Rubber tree plant dropping leaves

Information On What Causes Rubber Tree Plant Leaves Falling Off

If your rubber plant is losing leaves, it can be alarming. It can leave a plant owner wondering, “Why do leaves drop off rubber plants?” There are many reasons for leaves falling off rubber tree plant.

Causes of Rubber Tree Plant Leaves Falling Off

Light Change – A common reason for a rubber plant losing leaves is a change in the light. Many times, this will happen when you bring your rubber tree plant in from outdoors, and this change can cause a total drop of the rubber tree leaves. A few rubber tree leaves may fall off the plant with the change from summer to fall, when light levels change.

Acclimating the plant slowly when you bring it indoors and shining a few plant lights on the rubber tree will help keep the light levels up and keep the rubber plant from losing leaves.

Pests – Pests are another common reason for rubber tree plant leaves falling off. In particular, rubber tree plants are susceptible to being infested with scale bugs, and these pests will cause the leaves to drop off until the plant is treated.

Treat scale or other pests with an insecticide like neem oil.

Humidity – Rubber tree plants need higher humidity. Houses can be dry, especially in the winter when the heat is on. This lack of humidity can cause leaves falling off rubber tree plant.

To correct this problem, mist the rubber tree plant daily or set the plant on a tray of pebbles filled with water to increase humidity.

Air Drafts – Rubber tree plants are susceptible to cold air and while your home may be the right temperature for rubber tree plant, cold drafts from windows or doors in your home may be hitting the plant and causing the rubber tree leaves to fall off.

Move the plant away from any draft windows or doors that may be letting a draft in when it opens.

Over Fertilization – Rubber tree plants are frequently killed with kindness from their owners. One way this happens is that a rubber tree owner will fertilize the plant too often, and this causes a rubber plant to lose leaves.

Rubber tree plants only need to be fertilized once in awhile. They need very little feeding.

Over Watering – Another way that rubber tree owners can over care for their plant is by over watering the plant. When a rubber tree plant is over watered, it can shed its leaves.

Only water the plant when the top of the soil is dry.

Rubber Plant Houseplant Care — Ficus elastica

Rubber Plant Basic Plant Care:

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) is among the most common Ficus plants used as houseplants. Rubber plant care is a task that requires moderate attention. Rubber Plant requires a very moist but well-drained environment, a good balance of light and shade, and a varying fertilizer regimen over the course of its life.

Rubber Plant Houseplant Care: Light Requirements:

Rubber Plant thrives in areas with full sun to partial shade. Take care not to house plants in rooms that receive direct sunlight the entire day. A good measure for the proper brilliance of a room is to keep the plant in a room where one’s shadow can be easily seen on the wall behind the plant throughout the course of the day.

Leaf loss is a very common occurrence in Rubber Plant kept in areas that are too dark or too drafty. When growing Rubber Plant indoors, avoid drafty areas near large windows, air vents, and opening doors. When outdoors, avoid cool and shady areas that receive little full sun. If leaf drop occurs, discontinue fertilization until the leaf drop stops and move the plant into a warmer, more well lit area.

Rubber Plant Houseplant Care: Water Requirements:

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) requires a very humid, moist environment. Spray Rubber Plants regularly especially if the plant is surrounded by heated air. During the growing season, water moderately with lukewarm water. Let cold tap water to stand until room temperature as this allows chlorine to evaporate and reduces the shock that cold water can cause to plant roots. Reduce watering during the winter, keeping the soil moist but careful not to over water as plants require less water during their natural resting season.

Yellow leaves are a typical indication of excessive watering. A common misconception among those who nurture Rubber Plants is that yellow leaves are a sign of too little watering. If leaves begin to yellow, wilt, or fall, cease watering and fertilization until the soil becomes properly moist again and the problems discontinue.

Rubber Plant Houseplant Care: Fertilizer Requirements:

For the young roots of Rubber Plant, apply a high phosphorus fertilizer to stimulate root development. As the plant matures to producing much foliage, apply a high nitrogen fertilizer every four (4) weeks during growth as this stimulates full and healthy foliage development.

Rubber Plant Houseplant Care: Pests & Diseases:

Rubber Plant is susceptible to many common pests such as mealybugs, scale insects, spider mites, root knot nematodes and thrips. Pathogen (fungal and bacterial) problems may also occur in the form of leaf spots, crown gall, twig dieback and Southern Blight.

