Why is My Rubber Plant Drooping? (Beginners Solution Guide)
When a rubber plant’s leaves begin to droop, it is a red flag for you to jump into action. Drooping leaves are a plants’ way to communicate to you that it isn’t happy and something needs correcting. For novice indoor plant parents, determining that ‘something‘ is the challenging part – so to help we’ve put together a Rubber Plant Leaves Drooping Troubleshooting Guide.
Drooping rubber plant leaves (ficus elastica) can be caused by a variety of factors. They can be externally driven, such as poor lighting, sudden changes in temperature, or even pests and diseases. On the other hand, it could also be a result of problems related to their care requirements, like water stress, improper soil, over fertilization or neglect causing root bound issues.
Whatever the cause of your ailing rubber plant, this guide will help you problem-solve your way back to a healthy and vibrant rubber plant.
So grab a coffee and don your troubleshooting hat, because we have a sick plant to fix!
How to Fix Rubber Plant Leaves Drooping – Causes & Solutions
There is a certain joy you receive when you see a thriving rubber plant. Those big round glossy deep green leaves beaming and lifting any room that it inhabits. So when a rubber plant’s leaves start to droop, everyone notices!
Usually droopy leaves are a precursor to other, more serious, problems. And to prevent any further damage to your rubber plant, some quick detective work is required. The first place to look is for other symptoms that can guide you to the source of the problem.
Below we’ll run through the potential causes of your rubber plant’s drooping leaves, along with other symptoms to look out for.
One of the most common issues with indoor plants is water stress.
Because your rubber plant cannot rely on the natural sources of water from external sources, like rain and dew, it is entirely dependent on you for its water needs.
Unfortunately, that means it is prone to become stressed from too much or little water. Water stress will definitely cause a rubber plant’s leaves to become droopy. But how do you tell if your rubber plant is suffering from overwatering or underwatering?
Rubber Plant Suffering from Underwatering
One of the easiest ways to determine if your rubber plant is under watered is by inspecting the soil. Usually soil will be hard and dry. Under watered soil tends to become compacted and even cracked in extreme cases.
If you notice the water collects and sits at the top of the soil when you water your rubber plant, it is likely too dry. When you water your plants, the water should absorb almost immediately. When soil is too hard, it prevents the roots of your rubber tree from receiving the necessary water and oxygen they need to survive.
Rubber Plant Suffering from Overwatering
On the other side of the coin, overwatered rubber plants can also display droopy leaves. However, the other symptoms that come with too much water are vastly different.
Again, we look to the soil for clues. Soil that is overwatered tends to be soggy and over-saturated. You may also see pests in your soil, like fungus gnats who are attracted to moist environments.
Wet soil is bad news. Not only does the over-saturation of the soil prevent oxygen from reaching your rubber plant’s root system. It also can develop into more sinister issues like root rot and other fungal diseases.
How to Water your Rubber Plant Properly
We understand if you feel getting the watering requirements for your ficus is a bit like a Goldilocks story. Not too much or too little, but just right!
But there is a method we use that resolves both these problems. We call it the soil finger moisture test. It is a reliable and convenient method for determining if your rubber plant needs more water. The basic premise of the finger test is to stick your index finger into the topsoil of your rubber plant’s container until it is knuckle deep. You can generally tell if the soil is wet or dry, from this. However, another indication that your soil is dry is if there is no soil sticking to your finger when you draw it out.
If you don’t like to get your hands dirty, you can always buy soil moisture meters online at Amazon or from your local nursery. They are generally inexpensive, and provide you with direct feedback as to when to water your plants.
Ficus generally like to receive plenty of bright indirect light in order to remain healthy and thrive.
They are tolerant of positions that may receive less than light. However, they will not thrive. In fact, if a rubber plant begins to receive less than ideal amount of light, they can begin to develop droopy leaves.
When rubber plants don’t receive enough light, their leaves will begin to droop.
Usually lighting issues are hard to identify, and are often the last resort solutions when plant parents have ailing indoor plants. This is because everything else will seem normal – with no other symptoms evident. Soil not to wet or dry, no indicators of disease or pests – it can be a frustrating process sometimes.
How to Resolve Light Problems with Your Rubber Plant
Even though lighting issues are hard to identify, they are one of the easiest issues to resolve. Moving your rubber plant to a more light-friendly position will help your plant bounce back.
We do suggest slowly acclimatizing your rubber plant to its new position, as opposed to throwing it into a brighter position. Too much of a change can cause shock to your plant, which can be extremely detrimental to its health.
Gradually move your rubber plant into positions that are only slightly brighter than the previous position. You can move your plant every few 3-4 days until it reaches its final position.
Poor Soil and Growing Medium
Ficus leaves that start drooping can also be as a result of poor quality potting mix soil.
Rubber plants require a potting mix that is rich in organic materials, light and airy, and has the ability to retain water, but, at the same time, also expel any excess water. Sounds like another Goldilocks moment doesn’t it?
Symptoms to look for in poor quality soil include poor drainage when you water your ficus. This could look like water sitting at the top of your soil, or no water exiting from the drainage holes.
What is a good soil mix for Rubber Plants?
If poor soil quality is the cause of your droopy leaves, the solution is quick and straight forward – to repot your rubber plant.
Repotting your rubber plant is easy. Simply remove the old soil from the bottom of your container, add fresh potting mix, and then place your rubber plant back in the container.
We like to make our own indoor plant soil, because it allows us to adjust the soil’s properties to suit the plant. For our rubber plants, we like to use a mixture of:
- 60% potting soil mix high in organic materials,
- 30% coco coir for water absorption abilities and a light soil composition, and
- 10% perlite to add a more porous material into the mix (also helps with aeration).
