Last Updated on March 14, 2022 by Admin
Rubber plants, also known as Ficus elastica, are gorgeous foliage plants that are perfect for indoor care. They are generally easy to care for and adapt quite well to most home environments.
However, curling leaves on your rubber plant usually means that it is unhappy or not getting what it needs to stay healthy.
Why are your rubber plant leaves curling? Curling leaves on a rubber plant indicate that the plant is struggling with something.
The most common causes of leaf curl in this plant include overwatering, lack of water, insufficient humidity, cold temperature, pests, excess light, change in its environment and chemicals in cleaning products.
By identifying the issue, you’ll be able to fix the problem.
Below, I’ll go through each of these possible causes of Rubber Plant leaves curling, explain why they happen and the solution to each of them.
Common Causes of Rubber Plant Leaves Curling
Below are the common reasons why your rubber plant is curling. For each of the potential causes, I’ll explain what’s wrong, why it is happening and what you can do about it to fix the issue.
Sometimes it could just be one thing causing the leaf curl. Other times it could be a combination of smaller things happening.
Unfortunately, each situation is different, so you do need to take each rubber plant’s curling leaves incident as its own problem and narrow down the possible cause.
New Grow Causes Curling Leaves
New leaves growing can cause curling leaves. But this is not a problem but something natural in the rubber plants growing cycle.
Therefore, you don’t have to worry about this. And it will resolve itself as the leaves develop. Immature leaves are curled tightly in the beginning. Over time they will unfurl on their own.
As such, you don’t have to do anything in this case. In fact, it is a good thing since it means the plant is happily growing as it produces more new leaves.
Overwatering Can Cause Rubber Plant Leaves to Curl
Overwatering is the most common reason why your rubber plant’s leaves are curling. That’s because many of the plant’s owners tend to be overly generous with moisture.
While their intentions are good, this unfortunately ends up causing problems for the plant.
Like many houseplants, the rubber plant enjoys a good drink of water. But it also does not like wet feet.
To compound the situation, the changes in the weather as the seasons go by makes also changes how often it needs watering.
During the hotter summer months, it will need more regular watering as the warmer temperature and abundance of sunlight makes the soil dry faster.
But come fall and especially winter when the weather gets cold and the sun is not as bright, it takes much loner for soil to dry. Therefore, you’ll need to cut back significantly on water to avoid overwatering.
In most cases, there are four main causes of overwatering.
- Watering too frequently
- Watering too much each time
- The potting mix you’re using retains too much moisture
- The pot the plant is in does not have drainage holes
The problem with overwatering is that it can cause a host of different problems. Visually it causes leaf curling. It can also turn leaves yellow and later on cause leaves to drop.
Excess moisture also attracts pests, increases the risk of fungal infections and more seriously root rot.
How to Fix Rubber Plant Leaves Curling from Overwatering
First, check to make sure that overwatering is really happening. You can do so by feeling the soil or sticking your finger into the soil.
With very wet soil, the surface will feel mucky or soggy. That’s an instant giveaway.
But even if the soil is not completely wet, the plant can still be overwatered. Thus, stick your index finger into the soil to about the second knuckle.
If the soil at that depth feels quite wet, it is likely that the plant is getting too much water.
To fix this, allow the soil to dry more between waterings. Always wait for the top 2 to 3 inches of soil from the top dry completely before adding more water. This will prevent overwatering.
Additionally, make sure you’re using well-draining soil. And that the pot it is in has drainage holes at the bottom.
Finally, adjust watering through the seasons. Once winter comes around, allow soil to dry a bit more between waterings.
Lack of Water
The tricky part about watering plants is that in addition to overwatering, underwatering can also cause curling leaves.
While underwatering is not something the usually happens, it can occur, especially if you have a busy schedule, travel a lot or don’t have a lot of time to tend to your plants.
Often lack of water happens when you forget to water. In contrast, overwatering occurs when you’re actively caring for the plant.
The reason why leaves curl when the plant is underwatered is that it needs moisture to stay healthy. When the soil gets completely dry, the plant will experience stress.
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How to Fix Rubber Plant Leaves Curling from Underwatering
Rubber plants are more tolerant of lack of water than they are of too much water. So, this is less of the problem compared the overwatering.
