CONSEQUENCES OF OVERWATERING FICUS ELASTICA, A.K.A. ‘RUBBER PLANT’
If you hang out on Instagram these days, you will see plants in their prime, with extraordinarily fresh leaves, an elegant stand, incredible colors or rare features. It’s nice to photograph them straight out from the plant nursery, but it’s nicer to be able to maintain them in ‘instagrammable’ condition. You know it by now, my focus is all about helping you care for your favorite plants on the long run.
That’s why in this aricle I will give you a step-by-step explanation of how I over-watered my rubber plant and how I fortunately realized the issue before it was too late. I hope all the rubber plant parents out there will benefit from that!
In a rush? Scroll straight down to see the care tips now.
THE RUBBER PLANT IS A HARDY SPECIES, NO NEED TO OVER-CARE
I was about to go on holidays and decided to water my rubber plant (Ficus Elastica) one last time. I'm always careful when I water my rubber plant because I know that it doesn't tolerate large amounts of water very well.
At home, this plant is still potted in its original plastic pot. But it is placed inside a larger decorative ceramic pot (as you can see above) and overlaid with a thick layer of moss. So, the plastic pot is out of reach, and, because of that, I'm forced to water from above, which makes things even more difficult. My preferred watering technique is to water from below instead (soaking it in a tray) because it's more homogeneous and the plant can absorb just what it wants before I drain excess water away. Back to my story, I didn't have a choice and watered with the content of one large glass and left for vacation. I guess that it is the technique that's used by many of you, so I thought that it was worth writing about it. Guess what happened next? When I came back two of the bottom leaves were feeling unwell and turned yellow. One yellow leaf dropped this morning when I moved the plant and the other one will follow soon, sadly. Not sure if I'll be able to recover this leaf. Let's analyze what's happened and learn something:
THE STEP-BY-STEP over-watering drama
The soil was totally dry initially, but the plant was feeling healthy.
Planning ahead for the holiday break, I watered from above, too much at once. The water intake wasn't homogeneous and the excess water didn't drain properly.
Roots at the bottom of the pot had to sit in excess water for many days.
The plant reacted to this by sacrificing the older leaves at the bottom of the stem, in favor of the new ones (the large leaves that are directly attached to the main stem of the plant are the oldest)
I probably should have watered less, more evenly, or made sure to drain excess water properly (see the soaking technique which constantly proves to have better results).
To fix the problem, I stopped watering her for a longer period of time, cut the dead leaves and let her be. I know she can grow on neglect and that I was being a little over-caring with her. She’s a grown-up, lesson’s learned!
My TIPS FOR Rubber Plant CARE (Ficus Elastica)
Prefer watering from below, by soaking the plant in a tray during a couple of hours. In my experience it’s more homogeneous and less prone to over-watering.
When you water it, don't drench it and make sure that all the water drains well out of the pot. No roots sitting in water, okay?! To do that, I hold my plant up by the plastic pot and wiggle it, to help drain excess water out through the drainage holes. I then leave the plant outside the decorative pot for a couple of hours before I put it back.
Rubber plant is a hardy species that tolerates dry soil quite well, so prefer staying on the under-watering side.
If the older leaves (usually the largest ones, at the bottom) are becoming yellow or brown, that's a sign of overwatering.
Let it dry out fully during longer periods of time between waterings.
If the yellow/brown spots are spreading from the inner part of the leaf and out, that's again a sign of overwatering.
On the contrary, if the plant is under-watered, all the leaves will become softer or droopy, not only the bottom ones.
If the air is too dry, the tips will dry out first and the yellow/brown spots will grow inwards.
When the plant is well hydrated, leaves are strong and firm, holding up well, with a nice waxy glow.
THE RIGHT LIGHT
The rubber plant is one of my favorite Invincible Houseplants because I know it will soon recover from this little mishap. Not a revengeful plant. Generally speaking, it accommodates very well for both bright indirect sunlight and low light, as well as can stand relatively long periods without water.
Interesting fact about Ficus Elastica
The rubber plant is part of the well-known Ficus (or Fig) family.
The rubber plant yields a milky white latex, which was formerly used to produce latex for rubber making. It's now been replaced by another species, but the Latin name 'Elastica' still refers to this time.
I hope this gives you more confidence and a better understanding of raising a Ficus Elastica or Rubber Plant.
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