I’d say that rubber plants are a houseplant staple so it’s surely not a great sight when they become all droopy and sad-looking. Can you save a drooping rubber plant? The good news is, yes—you can make your droopy rubber plant stand lively again!
A rubber plant can droop and have wilting leaves because of 1) overwatering, 2) underwatering, 3) low temperature, 4) low humidity, 5) insufficient sunlight, 6) poor soil quality, 7) overfertilization, 8) lack of growing space, 9) transplant shock, 10) pest infestation, and 11) fungal diseases.
How do you perk up a droopy rubber plant? Well, at the end of the day, looking after your rubber plant will prevent and fix drooping. But what exactly does this entail? Scroll on to discover the answer!
Excessively wet soils due to overwatering further aggravated by poor drainage can cause rubber plants to droop and wilt. They prefer evenly moist but well-draining soil.
If you’ve read our other articles before, then you’ve probably heard of this again and again. But I’m not just including it to make the list longer.
Overwatering is one of the most common problems that plant lovers experience!
When left waterlogged for a long time without proper, your potted rubber plant—just like any other plant—will end up having its roots suffocating and pretty much drowning.
Explore the other major signs of overwatering in plants!
Plant roots are susceptible to serious damage with too much water.
This is why drainage holes are essential regardless of what type of planter material you keep them in. Otherwise, there’s an even higher chance of your plant dying from all the water.
Don’t water your rubber plant every single day, let it dry a bit between watering to avoid overwatering it—especially during the winter months. Make sure it stays somewhat moist for the most part but never soaking wet.
Build a habit of checking your plant’s pots to see if the drainage holes are blocked by anything. If it doesn’t have any yet, add enough to ensure sufficient drainage.
Underwatering a rubber plant can cause it to droop due to insufficient moisture. Its soil must be kept evenly moist during the spring and summer seasons. Signs of underwatered soil are excessive dryness and firmness.
Much like how babies need to drink a lot of milk during development to fuel their growth spurt, rubber plants also need plenty of water to encourage development in their active growing season.
Naturally, if they are not given enough water during such a crucial period in their growth, then won’t grow well. But that’s in best-case scenarios.
Here are other common signs of underwatered rubber plants:
- Yellowing leaves
- Browning leaves
- Dry leaves
- Leaf curling
- Leaf drops
- Black new growth
Worst-case scenario, a drying droopy rubber plant that isn’t getting the water it needs can end up dying entirely.
Having said that, rubber plants can tolerate their soils to get pretty dry but only during fall and winter when they are dormant.
Don’t plant dry out too much by keeping its soil relatively moist, especially while it’s actively growing during the warmer months of the year.
To note though, rubber plants don’t require a strict watering regimen. Just water it whenever the top inch or so dries up.
Pro Tip: Nevertheless, I’d recommend setting up 1–2 days each week to check on all of your plants if you are busy with work, chores, and/or taking care of a huge collection.
3. Low Temperatures
Low temperatures below 55°F (13°C) stresses rubber plants and cause drooping. Rubber plants prefer considerably warm growing temperatures of 60–80°F (16–27°C).
Although rubber plants can thrive in average room temperatures in temperate regions including many parts of North America, they aren’t a fan of the cold.
Unlike Elsa, the cold bothers rubber plants quite a lot!
Prolonged exposure to such cold temperatures can result in substantial wilting of these plants. They’re more likely to develop darkened new growth in such conditions too.
Once temperatures dip way below 40°F (4°C), most ficus plants are even more prone to sustaining cold injuries.
Got freezing winters? Choose frost-tolerant plants!
This, along with excessive water in the soil and bad lighting can cause rubber plants to form cork-like masses on their leaves and petioles—which is referred to as oedema or edema.
Don’t place rubber plants near entryways, vents, and air-conditioning units. Place them in a more sheltered area that has relatively stable temperatures all year round.
In cases where unexpected drops in temperatures are expected, keep the room warm with a space heater (here on Amazon) but don’t place your plant too close either.
4. Low Humidity
Despite being somewhat tolerant of low humidity, rubber plants can turn yellow and droopy from overly dry air. A rubber plant requires 40% humidity for good growth.
Just like with soil moisture, rubber plants can handle being exposed to air on the drier side of the spectrum. But this won’t let them thrive.
Excessively dry air in most homes during the cold winter months, in particular, can be detrimental to the growth and development of a humidity-loving plant like the rubber plant.
In serious cases, its leaves will not only droop but also eventually fall from the lack of moisture they can absorb from both the soil and air.
