot disease, Root-rot diseases of the rubber tree, Fungicides Preserve the Productivity of Rubber Trees, Rubber plant disease, Brown Root Rot Disease.