Why Is My Rubber Plant Dying? (Causes And Solutions)


Due to its leathery leaves and air cleaning properties, rubber plants are famous to be seen as houseplants. However, they are also known for being sensitive to their environment that usually leads to death.

Though this can usually happen, you don’t need to be troubled since there are few ways on how you can check your rubber plant for possible causes and at the same time you can make the necessary prevention.

The primary cause of your Rubber Plant dying is due to root rot. It can be resolved by removing the infected roots of your plant and applying fungicide to the healthy ones. However, there are severe situations wherein repotting or propagation is highly required.

If you want to save your Rubber plant from totally dying you need to identify first the signs and symptoms that it communicates to you before coming up with any solutions, there are times that your plant isn’t on the brink of dying.

How to Know If a Rubber Plant is Dying

potted rubber plant showing dying signs

With proper observation, you can easily identify if your plant is dying. Here are some visible signs and symptoms that you might want to check on your rubber plant. 

Unhealthy Leaves

Leaves are the most eye-captivating part of your rubber plant which is why you can easily tell if your plant is sick by just looking at its leaves. 

Usually, a dying plant shows a sign of discoloration on the leaves turning brown or yellow.

You may also see some leaves wilting or dropping, especially those on the lower side. Another thing to check out is brown spots or patches within the leaves.

Growth Problem

Though your plant might experience other stress but not on a dying level, still you need to consider growth failure as a sign since most of these plants are bountifully thriving during warm seasons.

Brown and Mushy Roots

Naturally, healthy roots have a white or slightly yellow color with a hard composure.

So if you found out that your roots turned brown with a soft or mushy appearance, then most probably it’s rotting.

Causes of Your Rubber Plant Dying

If you happen to check your plant’s condition and suspect that it has visible signs of dying, then the next thing that you should be doing is to identify the culprit.

Properly identifying it might have a big chance for you to restore your rubber plant. 

Overwatering

Overwatering may result in excessive moisture in its roots allowing fungi to destroy the root system which eventually will block the water and nutrient system of your plant.

Leaf dropping and turning yellow are the most common signs that your rubber plant is overwatered. 

Solutions:

  1. Check for the water drainage, make sure that you throw out excessive water from the saucer, or else the roots of your plant will soak wet and might eventually end up in a more complicated situation.
  1. Proper watering is a must since your rubber plant doesn’t like too much water. Typically, you will know that your plant already needs water if you touch the soil dry. But, you also need to consider some other factors in watering. You may refer to the table below.
Conditions for Rubber PlantHow Often to Water Rubber Plant
Recently plantedRubber PlantOnce per week for the first four weeks.
Rubber plant 2 years of ageTwice a month.
Rubber Plant (2+ years)Twice a month or whenever the soil dries
When the weather is dry and hotOnce every 7 to 8 days 
During WinterOnce every 20 to 21 days
Rubber Plant after RepottingRefrain from watering one week after repotting. Then, water once a week.

Underwatering

Though overwatering is the usual cause of your rubber plant dying, still there are certain situations that your plant lacks water.

This too is not a good scenario since your plant needs enough water for its normal physiological process.

Similar to overwatering, under-watered plants also show some discoloration and leaf dropping.

The best way to know is to check if the soil is dry by touching it or by judging its color. Your plant’s soil will most likely deteriorate its color from being darker to lighter. (Source: Clemson University)

Solutions:

  1. The best way to solve this is by giving your plant the required water it needs to thrive. Typically, if there is dryness, water it until it runs out of the bottom of the pot. This process will clean out excess salt and will make an assurance that the water will properly reach the roots. 
  1. Then remove the excess water on the pot’s saucer to avoid root rotting.

Poor Drainage 

Soaking your plant in water is not a good act of generosity, especially in your rubber plant, you are waterlogging your plant which is not good for its system.

The very obvious symptom of this is the excessive water that you can see on the saucer or in the pot itself. Whatever pot you’re using, keep in mind that it should have enough holes for the water to drain properly.

Solutions:

  1. The first thing to consider is checking your pot. When your rubber plant is big then the holes in your pot should be more and bigger. 
  1. If your pot has a saucer beneath, make sure to drain it after watering your plant. You may also consider draining the water first before placing it back on the saucer. 
  1. If necessary, you can drill additional holes in your pot to give adequate water drainage.