Rubber Plant Houseplant Care: Propagation & Potting:

Rubber Plant needs to be periodically transplanted into larger pots. Failing to transplants pots as growth occurs can cause root damage that will stunt the growth of the plants. Some binding is necessary for stability and maintaining a tight root ball for later transplanting. For this reason, transplant Rubber Plant into pots that are no more than one (1) inch larger in diameter each time. Be sure to use fresh soil for each new potting.

Root semi-ripe cuttings or leaf-bud cuttings in spring or summer using bottom heat. Seed should be sown in the spring at 59-70oF. Rubber plants can also be air layered in the spring or late summer.

Rubber Plant Houseplant Care: Pruning

Rubber plants (Ficus elastica) do not require much pruning. Mulch annually and remove dead and/or dying leaves.

Order a rubber plant from your local florist today!

Causes of Rubber Plant Leaves Falling Off

You can prevent your rubber plant from falling bottom leaves, if you can identify the reasons of healthy leaves falling off rubber plant. Continue reading below to revive a rubber plant which is loosing leaves.
Many years ago, I was having a healthy rubber plant (Ficus Elastica) in my living room, but after a few months, it started dropping bottom leaves, even healthy looking leaves were falling. Soon the upper leaves started dropping.

Rubber Plant Falling Leaves

At that time, I could not find the reasons of dropping of my rubber tree leaves and could not revive my rubber plant; sadly the plant died. But now I have figured out the causes of falling leaves in rubber tree plant.

What Makes the Bottom Leaves of Rubber Trees Fall Off?

How to care for rubber plant | How to propagate rubber plant | How to prune a rubber plant
You should be concerned, if your rubber plant is dropping leaves. The causes of rubber plant leaves falling off include improper watering, tree ageing, improper lighting, lack of nutrition. If your rubber is losing leaves from the bottom up, it might be root related.

Light and Light Change

A change in the light could be the reason for a rubber plant losing leaves. The light change happens when you bring your rubber tree plant indoors from outdoors, drooping of the rubber tree leaves.
When you bring the plant indoors, increase the artificial light on the rubber tree, that may prevent the rubber plant from losing leaves.

Humidity

The common reason of an indoor rubber tree plant dropping leaves is the lack of humidity. In the winter when the indoors are heated, the inadequate humidity can cause leaves falling off rubber tree plant.
It is useful to mist the plant daily. To increase humidity, you can place your rubber plant on a tray of pebbles filled with water. When the plant is growing well, its leaves are firm with a waxy glow.

Improper Watering

Both under watering and over watering can cause your rubber plant to shed leaves.

Under Watering

Bottom leaves turning yellow and dropping indicates a problem with bottom roots, either no water or cramped roots or lack of nutrients. The other sign of under-watered plant is all the leaves including the bottom leaves become softer or droopy.
You may be watering but the water is not reaching the bottom roots. Water your plant until it comes out from bottom hole into the tray. Leave the pot in water-filled try to soak up water for some time, then drain off all extra water. The rubber plant is drought tolerant plant and a short time under- watering will not kill the plant.

Over Watering

Too much water is worse than too little. When a rubber tree plant is over watered, it can shed its leaves. Prolonged over-watering can definitely kill any plant. The over-watering will cause the older leaves, the larges at the bottom becoming spongy or yellow or brown or the brown – yellow spots spreading from the inner part of the leaf to out.
Leave the plant to dry it fully on the top 1 inch of the soil before you water again. Water the plant only when the top of the soil is dry.

If your rubber plant is looking light green or wilted even though the soil is wet, the plant is over-watered and drowning.

Air Drafts

Rubber plants are very susceptible to changes in environment. The rubber plant needs stable temperatures, 70 to 85 °F ( 21 to 30°C) during day and 65 to 75°F (18 to 23°C) in night. Cold air drafts in your home hitting the plant may cause your rubber tree leaves to fall off. Keep the plant away from any windows or door that often open frequently. Also keep the plant away from heat sources.

Pest problem

Pests like scale bugs can cause for rubber tree plant leaves falling off until the plant is treated. You can get rid off the pests on your rubber plant by an insecticide spray like neem oil.

Crumpled Roots, Re-potting

As the rubber plant grows, its roots may get cramped in then pot. This can also
turn bottom leaves yellow and dropping them. It is essential to re-pot the plant periodically into the next size.

