Rubber plants (ficus elastic) can be a stunning addition to any indoor space, with their glossy leaves and air-purifying qualities. But it's every plant owner's nightmare to see their once-beautiful and thriving rubber plant slowly start drooping. It's a clear sign that something is amiss.
But don't worry your green thumbs, because we'll be your guide through the common causes of rubber plant leaves drooping and the solutions to bring your plant back to its healthy and thriving state.
Here are 10 possible causes of a droopy rubber plant and what you can do to fix the problem.
The rubber plant is native to humid, tropical environments, so it prefers a consistent level of moisture. Now, it can be pretty forgiving if you miss a watering here and there, but if you keep neglecting it for months, it will let you know it's in distress by drooping.
Stick your finger into the soil near the base of the plant. If it feels dry, almost like dust, your plant is thirsty and needs more water.
Aside from drooping rubber plant leaves, keep an eye out for other signs like yellow leaves, brown edges, and stunted growth.
To revive your underwater rubber plant, start by slowly reintroducing watering. Give it a little water twice a day over the course of one week. Make sure to water the plant until water flows out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
To prevent this issue from happening again, establish a good watering schedule. Aim to water your rubber plant every 1-2 weeks, or when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.
Overwatering can be just as troublesome for rubber plants as underwatering. Rubber plants don't appreciate sitting in water, so it's important to ensure the pot has good drainage, and you're not overdoing it with watering.
When the soil becomes waterlogged, it damages the root system, making it challenging for the rubber plant to absorb nutrients.
Check if the soil feels soggy or muddy. Other signs of an overwatered rubber plant are soft and mushy leaves turning yellow or brown, leaf drop, or root rot.
If you notice your rubber plant suffering from overwatering, the best remedy is to cut back on watering for about a week. Ensure proper drainage to prevent the rubber plant roots from taking up too much water.
If your plant is still showing signs of distress despite adjusting the watering routine, it may be time to repot it in fresh soil to help boost its overall health.
3. Drainage Issues
The happiness of your rubber plant's roots relies on well-draining soil. If your potting soil or pot has poor drainage, water can pool around the roots and lead to root rot and droopy rubber plant leaves.
Checking if your rubber plant has drainage issues is easy: you might notice water just sitting on the top of the soil or no water coming out from the drainage holes. That's a clear sign that your drainage needs some improvement.
One solution is mixing perlite (that white, lightweight substance you often find in pre-mixed soil) into your rubber plant's pot. It not only enhances soil drainage but also improves the aeration of the roots.
Another solution is ensuring there are enough holes in the pot. Make sure your pot has enough drainage holes to allow proper water flow to prevent waterlogged soil.
A slightly more expensive but highly effective remedy is switching to terracotta or clay pots. Porous clay material allows water to evaporate from the pots, promoting healthier root conditions.
4. Lack of Sunlight
As plants native to tropical environments, rubber plants prefer lots of filtered sunlight, which translates to a bright, indirect sunlight setting in your home. Anything less, and you might notice issues like drooping leaves as an early sign.
To find out if your rubber plant is suffering from a lack of sunlight, simply examine the leaves. If they're turning yellow or sporting a pale green hue, it's a sign they crave more bright light. Another indicator is looking at the stems; if they appear long and leggy, your plant is definitely yearning for more light.
To help your rubber plant enjoy more light, try moving it to a slightly sunnier spot in your home. You need to strike a balance, not too close to a window with harsh direct sunlight and not too far in a dark corner.
A perfect spot is near a south- or west-facing window. This provides the bright, indirect light that rubber plants love.
Rubber trees are relatively light feeders, and overfertilizing can lead to an excessive uptake of nutrients, which may "burn" the plant's softer tissues, especially the leaves. The roots can suffer from fertilizer burn too, causing them tie die off and making it impossible to absorb water for the leaves.
There are a couple of ways you can spot if your plant is suffering from overfeeding. A crust of fertilizer on the soil surface indicates mineral buildup, causing the leaves to droop and yellow. You may also notice limp and brown or blackened roots.
First, you want to gently remove as much excess fertilizer as possible from the soil surface, using a spoon. Next, trim away any wilted or burned leaves to promote new growth.
Now, you want to leach the soil with thorough watering, allowing the water to drain out. To fully flush out the excess fertilizer from the roots, repeat this leaching process three or four times.
After the leaching, give your plant a break from fertilizing for at least a month, allowing it time to recover. Remember, a little bit of fertilizer goes a long way.
6. Poor Soil
Another culprit behind your rubber plant's drooping leaves might be poor soil. Rubber plants crave a potting mix that's just right - rich in organic materials, light, and airy, with the ability to retain water while also allowing excess water to escape.
