Skip to Content

Rubber Plant Root Rot (Signs, Causes, and Treatment)

When your rubber plant has severe root rot, it’s almost impossible to save it. Owners are terrified by the prospect of losing their rubber plants to this fatal disease.

So I did extensive research into the best ways to protect and save them.

Rot in rubber plants can be caused by overwatering or fungal infection. Remove infected roots, apply fungicide, reduce watering frequency, and improve soil drainage are a few options for resolving the issue. Propagation may be necessary in cases of severe root rot.

Rubber plants are hardy and tough, making them suitable for beginners while also allowing them to recover from the disease. This article will show you how to identify, treat, and prevent root rot.

Symptoms of Rubber Plant Root Rot

Root rot disease typically affects the root system first, with symptoms appearing much later in the disease’s progression.

In fact, the plant may appear to be in good health during the early stages of the disease. As a result, you must maintain vigilance and keep an eye out for the warning signs listed below:

Swollen and Mushy Stem

As root rot makes its way up to your rubber plant, it could cause the stems to appear swollen and mushy.

This is a great indication that something is wrong, and you need to act fast. Once you feel that your plant’s roots are soft to the touch, check the roots immediately.

Stunted Growth

Because your plant’s roots will be damaged, it will be unable to absorb nutrients effectively. New shoots and leaves will appear later than usual, and they will be smaller than usual.

During its active season, the entire plant may also fail to flower and bloom.

Leaf Discoloration

Rubber Plant Leaves Turning Yellow
Rubber Plant Leaves Turning Yellow

This symptom is related to stunted growth and the fact that root rot interferes with your plant’s ability to absorb nutrients.

The leaves may turn yellow, brown, and eventually fall off. Further inspection reveals that the roots have also discolored.

Rubber Plant and Leaves Wilting

When plants do not receive enough moisture, they wilt as a survival mechanism to conserve water. If your plant’s roots die, it will be unable to absorb enough water to grow.

With time, you will notice that no matter how much you water the rubber plant, the leaves remain wilted.

Rubber Plant and Leaves Wilting
Rubber Plant and Leaves Wilting

Shoots Dieback

As root rot destroys the root system, it becomes increasingly difficult for your rubber plant to absorb nutrients for shoot growth.

This will result in shoot dieback. In some cases, the fungal infection spreads to the leaves, causing tissue damage and the same results.

Brown Spots on leaves

Brown Spots on Rubber Plant leaves

Brown spots on leaves are an early sign of root rot, indicating that you still have time to save your plant.

Keep an eye out for browning edges and take action before the discoloration spreads to the entire foliage.

Roots Brown and Mushy

Rubber Plant Roots Brown and Mushy
Rubber Plant Roots Brown and Mushy

Healthy root systems are firm and white; any discoloration and being mushy or soft could indicate root rot.

This symptom is usually caused by the multiplication of fungal spores in the roots.

However, unless you check your plant’s roots on a regular basis, you may not notice that they are softening and browning.

What Causes Rubber Plant Root Rot?

High-moisture conditions that promote pathogen growth and multiplication are common causes of root rot.

This is usually caused by overwatering or using poorly drained pots or soils. In general, the following are the causes:

Overwatering causes root suffocation

In wet conditions, fungal spores multiply and spread throughout the root system and the rest of the plant.

Suffocation and rot are caused by too much water around the roots for an extended period of time.

Low oxygen supply causes root decay and cell death, affecting the physiology and growth of the entire plant.

Solution

  • Only water your rubber plant when the top 1-2 inches of soil is dry
  • Check dryness by sticking your finger into the soil up to the knuckle.
  • Try bottom watering your plant to avoid overwatering.

 Poor Drainage Creates Water Logged Condition

Some pots do not have punched-out holes at the bottom, or the holes are positioned incorrectly.

As a result, they are poorly drained, preventing air from flowing through the soil and roots. So, the soul becomes moist, allowing root rot fungus to grow.

Solution

  • Purchase a pot with adequate drainage holes at the bottom.
  • Small pebbles or stones should be placed at the bottom of the pot to prevent soil particles from clogging the holes. 

Poorly Drained Soil

Poorly drained soil remains soggy for a long time after watering, creating conducive conditions for root rot.

It also dries into a hard block that prevents root aeration. If you, in turn, over-water your plant, it will stand no chance against this disease.

Solution

Use a well-drained mixture, preferably with 1-part perlite or coarse sand, instead of a generic potting mix for your rubber plant.

Fungal Infection

Fungal infection is one of the most common causes of root rot. When fungi attack your plant, they colonize its tissues and leach nutrients from them, weakening it.