Over Fertilization

Rubber tree plants need very little feeding. Fertilize only once a while. Over fertilization can
cause a rubber plant to lose leaves. You may give slow-release or half-strength liquid houseplant fertilizer when the plant is actively growing. Rubber plants seldom bloom indoors, so nitrogen, which provides food for foliage growth, is the probable need; shortages of potash lead to necrotic leaf edges and leaf drop at the bottom of the plant.

Natural Aging

Bottom leaves of a rubber tree may drop as it grows older.

How do you revive a dying rubber plant?

Identify the problem of your plant as described above.
If the plant is getting too much water, stop watering immediately and allow the soil to dry. Then water only when the soil becomes dry to a depth of 1 inch.

Youtube Videos on Rubber Plant

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Ficus elastica (more commonly known as a rubber plant, rubber tree or rubber tree plant) is a popular houseplant because of its waxy leaves and larger-than-life appearance. Rubber plants can grow up to 100 feet in their native homeland of Southeast Asia. As a domesticated houseplant, rubber plants grow anywhere between six to ten feet tall. You can grow outdoor rubber plants if you live in zone 10 or 11. You can check out the USDA’s plant hardiness zone map here to learn more about the different zones.

Rubber plants are tree-like plants that are known for their great height and beautiful leaves. These grand plants also comes in different varieties and colors that complement any home decor theme.

Rubber Plant Overview

Rubber plants earned their name thanks to their sap, which is sometimes used to make rubber. The rubber plant’s leaves also have a shiny and rubbery appearance. These plants will grow tall and produce beautiful leaves if you give them proper care.

Rubber plants are commonly seen in their dark green variety, but also come in more colorful varieties. For example, varieties known as the “black prince” or “burgundy” have reddish-black leaves

Rubber Plant Care Tips

The key to rubber plant care is balance. It likes just the right amount of sun and water. If you can give it just the right amount of both, you’ll have a happy, strong and tall rubber tree. Rubber plants will tell you if they need more sunlight or water if they start to drop their lower leaves. Read on to learn about the most ideal conditions and care for your rubber plant.

Light: Rubber plants prefer bright, indirect light that isn’t too hot. Direct sunlight can result in scorched leaves. You can keep your rubber plant near a window with a sheer curtain to give it just the right amount of sunlight. The more variegated varieties need more light to help bring out their colors, so make sure they especially get enough bright light.

Water: These plants require more water during their growing season in the summer. You should keep the soil moist, but not drowning. You should also wipe the leaves down with a damp cloth to keep them moist and to help your plant absorb more sunlight. Misting is another option if you don’t want to wipe down every leaf. Keep your rubber plant in well-draining soil at all times to combat root rot.

In their dormant season in the winter you want to keep the soil dry but not too dry. Let the top few inches of the soil dry in between waterings to make sure you don’t overwater. If the leaves start to droop, then your rubber plant is telling you it needs more water.

Temperatures: Rubber plants generally prefer temperatures between 60°F to 75°F. In the winter, they can survive in temperatures as low as 50°F. Just like with water and sun needs, a good balance of temperature is ideal for this plant’s growth. It prefers moist and humid air due to its tropical origin, but can survive in less humid temperatures. Rubber plants are sensitive to temperature changes and prefer to live in areas with consistent humidity and temperature.

Toxicity: A rubber plant’s sap can cause skin irritation for some people. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling your plant, especially if you come in contact with the sap. Consuming this plant can cause mild tummy trouble or more severe symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting depending on how much is consumed.

Pests: Mealy bugs, mites, scales and aphids are a few common bugs that can find a home in your rubber plant. If caught early, you can remove these bugs by wiping them with a warm soap and water solution or an insecticidal soap.

Problems: Due to its need for balance in all forms, it’s easy to make your rubber plant unhappy if you stop paying attention to its needs. The best way to combat this is to keep an eye on the light it’s getting, the moisture in its soil and the overall temperature of the room it’s inhabiting.

Rubber plants are mostly susceptible to plant diseases associated with overwatering. Like we mentioned before, you should let your plant’s soil dry out between waterings to avoid drowning your plant.

Take a look at our guide to reviving a plant if you need more tips for taking care of any of these rubber plant problems.

Repotting: You should repot your rubber plant to allow it to grow. You may need to do this every few years or every year depending on how large your pot is and how quickly your rubber plant grows. Don’t repot your rubber plant if you’d like to keep it at its current size.

