Signs of Underwatered Rubber Plant (And How to Revive It)

An underwatered rubber plant is not something you see often. Instead, most issues with watering are related to overwatering.

That said, allowing your rubber plant to dry up due to lack of water or even dehydration can have harmful effects.

That’s because plants need water to survive, stay healthy and grow.

It is also water that allows them to absorb nutrients.

So, without water and nutrients, you can expect your rubber plant to get weak and deteriorate.

In extreme cases, it can even die from dehydration.

The most common signs of an underwatered rubber plant are dry leaves that turn brown and crispy. The soil will also be very dry. Often, the root ball will be completely dry.

If you want to confirm things, unpot your plant and check the soil at the bottom. Also, check on the roots. Very dry, brittle roots will confirm underwatering and even dehydration.

Signs of Underwatered Rubber Plant

One of the most important things in identifying lack of water is to know the signs of an underwatered rubber plant.

This will allow you to confirm whether or not lack of moisture is what’s causing the issues you’re seeing.

If they are not, then you move on to see if it is another problem.

However, it you can verify that the symptoms match, then you can apply the solutions below.

The key here is not to rely on just one sign or symptom. Instead, you need to narrow things down.

Often, you’ll see more than one sign. And together, they will help you figure out if underwatering is really the cause.

 

Very Dry Soil

Very dry soil is one of the most telling signs of an underwatered rubber plant.

In most cases, you’ll see the soil almost completely dry or completely dry all the way down. This is when the rubber plant starts to struggle.

And the longer it stays dry, the higher the likelihood that it will end up dehydrated after a while.

The simplest way to check soil moisture is to stick your finger into the soil. I also use a wooden stick for larger pots.

Just insert the stick all the way down until you hit the bottom of the pot.

When you take the stick out, the wet part of the stick will tell you where the soil is still moist. If the stick is completely dry, it means the root ball is dry all the way down.

I know some gardeners who lift the pot to tell whether it is time to water their plants.

A lighter pot means the soil is dry. And a heavier pot means the soil is wet.

Although, I do not recommend this if your rubber plant is big and heavy. You may end up hurting your back.

Another option is to use a moisture meter.

 

Drooping Rubber Plant

Plants are made up of 90% water. And it is water that fills up the stems.

This produces turgor pressure that allows plants to stay upright.

When the roots are not able to absorb any moisture because the soil is completely dry, water and nutrients cannot be transported from the roots to the stems and leaves.

This causes them to get weak.

In addition to the loss of the “filler” and turgor pressure, you end up seeing your rubber plant start drooping due to underwatering or dehydration.

 

Brown Tips

Brown tips are another common sign of lack of moisture. Although, you may see this when humidity is too low as well.

That said, when your rubber plant lacks water, the first parts that feel it are the tips of the leaves.

Why?

The leaf tips are the farthest points from the roots.

So, they’re the last parts that receive moisture.

And when there isn’t enough moisture, the other parts get the water first leaving the tips to dry out first.

As such, you’ll start seeing brown leaf tips.

 

Brown and Dry Leaf Edges

In addition to brown leaf tips, the next target are the edges or margins.

There are the next farthest points from the roots.

So, if the lack of moisture persists, you’ll eventually see the browning start spreading from the tips and edges of the leaves towards the middle.

This is when entire leaves start turning brown as well.

The lack of moisture is what causes them to dry.

In addition to the change it color from green to brown, you’ll feel the difference too.

The discolored leaves will fell dry and crispy.

The edges and tips can become brittle as well making them crumble in your fingertips when you try to hold them.

 

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Rubber Plant Leaves Curling

Curling leaves is another common sign of underwatering. Your plant’s leaves will curl in response to lack of water.

It does so to conserve as much water as it can.

How?

Leaves have pores that open up to allow moisture to escape. This process is called transpiration.

Transpiration is an essential process that keeps plants healthy.

It allows them to get rid of excess moisture.

Similarly, it allows for the exchange of air and water.

The process also helps the plant regulate its internal temperature.

So, if your rubber plant is short on water supply and the roots are not finding any water in the dry soil, it will find ways to conserve water and slow down the amount of water lost to transpiration.

It does this by curling its leaves.

Doing so reduces the surface area of the leaves. As such, there are fewer pores that are exposed.

So, the plant is able to slow down the amount of water it loses.

 

Dry, Brittle Roots

This is another telltale sign that your rubber plant is underwatered.

But it requires taking the plant out of the pot.

When you do so and remove the excess soil from the roots, you’ll see that the roots are very dry and brittle.

This will tell you that the plant needs water.

In contrast, a well-hydrated rubber plant will have moist roots that look healthy and flexible.

Meanwhile, an overwatered plant may have root rot.

That said, you want to be very careful with very dry roots as they break easily.

Therefore, do not pull the plant when it feels stuck as this can tear the brittle roots.

 

How to Revive your Underwatered Rubber Plant

Once you’ve confirmed that your rubber plant is underwatered, the next step is to fix the problem.

Below, I’ll take you through each of he steps to revive your underwatered rubber plant.

 

Prune Damaged Leaves and Stems

The first thing to do is to remove all the damaged leaves and stems.

This included yellow leaves, brown leaves and anything that is wilted or drooping.

Sadly, these damaged parts will not recover. Nor will they heal. As such, they won’t turn green again.

