Tips for Watering A Rubber Plant

While they are easy to cultivate however, rubber plants are very picky when it comes to their watering needs. They’re likely to shed leaves if you don’t keep the soil mix either too moist or dry. If you’ve chosen to include the Ficus elastica to your collection of houseplants It’s essential to make sure that you are irrigating it correctly.

The soil of rubber plants is designed to remain consistently moist, but never dry. To ensure a consistent schedule of watering make sure to check the soil regularly with a moisture meter or your fingers. If the top 2 inches of soil are dry, it’s the time to water the rubber plant.

It’s a fact that it’s much easier to say than done. This is why I created this step-by-step guide that will help gain an idea of the amount and frequency to ensure that your rubber plant is properly watered.

I’ve also provided helpful tips for watering and signs that indicate your plant is in need of water. Also, keep an eye out for ways to spot the most feared signs of an overwatered rubber plant.

Factors That Impact Rubber Plant Watering Frequency

[1] Seasons

Like most native tropical species, Ficus elastica requires more water during the growth phase (from the beginning of spring until the summer) as opposed to when it’s active in its growth, typically during the fall and winter months.

Rubber plant in small pot with dots on it

In Summer and Spring:

As the cold fades and the weather begins to get warmer spring cleaning isn’t just the thing that makes the world on fire. The rubber plants are also awed by the warm weather.

The heat encourages them to re-energize and begin to grow, which is the same need to have the resources needed to ensure optimal growth.

It is evident your soil dry out more quickly than it did in spring and summer and spring, and for good reason. First of all the plant’s rubber uses up much more of its water in this growing period.

It’s not just for photosynthesis , but it also assists transport nutrients to where they’re needed.

The second reason is that the warmer temperatures cause the water to evaporate faster from the soil of the potting.

The third reason is that rubber plants lose more water during hot temperatures from their leaves due to increased levels in transpiration and evaporation, and respiration.

Therefore, it’s essential to observe soil moisture more carefully during this time. Examine soil moisture every 4 to 5 days or earlier.

Re-water as soon as the top one or two inches of soil is dry or crumbly. If the soil is quite moist, make sure to check it again within a few days.

In Fall and Winter

It’s the opposite in the winter and fall seasons and this is the time when your rubber plant begins to slow things down.

It isn’t a fan of cold, and will respond to cold by slowing growth, at times to the level of dormancy that lasts into winter’s cold.

The soil is also wet for a longer time. This is because the plant receives less sunlight during this time which results to less photosynthesis. This means that less water is needed to transpire and oxygenate.

The most dangerous thing you could do is to give your rubber plant excessive water, when in reality it doesn’t require a lot of it. The excessive soil dampness can cause root decay and other ailments.

During Flowering

Although Ficus elastica plants are able to flower but they rarely bloom as house plants. Instead, they release attractive bright red and spathes of burgundy that are opened and reveal fresh leaves.

The sheaths will break off and fall off when the new foliage is unfurled.

The emergence of new spathes usually coincides with the time when rubber plants begin flowering in their native tropical forests.

In other words, it usually happens in spring and is ongoing throughout summer. Call for more watering in order to compensate for the increased activity.

[2] Size of The Plant

Rubber plants are quick growers, and you’ll need to plant it at least once a year until it has reached maturing growth of 6-10 feet. Indoors.

Every large, glossy oval leaf that the plant produces is a buzz of activity. Chlorophyll (green pigment) makes use of light to convert carbon dioxide and water into energy and nutrients.

It’s quite an experience to observe the way your rubber tree transforms any space in your home to lush, green.

This means that the bigger your plant grows the more water it will require to produce nutrients, breathe, and develop more vigorously.

(Source: Clemson University).

[3] Temperature

As with most tropical plants your rubber plants prefer the warm side of things. The majority of varieties of this evergreen jungle thrive when temperatures are between 60 and 80oF (15-26degC).

They favor the upper end in the range of temperatures in the daytime for maximum growth.

As mentioned earlier the warmer temperatures do not just make the soil for potting dry out quickly, but also promotes growth. Therefore, be sure to increase the amount of water you give in the event that temperatures get on the warm side.

In winter, when temperatures begin to fall, you should lower the frequency of water accordingly.

But, ensure that temperatures don’t drop suddenly below 55degF (13degC) particularly in colder weather. This could result in your elastic ficus to fall leaves.

If it sheds leaves, you should stop watering until you can see evidence of growth. Wait until the top 2 to 3″ of soil has dried out to prevent the spread of rot-related diseases.

[4] Humidity

Due to their tropical character Rubber plants thrive in humid conditions. They are more likely to lose water through transpiration. It can be thought of as the way that you and I lose water through the process of sweating as well as breathing.

If the atmosphere around your ficus plant is drizzly and cold (usually in winter) the plant will start to thirst earlier rather than later. Therefore, it is important to examine the soil’s moisture and water it more often.