Not Enough Sunlight

Your rubber plant, no matter how tough it looks, requires enough sunlight for its growth.

Lack of sunlight may cause a shortage of chlorophyll which is required in photosynthesis. 

If your plant doesn’t receive the amount of sunlight it needs, it will stop growing which leads to leaf dropping and eventually dying.

Solutions:

  1. If you noticed that your plant is lacking sunlight, then move it to a spot where sunlight is more abundant. Preferably, place it in the south or west-facing window.
  1. You might be tired of hearing this but always check for your plants’ drainage. Lack of sunlight will slow down the drying process of the soil thus allowing moisture to build within the roots.

Pathogenic Infection

Plant pathogens are like parasites that cause ailments in your beloved plant. It could be fungi, bacteria, viruses, or protozoa.

Your rubber plant will become prone to fungi infestation if it receives excessive water and moisture in its roots. 

Aside from overwatering, repotting may also be the reason why there is an infection in your plant.

If the soil that is used is from an old pot, then there’s a high chance that it was already infested before.

In the case of your rubber plant, the common pathogen lurking in the soil could be from those of root rot known as Phytophthora.

The most visible symptoms for this are leaves becoming yellow and eventually dropping from its stem. If you also check the roots, you will see that it’s somehow limp and mushy. (Source: The Pennsylvania State University)

Solutions:

  1. If you’re suspecting that your rubber plant is infested by root rot pathogens, the first step should be verifying it through its roots. Carefully detach the plant from the soil and thoroughly assess for the root appearance.
  1. If there’s already an infestation, the best way to resolve it is by repotting your rubber plant. It’s advisable to use a different pot and soil since it may be infected already. However, if you’re reusing the old one, make sure to properly dispose of the soil directly to your trash bin and disinfect your pot using a mixture of hot water and bleach.
  1. Remove all dead and infected roots to stop further infections. Consider trimming the leaves as well for proper growth.
  1. You may also apply a fungicide solution to the roots before planting them back.

Bacterial Soft Rot

  • Bacterial Soft Rot is a destructive disease commonly found in plants with fleshy fruits, vegetables, and some ornamentals worldwide. Its mischievous attack on the molecule that binds plant cells together creates an impact causing your plant to fall apart.
  • Though it usually targets crops and vegetables, still your rubber plant is not immune to the soft rot’s attack. This bacteria can penetrate in a wide range of temperature, having 70°F to 80°F (22°C – 26°C) as the worst decay. 
  • The most noticeable sign of soft rot is its strong disgusting odor that you can smell in your plant’s leaves. In addition to that, you will also notice some water-soaked spots that enlarge from time to time, if not treated. Not to mention the discoloration of its leaves from healthy green to yellow and eventually to black. (Source: Wisconsin Horticulture)

Solutions:

  1. Apparently, there is no known solution if your rubber plant’s tissue has been infected by the bacterial soft rot. The only chance that you can try is to propagate your plant using its remaining healthy stalks.
  1. Dispose of the infected plant immediately and sanitize the surroundings.
  1. Avoid using the deceased infected plant as compost.

Pest Infestation

Another common and most possible reason why your rubber plant is dying is that it has been hosting some pests on its body.

Most of the time these pests have been on your plant since the time you bought it from the store. So it is highly advisable to thoroughly check the plant before you purchase it.

Ordinarily, Thrips and scales are some of the uninvited inhabitants of your rubber plant. Thrips are small black winged insects that occasionally jump or fly whenever alerted.

On the other hand, Scales are armored insects who love to attach to the joints and leaves of your plant.

These pests suck the nutrients of your plant that causes damage to its system thus affecting the appearance and growth of your rubber plant.

Moreover, there is a much worse scenario, if a pest happens to transmit viruses to the plant’s internal system, then it could be a different level of severe damage.

Leaf discoloration, noticeable brown spots, and decaying leaves are some of the symptoms that your plant is suffering from a pest infestation.

However, the most certain way to assure it is to check for some visible appearance of the culprit.

Solutions:

  1. One effective treatment that you can do is to gently rub alcohol using cloth or cotton to your plant’s leaves to eliminate thrips and other soft-skin insects 
  1. Horticultural oils are best against rubber plant insects since it can suffocate them to death. In applying this oil, carefully read and understand the instructions.
  1. Put chemical insecticides as your final option since you are gardening at home. You don’t want to mess with the health of your loved ones or pets at home.