Don’t keep rubber plants in areas that are incredibly dry and too closed off. They grow best with moderate to high humidity paired with good air circulation.
If you find that the humidity levels in your home repeatedly drop down to about 5–15% for months on end, I think that it will definitely be worthwhile to invest in a humidifier like the one below on Amazon.
5. Insufficient Light
Rubber plants are going to droop if they do not receive adequate lighting. Indoors, these plants thrive in medium to high-light conditions.
Sure, your potted rubber plant may survive in a low-light area in your house such as in a stairwell with no windows and a low-powered light that’s not all that bright.
You see, in their native habitats, ficus plants live by the forest floor, with bright indirect sunlight exposure.
But if you keep it in ever darker corners where it receives little to no light—both natural and artificial—then, it’s bound to suffer and weaken greatly over time.
Without enough light exposure, especially in a windowless room, rubber plants will naturally start drooping and wilting.
Don’t abruptly change the lighting condition your rubber plant is exposed to. Gradually adjust its lighting conditions to avoid drooping and falling leaves.
It’s best to place them near a north or east-facing window so they can get up to 6 hours of morning sunlight. You can also place it a few feet away from curtained south windows.
6. Poor Soil Quality
Low-quality soil that retains too much water, compacts easily, and lacks nutrients make rubber plants droop. Well-draining soil and monthly feeding are recommended.
As I explained earlier, saturated soils are not good for rubber plants. Neither are heavy mixes.
Such foliage plants don’t mesh well with soil mixes that have too much clay, loam soil, compost, and other similar organic materials.
Besides that, rubber plants don’t like infertile soil either.
In ficus, the most common nutrient deficiency that could contribute to weak growth and limping is nitrogen deficiency.
All of these together may cause the following in rubber plants
- Yellowing leaves
- Dropping of lower leaves
Don’t forget to fertilize your rubber plant in spring and summer, especially if it gets tons of light so it has enough nutrients to support all its new growth. You can do so as often as once or twice a month with a mild complete liquid fertilizer solution like this one from Amazon.
You can also keep your rubber plant in a fresh potting mix that’s well-draining. Mix 3 parts soilless potting mix with 1 part peat moss or coco coir and 1 part sand or perlite.
Because rubber plants grown as houseplants get less light, applying too much fertilizer can cause burning and drooping. They only need to be fed every 1–2 months.
The truth of the matter is too much of anything can be deadly—even your smothering love for your plants!
Even though this doesn’t happen as often as overwatering it seems to be a more common mistake among gardening newbies.
They get a bit too impatient at times and try to speed up their plants’ growth by applying too much fertilizers.
Whatever the case, however, excess fertilizer will only accumulate in the soil and end up burning your rubber plant’s roots which will eventually cause it to wilt and die.
Don’t feed your rubber plant too much or too often, it’ll do more harm than good. Only feed it every month or so during the growing season and hold off entirely during fall and winter.
Pro Tip: If you want to further err on the side of caution, apply the fertilizer at half-strength—especially if your ficus is not getting a lot of light.
Now, if your plant has already been overfertilized it’s best to get rid of all the extra fertilizer by leaching the potting mix. For more serious cases, it may be best to replant it in fresh soil.
8. Lack of Space
Pot-bound rubber plants that no longer have enough space for growth will ultimately droop and wilt. They should be checked every 2 years or so for needs of up-potting.
Though they’re commonly grown as houseplants, the shrubby rubber plant can actually grow into a very tall sprawling tree!
Just for context, wild rubber plants that have a great expanse of land to grow on have been recorded to grow up to over 190–200 feet (57–60 m).
Even indoors, the rubber plant can reach heights of 6–10 feet (1.8–3m). But this is only possible if they still have room for growth.
Otherwise, they’ll run out of soil, water, and nutrients to pull resources from in the container that they’ve outgrown.
After being left root-bound for a long time, rubber plants are bound to weaken and wilt. Their newer much smaller leaves may also start curling as well.
Don’t forget to top the potting mix in your rubber plant’s pot every now. This helps replace all the soil that has broken down completely.
Never keep them in the same small pot they came with either. As a general rule, you should check it every 2 years or so for root binding. Once they are, give them a pot 2 sizes bigger.
Pro Tip: Repot rubber plants late in winter or early in spring so that it has enough time to grow well in the coming growing season.
9. Transplant Shock
It is quite common for rubber plants to droop and drop leaves after being transplanted and/or moved to another area. To prevent serious damage, let it adjust gradually.
Although it isn’t ideal, it’s pretty common for plants to sustain damage to their roots when they’re being transplanted. Some even lose a few small roots at times.