[5] Location of The Plant

Being in a well-lit or more hot spot will make you thirsty. The same is the case with the rubber plant. It is best parked in an area that is exposed to direct, bright light.

If it’s in a room with blazing or bright western or southern exposure, you’ll need to give it more water frequently. Also, you should provide your plant with additional water if it’s located in a drafty, dry location, for instance near hot drafts or next to an open fire.

[6] Type of Pot

I’m a huge fan of garden pots made of porous materials such as terracotta, clay, or unglazed ceramic. They promote quick drying of soil by porous walls, and also create an arid microclimate to my plants that are made of rubber.

However, this doesn’t negate the fact that the soil is drying out quickly and you’ll have to increase the frequency of watering, and also.

When your plant’s rubber is placed in a vitrified ceramic, glass, or a plastic pot it is likely that the soil will remain wet for a longer period of time.

This is because they are not as strong in terms of permeability. This is why you should be more cautious when irrigation, so that the soil gets sloppy and root rot begins to take hold.

Every rubber plant pot should have drainage holes at the base, no matter the material. This helps drain perched water since rubber plants do not like sitting in stagnant water , or what’s known as “wet feet”.

The larger the drainage holes are, the quicker the soil will begin to dry. This also means an increased frequency of watering.

[7] Size of the Pot

The pot functions as a reservoir for Ficus elastica. If the pot isn’t big enough to accommodate your plants, the capacity of the soil to hold water is limited. This means that the soil will dry out quickly, and requires regular irrigation.

The container must be the same dimensions of the rubber plant in order to maintain even soil moisture. Ideally, you should have approximately 1 inch of potting soil around the rubber plant.

A container that is too big for your plant can hold water for a longer period of time. In the worst case scenario, soggy patches could develop in places where the roots aren’t reaching. Most often, they occur at the edges, and in the lower part of the.

[8] Type of Potting Mix

You are aware of how crucial the correct potting soil is to your plants. The rubber plant is capable of surviving most types of soil. In reality, any fast-draining potter’s mix will work well, whether it’s clay, sand, or loam.

The most important thing to remember is that the Ficus elastica does not like feet that are wet. However, the drainage and capacity to retain water in the mix used to make it will determine the frequency of watering it.

If your soil is organically rich and holds water for a longer period it is important to be cautious not to overwater your plants. It is at risk of developing diseases, like crown, stem, and root decay.

If your soil is draining freely with a high percentage of vermiculite, sand, perlite and so on. You’ll need to increase the frequency of irrigation to prevent the soil from drying out completely.

How Do You Know If a Rubber Plant Needs Watering?

Once you’ve mastered factors that influence the frequency of watering, you should be aware of the signs of the underwatered plant of rubber.

1. Test the Moisture Level with your finger or a stick

The simplest and most effective method to determine whether your plant is thirsty is to test the soil’s moisture each 4-5 days following watering. It isn’t necessary to purchase a costly device when you can just make use of a stick or your finger.

  1. Stick your finger or stick approximately 2 or three inches deep into the topsoil
  2. If it’s still damp make sure to check it each one to two days.
  3. Allow the top 1 to 2 inches to dry out before watering again

If your rubber plant isn’t active during the fall and winter the potting mix could require more than one week to dry. Be patient. The most important thing you’ll want to avoid is to destroy your beloved Ficus by taking too many good things!

[2] Potting Soil Color

It’s a simple one that soil that is moist usually has a darker shade. Dry soil however tends to be gray and lighter in hue.

When the soil becomes too humid, it will encourage the development of mildew, mold, as well as other types of fungi. It will show as a smudge-like layer on the soil’s surface. It could also be a terrifying indication of root rot caused by excessive watering or a soaking of the soil mix.

[3] Wilting or Drooping Leaves

Rubber plants sport spritely large beautiful, perky leaves that have strong veins. They tilt upwards with graceful stride. If you notice that they’re wilting and falling it’s one of the first signs the Ficus elastica is dehydrated.

The process often begins with older or lower leaves. This is a normal strategy to survive, where the plant prefers fresh foliage over older ones , especially when resources are limited.

[4] Brown Leaf Tips

Do the edges of your rubber plant’s leaves look burned or charred? Dry and brown edges and tips of leaves are an indication the plant has become very thirsty.

[5] Leaves Wrinkled

If leaves are dehydrated to the max, they lose water and shrink, creating wrinkles on the surfaces of the leaves. In reality when the outer layer of leaves begins to appear puckering, it’s an obvious sign that you must keep your rubber plant hydrated.

[6] Leaves Turning Brown or Yellow

If the period of dehydration is longer than normal it’s likely that you’ll find dead or dying foliage. Maybe you were on holiday and your host or housekeeper left the soil to dry out completely.

Yellow or brown leaves instead of glossy, lush green leaves with an burgundy hue is another indication of a rubber plant that has been underwatered.

