Rubber plants or Ficus elastica are quite hardy and fast-growing plants. And it’s for these very reasons, they are one of the most popular houseplant options. These plants can reach a height of 10 feet or more in no time. But sometimes, even these fast-growing plants can be a victim of stunted growth. That’s because, no matter how fast-growing the plant is, if you do not provide it with suitable thriving conditions, it won’t grow. In this article, we will discuss all the possible causes of stagnant rubber plant growth and what you can do to fix it.
One of the most common causes behind slow growth in rubber plants is insufficient light. Rubber plant or Ficus elastica requires bright, but indirect light to grow at an optimum pace. So if you fail to provide it with a sufficient amount of light, it won’t grow. Other than that, improper watering routine, size of the pot, growing season, soil problems, and some other plant issues such as pest infestation could be the reason behind the slow growth of rubber plants.
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How Tall Can Rubber Plant Get?
Rubber plants are fast growers and if kept in the ideal environment, they can grow up to 10 to 12 feet tall. The best part is that you don’t have to tend it all the time for it to achieve that height. Just find them the perfect spot and give them all the things they need and they will reach the ceiling in no time.
Please keep in mind that baby rubber plants will grow at a fast rate by adapting to the environment you’ve kept in. But the mature ones, that are used to grow in the wild, will find it hard to adjust indoors. The growth will be consistent, but not as fast as it is in the wild. This isn’t a bad thing at all. Very few people would want their rubber plant to reach their ceiling. And if your rubber has almost reached the ceiling, the best thing for you to do is prune them to bring to a manageable height.
How Fast Do Rubber Plants or Ficus Elastica Grow?
Rubber plants have a pretty good growth rate. They can grow anywhere between two to six inches every month if provided with an optimal growing condition, which means regular watering, sufficient amount of light, well-drained soil, and fertilizer if needed. The growth season of rubber plants is from spring to fall. These plants go dormant during winters.
I would also like to point out that rubber plants grow at different rates in different places, even in your house. This is because the physical factors required for the proper growth of a plant aren’t the same at each spot. So if your rubber plant has stopped growing, you can move it to a different place to see how it reacts to it.
Why Has My Rubber Plant Stopped Growing?
Houseplants try to complete their lifecycle by making use of all the resources and materials they can get. These materials, resources, or conditions include light, water, nutrients, temperature, weather, humidity, and more. So if any of these things are not enough in supply, the growth will slow down. So if you’ve noticed that your rubber plant isn’t growing the way it used to, it’s time for you to figure out what could be the factor and where you’re lacking. Below mentioned are some of the most common causes behind the stunted growth of rubber plants.
Just like most of the houseplants, even rubber plants go dormant during winters. Dormancy is very common with plants grown in higher altitudes. It usually happens because of the season change, which leads to shifts in temperature and light levels as well. During winter, sunlight isn’t very bright and the temperature also gets cold, which forces the plant to slow down the growth process and work on improving its root system or internal structures.
If you’re planting your rubber tree during late fall or winter or if the growth rate has slowed down after fall, you can do nothing except wait until spring-summer to see some growth. The plants will wake up in all their glory with leaves and stems growing than ever, all thanks to the warmer temperature and bright light.
What Can You Do About It?
There’s nothing you can do to make rubber plants grow when it is dormant. There’s absolutely no point showing them more light, or feeding them with more fertilizer or water. The only thing you can do is wait until spring to see how your plants respond to the weather change. However, if you see other signs, such as yellowing of leaves or damp soil, you need to get to the root of the cause.
An insufficient amount of light can also affect the growth of your rubber plant. Ficus elastica are very sensitive about the light they receive and even a little bit of inconsistency can make a huge difference. And by a little bit, we mean keeping the plant just a couple of inches nearer or closer to light. If the rubber plant is getting leggy or is drooping to one side, it could be due to insufficient levels of light. And if the leaves are getting parched or droopy, it could be because of excess light.
This sensitivity can be attributed to their origin in the rainforests of Southeast Asia. In their native place, rubber plants speed up their growth to capture the indirect light coming from the thick canopy of the forest. Rubber plants at home can’t grow as tall as the wild ones, but they are still fast growers and can get to great heights if they receive a good amount of light.
What Can You Do About It?