Propagation: The easiest way to propagate is to take a small branch from a healthy rubber plant and let it root in soil or water. You want to let the sap from the stem dry first before planting. Another way to propagate is by air layering. To do this, make a cut in a healthy plant and stick a toothpick in the opening. Wrap it in damp moss and then wrap plastic wrap around the moss to keep it on the toothpick. Once you start to see roots growing in the moss, cut the branch off and plant it in new soil.

Pruning: You’ll need to prune your rubber plant to help it support itself, promote new growth and control its size so that it doesn’t grow too large. It’s best to prune in the spring and to avoid the winter, but a rubber plant can be pruned at any time of the year. Be aware that cutting the branches will release some of the plant’s sap.

Rubber plant care is easy if you remember to keep an eye on your plant and honor its need for balance. Rubber plants are well worth the care if you’re looking to grow a tall houseplant to impress your guests.

Ficus elastica (Rubber Plant / Rubber Tree)

Rubber Plant Care Guide

Light

Grow away from continuous direct sunlight. Instead give your Rubber Plant a well lit spot with some indirect sun if possible.

The all green types will take some shade and poorly lit spaces, but too much for too long and the plant will become lanky and spindly.

If you have a variegated type you must provide bright indirect light, otherwise If you opt for shade, you’ll lose the markings.

Watering

The Rubber Plant watering needs are simple – they love a good soaking when they’re growing, but dislike constantly damp roots. We’ve found the best way to treat them is to water your plant really well once the soil surface and top inch has dried out, then wait until it dries out in the same way before watering again.

If you’re watering more than once a week the Ourhouseplants.com Team are looking your way with narrowed eyes, questioning your technique. This might work for you and if it does keep doing it, but in most homes watering more than once a week is likely to frequent.

You shouldn’t let a Rubber Plant sit in water, so after 30 minutes if there’s still water remaining in the drip tray, pour it away. In Winter scale back and avoid the soaking, instead aim to keep the soil just moist, but remember to still let the soil dry out before coming back with the watering can.

Humidity

You can mist the leaves from time to time when the air is very dry, but really you don’t need to worry about humidity levels.

Feeding

To produce those massive leaves the Rubber Plant needs feeding. Little and often is best, a weak balanced feed every couple of watering’s during Spring and Summer.

As with usual feeding rules, don’t fertilise in Winter, or recently repotted and new plants for a good 3 to 6 months.

If your plant’s not producing new leaves don’t feed at all.

Temperature

The Rubber Plant will be quite happy to grow in a broad range of temperatures between 10°C (50°F) to 29°C (85°F). If you go hotter, the leaves will lose some of their turgid appearance. You can go as low as 4°C (39°F) in Winter if you have to, but your watering must be spot on. If you’ve overwatered at this temperature you’ll kill the plant quickly!

Repotting

These plants grow quite big even if their pots are tiny.

These plants grow quite big even if their pots are tiny. However there will still come a point where the growth will slow down or even stop. You then have two choices, either leave it where it is and top dress instead.

Topdressing means scraping off the top inch or so of old soil and replacing with fresh compost which introduces fresh nutrients and beneficial microbes back into the old tired potting soil.

The second choice is to repot. Repotting a Rubber Plant is quite easy if it’s not to heavy. All you need to do is move it into a bigger pot using a standard potting mix. If you’re new to houseplants we have a more extensive repotting guide just for you.

We’ve never needed to propagated this plant! Firstly because one Rubber Plant in a home is almost always enough and secondly, they’re really cheap to go out and buy. However propagating a Rubber Plant is easy if you follow the four steps below:

  1. To get started you’ll need a piece of stem, (often a growing tip), it needs to be about 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) long.

  2. Remove all of the leaves bar one. If the sap is oozing wait until it stops (usually within 30 minutes) and then wash it off gently.

  3. Plant the stem with the remaining leaf in either gritty compost or perlite. You can dip the cut bottom end into a rooting hormone, but it’s not essential.

  4. The growing media then needs to be kept barely moist, in a warm spot with indirect sunlight. Best results are obtained using bottom heat or doing it during Summer

Speed of Growth

Growth of your Rubber Plant can probably be described as moderately fast. Many owners put their plants outdoors in the Summer which they feel encourages a rapid surge of new leaves. Don’t over do the sun exposure though and watch out for wet cool Summers which can encourage disease and possible overwatering.

Plants which are incredibly pot bound won’t grow and don’t expect any growth in the middle of winter as Spring and Summer are the growing months.