[7] Leaves Drying Out and Falling off

The first sign that be noticed due to the underwatering process is dry, crisp leaves. The reason for this is the loss of turgor pressure due to the plant isn’t receiving sufficient water in the soil. The leaves eventually become dry, wilted and then disappear.

It is important to first eliminate other causes for leaf falloff. Rubber plants can naturally shed old leaves. However, cold breezes low light, a low humidity and sudden changes could cause similar results.

[8] Measure the Weight of The Pot

It’s not the most reliable method however, a pot that is lighter could suggest the rubber plant needs to drink. Be sure to lift or weigh the plant after watering, to determine its weight after watering.

[9] Use Moisture Meter

This is certainly the most efficient method to ensure a regular watering schedule to your plant. To maximize the value of the money you spend, recommend investing in a high-quality multi-function meter which can measure soil moisture, and also temperatures, humidity, and other growth indicators.

[10] Use an App

It is important to inspect your rubber plants every week or more to determine whether they require irrigation. It’s also easy to forget, which is why making use of apps like Happy Plant, Waterbug, etc. could be an effective reminder.

Signs of Overwatered Rubber Plant

It’s more difficult to end the life of your rubber tree due to drowning rather than from overwatering. This is why you must be able to recognize the waterlogged Ficus elastica earlier rather than later.

Be on the lookout for these most feared signs of water overflow:

  • Yellow or brown leaves, limp
  • Drooping and flapping leaves, both old and new
  • Leaves with brown spots and yellow halos
  • Leaves Cracking
  • The moldy growth is on top of the soil mix/potting mix
  • A smell of decay emanating from soil

Do not ignore the random wisps of leaves, since it is usually a warning indication of root decay.

How to Water Rubber Plant

1: Watering from above

As a species of tropical plants the rubber plant prefers irrigation at the highest elevation. They love the additional humidity that comes with the top of the irrigation. Here are some things to remember:

  • Make use of rainwater, filtered or distillated water preferring at room temperature.
  • The water should be at the base be sure not to splash onto the leaves
  • The water should be boiled until the liquid has passed by the drainage holes at the bottom
  • Pour out the any perched water from the saucer within 10 minutes.
  • Let the top 1-2 inches of soil drain prior to the next irrigation

2 Watering from Below

If the pot of your plant has drainage holes it is a great method of watering.

  1. To drink from below, you must first fill the dish or basin with water that is room temperature that is at least 1.25″ (2.5 centimeters).
  2. Place the pot in the basin, without the saucer and allow the plant to soak up water for about 15 minutes.
  3. Take the pot out of the basin when the mixture of potting soil is uniformly damp. The excess water should be drained as fast as possible by tilting your pot.
  4. Transfer your rubber plant to its normal location and let the excess build up on the saucer, then empty it away.
  5. Make sure to keep your ficus hydrated from above every time in order to eliminate salts that can build up within the soil.

[3] Self-Watering Pots

Self-watering pots take the guesswork out of watering the rubber plants.

  • All you need to do is fill the reservoir of water with the water that has been filtered or distilled at least once a month, or as needed. Set it up and forget about it!
  • Certain models with higher end features include integrated water filtration systems.
  • A model that has a transparent reservoir or water meter can ensure a smoother operation.

Watering Rubber Plants After Repotting

Rubber plants are prolific cultivators, especially when the conditions for growth are ideal. Most of the time it is recommended to repot each year until you reach the maximum size of between 6 and 10 feet.

  • Make sure to use a potting mix that is well-drained such as orchid or cactus mix which includes perlite, sphagnum, or vermiculite.
  • Water prior to repotting. The water should be kept until the excess water drains through drain holes. This is an excellent way to make sure that the soil is evenly damp.
  • Make sure to allow the pot to completely drain. So, your potting mixture won’t get dirty or muddy when making a new potting.
  • After repotting, give it a an indirect, bright light and do not disturb it until you can see evidence of new growth
  • The soil should be rehydrated once it has dried a bit using the methods described above.

Golden Rules of Watering Rubber Plants

  • Maintain the soil evenly damp — to achieve this, you must make sure you use the right dimension pot, and then water till the water is able to escape from drain holes.
  • Allow the top 2 inches of soil to dry out between irrigations
  • Drink earlier in the day -This is particularly important when you are watering from above. This gives any splashes of water on leaves the time to evaporate in the warm times of the day.
  • The leaves should be kept dry. The dampness of leaves can trigger certain pests and diseases. Instead, you should water the base of the plant where roots are.
  • Make sure that water gets to the roots. Irrigate until the water drains out of the drainage holes
  • Avoid water logging only water when the topsoil has been a little dry. Repot when the soil is waterlogged.
  • Make use of potting soil that is fast draining like Cactus mix

Final Words

  • Rubber plants require regular watering -ensure that your soil remains moist, but not soggy.
  • Re-water only after 2 inches of topsoil has been drained.
  • The water is pumped in the early morning at the foot of the plant


Went from a bad gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)