The only thing you can do to address this issue is placing your rubber tree at a spot where it can receive at least 6 to 8 hours of bright, indirect light daily. Avoid keeping the rubber plants under direct sunlight as it can burn their leaves. And neither are they used to such high temperatures, so it can have an adverse effect on them. Do not put them under artificial or grow lights as they do not respond well to such lights.
After moving the plant to a new spot, do not disturb it for a couple of weeks. And during this time, closely monitor the growth rate of your plant. if it’s responding well, you can continue keeping it in the same spot for as long as you want.
Irregular Watering Routine:
Another cause of the slow growth of your rubber plant could be irregular watering routine or underwatering. Plants are made up of cells that comprise mostly water. Without enough water and moisture, plants will find it hard to function. When the rubber tree doesn’t receive sufficient water for a long period of the tide, it switches on its survival mode. The next thing it does is trying to save as much water as possible by stopping new growth. If the rubber plant is left without water for a long period of time, the leaf tips will start turning brown and will eventually fall off. Besides, moist soil provides required nutrients to plants, which aids in their growth. So whether it’s summer or winter, you must provide the required amounts of water to your rubber plant.
If the cause of stagnant growth in your rubber plant is overwatering, you’ll notice a few more signs before halted growth, such as droopy stems, yellowing of leaves, moist or damp soil, or root rot. These issues are far more severe and must be dealt with immediately.
What Can You Do About It?
If you’ve diagnosed the issue as underwatering, the first thing you need to do is water your plant thoroughly. If you’ve planted your Ficus elastica in well-drained soil and in a pot with a drainage hole, water your plant deeply from top to bottom until you see the excess liquid draining out from the hole. Don’t worry about the issue of wet soil with rubber plants as they are originally from the rainforests and are quite used to wet soil. In fact, they like to grow in damp soil. But allow the plant to absorb the water well and let the soil dry completely before you water again.
To find out if your rubber plant needs water again, put your finger or a stick inside the soil and try to find out how much of it is dry. If the top couple of inches of the soil is dry, you can water your plant again. Don’t worry about the deeper soil still being damp. It’s how they like it.
Overwatering isn’t really an issue with rubber plants, but in case you think it’s the cause, I would suggest you halt the water for some time. Check the dampness of the deeper soil through the drainage hole by pulling out some soil. If the soil is damp or sticky, you can skip watering. But if it feels dry, water your plant.
Lack of Fertilizer:
Since rubber plants do not require too much fertilizer, people, especially new plant parents, take it for granted. This can cause stunted growth in rubber plants. Rubber plants use the water and nutrients they get to create food that facilitates new growth. In case you’re wondering, plants get their nutrients from the decaying components present in the soil. But over time, even the soil gets depleted, and so do the nutrients. If the rubber plant is devoid of nutrients for a long period of time, it will find hard to grow. In that case, you’ll have to supplement its needs with fertilizer.
What Can You Do About It?
If you suspect lack of nutrients to be the cause behind the slow growth of your rubber tree, its time for you to feed your plant. Please note, just because your plant needs nutrients, doesn’t mean you’ll go overboard with the fertilizer. Give it a small quantity of liquid fertilizer first and monitor your plant closely for a couple of weeks. If you see some improvements in the growth and vibrancy of your plant, you’ll know that its working. You’ll notice a significant growth in the plant in just a couple of months.
Note: You need to feed your plant only once a month, that too only during its growing season. Plants do not absorb fertilizer when they are in a dormant state. Instead, it can burn their roots.
Size Of The Pot:
Since the rubber plant is a fast-growing plant, it tends to outgrow the pot it is planted in, in just a couple of seasons. As they grow, the roots branch out in all directions. But when they don’t get enough space, the roots get rootbound in the container. Rootbound plants find it hard to absorb nutrients and water, as a result, the growth slows down.
It’s often said that rubber plants like being rootbound. In fact, some even use it as a strategy to keep the plant small in size. But this isn’t a long-term solution. On the contrary, it will harm your plant in the long run. Rootbound plants, be it rubber plant or any other, will find hard to survive for a long time without getting the necessary nutrients, and of course, water.
What Can You Do About It?
The best thing you can do here is to check the plant frequently to see how it’s doing in the present container. You can take out the plant from the pot for inspection purposes. If you find that the roots are wrapped around or are pushed against the side of the pot, you need to replant it in a bigger container.