But if left too long without water, the plant will deteriorate as well since it needs moisture for sustenance.
Once you water the plant, it will recover much faster from lack of moisture that it will from too much of it.
Since both over and underwatering can both cause leaf curling in rubber plants, it is important to check the soil before taking any action.
Otherwise, you could be worsening the situation.
If the plant is underwatered, the soil will feel very dry. And even if you stick your finger deep into the soil, the lower portions will still feel dry.
This is a sign that the plant needs water.
Another reason for rubber plant leaves curling is lack of humidity. Humidity is related to watering because it deals with moisture. The biggest difference is that humidity is moisture in the air.
Dry air can make the plant’s leaves curl. Therefore, if you live in the desert or somewhere similar where humidity can stay in the low 30s or drop to the 20s, you may notice your rubber plant’s leaves curl.
Similarly, the changes in the seasons can also cause drops in humidity. when this happens, the leaves can curl as well.
Winter is notorious for dry air. But hot summers can also become very dry. Therefore, it is a good idea t monitor room humidity if you experience these conditions.
The simplest way to keep track of indoor humidity is to get a hygrometer.
How to Fix Rubber Plant Leaves Curling from Low Humidity
The best way to fix this issue is to increase humidity around the plant. You may but don’t necessarily need to increase the humidity in your entire home or room. As long as the air surrounding the plant has more moisture, it will be happy.
Here are a few ways to do this. Each of them has varying results in terms of how high they can push up humidity and how long the effects last.
- Mist your plant a few times a week
- Move the plant to the bathroom
- Get a humidifier
- Place your rubber plant in a pebble tray
- Group the plant alongside your other houseplants.
Cold Temperature Causes Curling Leaves
The rubber plant is a tropical in nature. This means it is most comfortable in moderate to warm weather. It will likewise tolerate hot environments quite well.
Unfortunately, because tropical regions stay sunny and toasty all year round, the plant has little tolerance for the cold. In fact, it cannot stand frost, snow or freezing temperatures.
Therefore, avoid leaving it in cold locations or areas where there are cold drafts.
When temperatures get too cold, the rubber plant’s leaves curl up. This is an initial sign of cold stress.
If things get colder, it can suffer cold injury or damage and drop leaves as well.
How to Fix Rubber Plant Leaves Curling from Cold Temperature
To make sure that your rubber plant’s leaves don’t curl from being too cold, keep it in its ideal temperature range of 55 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is where the plant is most comfortable.
If you leave it outdoors, make sure to bring it indoors once the weather starts getting colder around fall. This way it can spend the winter in your warm, cozy home.
Indoors, keep the plant away from cold drafts and air conditioned areas.
Pests are not a common issue for the rubber plant. However, they can still come around especially when the plant is stressed, weak or experiencing some kind of shock. This is when it becomes vulnerable.
Pest infestations can makes its leaves curl as they suck on valuable sap which the plant uses for nourishment.
The most common pests to watch out for include:
- Spider Mites
- Fungus Gnats
How to Fix Rubber Plant Leaves Curling Due to Pest Infestations
The best way to avoid this issue is to prevent pests altogether. Unfortunately, you can only take preventive measures. But nothing can guarantee bug prevention.
Keeping the plant healthy, giving it all the requirements it needs and cleaning its leaves regular all help prevent pests from coming around.
Your other defense is vigilance and monitoring.
Regularly inspecting the plant for abnormalities, pests or changes allow you to spot pests early.
When you do find any sign of pest problems, it is important to identify the kind of insect and start treatment immediately.
Insecticidal soap and neem oil work really well. You can also wash off the bugs by spraying them with a stream of water.
The rubber plant enough good lighting especially indoors. But it cannot tolerate strong, intense light including direct sun.
If you keep the plant beside a south or west-facing window where it gets the brunt of the mid-day sun, its leaves could curl up because of excess light.
In addition to the upward curling of its leaves, you’ll also see their colors change to light or medium green.
Both are signs that it cannot take the amount of light in that location.
How to Fix Rubber Plant Leaves Curling Due to Excess Light
This is probably the simplest one to fix. All you need to do is move the plant.