Incorrect Soil pH

Soil pH affects the nutrient availability of your rubber plant by altering the nutrient in the soil.

A Lower pH level will solute most of the macronutrients while on the other hand, a higher pH level will reduce the availability of micronutrients in the soil.

Typically, your rubber plant thrives in the range of pH 4 to pH 6.5. You don’t want to go lower than 4 since it may solute important nutrients like Magnesium due to acidity. 

The leaves of your plant might drop or turn yellow as a sign of deficiency due to insufficient nutrients. 

Solutions:

  1. If you are suspecting that your rubber plant has a problem with its pH level then you need to confirm it by purchasing a soil test kit.
  1. Consider testing around 4 to 5 inches below since the roots of your plant usually travel that deep. Do not test surface soil for it normally yields a different pH level.
  1. If the result is above pH 6.5, consider adding sulfur or aluminum sulfate to correct the pH level.
  1. If it’s below pH 4, consider adding lime or any soluble fertilizer that is rich in magnesium.
  1. Re-test the soil after making the necessary pH correction.
  1. If your rubber plant still signals a dying symptom, repot it to suitable soil.

Low Temperature

Your rubber plant prefers a medium to high-temperature level, preferably greater than 65°F (18°C).

Colder temperature will make your plant more vulnerable to pest and bacterial infestation as it would slow down the draining process of its soil.

Common visual signs are leaves turning yellow due to a shortage of water caused by infestation on its root system.

Solution:

  1. Conduct a temperature check in your indoor garden.
  1. If it doesn’t match the temperature needs of your rubber plant, then consider relocating it to a much suitable location in your house. 
  1. Avoid placing your plant near an open area during cold seasons to avoid possible complications.
  1. If possible, avoid moving your rubber plant from time to time, since it is sensitive and prefers to have a consistent temperature level.

Low Humidity

Since your rubber plant originally comes from tropical regions, therefore it enjoys humid air.

Thus, placing your plant in an area with low humidity will make it suffer from dryness.

If your rubber plant’s leaves start to dry and curl, then most probably it does not acquire the moisture that it needs, a visible sign that your garden has a low humidity level.

Solutions:

  1. The most effective solution is by relocating your plant in a more humid environment preferably beside your window where there is enough moisture. But also remember that your rubber plant does not love too much moisture especially in its soil.
  1. If relocating your plant is not an option, another way to resolve the problem is by misting your rubber plant using a humidifier or spray.
  1. You can also use the pebble method. Place your rubber plant on top of a shallow dish filled with small rocks and water. Technically, the role of pebbles is to prevent the soil from soaking into water thus creating only enough moisture for the leaves of your plant.

Watering in Dormant Period

In general, most of the plants go dormant almost every winter season and that includes your rubber plant.

That means there’s not enough sunlight to perform photosynthesis resulting in a slow down of its reproduction and growing capabilities.

This period is crucial since your plant needs to survive the harsh weather and regrow afterward. 

Due to high humidity and low evaporation level, your plant does not need watering. It could be fatal to its recovery.

Common symptoms are delayed growth, some shedding of leaves, and falling branches.

The symptoms might be the same as other causes, the only difference is it still has healthy roots underneath.

Solutions:

  1. If possible, place your rubber plant in a high-temperature room during the winter season.
  1. Avoid watering your plant as it already has enough moisture due to the season.
  1. You must also avoid fertilizing your rubber plant and wait for the winter to end.
  1. This is the best time for you to repot, if possible, repot it in a clean new soil so that it will thrive in the early spring.


Root Bound

Also known as pot bound, it’s a common situation wherein the roots of your plant will overgrow the pot thus starting to move outside through the drainage hole below.

It may cause serious problems since the roots are blocking the draining system thus lengthens the drying process of your plant’s soil.

The signs of root-bound are very visible since you will see some roots overgrowing your pot from below.

Solutions:

  1. There is no better way to resolve pot-bound than repotting your plant immediately.
  1. Make sure that you have the proper knowledge on how to safely repot your rubber plant. If not, you can read further to know the safe and proper guidelines of repotting.

How to Fix Your Dying Rubber Plant

At this time, you can surely figure out what causes your plant to die and probably applied some of the remedies stated above.

Although you have already cured the causes, sometimes your rubber plant could not just bear the damage it receives and continues to give its dying signal.

In that case, it’s time to either repot your rubber plant to a fresh soil mixture or propagate your plant to produce new offspring.