A sign of poor-quality soil can be poor drainage when you water your rubber plant. Other signs your plant needs a soil adjustment include stunted growth, no growth at all, roots poking out, and yellowing, drooping leaves.
The solution is a quick and straightforward one - repotting your rubber plant. Simply remove the old soil from the bottom of your pot, add fresh potting mix, and then place your rubber plant back in its home.
For the best results, your rubber plant would love a potting mix with a blend of 60% potting soil, 30% coco coir to retain moisture, and 10% perlite for good drainage.
7. Pests and Diseases
Mealybugs, spider mites, aphids, and thrips can be serious troublemakers for your rubber plant. They feed on the plant's sap and weaken it, making it susceptible to diseases.
Spotting pests is relatively easy as they tend to congregate on the underside of the rubber plant's leaves or around leaf nodes. Anything that's moving about on your rubber plant is likely a pesky pest.
As for diseases, rubber plants are usually quite tough cookies and can ward off most illnesses. But one common cause of disease in rubber plants is overwatering.
To tackle a pest infestation on your rubber plant, there are a few methods you can try.
Firstly, take a soft cloth or cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to carefully remove any pests from the rubber plant leaves and stems.
If the infestation seems too intense, reach for insecticidal soap. They're quite effective in dealing with rubber plant bugs. Another option is neem oil, which works by suffocating the pests.
8. Repotting Issues
It may sound odd that your rubber plant could be drooping because you're repotting it, but repotting shock is a real thing! This shock can disrupt the supply of sufficient nutrients to the plant, causing it to show signs of distress like drooping leaves.
Rubber plants don't really enjoy change that much. They prefer to stay put in their cozy spot, so adjusting to new conditions takes time for them.
Signs that your rubber plant is experiencing repotting shock are when the leaves start to droop and turn yellow or brown after you've repotted or moved it.
To address repotting shock and help your rubber plant recover, be gentle and careful during repotting. Trim any damaged leaves or stems while doing so to minimize stress.
You should also avoid moving them unnecessarily, as it can disrupt their growth and cause stress. After repotting or transplanting, give your rubber plant some time to adjust to its new environment and root system.
9. Temperature Stress
Temperature stress can also be a real bummer for rubber plants. Rubber plants don't handle cold very well, so if you live in a place with chilly winters, make sure they're kept cozy indoors before the first frost.
Rubber plants rely on humid air to keep their leaves moist and healthy; meaning they can also become droopy in hot and dry conditions. Crispy or droopy leaves could be a sign that the air around it lacks sufficient humidity.
Rubber plants like it cozy, with temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If it goes below 60 degrees or above 90 degrees, your rubber plant might start showing signs of temperature stress.
Find a spot for your rubber plant away from direct sunlight and drafts; this includes heaters and air conditioners. A great way to boost humidity around them is using a humidity tray or humidifier.
10. Fertilization Issues
While fertilization issues might not be the most common reason for rubber plant leaves drooping, it is still something to consider. For healthy growth, the soil needs to provide the right moisture, structure, pH level, organic matter mix, and nutrients. It's like a perfect recipe for plant happiness, and a well-blended, fertile soil achieves just that.
Two common fertilization issues are overfertilization and too much salt in the soil water. When plants grow in salty soils, their appearance may resemble those growing in extremely dry soils. They become stunted, and their leaves turn yellow, often showing dead tissue along the leaf margins and tips.
The best remedy for fertilization issues is a good water flush. Slowly add water to the soil and let it soak through and drain out of the pot's holes. This will help flush out the excess fertilizer. Just be careful not to displace too much topsoil in the process.
Why are my rubber plant's leaves turning yellow?
Yellow leaves on a rubber plant can be a sign of an unhappy and unhealthy plant. The most common reason for yellowing leaves in Rubber Trees is improper soil moisture, especially overwatering. Water your rubber plant when the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry. It should be kept damp, but not overly wet.
How do I know if my rubber plant is getting enough light?
Rubber plants need bright, indirect light to thrive - but not direct light. An ideal spot is near a sunny window with a sheer curtain to filter the light. Some signs your rubber plant is craving more light are leggy growth, dull leaves, and lower leaf drop.
Why does my rubber tree bend over?
As your rubber tree grows taller, it becomes more prone to bending over because it lacks natural self-support. To prevent this, you'll need to provide external support with a suitable support system.
Although there's a laundry list of potential culprits for your rubber plant's drooping dilemma, there are solutions too!
With the help of our guide, you can now confidently identify the cause of those droopy leaves and take the steps to bring your plant back to a vibrant and healthy state!
Get your weekly fix of interior design inspiration
Delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning