What am I doing wrong with my rubber tree?

by Steve Calvert
(The Woodlands, Tx. )

I have had this ficas elastica for about 3 years and it has been a battle keeping it alive. I’ve gone through everything from possibly over watering to under fertilizing to not keeping the leaves clean and spritzed when outside. Now I have long skinny stalks that I support with sticks to help them to grow straight and stronger. I keep them inside with a plant light and I spray the leaves daily. I’m not sure on the fertilizer so I have not done so.

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Not sure
by: Jacki Cammidge, Certified Horticulturist

Hey Steve, now I know what you were referring to - your question came through fine.

So, the problem is that this plant may need more light than what it's getting. The problem with most plant lights, even though it's probably the correct type of light, is that it only is above the plant so only the top leaves get the light. You have one picture that shows a leaf yellowing. This is normal. The older leaves will eventually fade and fall off, as the plant gets taller. There is nothing you can do about this.

For the fertilizer, I would err on the side of not enough rather than overdoing it. If you want to start doing something for it, compost tea or worm castings tea are best, and you can feed the plant weakly, weekly, with it. Find out more about how to make worm castings tea here.

The other thing you may want to think about in the near future as spring gets going is to repot your plant into better soil, in a slightly bigger pot. In summer when it's warm enough, you could also put the plant outside in the shade, but be aware that moving Ficus usually triggers dramatic leaf drop.

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