The shock your plant can experience may be greatly heightened if you place it in a completely different room in your house as well.
Drastic changes in temperature, humidity, and lighting can stress and damage rubber plants no matter how healthy they were before being transferred.
Fortunately, you can minimize such adverse effects—including drooping—on your plants if you keep a few things in mind.
Don’t transplant unhealthy rubber plants or those that have not yet fully recovered from other problems. They’re unlikely to respond well to the change and may even fully wilt.
Also, it’s best to only transplant your rubber plant late in spring once it has already been fed and has shown new growth. It is much more able to adjust in such cases. More importantly, be careful when handling the roots to minimize damage as much as possible.
10. Pest Damage
Damage incurred from serious pest infestation will result in droopy rubber plants. These often suck out moisture and nutrients from the plant which causes wilting. Regularly inspect plants for pests and remove them immediately after.
Many common houseplant pests literally suck the life out of plants which leads them to droop, deteriorate, and die. You may also notice leaf spots and dieback.
Pests known to damage rubber plants are
Got a thriving flower or vegetable garden in your yard?
Then, you may be inadvertently letting them in whenever you tend to your houseplants directly after returning from your outdoor garden.
Don’t wait until the damage is serious before acting. Get rid of any pests immediately after spotting them, you can do so with your hand, alcohol-dipped Q-tips, or a good hosing down.
Afterward, spray the plant with a mix of insecticidal soap and horticultural oil—castile soap and neem oil are a common pairing. Repeat this until there’s no longer any trace of pests.
In rare cases where the damage is simply too severe to fix, it’ll be more practical to discard your infested rubber plant entirely.
11. Fungal Diseases
A variety of fungal diseases can cause rubber plants to droop and rot including but not limited to stem rot and die-back. Following a consistent watering schedule is the most basic prevention measure against such diseases.
Contrary to popular belief, plant diseases are considered a somewhat uncommon problem in houseplants like rubber plants in favorable growing conditions.
Mistakes in care—especially with overwatering—can, however, make it more susceptible to contracting and suffering from plant diseases. Root and stem rot, in particular, are common.
Common pathogens that cause diseases in rubber plants include:
Symptoms of infection will vary depending on which pathogen is responsible but serious cases usually involve drooping, falling leaves, and wilting.
Don’t forget to check up on your plant’s health regularly, check the soil and every nook and crevice of your plant for the presence of fungi and spores.
Remove affected plant parts to avoid further spread, replace the soil if it’s been contaminated, water plants directly through their soil, and apply the necessary fungicide.
Last but not least, always remember to disinfect your tools before and after using them!
Do droopy rubber plant leaves turn yellow?
Droopy rubber plant leaves can also turn yellow for a wide variety of reasons—overwatering is one of the most common causes for both drooping and yellowing. The discoloration of its floppy leaves can also be attributed to issues regarding lighting conditions, fertilizer application, and soil quality. Lower leaves are often affected first.
Is the rubber plant toxic to cats?
The rubber plant is considered mildly toxic for not only cats but also dogs, horses, and even humans. Both direct skin contact and ingestion of it can result in adverse side effects like irritation and inflammation due to its sap which contains poisonous compounds like ficin, ficusin, and furanocoumarins.
Summary of Rubber Plant Drooping
Waterlogged soils, severe underwatering, temperatures below 55°F, humidity levels around 5–15%, poor lighting conditions, poor-quality potting soil mix, excessive application of fertilizer, insufficient room for growth, drastic change in its growing environment, serious cases of pest infestation, and fungal diseases cause rubber plants to droop.
Prevent rubber plants from drooping with a consistent watering regimen, warm temperatures of up to 80°F (27°C), moderate humidity of around 40%, moderate to high lighting, high-quality well-draining soil, monthly fertilizer application, up-potting every 2 years, gradual adjustments in growing conditions, and regular inspection for pests and diseases.
- “Rubber Plant” by Karen Russ and Robert F. Polomski in the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service
- “Ficus elastica” by n/a in the N.C. Cooperative Extension
- “Care and Selection of Ficus” by Cynthia D. Mitchell in the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chemung County
- “Ficus Diseases” by Gary W. Moorman in the PennState Extension
- “Recognizing and Caring for Frost Damaged Plants” by Brent McGhie in the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources
- “Lighting Indoor Houseplants” by Ray R. Rothenberger in the University of Missouri Extension
- “Houseplant Diseases & Disorders” by Marjan Kluepfel and James H. Blake in the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service