You should now see an improvement in your rubber plant’s condition within a week or so.
If you haven’t repotted a plant before, we understand it can be a daunting process. So, we’ve included a quick video by Crazy Plant Guy where he shows you how he repotted his Ficus Elastica plants
Sudden Change in Temperature and Air Flow
Another possible cause of droopy rubber plant leaves are sudden changes in the surrounding temperature. This effect is similar to shock, in that the dramatic increase or decrease in temperature will cause the plant to become unhappy, drooping its leaves.
Sudden changes in temperature can be caused by heaters being placed too close to your ficus. Or your plant may be positioned in a location that is in the direct path of where the air conditioner may be blowing.
Like the symptoms when your ficus isn’t receiving the proper light, there will be nothing else evidently wrong with your plant besides the drooping leaves. No lead discoloration or spots, just droopiness.
How to Revive an Unhappy Rubber Plant from Temperature Stress and Wind
Fortunately, this issue can easily be resolved by changing the position of your rubber plant. Keep it away from appliances that we use to regulate our environment. Proximity to heaters is always an issue for any indoor plant. The intense heat will dehydrate your plants, and potentially cause leaf burn.
The same goes for rubber plants in the air path of air conditioners. The cold refrigerated air from air conditioners will shock your rubber plant. If it remains in the path of the cool air, your plant will eventually succumb and die.
Another problem that can arise with rubber plants is fertilization issues.
Usually, fertilization issues arise because too much fertilizer has built up in your rubber plant’s soil. So much in fact, that it becomes toxic and causes fertilization burn to your plant.
Fertilizer burn often results in the leaves of your rubber plant drooping and developing burn-like marks on the edges and tips of the leaves. They may also exhibit a bit of a color change to brown or yellow leaves, and the drooping leaves may even begin to fall off.
How to Fix Fertilization Issues with Your Rubber Plant
As we mentioned earlier, fertilizer issues result from a build up of chemicals in your soil.
The best way to fix this problem is with a water flush. To do this, slowly add water into your rubber plant’s soil and allow it to soak through the soil, and exit out of the drainage holes. Be careful not to displace too much topsoil. You should observe most of the water exiting out of your planter container. If you don’t see the water exiting, then you have other issues like poor soil quality (refer above for solution).
We recommend using distilled or filtered water. After all, you are trying to get rid of unwanted elements in your soil, not add more like chlorine.
Root Bound and Transplant Problems
We’ve touched on these issues throughout our discussion in the previous issues. However, we thought they deserve a brief mention in their own dedicated section.
If you have had your rubber tree for a few years, and haven’t repotted, your plant may be suffering from root bound issues. Root bound issues arise when the plant (and roots system) have outgrown the current container. The obvious way to tell if your rubber plant is root bound, is to pull it out of its container and inspect the roots. However, sometimes a rubber tree will become so root bound, you’ll be able to see the roots protruding from the drainage holes.
Additionally, when you go to repot your rubber plant, this can also lead to shock and transplanting issues. Many plants, not just rubber plants, will initially look unhappy with droopy leaves after being repotted.
How to Fix Root Bound Rubber Plants
The solution is simple. Repotting your ficus will fix this issue immediately. We have included a video above of the steps involved for repotting a ficus plant.
And, as we said earlier, expect your ficus to look a little sorry for itself straight after a repotting or transplant. To help overcome transplant shock, we like to give our plants a liberal dose of seaweed fertilizer to help them settle into their new home.
Pests & Disease Problems for Rubber Plants
Generally speaking, rubber plants are a very resilient indoor plant. It is for this reason, many beginners like to choose them as one of their first houseplants to cut their teeth on.
That said, they can still be susceptible to disease and pests if not provided the appropriate care and husbandry responsibilities.
Common ficus pests include mealybugs, fungus gnats, scale, spider mites and aphids. All (except the fungus gnats) will feed on the sap of your ficus, weakening it to the point where it succumbs to other ailments like a disease. Fungus gnats won’t necessarily hurt your ficus. However, they will breed in your ficus’ soil and become quite a nuisance in your household.
You can generally see pests congregating on your ficus. They will group together on the underside of your leaves, or in the crevices around the leaf nodes.
Diseases like bacterial leaf spot can also infect your ficus. This particular disease is usually caused by the Xanthomonas campestris bacteria. If you see your ficus’ leaves drooping and begin to develop yellow and black spots, it usually indicates a leaf spot infection.
How to Prevent Diseases and Pests on Your Rubber Plant
The only way to prevent pests is ongoing maintenance, inspections and manual removal. We like to make a habit of providing all our plants with a thorough inspection when we water them. This means carefully turning over leaves, sticking our finger into the soil to test for moisture. We even pull out our ficus plant from the pot on the odd occasion to give the root system a once over for rotten roots.
If you do spot pests, manually remove as many as possible. Then apply a natural pesticide, like Neem Oil, to exterminate any pests you may have missed.
in terms of disease, like pests, ongoing vigilance and generally maintaining good housekeeping practices is the best form of prevention. If you suspect your rubber plant may be infected, quickly diagnose the possible disease, and treat with a fungicide or antibacterial solution.
Final Thoughts on Rubber Plant Leaves Drooping & Plant Care
Rubber plants are resilient plants that brighten up any room they live in. However, if a rubber plant displays droopy leaves, it means there is a problem that needs some attention.
By using our troubleshooting guide, you will be able to confidently identify the cause of your droopy leaves, and restore your rubber plant to its former glory.