Rubber plant lost all its leaves! – House Plant Journal

Rubber plant lost all its leaves!

Plant: Rubber plant (Ficus elasica)

How long have you had the plant? 1 to 6 months

Concerns:

Soon after I bought it, all the leaves have fallen off except 2:

When I first bought it:

Light Situation: It does not get any direct sunlight

How do you determine WHEN to water: I follow the schedule I was told/researched for this plant.

Describe HOW you water: 1 cup every two weeks.

Darryl’s Analysis

Environment:
I’m so sorry you had to go through this with your rubber plant – whoever gave you the care instructions had some major oversights.

This is the reason why I stress MEASURING indirect light: the only concrete meaning people derive from “give it bright indirect light” is they think anywhere in the room is fine as long as they avoid any direct sun.  But if I said to you “make sure the indirect light levels are above 200 FC most of the day”, then you would take your light meter readings around the room and realize that “as close to your largest window as possible” is where your “bright indirect light” plant needs to be.

If you don’t have a light meter, just follow this: for a “bright indirect light” plant, put it as close to your largest windows as possible and block direct sun with a white sheer curtain ONLY IF the duration will exceed 2 or 3 hours.

The behavior of light is complex and not the same for everyone – windows are different sizes and outdoor obstructions will vary.  The concepts of “bright indirect light” and “high, medium, low” do not account for these differences.  And since light dictates the growth potential of the plant (watering/fertilizing only realize that potential), this plant had no chance of growth the moment it was placed so far from the windows.

Effort:
Please inform whoever instructed you to give the plant “one cup of water every 2 weeks” – that won’t work even if the plant got adequate light.

The WHEN to water: whenever the soil reaches nearly completely dry (should check with a chopstick 3 or 4 inches down).

The HOW to water: evenly moisten all parts of the soil and allow excess to drain away.

Notice that the “whenever the soil reaches some dryness level” implies that you should be checking the dryness to determine when to water – it is not by an arbitrary schedule set on per-plant basis.

Expectations:
Your rubber plant is not completely dead but you’re probably not happy with how it looks now.  Get it in front of your largest window and follow the approach to watering I just mentioned.  New leaves should gradually come from the healthies stems.  If you really want a multi-stem bushy plant, you probably should get a new one.

To avoid future disappointment, get a solid foundation in houseplant care through my book or my online course.


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