They also degrade the root system’s cell structures and spread throughout the plant.

Fungi That Cause Root Rot

Root rot is caused by five different fungi:

Fungus NameDescription
PythiumOnly young or weak plants are affected. Is a secondary fungus that causes loosening of the bark around the stem and spreads more quickly in wet environments.
 Fusarium solaniIt starts with the roots and spreads to the stem. Temperatures ranging from 68°F to 86°F (20°C to 30°C) promote faster spreading. 
PhytophthoraAffects plants all the way to the stem base and is common when they are watered with cold water or grown in cold environments.
 Thielaviopsis basicolaBrown leaf axils and roots with brown, girded lesions are symptoms.
Rhizoctonia solaniPlants that are affected turn yellow, have girdled stems, and eventually fall and die. Is more noticeable at temperatures ranging from 59-68°F (15-20°C).
(Source)

Solution

  • Disinfect any old pots or instruments that may have come into contact with sick plant parts.
  • Use a copper-based fungicide to get rid of the fungus.

Too Large Pot Holds Water For A Long Time

When the pot is too large, it will hold more water for a longer period of time, resulting in water-logged conditions. This could result in a dead zone around the plant and, ultimately, root rot.

Solution

  • Use a pot that is at least one inch wider than the diameter of the root balls for your plant.
  • Repot in a container that is one or two inches larger than the current container.

Low Temperature Encourages Root Rot

When temperatures drop, your plant’s leaves transpire less, requiring less water. If you do not reduce your watering frequency, the plant may retain more water or avoid taking in more, promoting root rot.

Solution

  • Reduce the amount of watering you do during the winter months.
  • Alternatively, during the colder months, place the plant near (but not next to) a heater.

Watering Out of Season

During seasons such as winter, rubber plants, like other plants, slow down or go dormant.

During this time, they don’t require as much water, and continuing to water at the same frequency could result in overwatering and root rot.

Solution

  • Reduce the amount of watering you do during the dormant season.
  • During the winter, water the plant once or twice a month.

Impermeable Pot Material

While some pot materials are inexpensive, they can be harmful to your plant’s health. This is especially true for plastic that is non-porous and, hence, tends to retain moisture, resulting in waterlogging.

Solution

Use a terracotta or clay pot to grow your rubber plant. Moisture can evaporate from the sides of these materials because they are porous.

How to Save Rubber Plant from Root Rot

You may be able to resolve root rot quickly if you catch it early. Follow these steps to keep your rubber plant from going to seed and eventually dying:

Step 1: Stop Watering

Stop watering the plant as soon as you notice any signs of root rot and let the soil completely dry before watering again. Also, bear in mind:

  • Check that the drainage holes in the pot are not blocked.
  • Empty the tray or saucer regularly.
  • Remove any debris from the surface, e.g., dropped leaves.

Step 2: Remove the Infected Leaves and Parts

After that, remove any damaged leaves or plant parts with a clean, sterilized pair of scissors. It’s possible that you’ll have to remove up to 50% of the foliage.

Improved air circulation, reduced humidity, and the prevention of disease spread are all benefits of this method.

It will also lessen the plant’s nutrient requirements, which will free up the roots to do other things.

Step 3: Remove the Plant from the Pot

Due to the fact that root rot affects the root system first, you must address the issue at its source. With a chopstick, gently peel the soil from your plant’s pot.

Rinse the roots under running water to remove any soil that remains after they’ve been released.

Step 4: Trim the Infected Roots

Identify the infected roots (they will be brown and slimy) and remove them with sterilized scissors. Some of the weakest roots may even fall off by themselves. After you’re finished, re-sanitize the scissors.

Step 5: Repot the Plant

Use a fungicide to kill any remaining fungi on the healthy roots for a few hours. Allow them to sit for a full day in a well-ventilated area to ensure that all pathogens have been eliminated.

Finally, use a well-drained potting soil mix to repot the rubber plant in a new ceramic or terracotta pot.

 Step 6: Water the Plant

Adopt a new watering routine after repotting to avoid clogging the roots of your plant. Potting soil should be moist, but not flooded in water. If the soil is dry, don’t water.

Step 7: Maintain Optimum Conditions

To ensure proper drainage, line the bottom of your pot with pebbles and follow your watering schedule. Until the plant is healthy again, keep it in bright light and don’t feed it.

