Is your rubber tree growing poorly or losing its leaves? Then it could be due to the following mistakes in the choice of location and maintenance.
With its large, shiny green leaves, the rubber tree (Ficus elastica) is experiencing a real comeback as a houseplant. In its tropical home, the evergreen tree grows up to 40 meters in height. In our room, it can reach around two meters – provided it is in the right location and given the right care. For the green plant to feel good all around and to thrive, you should avoid the following mistakes.
The rubber tree needs a bright location without blazing midday sun or drafts. The more colorful the leaves, the higher the light requirement. The temperature should not fall below 18 degrees Celsius, even in winter. Do not water or immerse the plant until the top layer of soil has dried. Caring for the rubber tree also includes regular dusting and spraying of the leaves with water at room temperature.
Error 1: Wrong location
The light requirement of the rubber tree should not be underestimated: it only forms a dense, branched crown in a bright location. If it is too dark, it hardly branches out. Especially with varieties with variegated foliage, pay attention to a shady location, for example by a large south-facing window or in the winter garden. If the plants are too shady, the color of their leaves suffers.
However, the blazing midday sun must be avoided with all rubber trees – otherwise, the leaves can quickly be burned. You should bear this in mind, especially in summer, when you place Ficus elastica in a warm, sheltered place in the garden, on the terrace, or the balcony. In winter the green plants can be a bit cooler – but the temperature should never fall below 18 degrees Celsius. Attention: Not only with excessive temperature fluctuations but also with drafts it can lead to leaf fall.
Light, warm and humid: this is how the rubber tree likes it best. When caring for the leaves, you shouldn’t forget to dust them regularly
Mistake 2: watering rubber tree too much
While the need for light is often underestimated, the opposite is usually the case for water. Although the rubber tree comes from humid tropical regions, the roots do not like it when waterlogging occurs in the pot. If the green plant is watered too heavily, there is a risk of root rot, which can ultimately lead to the death of the entire plant.
You should therefore check the planter regularly and pour away excess water as soon as possible. Basically, you should only water the rubber tree moderately and only use the watering can when the top layer of soil has dried off. If the level is cooler in winter, you have to water less than in summer.
Tip: It has proven useful to dip the pot occasionally in a bucket of water. If no more air bubbles rise, the soil around the root ball has absorbed enough water to be able to supply the plant soon.
Mistake 3: leaving leaves to gather dust
Anyone who has a rubber tree at home knows that, over time, a lot of dust builds up on the large leaves of the plant. This doesn’t look too good. The much bigger problem: the layer of dust reduces the light absorption, which in turn harms the growth and vitality of the plant. It is therefore important to wipe the leaves regularly with a soft cloth. If the rubber tree is not yet too big, you can gently rinse it off in the shower with water at room temperature.
As a precaution, the ball of the pot can be wrapped in a plastic bag so that it does not become too wet. With dry heating air in winter, the indoor plants are also visibly good to spray with an atomizer. Use water that is as low as possible to avoid unsightly limescale stains. To make the leaves shine again, you can also clean the leaves with a banana peel.
Would you like to find out more about fertilizing, cutting, and propagating the decorative houseplant? You can find more tips in our detailed plant portrait.