14 Reasons Why Rubber Plant is Dropping Leaves and How to Fix Them


Rubber Plant, Ficus elastica

Rubber Plant or Rubber Fig may drop its leaves due to a number of varied reasons which include improper watering, pests, root-rot, extreme temperatures, insufficient light among others.

Though an easy-care plant, Rubber Plant can sometimes develop problems if the growing conditions are not met. One of the major problems in Ficus elastica is leaf drop (fall).

We have herebelow discussed 14 reasons why Rubber Fig leaves may fall and their solutions. Keep on reading.

Reasons why Rubber Plant is losing leaves

1. Overwatering

Overwatering is one common reason why a Rubber Plant may lose its leaves. This is because overwatering results in soggy soil (excess water in the soil).

Too much water in the soil reduces the oxygen concentration in the rootzone and this causes the roots to die.

When roots die, they cannot take up water and nutrients needed for the food making process.

Therefore, the plant does not make enough food for growth and energy. In a bid to save energy, the plant begins to drop its leaves.

Solutions

To avoid getting soggy soil, ensure that the pot has a drainage hole and the soil is free-draining.

Also, reduce watering during the cold season to maintain the soil slightly moist as growth is minimal at this time.

2. Underwatering

When the Rubber Plant is underwatered, there is too little moisture in the soil. As such, the plant cannot take up nutrients and water needed for photosynthesis (food making process).

If the plant does not get adequate food for growth and energy, it drops the leaves inorder to save energy.

Solutions

Immediately water the plant thoroughly until water comes out through the drainage holes and it should recover.

Thereafter, water the Rubber Fig liberally during the growing season and allow the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings.

Decrease watering during the cold season but do not allow the soil to dry out completely, maintain the soil slightly moist.

3. Root-rot Disease

Rubber Plant is prone to root-rot disease. Root-rot disease is brought about by soggy soil.

The disease is characterized by wilted, discolored leaves, corky swellings under the leaves and dropping leaves.

Soggy soil reduces oxygen concentration in the soil which causes the roots to die. Once the roots die, they cannot take up water and nutrients to the leaves. The leaves begin to wilt and eventually drop.

Solutions

Carefully slip the plant out of its pot and inspect the roots. Brown-black mushy roots indicate root-rot, trim them off and treat the healthy roots with a fungicidal solution.

Disinfect the pot with the fungicidal solution or use a fresh pot to repot the plant in fresh free-draining soil.

Do not water the plant and keep it dry for some time before resuming watering. Read more on how to treat root-rot here.

4. Pest Infestations

Rubber Plant is prone to Aphids, Mealy Bugs, Scale Insects and Spider Mites. The pests attack the new growth from where they suck the plant sap.

This causes the plant to become dehydrated and results in wilting and dropping leaves.

Solutions

Regularly inspect the Rubber Fig for the pests and take timely control measures.

Treat the Rubber Plant appropriately for the pests with appropriate products like neem oil or insecticidal soap among others.

Maintain the plant properly pruned to get rid of their breeding ground to discourage infestations by these pests.

5. Extreme Temperatures

Rubber Plant requires average room temperatures within the range of 15-280C inorder to thrive.

Extreme temperatures; either too high or too low (outside the above range) will affect the normal functioning of the plant systems.

Too high temperatures will cause excessive loss of water leading to wilting and leaf drop while too low temperatures cause the plant to stop growing and begin to die. Leaf drop is one of the signs of a dying plant.

Solutions

Keep the Rubber Plant away from cold draughts like drafty winds, air conditioning vents, open doors and others.

Make sure that the plant is not near hot surfaces, hot air vents and other hot areas to prevent extremely high temperatures.

Maintain an average room temperature within the range of 15-280C. Usually, a room temperature that is comfortable for you is ideal for the plant.

6. Too Cold Water

Rubber Plant is a tropical plant where it grows in consistently warm temperatures through out the year.

Therefore, watering this plant with too cold water will shock the plant and it responds by dropping its leaves.

