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What to Do if Rubber Plant Leaves are Turning Yellow and Falling Off

What to Do if Rubber Plant Leaves are Turning Yellow and Falling Off
The popularity of the rubber plant as an ornamental plant is due to its large, glossy, and leathery foliage. The reason behind the rubber plant leaves turning yellow and falling off could range from exposure to dry air, powdery mildew, to the plant being pot bound.
Smita Pandit
Last Updated: Feb 24, 2018
Did You Know?
According to the NASA Clean Air study, the rubber plant is one of the potent air-cleaning plants that can naturally remove a pollutant called formaldehyde from the air.
You don't need to be a gardening enthusiast to know why anyone would bring home a rubber plant. It is placed in the category or ornamental plants because of its shiny, large leaves. Native to Southeast Asia, the rubber plant belongs to the Ficus genus and Moraceae family. The scientific name of this plant is Ficus elastica. It is also known by other names such as the Indian rubber fig, Indian rubber bush, etc.

One of the popular cultivars of the rubber plant is Decora. Its large, glossy foliage grows up to a foot in length. If you are interested in getting a rubber plant with larger leaves, Ficus elastica robusta is the right choice, as it produces foliage that is larger than that of Ficus elastica decora. The color of the foliage could vary, depending on the variety. For instance, some varieties produce purple-tinged foliage. Some varieties have variegated leaves.

In the wild, this plant can grow up to a height of 100 feet or more. If you are interested in keeping this plant indoors, make sure that you select the location wisely, as this plant can grow up to 10 feet tall. To ensure that your rubber plant looks pretty at all times, you need to keep its foliage healthy. For the leaves to stay green and shiny, you will have to provide it with the ideal environment. If your plant is losing too many leaves, then you certainly need to identify the problem quickly.
Information About the Rubber Plant
Rubber plant
Ficus elastica
Genus: Ficus
Family: Moraceae
Order: Rosales
Scientific name: Ficus elastica
Also Called: Rubber fig, rubber bush, Indian rubber bush
Plant Type: Evergreen
Foliage Type: Green leaves that are large and glossy
Native to: Southeast Asia
USDA Hardiness Zone: 10 to 11
Temperature: Between 60-75ºF (15-24ºC); Avoid temperatures lower than 55ºF (12ºC)
Humidity: Normal room humidity
Light Requirements: Brightly-lit location; Avoid direct sunlight
Soil Requirements: Well-drained soil
Watering Needs: Average watering to keep the soil moist; Avoid excessive watering
Maintenance Category: Low
Fertilization: Apply liquid fertilizer during spring and summer
Propagation: By stem tip cuttings
Pests: Mealybugs, scales, and mites
Contributing Factors for the Yellowing of Rubber Plant Leaves
It is natural for the old leaves at the bottom to fall off. More often than not, leaves begin to turn yellow with seasonal changes in the temperature or humidity. At times, the plant might be exposed to sudden changes owing to its placement. So, you should ask yourself whether you have been fulfilling the light, soil, or watering needs of this plant. At times, the yellowing of the leaves could be associated with the soil type or issues related to watering.
Exposure to Cold Drafts
A cold draft refers to a current of cold air that is being drawn inside the house. So, make sure that you don't place your rubber plant near a door or a place that is not protected from cold winds.
The temperature of the room will change, when the plant gets exposed to cold winds due to frequent opening of such doors and windows. The ideal nighttime temperature range is 60-65ºF and 75-80ºF during the day. The temperature should not fall lower than 45ºF. Don't place the pot around central heating vents, as that would bring about a change in the humidity levels. If the humidity levels are low, you can mist the plant to raise the humidity levels.
Though this plant needs to placed at a location that is bright, it doesn't need direct sunlight. So, make sure that you choose a place that receives filtered sunlight. Exposure to harsh rays of the sun can also damage the foliage, thereby causing its leaves to turn yellow, wilt, or eventually fall off. On the other hand, inadequate light can also cause the leaves to turn yellow or drop.
Excessive watering is one of the major reasons behind the yellowing of foliage. Though the soil needs to be moist, it should not be waterlogged. Problems arise when the pot doesn't have drainage holes, or the drainage hole is plugged. This prevents the excess water from seeping through. This leads to the development of root rot, which can cause the foliage color to change into yellow. The leaves might eventually fall off. So, water this plant deeply, and wait till the soil is slightly dry. You shouldn't allow the plant to sit in water. So, remove the excess water from the drip tray. Though you should allow the soil to become dry before you water the plant again, make sure that the soil doesn't become bone dry.
Overgrown Roots
This plant grows fast, which is why the root system of the plant can become pot-bound. The roots become cramped within the limited space of the pot, which in turn limits the supply of nutrients and water. This inhibits the growth of the plant. The lack of nutrition can cause the leaves to turn yellow or die.
If the plant has outgrown its pot, you should consider repotting it in a container that is slightly bigger than the pot in which the plant was placed earlier. Don't apply a fertilizer after repotting. Wait till you see signs of new growth.
Yellowing of the leaves could also be a sign of an infestation. Mealybugs, scales, and mites are known to affect this plant. Use a natural pesticide if there are signs of an infestation. If you are able to identify the ideal location for a rubber plant and provide the growing conditions it needs, its foliage will remain glossy-green, the quality that prompted you to bring it home.
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