There’s nothing worse when it comes to plant care than when your dedication and hard work isn’t showing in the health of your plant. Falling leaves are a burden with any type of houseplant, but especially with one as unique as the rubber plant.
The common rubber plant, also known as Ficus elastica is a tree-type plant with large shiny oval-shaped leaves that indoors can grow between one and eight-foot tall.
As with any plant, light, water, and temperature are just some of the components that can affect its growth, so here are some of the most common reasons and questions plant growers have when leaves fall off a rubber plant…
Am I overwatering it?
A key indicator of a rubber plant taking in too much water is yellow or brown leaves, particularly older leaves.
If you find some of the plant’s original or oldest leaves are deteriorating in color this would suggest you may be applying too much water especially if yellow/brown spots are spreading from the initial part of the leaf.
A healthy and hydrated rubber plant will sport strong and firm leaves with a pleasant waxy glow.
Although the plant doesn’t require as much watering as other plants due to its high tolerance for dry and humid conditions, it is best to water it in moderation depending on the quality of the soil and the time of year.
What is the best way to water my rubber plant?
In order to get the best balance of hydration for your plant the amount you water it, and the method you use can both be key in achieving a healthy look.
Watering the plant more during growing season so it is kept moist is essential and advised around once a week.
When it comes to dormant season cut back watering to around once or twice a month, only increasing the water when leaves begin to droop or become soft.
As a tolerant species, a rubber plant copes well with dry soil so always choose under-watering as you can always top it up when needed.
Watering from below by soaking the plant in a tray for a few hours can help the plant gather what it needs without allowing it to sit in water for days on end which will lead to an overwatered plant.
Also ensure you don’t drench the plant and that all the water you apply drains away from the pot, even if that means holding it up and wiggling it slightly. By leaving it outside of the decorative pot this allows the plant to dry out and avoids the risk of it sitting in too much water.
How to maintain leaves and healthy soil?
One of the priorities in checking the health and moisture of your soil is checking the topsoil with your finger and judging it with the quality of your rubber plant.
It’s best to only water when the top inch of the soil is dry, ensuring the water runs through to the drainage holes as previously mentioned. The size of the pot your plant sits in can also have an effect on its health; make sure not to use an oversized pot as this can cause the soil to be wet for too long.
As far as fertilization goes, the plant is very durable and needs little feeding so only fertilize once in a while to avoid overfeeding.
Pests can also be a problem worth considering if you are experiencing leaf loss or damage. Inspecting the plant, especially the bottom side of your leaves can help to identify common insects.
Gently wiping leaves with a damp cloth or spraying them with a small amount of water can help keep leaves clean. If you find the plant has small brown, grey, or white shelled insects these are likely to be scale insects and need to be removed to encourage healthy growth.
Treatments for the bugs can include 70% isopropyl alcohol, horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, or pyrethrin all of which can be effective when applied every four to seven days till the bugs are gone.
What if I repot my rubber plant?
Leaf loss can occur when repotting or transplanting so always ensure the plant has a good amount of light and is watered properly in order to allow the plant to recover.
If you do repot make sure the upper roots are just slightly exposed and not covered by too much extra soil which can stifle the plant and mislead you in terms of the soil’s dryness.
Generally try not to disturb your rubber plant as much as possible, if you do repot ensure the pot is the same or similar size and be careful of damaging root hairs.
The best practice would be to ensure the roots and root ball are undisturbed, using soil mix to adjust the height and fill the sides of your pot.
Best light and humidity?
Light and temperature like with all plants is a massive component when considering the health of your rubber plant.
Leaves can be lost if the air is too dry but generally the plant does well with average indoor humidity as long as the plant has enough moisture around it such as pebble-filled water trays and water below the pot.
When it comes to light the plant does well with a lot of bright, indirect light. Leaves can be lost and the overall quality will drop if the rubber plant is put in a low light position.
Keeping the plant within a few feet of a sunny window is advised, with curtains or netting advised if near a west or south-facing exposure.
Always remember rubber plants don’t like direct hot sun but can handle a few hours of early/late daytime rays.
A carefully moderated watering plan along with good maintenance and a pleasant environment should protect your rubber plant from losing leaves. Losing a few leaves can be natural as long as the planet is correctly watered, with sufficient light and no pests.
Always ensure to give the plant room-temperature water to avoid shocking the roots, with distilled water also advised if your tap water is high in minerals.
Ensure the plant is clean and free of any dust so it has more room to breathe and flourish.
Pruning can also help encourage new leaf growth but should be done gradually. Healthy and well-formed leaves are a good sign your plant is recovering and meeting the right conditions.