What’s worse is that when they decay, they can cause or spread disease to other parts of your rubber plant as well.

Thus, pruning any affected leaves and stems is important.

Doing so also allows the plant to stop directing its energy and resources to trying to heal these damaged parts.

Instead, it will now be able to focus all its energy in recovering from the lack of water, pushing out new leaves and shoots and developing the other healthy parts.

 

Use the Right Potting Mix

The next thing I like to check is the soil mix.

This is very important since it will affect how quickly or slowly the moisture is drained.

If you use water-retentive or heavy soils, the potting mix will hold on to more water than your rubber plant needs. This puts it at risk of overwatering or waterlogging in the future.

On the other hand, if you use very sandy soil or one that drains moisture too quickly, the plant will dry up fast.

This means that you need to water the plant often. Otherwise, it becomes prone to underwatering and dehydration.

Rubber plants like well-draining soil.

This means that the soil holds some moisture but will quickly drain excess water.

In doing so, the plant avoids being overwatered.

If you have a well-draining potting mix recipe on hand, you can use that. If not, you can combine 2 parts potting soil with 1 part perlite.

This will give you a well-draining soil mix that keeps the plant happy.

Using the proper kind of soil for your rubber plant is very important as it helps prevent overwatering and underwatering.

 

Select the Ideal Container

The next step in your preparation is to ensure that the pot you use has drainage holes.

Again, this has to do with the rubber plant’s distaste for sitting in water for long periods of time.

The reason why pot drainage is very important is that once you water the soil, it is up to the kind of soil to retain or drain the excess moisture.

With well-draining soil, you know your rubber plant won’t end up swimming in lots of water.

However, where does the excess moisture drained from the soil go?

If the container you use does not have any holes at the bottom, the excess liquid will just build up at the bottom of the pot.

As you keep watering, more liquid accumulates.

Thus, it will keep the soil wet, which is what you were trying to avoid in the first place.

But if the pot you use has drainage holes, the excess water will be able to drip out of the container. This will avoid waterlogged soil and overwatering.

In doing so, the roots won’t end up sitting in lots of liquid for extended periods of time.

 

Water Your Rubber Plant

Making sure that the soil and pot you use are ideal before watering the plant is important. This lets you avoid other problems down the road.

It also saves you from having to repot the plant to change the soil or pot later on.

When it comes to watering an underwatered rubber plant, there are a few methods you can go with.

I prefer to use bottom watering.

Here, you allow your rubber plant to absorb moisture at its own pace. And the soil will do that for it.

To do so, take the plant out of its pot.

Then place the root ball in a sink, bathtub or large basin. Which one you use depends on how big your rubber plant it.

Fill the sink, tub or basin with water until about a third to halfway up the root ball.

From there, you wait.

The soil will absorb the water allowing the roots to get the drink they need.

This method does take more time compared to watering from above where you drench the soil. However, it reduces the risk of overwatering since you allow the soil to absorb the water at the same time.

Once the top 2-3 inches of soil feels moist, you can take the plant out of the water.

Make sure to allow your rubber plant to completely drain before repotting it. You can put it over a grate on top of a drain while it drips.

Or you can leave it in an empty sink to drain.

Another option is to water from above.

With overhead watering, you want to be careful about wetting the leaves. Don’t water over the plant. Instead, water directly on the soil.

Wetting the leaves only puts the plant at risk of fungal leaf diseases.

When watering from above, the goal is to saturate the soil.

To do so, keep adding water to the soil. You can use a hose or watering can. Try to change positions every now and then as well.

Once the liquid starts dripping from the bottom of the pot, stop adding water.

Again, make sure to allow the plant to completely drain afterwards.

By soaking the root ball, you give the roots all the moisture they need and want.

 

Give it Ideal Living Conditions

In addition to forgetting to water the plant and fast draining soil, another hidden reason that can increase the risk of an underwatered rubber plant is the weather.

High temperature like that during the summer will increase the rate of evaporation.

This causes the soil to dry faster.

Similarly, when the weather gets hot, the plant’s respiration rate increases. This causes it to lose more moisture through its leaves.

As a result, instead of needing to be watered once every week, you may end up having to water your rubber plant once every 3 days or so.

A lot will depend on how hot it gets where you live.

Additionally, when the weather suddenly changes from spring to very hot summers, this change in temperature can sneak up on you.

Therefore, try to keep the plant somewhere that the temperature can stay between its ideal level which is 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Adjust Your Watering Schedule

The final step to reviving an underwatered rubber plant is to adjust your watering schedule.

The most important thing here is to be consistent.

Often, underwatering is caused by not having a regular schedule or routine.

When this happens, you’ll end up watering the plant when you remember or when you see the plant looks a bit dry.

In order to avoid that, try to be more consistent when it comes to watering your plant.

I like to feel the soil once a week. This takes just a few seconds.

I stick my finger into the soil down 2 inches from the top. If the soil at that depth feels moist or wet, I don’t add water.

Instead, I only add water when the soil at that lever has dried out.

You can also be more conservative.

With the rubber plant, as long as you don’t let the soil go completely dry, it will be fine.

So, anywhere in between that range works really well.

The key is to find a routine that allows you to regularly check the plant so you don’t end up neglecting it and not watering it for weeks at a time.

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