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sick rubber tree (ficus elastica)

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2004
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by dearra on October 24, 2004 09:01 PM
Hello, everyone. This is my first post, and I hope some of you can help me.

I have reviewed several postings and different sites about my variety of rubber plant, but I haven't found anything that specifically describes my girl's condition. Maybe someone can help?

The plant: about 2 ft tall x 1.5 ft wide. I have had her for about three months.

Her living conditions: she came in a 10" plastic pot and remained in it for the first month or so. she started to look a little wan, so I transplanted her into a 12"x 12"(at widest part) squatty amphora-like ceramic pot with good drainage holes. She sits just below a huge, high frosted glass window. There is plenty of diffused light. Temperature ranges from 72-80. I water about every 4 days, keeping soil damp but not drenched.
The problem: She started to drop leaves about three weeks ago before I transplanted her, mostly bottom leaves. I wasn't worried because she had such dense foliage that there was no way enough light could get to all of it. Most of the leaves she loses look sort of faded to a golden color, as if the red pigment had faded. Then the leaves easily turn loose if brushed against, and often fall on their own. Some of the leaves have taken on a very sickly yellow appearance and have round blackish-brown spots that are bigger and more concentrated on the tips to halfway down the leaves. It looks as if they are "spreading" in the way a rash spreads.

The treatment so far: I repotted and moved her from the floor below the window to an elevated position. I really think the light is fine. I used some standard non-flowering houseplant spikes to try to revive her. So far, the problem has just continued steadily along.

What can I do? I can't stand to see a sick anything! Is this a treatable disease? Is this a case of improper care that I can correct? How can I make my sick plant healthy and happy?
by Jiffymouse on October 25, 2004 03:09 AM
you have the right ideas on how to help your plant, but are going about it the wrong way.

first, start with fresh (preferably a good quality commercial one like miracle grow) soil and any of the pots you want, but not larger than 12"

pot her up being careful not to press the soil in around the roots.

then, water her gently, and after that, let her get slightly dry between waterings. i usually try to water mine about half way between the main stalk of the plant and the edge of the pot. maybe a little closer to the plant.

keeping the soil moist is the problem as it does not encourage the roots to grow, and it will encourage them to rot.

the reason for the repotting with fresh soil is that it will hurry the healing process and stop any rotting that may have been going on.

good luck and keep us posted.
by gardenmom32210 on October 25, 2004 01:47 PM
I've started losing the leaves on my rubber tree too. Thanks for the info Jiffy!

G-Mom [grin]
by MZSHIRLEY on October 28, 2004 02:38 AM
Hi gardenmon, I just read about the rubber tree. a client gave me a small starter about a month ago. At the moment mine is looking good, but I will keep the info handy in case I have any future problems. I still have my plants outside. The daytime temps here(Ocala)are perfect for my plants. How is the daytime weather in Jax? I'm still looking forward to meeting you at some piont. Still can't believe I found someone to share a bat plant with me. Take care, Shirley

* * * *
by gardenmom32210 on October 28, 2004 03:03 PM
How is the daytime weather in Jax?
It WONDERFUL...low 80's.

I'm gonna check on the status of your plant today...I hope it finally has gotten some good roots.

Looking forward to meeting you of these days! We can take some pics to show everybody here.

G-Mom [grin]
by Will Creed on October 30, 2004 02:58 AM
Rubber trees require more than diffused light to thrive. They really should get several hours of direct sun each day. A clear, east window is a good location.

Newly purchased rubber trees often drop some of their lower eaves because they are trying to adapt to reduced light. The more reduced the light, the more leaves will drop and the smaller the replacement leaves will be.

The reduced light was the original cause of the leaf drop. The 10" pot size was plenty large enough. The repotting to a 12" pot has added another potential problem - root rot. All of the extra soil that you added when you repotted will retain moisture for too long. This is especially true if you are watering every 4 days and the light is less than optimal.

I suggest that you undo the repotting, remove the soil that you added, and put the plant and original rootball back into its original pot. After that, you can water thoroughly whenever the top quarter of the rootball (top 2 inches) are dry to the touch.

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