Solutions

Water the Rubber Fig with water that is at room temperature to avoid shocking this tropical plant.

7. Too Little Light

The Rubber Plant requires bright light with some direct sunshine to thrive. The light is needed for making food that is required for energy and growth.

Insufficient light implies that the plant cannot make enough food for energy and growth.

In an attempt to save energy, the Rubber Fig begins to drop leaves. This way, it saves the available energy for the vital functions inorder to keep alive.

Solutions

Cut back the bare stems to rejuvenate growth and also encourage a bushy, compact growth.

Position the Rubber Plant in a brighter spot where it will receive bright light with some direct sunshine or instal a grow light if you do not have adequate natural light in your home.

Regularly rotate the pot to ensure that the plant absorbs enough light for photosynthesis on all sides.

8. Overfeeding

Overfeeding Rubber Plant will cause the roots to die due to fertilizer burn. When the roots die, they cannot take up nutrients and water required for photosynthesis.

Without adequate food for growth and energy, the Rubber Fig begins to drop leaves inorder to save energy.

Solutions

Take care not to overfeed the plant. Feed the Rubber Plant during the growing period with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer and follow the instructions on the label of the plant food to avoid overfeeding.

Do not feed Rubber Fig during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time and feeding at this time can lead to fertilizer burn.

Flush out the salts from the soil by running a stream of water through the soil until it comes out through the drainage holes and repeat the process several times.

9. Underfeeding

Underfeeding implies that the Rubber Plant is not getting enough nutrients need for growth and energy.

Inadequate nutrients in the actively growing tips causes nutrients to be withdrawn from the older lower leaves which begin to yellow and drop.

Solutions

Feed Rubber Plant during the growing period with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer and follow the instructions on the label of the plant food to avoid underfeeding.

10. Root Bound Plant

If Rubber Plant is root-bound, the roots have filled the pot and there is very little soil to hold water when you water the plant.

Therefore, there is no water for the plant to take up to the leaves. The leaves loss their stiffness and they wilt and drop.

Solutions

Check the bottom of the pot for roots growing through the drainage hole and repot the Rubber Plant into a pot one size larger than the current one.

11. Repotting Shock

Repotting Rubber Plant may cause it some shock which may lead to some leaves wilting and dropping before it can adjust to the new growing conditions.

Solutions

To minimize repotting shock, water the Rubber Plant thoroughly one day before repotting. A well hydrated plant experiences less shock.

Do not make too many changes at once. For instance, after repotting, maintain the Rubber Fig in the same location until it is well established before moving it to a new location.

12. Sudden Changes in Growing Conditions

Rubber Plant is sensitive to sudden changes in growing conditions and it responds with leaf drop.

This is likely to occur when you bring the plant home or when you move it to a new location in the home.

Solutions

When you bring the Rubber Plant home, place it in bright light with some direct sunshine and warm conditions.

Water the Rubber Fig liberally during the growing season while allowing the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings. It may loss a few leaves but will eventually settle.

If you need to move the plant to a new location in the home, do so gradually to acclimate it to the new conditions.

For instance, if you want to take it outside, move it to a shaded place first before you can take out under bright light.

13. Aging

As Rubber Plant matures, it loses the lower leaves leaving a bare stem with a crown of leaves at the top. Loss of lower leaves is a normal occurence in this plant.

Solutions

Cut back the Rubber Fig stem at the desired height to rejuvenate growth. New growth should sprout just below the cut into a new bushy plant.

14. Poor Quality Soil

Poor quality soil does not drain easily and therefore it easily becomes compacted or soggy which can negatively impact the growth of the Rubber Plant.

Rubber Plant requires loose, free-draining soil that does not hold excessive amounts of water as soggy soil can lead to root-rot disease which is characterized by yellowing and dropping leaves.

Solutions

Pot the Rubber Plant in good quality soil that is loose, free-draining and rich in organic matter like this quality potting mix available at Amazon.

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