While buying a pot for your rubber plant, ensure that it is 2 inches bigger than the root ball from all the sides. A bigger pot will give the plant enough size to grow while preventing it from holding excess moisture at the same time. If the pot size was indeed the issue, you will find the growth resuming in a couple of weeks. Just make sure that you plant it in well-drained soil.
Ficus elastica, in general, doesn’t get pest infestation easily. But occasionally, you may find fungus gnats or spider mites inside your plant. If left unchecked for a long period of time, these pests can cause immense damage to your plant, which includes slow growth. These pests suck on the leaves, stems, and foliage, which makes the plant deformed and weak over time.
What Can You Do About It?
Check your plant thoroughly for any kind of pest infestation. If pests have indeed made a home in your rubber plant, isolate it at once so that it does not reach the other plants in its vicinity. Next, spray some pest repellant on your plant. Both natural and synthetic pesticides work great at eliminating household pests. Neem oil, especially, is very effective against houseplant pests. So is diatomaceous earth. Just apply either of these on your plant every day until the pests are gone. Move it near the other plants only if you’re sure that the pests are dead.
Temperature fluctuation can also be the reason behind the slow growth of your rubber plant. The rubber plant is a tropical plant and loves humidity. You cannot expect it to grow in low-humid regions. You may think that frequent watering will restore the moisture levels, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. The moisture has to be present in the air for the plant to grow.
What You Can Do About It?
Check the temperature and humidity level of the place where you’ve put your rubber plant. Apart from that, you also need to check for drafts from the air conditioning or heating system that you must have installed in your house. These appliances can cause huge temperature fluctuations that can stop your rubber plant from growing.
Aim for the spot where your plant can receive a temperature range of 65°F or above throughout. And never keep it closer to the air conditioner or heat vent. If you reside in a place that’s dry throughout the year, we would suggest you install a humidifier in your house. You should keep the humidity level between 40-50% for the proper well-being of your plant.
Wrong Type Of Soil:
The right type of soil is a prerequisite to the proper growth and development of a houseplant. If you’ve planted your rubber tree in the wrong soil mix, it will find hard to survive, leave alone grow. Compact soil will prevent the water from reaching the roots, which will lead to soggy soil. Rubber plant doesn’t like soggy soil so much that you’ll leave it sitting in dampness. Not just that, it will even make it difficult for the water to drain out from the drainage hole. This in turn will obstruct the airflow, giving rise to bacteria and fungus, such as root rot.
What Can You Do About It?
Ficus elastica or rubber plants can grow in a wide variety of soils. You just need to ensure that it has decent moisture-holding capacity. You can prep your potting mix with a part of peat moss and a part of perlite to improve the water retention capacity of the soil.
How To Make The Rubber Plant Grow Fast?
You don’t have to do anything special to make your rubber plant grow fast. These plants are fast growers themselves. All you need to do is provide them the ideal growing environment. Just keep the following things in mind.
- Water your plant every 4 to 5 days during spring and summer and once a week during fall and autumn.
- Provide an ample amount of bright, but indirect light to your plant.
- Fertilize it every month during the growing season. The best way to fertilize your rubber plant is by spraying a mix of half water and half liquid fertilizer. This will help distribute nutrients evenly to the soil, foliage, and roots.
- Maintain the temperature and humidity level of your plant.
- Prune your plant frequently to keep it in shape and to avoid overgrowth.
- Keep a close eye on the plant for pest infestation.
- Repot your plant every 2 to 3 years to facilitate growth.
- Clean the plant with a damp cloth every couple of days.
Rubber plants are fast-growing and low-maintenance plants and look stunning when placed indoors. So unless there’s something seriously wrong with your plant, it won’t stop growing. To prevent slow growth in your rubber plant, ensure that it gets adequate amounts of water, light, nutrients temperature, and space and it will flourish in no time. And try to avoid stressing your plant out as much as you can. Anything in excess can be fatal for your plant. So keep this in mind while feeding and watering your plant.
Aiza Siddiqui is one of the content providers in Gardener’s Toolbox. From a very young age, Aiza has been passionate about gardening, which explains her choice of major in studies. She holds a BSc Degree in Botany from the University of Calcutta. Aiza is a green thumb through and through and owns more than 100 different types of plants. Every article that she contributes to Gardener’s Toolbox is written by doing extensive research and from her own experience with planting and gardening. Hoping that you will find her articles on different houseplants helpful.