Rubber Plant Leaves Turning Brown (Causes And What You Can Do About It)

Rubber plant leaves turning brown

Beautiful and classic rubber plants or Ficus elastica, are popular houseplants among the masses. These plants gained traction during the Victorian era and are still going strong, all thanks to their beautiful structure and big, bold leaves and foliage. The leaves are biggest in size when the plant is young, and shrink as they mature.

But sometimes, these same beautiful, rugged, and bold leaves can develop brown spots or patches. The situation is quite alarming and can happen due to a variety of reasons. In this article, I will discuss with you all why your rubber plant leaves are turning brown and what you can do to fix it.


The leaves of rubber plants turn brown mostly due to irregular watering, sunburn, old foliage, and root rot. To fix the problem, you need to address the cause first. Unfortunately, the leaves that have already turned brown won’t get back to their former glory. But if you can manage to treat the cause in time, you can prevent the rest of the leaves and foliage from meeting the same fate.

Why Are My Rubber Plant’s Leaves Turning Brown?

If the leaves of your rubber plant or any other houseplant are changing color, it’s definitely not a good sign. There could be multiple causes behind the leaves of your rubber plant turning brown. So it’s imperative for you to take a look at all the possible causes and make the required adjustments. Below we’ve listed some of the most common causes behind the browning of the rubber plant leaves.

  1. Aging:

If you’ve had a plant before, you’d know that the leaves turn brown and die as they mature. It’s an inevitable process and affects every tree and plant. It may start with one leaf and then soon after, you’ll see several leaves at the lower part of the foliage turning brown. This is quite a normal process, especially if you’ve had your rubber plant for a long time.

However, if you’re seeing the leaves of the top portion of the plant turning brown, it might be a cause of concern. A plant that’s stressed or is struggling due to some underlying condition could show up as brown leaves.

What Can You Do About It?

If the browning of the rubber plant leaves is due to aging, you need to do nothing. But to be on the safer side, we would suggest you look at the other possible causes, such as the watering routine, light supply, and more, especially if the browning is occurring on the top portion of the plant.

  1. Overwatering:

Rubber plant or Ficus elastica does not mind thriving in soggy soil. But if you leave it in damp soil for a long period of time, it can lead to root rot, which in turn can damage the plant and leaves. Waterlogged soil gives rise to decaying pathogens, which prevent the plant from absorbing oxygen, nutrients, and even water. Not just soggy soil, but poorly drained soil housed in a pot without a drainage hole can also lead to root rot. Apart from that, a low level of lighting can also make your plant susceptible to root rot. Plants that are devoid of light absorb water slowly, which leads to root rot.

The first sign of damage by the root rot is the yellowing or browning of leaves. If the browning of the leaves is indeed due to root rot, you will see yellow leaves with browning tips. So leave everything and get started with the treatment.

What Can You Do About It?

If you think root rot by overwatering is causing the browning of your rubber plant leaves, your first step should be to inspect the roots well. The healthy roots look white or off-white and have an appealing, earthy scent to them. When the roots are rotten, they turn brown or black in color, get mushy and emit a foul smell. If you have a couple of healthy roots still left, you can save your plant. But if the entire root system has been damaged, you won’t be able to revive your plant.

Cut off the damaged roots, wash the roots thoroughly in the water and replant in fresh, well-drained soil. If everything is done fine, you’ll see new and healthy growth soon.

  1. Underwatering:

If the leaves of your rubber plant have started looking crispy, along with brown, it could be because of underwatering. Most of the plant parents make this mistake fearing soggy soil. Sometimes, rootbound can also make it difficult for the plant to absorb water.

What Can You Do About It?

Do not stop watering your plant fearing water-logging. You can check the dryness of the soil by inserting a stick or finger two inches deep into the soil. If the top few inches of the soil feel dry, you can water your plant. Or you can check the dryness of the soil from the drainage hole. You need to make sure that the entire root ball is saturated well with water. This is especially important when you have put peat in the soil. Peat finds it hard to dehydrate when it has dried.

  1. Temperature Changes And Humidity:

Temperature changes can stress out Ficus elastica, turning the leaves brown. Since rubber plants are tropical plants, they start feeling uneasy when the temperature drops below °13C or 55°F.

You also need to take care of the humidity level of the place you’ve put the rubber plant. Otherwise, your rubber plant won’t grow. Not to forget, it can increase the browning of the leaf, followed by leaf loss.

If low humidity is indeed the problem, you’ll find your plant lacking the standard rubber plant luster. Even the leaves start taking a yellow tint and turn droopy.