Repotting

In general, repotting is essential if the soil of your pot has an infestation, root-bound is occurring, or simply because your rubber plant has overgrown the pot.

  1. The first step of repotting is to gently detach your plant from the soil by carefully uprooting it. Clean the roots and check if there are any possible signs of rotting. 
  1. Using a scissor or shears, cut off all the dead and dying roots to avoid future infections.
  1. If your rubber plant has a big volume consider trimming it first. Make it to the point that it has enough leaves that your plant’s root can support.
  1. Next is apply an antifungal solution to the roots thus, assuring you that your plant can not be easily infested in the future.
  1. Prepare your soil mix. Preferably use ¾ of organic potting soil and mix it with ¼ perlite or pumice. This mixture helps the draining process of your soil preventing it from experiencing root rot. You can also test the pH of your soil just to make sure that it stays on the recommended level.
  1. With regards to your pot, make sure that it is just one size bigger than the previous one so that it will only have enough soil for the roots to move. Otherwise, bigger pots mean a higher volume of soil which could lead to slow water drainage allowing the soil to become wet for a long period.
  1. Check for the drainage system of your plant. Make sure that it has enough holes to properly drain excess water.
  1. Sprinkle your plant a little and after that refrain from watering it until a week to give ample time for any damaged root to properly heal.
  1. You also need to avoid using fertilizer for about 4 to 6 weeks after replotting since most potting soil contains fertilizer and of course, you don’t want to over-fertilize your rubber plant.

Propagation

In certain circumstances, repotting is not advisable especially when your rubber plant suffers from severe root rot or pest infestation.

Therefore, propagation is the only way to save your plant from completely dying. If you are relatively new to this process, follow this simple procedure:

  1. Cut 2-3 healthy stalks or stems with leaves. Make sure to cut below the node or where the leaves grow.
  1. Your rubber plant produces sap, so make sure to wash it and don’t let the sap touch your skin.
  1. Place the stalk or stem in a small container with water ensuring that the node is perfectly covered.
  1. Observe the cuttings every other day to check if there’s visible root growth. Also, check for the water and replace it if needed.
  1. If you happen to see roots in your stalk then it is the right time to plant them in your pot. Observe the advisable soil mixture that we have talked about in repotting.

You May Also Enjoy: Why Does My Rubber Plant Have White Spots? (And How to Fix It)

How to Prevent Rubber Plant from Dying

As you have read the causes of your rubber plant dying, you can tell right away that preventing it is less complicated than treating it in its severe conditions. Here are some simple tips on how to prevent your plant from dying.

  1. Observe your plant properly before purchasing it to avoid bringing unwanted invaders into your garden.
  1. Apply an adequate amount of water in your plant. Remember that your rubber plant doesn’t enjoy too much wetness in its soil.
  1. Ensure proper sunlight in your plant’s location. Your rubber plant loves sunshine, so places with relatively high temperature is a must.
  1. Observe the humidity level within your garden to make sure that your rubber plant is receiving the moisture it needs on its leaves.
  1. Ensure a functioning drainage system. Make sure that nothing blocks the holes in your pot. Also, remove excess water from the dish after watering your rubber plant.
  1. Maintain cleanliness and proper disposal in your area to avoid inviting destructive forces.
  1. Follow necessary procedures whenever your plant is in its dormant stage especially during the winter seasons.
  1. Proper understanding of how to take care of your plant is important. You may want to research more about your plants’ properties and essentials for you to fully understand its possible future needs.

Final Words

If you are looking for an indoor plant that doesn’t require much from you and can grow bountifully in just a couple of years, then a rubber plant is the best option for you. With its rubbery texture and glossy leaves, this air-cleaning plant will surely make your space lively in a small amount of time.

Though it is easy to maintain, your rubber plant is sensitive to root rot because of overwatering, low humidity, and improper drainage. You also need to watch out for other factors that could destroy your plant such as bacterial and pest infestations. 

If you found out that your rubber plant is dying, carefully observe the symptom first before heading to any remedy. In case repotting and propagation is necessary, make sure to follow the correct procedure and avoid expediting the process, remember that your plant requires enough time to thrive.

Arifur Rahman

I'm the owner of gardenforindoor.com. After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I'm serving as a civil service officer at the Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh. I started Garden For Indoor to make your indoor gardening journey easy and enjoyable.

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