Look for a spot that receives bright, indirect light. Avoid direct sun or areas where the strong summer sunshine or mid-day sun hits the plant.
If you keep the plant outdoors, place it under partial shade away from the most intense light of day which occurs between 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Similarly, avoid dim or dark locations.
The plant needs light for photosynthesis. Thus, lack of light will slow its growth and make it less healthy.
Additionally, the plant will become leggy since it will try to reach out towards any light source it can find.
Acclimation & Changes to the Environment
Changes to the environment or moving from one location to a new one can likewise cause rubber plant leaf curl. This occurs as the plant gets acclimated to the new conditions.
But it can also mean that something in its new surroundings is not well-suited for it. Thus, this can cause its leaves to curl.
For example, if the new spot is too cold or lacks humidity, the leaves will curl as a result.
Other times, it just needs to recover. This can happen after propagation or transplanting, where the shock of the experience causes its leaves to curl.
In this case, all it needs is time. And it will return to its uncurled, happy state after
This is one reason why I don’t recommend using leaf shine and other chemical cleaning products on plants. While not all leaf shine cause side effects, many will. This is a result of the pores in its leaves getting clogged up.
So, instead of using leaf shine, you can either give the plant a shower every so often when its leaves start collecting dust. Or you can use a damp cloth to wipe its leaves.
Alternatively, you can also use soapy water (soap and water solution) to clean the leaves. This helps prevent pests from coming around and cleans the leaves as well.
Will The Curled Leaves Recover?
Yes and no.
That is, some leaves can recover while other leaves may not. The difference lies in how severe the damage has been.
With minor leaf curl or if you spot the curling early and successfully treat it quickly, there’s a very high likelihood the leaves will uncurl.
But if the damage is more serious or it has been there for a quite a while, the leaves probably won’t recover. Instead, they will eventually drop.
How To Prevent Rubber Plant Leaves from Curling
The only way to prevent rubber plant leaves curling is to take proper care of the plant. This means giving it what it needs. Here, moderation is key.
In most cases, too much of something or too little of are both bad.
For example, too much or too little light cause different side effects. But they both cause problems. Similarly, too much or tool little water can both cause leaf curl.
Therefore, keeping the conditions right and giving it enough of what it needs will help avoid any leaves from curling in the future.
Rubber Plant Leaves Curling Frequently Asked Questions
What Does It Mean If Leaves Are Curling?
Leaves curling is a sign that something is wrong. In most cases, it is a watering issue. The more common one is overwatering. Although underwatering can likewise cause leaves to curl.
If you look closely at the leaves, it can sometimes give you hints of what the cause is.
For example, leaves curling at the tips or edges (margins) usually means the plant is trying to retain as much moisture as it can. Thus, it lacks water. On the other hand, leaves curling downwards usually leaves overwatering or too much fertilizer.
How Often Should You Water a Rubber Plant?
On average, your rubber plant needs watering about once a week. However, the frequency changes depending on the time of year. During summer when it gets hot, you may need to water 2 or 3 times a week. In winter, the opposite is true, as you’ll only need to water once every 2 or 3 weeks.
What Does an Overwatered Rubber Plant Look Like?
Leaves often turn yellow or brown when the rubber plant is overwatered. The easiest way to check is to look at the larger leaves which are at the bottom.
If you suspect overwatering, check the soil. Wet, soggy soil means the plant is getting too much water. Therefore, allow the soil to dry out before adding more water.
How Do I Know If My Rubber Plant Needs Water?
While yellow leaves often mean overwatering, brown leaves are usually a sign of lack of water. Although both over and underwatering can make leaves turn yellow or brown depending on how long the plant has been over or underwatered.
To know when your rubber plant needs watering, check the soil. Once the top 2-3 inches of soil is completely dry, you can add more water.
Why Is My Rubber Plant Droopy?
Droopy leaves is usually a sign of an overwatered rubber plant. If you notice this, check the soil. Wet, mucky soil means the plant is getting too much water. Therefore, allow the soil to dry out a bit more between waterings.
Should I Mist My Rubber Plant?
Rubber plants like humidity. Therefore, misting is something it will appreciate especially when the air is dry. But be careful with over misting because too much moisture can make the leaves susceptible to infections and fungus gnats.