What Can You Do About It?

Simple! Do not subject your rubber plant to drastic temperature changes. Keep them at a spot where they can receive consistent light. And adjust the spot according to the season. Ensure that it’s getting its regular supply of moisture through the air, not just by watering. One of the easiest ways to increase the humidity level of your plant is by placing the pot on a tray filled with pebbles.

If possible, invest in a hygrometer or humidifier to keep the humidity levels in check. They are a good investment for gardeners. You may not require a humidifier in summers, but it can come in handy in winters when heating sucks moisture from the air. This leads to seasonal browning of the leaves too. In that case, your rubber plant may benefit from a humidifier.

  1. Impurities Of Water And Soil:

Tap water contains high levels of chemicals and minerals, which can give rise to brown tips and brown spots on the leaves. The good news is that it’s not really a matter of concern until the problem becomes extreme. Sometimes, the entire leaf can turn brown due to these minerals and chemicals, and then it becomes necessary to probe into the issue.

Sometimes, even the contaminants in the soil can cause the browning of leaves. These contaminants are usually unused chemicals, such as fertilizer that build up in the soil and become toxic.

What Can You Do About It?

If the tap water is the culprit behind the brown tinge on the rubber plant leaves, avoid using it altogether. Use filtered, pure, or distilled water for some time and see if that makes any difference. Alternatively, you can put out a container of tap water, uncovered for 2 to 3 days. This will make all the minerals evaporate.

If toxic soil is the issue, we would suggest you flushing the soil after every watering. This will build up all the residual toxins present in the soil. And it’s quite easy to do. Just run water through the pot and let it drain out completely. If you’re using heavy soil, you can do monthly or quarterly flushing.

  1. Sunburn:

Sunburn is another common cause behind the browning of rubber tree leaves. When you expose your rubber plant to an excess amount of light, be it natural or artificial, the leaves will turn brown or will develop brown spots. When the leaves are browning due to overexposure to light, they turn crisp, parched, and droopy. So that’s your cue in this case.

What Can You Do About It?

If you’ve determined the cause to be overexposure to light, the obvious thing to do here is changing the spot of your rubber plant. You need to be very careful about the changing weather/season. The spot, be it a door or window that is not receiving extremely bright light today could turn into a heating furnace as the sun changes its position.

Furthermore, the brown spot or browning of the leaves won’t disappear even if you’ve changed the position of your plant. Those leaves are almost dead, so the best thing to do is safely trim them. But leave a partly damaged foliage so that it continues to produce energy for the plant.

  1. Diseases:

Rubber plants, when kept in an ideal condition, are quite immune to diseases. But sometimes, it may get infected by fungus, which mostly shows up a mottling, discoloration, and browning of leaves. Fungal infections usually take place in wet or humid conditions and leave white deposits on the plant in the initial stage.

Prevention is always better than cure. So your first step should be to prevent it from happening in the first place. Provide your plant with everything that it needs and give it proper care. If the plant is suffering from a fungal infection, it isn’t something to worry about as fungal infections are not really fatal. Just reduce the moisture level in and around the plant and the infection will subside in a couple of days. If you want, you can trim the affected parts so that it doesn’t transfer to the healthier portions of the plant.

  1. Incorrect Soil Mix:

If you’ve planted your Ficus elastica in a heavy soil mix, it will be wet for a long period of time. And if the soil is too light and fast-draining, it will dry too quickly.

What Can You Do About It?

The best soil for your rubber plant should be organic with a good water retention capacity. To facilitate drainage, add some aerating material to the soil mix, such as perlite, bark, pumice, or coarse sand.

If the soil isn’t perfect for rubber plants, you must learn to work with whatever you have. If you’ve opted for light and quick-draining soil, you’ll need to water it frequently. You can even flush the soil while watering.

If the soil is heavy, you’ll have to monitor it carefully and water carefully so that it doesn’t lead to waterlogging. You should also try to improve ventilation so that the soil dries out fast.

Despite doing everything, if the leaves are still turning brown and you suspect soil to be the issue, we would suggest you repotting the plant. It’s not that rubber plants won’t be able to thrive in damp soil, but it will make it much pleasant for them to live.

  1. Pest Infestation:

Pest infestation is a serious issue and causes severe damage to the plant in a short span of time. They suck on the leaves and foliage, which causes deformity in the plants. The plant, not just the leaves, eventually take a brown color and then dies. Fortunately, rubber plants are not very susceptible to pest infestations, but they can attract scales, which like to hide in the nooks of the plants. Furthermore, they are very difficult to spot, which makes the outcome worst.