Height / Spread

The end height and spread depends on how well your plant is treated. Rubber Plants in good conditions, big pots and with no regular pruning can achieve upwards of 9ft / 3M. Poor conditions, small pots or pruning will result in a shorter plant.

The width of the plant can be controlled through your choice of whether to prune or not. If you don’t prune, the central growing stem will race for the ceiling unheeded giving a more narrow slender tree looking effect. If you’d rather your plant was more bushy and wider instead, read the next paragraph.

If you constantly cut / prune off the leading, tallest growth tips, then new growing shoots will form at the sides of the central stem lower down which will then create a branched, bushy looking style. This will end up creating a much wider houseplant, although even then it won’t spread much wider than around 3ft / 1M in most homes.

Flowers

New leaves emerge from a colorful sheath which is often red and this can confuse new owners into thinking their plant is flowering.

Ficus is part of the Fig family which as a general rule do not have bright, striking or fragrant flowers.

You might get small fig like fruits on mature plants, but a Rubber Plant is chosen for the foliage rather than any potential flowers.

Are Rubber Plants Poisonous?

Yes the Rubber Plant is (mildly) poisonous to pets and humans. Many Ficus plants including F. elastica have a milky irritating sap in the stems and leaves that can cause gastrointestinal issues if eaten and skin irritation if the sap is allowed to rest on the skin for a time or gets into small cuts.

Anything Else?

Dust is the biggest problem for indoor Rubber Plants. You will need to rub them over every couple of months with a damp cloth to keep them looking great. Leaf shine products can also be used for a glossy finish.

How to Care for a Rubber Plant Summary

  1. Good Light Avoid direct sunlight and very shady areas.

  2. Moderate Watering Once a week in Summer and once every two weeks in Winter.

  3. Temperature Normal indoor room temperatures. 10°C (50°F) to 29°C (85°F)

  4. Feeding Try to fertilise once a month when it’s growing.

  • No exposure to sub zero temperatures

Rubber Plant Problems and Questions

Yellowing Leaves

This is normal for very old leaves. Otherwise it could be a sign of over watering or not enough light.

Rubber Plant leaves curling or drooping

This can happen when temperatures exceed 29°C (85°F), or when you’ve over watered. When the temperature cools or the soil dries out after a few days or so the curling and drooping look should disappear.

Extreme cold, such as exposure to frost, can also cause this to happen, however if this is the cause then the leaves won’t return to normal after a few days and will instead quickly start to fall off the plant.

White streaks, drips on the leaves

A little knock or a little cut on a leaf or a stem can result in a large amount of dripping sap. This can fall onto the leaves below and dry out giving the impression something strange is happening.

The sap, whether it’s still wet or has dried out can just be wiped away from the leaves with a damp cloth.

Always take care when repotting or moving your Rubber Plant. The sap, as well as being mildly toxic and irritating, can be damaging because it can stain carpets or furniture.

My Rubber Tree Plant is too tall

Yes Rubber Plants do get big don’t they! Fortunately they can be pruned without adverse effect (although you may need a step ladder to get into the canopy first!). Find the central stem and then cut where you’re happy for the new top to be.

You might have to wrap the exposed stem for a few hours to stop the latex sap from dripping all over the place.

Afterwards two things should happen, firstly a new growth point takes over and it continues its rise upwards, or if your plant is really healthy you will get two (or more) new growth points. This results in a more bushy and branched plant. Use this pruning knowledge to design your perfect Rubber Plant!

White raised dots on my Rubber Plant

They might look like pests, or a disease, but these dots are actually perfectly normal and no treatment or special care is needed.

Pests

Pests are rare because the Rubber Plant is so resistant to them. However you can still expect Spider Mites and Scale insects to drop in from time to time.

How to make a Rubber Plant bushy?

Over time, leaves will fall off if the light levels aren’t quite right, or they’ve been damaged. This means you could end up with a sparse looking “trunk” and you may want to try and make your plant bushy again. This question is one that comes up quite often, so we’ve covered it off above in our height / spread section.

About the Author

Tom Knight

Over the last 20 years Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the Ourhouseplants Team.

Also on Ourhouseplants.com

Credit for the variegated Rubber Plant Photo – Gallery – Forest & Kim Starr
Credit for the photo of the top of a Rubber Plant – Article / Gallery – Scott Webb
Credit for the large Rubber Plant trees with red leaf sheath – Article / Gallery – Madison Inouye
Credit for the Rubber Tree fruit photo – Article / Gallery – Júlio Reis

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