Step 8: (Severe Root Rot) Propagate the Rubber Plant

If the root rot is severe, your plant may not be saved. Saving some cuttings and starting over with a new rubber plant is your final option. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Trim a few healthy branches to a length of 3 to 6 inches.
  • Remove the bottom third of the branches’ leaves and discard them.
  • Place each cutting in a sterile potting mix after dipping the base into a rooting hormone.
  • Place the pot with the cuttings in an airy location and cover with plastic wrap.
  • Mist the cuttings and the potting mix as needed. 
  • Once the cuttings have sprouted new growth, remove the protective plastic wrap.
  • Transplant the cuttings into the planting pot.
  • Cut the propagated cuttings as needed and water and feed them.

Organic and Chemical Treatment

There are additional root rot treatment options besides those mentioned above, such as: 

Applying Chemical Fungicides

Unless you know exactly what pathogen is causing Rubber Plant Root Rot, using chemical treatments to treat it is a gamble. Getting rid of the healthy fungi that were counteracting the disease-causing fungus can also be a disaster.

As a result, seek advice from an expert before investing in a fungicide for your plant. Consult your local nursery to see if they can help you identify the fungus.

Once you’ve made a correct diagnosis, you’ll be able to find the proper fungicide and apply it correctly.

Hydrogen Peroxide

To combat root rot, you can make your own fungicides using hydrogen peroxide. You can do this by following these simple steps:

Step1:Take an ounce of your home remedy and add it to a quart of water. That’s step one.

Step2: After that, simply pour the resulting solution into a spray bottle and shake it vigorously to combine.

Step 3: Spray the solution on the rubber plant’s leaves and stems.

Step 4: Spray the soil with the mixture you prepared in step three.

 Activated Charcoal

To prevent root rot, use activated charcoal in your potting mix. It’s porous and can absorb excess water.

The added benefits of using activated charcoal over other solutions include its ability to reduce odors and mold growth, as well as its ability to remove impurities from the soil and repel insects.

To use, simply spread a thin layer over the bottom of your pot before adding your potting soil.

Cinnamon 

Many gardeners swear by cinnamon as a natural fungicide because it is non-toxic and doesn’t harm their plants. It’s effective at keeping soil gnats away and preventing root rot.

To make use of it, remove the diseased parts of the plant and then sprinkle some cinnamon over the roots and other trouble spots. You can also incorporate it into the soil by adding a small amount to the mix.

Chamomile

Applied as a liquid, chamomile has a similar effect to cinnamon. Root rot in young trees can be treated with this natural fungicide and microbial agent.

How to Prevent and Control Rubber Plant Root Rot

Root rot can cause significant damage if left untreated. Prevention is the best cure, so here are some ways to keep your rubber plant from dying.

Avoid Waterlogging

Preventing root rot starts with not watering your rubber plant at all. Press your finger up to the first knuckle in the potting mix before watering.

To avoid drowning, water your plant only when the soil feels dry. Do not water if the soil is still wet.

Using Appropriate Soil Mix

Even if you water your plant correctly, if the soil is not well-drained, your efforts will be in vain. A well-drained potting mix will keep your rubber plant’s roots healthy and free of root rot. The best combination is:

  • 1-part pine bark
  • 1-part peat
  • 1-part perlite/coarse sand

Watering Schedule

A rubber plant’s water needs will depend on the current season. In summer – the active growing period – you should keep the soil moist (not wet) and mist or wipe the leaves with a damp cloth.

You will only need to irrigate the plant once or twice a month during the dormant season.

Loosen Soil

To help your soil drain better, try adding some coarse sand or perlite to it. If you do this, the soil in the pot will drain more easily and water will not pool at the bottom.

Small pebbles can be used to line the pot’s base to prevent soil from obstructing the drainage holes.

Rubber Plant Care Requirements

The best conditions for growing rubber plants result in healthy, disease-free rubber plants. Here are a few things to keep in mind in terms of maintenance:

  • Water your rubber plant only when the soil is completely dry. Using your fingers, probe the soil to see if it’s moist. 
  • Choose a location where your plant will receive bright, indirect light. To avoid scorching, keep it out of direct sunlight.
  • Keep your plant’s foliage healthy by pruning and misting it frequently.
  • Keep the humidity and temperature at a comfortable level. During the dry months, mist your plants and think about getting a humidifier.
  • Locate your rubber plant in a well-ventilated area. Keep it away from other plants and move it every now and then to enhance circulation.
  • Feed your plant once a month with a nutrient-rich fertilizer diluted according to the instructions provided.

It’s extremely difficult to get rid of rubber plant root rot once it’s established itself, especially if it’s spread to the foliage.

Fungicide drench could solve the problem, but this only works if you know the fungus causing the root rot. 

Nevertheless, there are things you can do at home to keep your plant alive and prevent it from going to seed.

Keep the soil well-drained and the plant well-aerated by following a regular watering schedule.