What Can You Do About It?

If you have a houseplant at home, it’s your duty to inspect it regularly and clean the entire plant routinely. This will prevent pest infestation while keeping your plant healthy and beautiful looking. Cleaner plants also breathe freely, which many do not take seriously.

If you spot the infestation, apply neem oil on the plants after wiping it with isopropyl or rubbing alcohol. When you wipe the plant with rubbing alcohol, and it leaves color, it means it wasn’t a part of the plant and were in fact, pests.

  1. Over Or Under Feeding:

Ficus elastica likes its soil to be nutritionally rich but isn’t a heavy feeder. Hence, people often make the mistake of over-fertilizing it. The first sign of overfeeding is burnt dry and brown leaves. The damage first appears at the tip of the leaf and then moves downwards. This happens due to the buildup of fertilizer in the soil.

The tricky thing here is that even underfeeding can also lead to brown foliage. The first sign of nutrition deficiency in a plant is weak and undernourished foliage. The leaves go yellow first before turning brown.

So you need to understand the difference between the two before applying the line of treatment.

What Can You Do About It?

Flushing of the soil works excellent at getting rid of excess fertilizer. Just flush it well so that all the fertilizer salts get diluted. And do not make the mistake of adding fertilizer until you see new growth. So feed your plant only during its growing season, which is spring-summer.

Never go overboard with fertilizers. It hasn’t done any plant any good, and won’t do anything positive for your rubber plant as well. Use a little quantity of water-soluble fertilizer, dilute it with water and then spray it on the plant. This won’t just prevent burning, but will also ensure that the nutrients reach every part of the plant. Here’s one of the best liquid fertilizers you can get online.

  1. Repotting Or Stress Due To Moving:

If you have moved your rubber plant from one place to another or you have just brought your rubber plant from a nursery, you need to give it some time so that it can repair itself. Sometimes, the leaves of a rubber plant may turn brown when there’s a disruption or change in their environment. The leaves may even droop during that time.

What Can You Do About It?

There’s nothing much to do here except giving your rubber plant some time to bounce back. We can’t say that the brown leaves will turn back green again, but it will stop further damage.

How To Prevent Brown Leaves In Rubber Plants?

why is my rubber plant leaves turning brown

Below we have listed some preventive measures you can undertake to prevent the browning of your rubber plant leaves.

  1. Provide Adequate Amount Of Water To Your Rubber Plant:

When it comes to houseplants, you need to maintain the balance between underwatering or overwatering. Do not get carried away by either of them. Ideally, you should water your rubber plant every 4 to 5 days. It will keep the soil adequately moist.

[Related:  Rubber Plant Water Requirements ]

  1. Use Proper Soil Mix Meant For Ficus Elastica:

For your rubber plant, always use good quality and organic, peat-based potting mix. You can add coco peat, perlite, or vermiculite to increase the moisture retention capacity of the soil.

  1. Always Keep An Eye On Your Plant:

As a plant parent, it’s your responsibility to look out for your plants, no matter how hardy it is. You need to be attentive to every need of your plant so that it doesn’t get root rot. Even if it does fall prey to root rot, you should aim to fix the problem immediately to keep the plant from dying. Always pick pots with drainage holes and plant your Ficus elastica in well-drained soil. Don’t forget to cut off the damaged leaves, roots, and stems to avoid further damage.

  1. Provide Sufficient Lighting To Your Plant:

Rubber plants prefer bright, indirect sunlight, so ensure that you provide them the same all year long. If the light coming from the windows is too bright, filter it with a sheer curtain. Early morning and late noon sun is best for rubber plants. And if you keep your plants outdoors, make sure to keep it under the shade so that it doesn’t fall victim to bright, direct sunlight. If the temperature crosses 85 degrees F, it’s best you bring your rubber plant indoors.

  1. Use Water Softener:

This is a good idea for those who use tap water for plants. Rainwater is also excellent for plants.

We hope our article helps you treat the browning of your rubber plant leaves at the earliest. The good thing here is that rubber plants grow quickly to replace the damaged leaves with the healthier ones, once you’re able to treat the root cause. So all you need to do is follow the guide properly. And always keep a close on your plant whenever it’s showing any sign of abnormality, be it wilting foliage or leaves changing color. Once you get to know the issue, fixing it wouldn’t really be tough. Just try to address the issue as soon as possible to restore good health and buoyancy to your plant.

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