Watering houseplants in the right way at the right time is often the biggest challenge for plant owners. It can be pretty scary because the wrong watering techniques can very quickly lead to some pretty serious issues, and can even kill your plant.
When it comes to watering your Rubber Plant, however, you should no longer be at all stressed about watering it because you’ve come to the right place!
Famous for being low maintenance and stylish, the Rubber Plant sits comfortably on the list of the most popular houseplants. It brings a certain elegance to the room whilst also being super for plant parents of all experience levels and can adapt to a real range of environments.
That being said, Rubber Plants can be a little fussy about their watering so it’s important you’re giving your plant the right amount at the right intervals.
In this article we will be covering how to know when your Rubber Plant needs water, the different methods you can use to water it, tips and tricks to prevent over and underwatering plus all of the nuggets of knowledge we have gathered over the years. By the end, you’ll be confident in watering your Rubber Plant properly to keep it happy and healthy for many years to come.
Signs that your Rubber Plant needs water
The potting mix is dry
It may seem obvious that dry soil means it’s time to water but it’s not actually just as simple as this. Rubber Plants absolutely hate soggy soil and much prefer dry potting mix. This is why it’s crucial that you only water once the soil has fully dried out. And we mean fully dried out!
But how do I know if the soil is dry we hear you ask? Well, there are several methods you can choose from to determine whether the soil is dry and they depend on how you water your plant. If you use bottom-up watering then we recommend using a moisture meter to determine soil moisture. Otherwise, the lifting method can also help you if you water from the bottom up (but only if your plant is light enough to lift).
If you water your Rubber Plant from the top down then you can use the finger/ chopstick method to check if the top few inches are dry. If your finger or chopstick comes out without much soil on it, then the potting mix has dried out.
Another thing to look out for if you water from the top down is if the potting mix has turned quite a light brown. This also suggests it has dried out. When you water, pay attention to the differences in colour between wet and dry soil. This will help you determine soil moisture in future too but shouldn’t be the only method you use.
Your Rubber Plant is displaying issues
If your Rubber Plant has been thirsty for a while, you might start to notice a few issues across your plant. These can include but are not limited to: drooping stems, brown leaves or leaf edges and curling leaves.
Be careful diagnosing watering issues purely based on the problem you see. This is because some of the same problems can also be caused by overwatering. This is because once the roots have started to rot, they aren’t able to take up any water. Ironically, this leaves your plant thirsty and it will start to display signs of underwatering, such as dry brown leaves and drooping stems.
How to water a Rubber Plant properly
Watering schedules: we just don’t believe in them
Whilst it’s a good idea to roughly have an idea of how frequently you should be watering your Rubber Plant, we don’t ever recommend a strict watering schedule. There are so many factors that play into how quickly the soil dries out (and therefore how often you need to water your Rubber Plant). These factors are also always changing (for example temperature) so strict watering routines will often mean you are watering too frequently or not enough.
Seasonality is one of the main factors that will impact how often you need to water your Rubber Plant. During winter you’ll need to cut back on how much you are watering your plant to prevent overwatering and root rot.
This is because the cold temperatures and lack of sunlight mean that not only does the soil take longer to dry out. Your Rubber Plant is also dormant during winter and you won’t see any new growth which means it just doesn’t need as much moisture.
Our advice on using tap water
Rubber Plants are pretty hardy and adaptable compared to so many other houseplants and they don’t tend to be as sensitive when it comes to using tap water. However, if you live in an area with particularly hard water then over time this might start to cause some issues.
This is because the excess fluoride and other chemicals in the water can slowly build up around the roots, decreasing their ability to take up moisture and nutrients. This isn’t an issue that will happen overnight but something to be wary of.
Using rainwater or distilled water can help prevent issues caused by fluoride sensitivity but can sometimes be a little bit of a hassle.
One method that is a lot easier is to let the water stand overnight in your watering can before giving it to your Rubber Plant (and other houseplants). Over the course of the night, the fluoride sinks to the bottom of the can which means you can water your plants as normal, but just get rid of the last few inches of water.
How to choose the right watering method for a Rubber Plant
There are several different ways you can water your Rubber Plant and each comes with its own set of benefits and disadvantages. We tend to recommend mixing methods up a bit so that you get the benefits of all of them and mitigate the impact of the disadvantages.
Below you’ll find a rundown of the three main ways you can water your Rubber Plant.
This method of watering is where you add water to a saucer or tray that your Rubber Plant is standing in and let it soak up the water from the bottom up.
This method is beneficial to Rubber Plants as it encourages the roots to grow downwards to reach the moisture. This helps with the overall stability of your plant which is important for tall plants such as the Rubber Plant.
It’s a lot harder to overwater your plant using this method (as long as you remove any water still left in the saucer about 15 minutes after watering). It allows your Rubber Plant to take up as much as it needs but no more.
This method of watering is when you add water from the top of the pot and let any excess run out of the bottom into a saucer. It’s really important with this method that you do have drainage holes in your pot so that any excess water can escape rather than your roots swimming in waterlogged soil.
The main benefit of the top watering method is that you are able to have even moisture throughout the pot rather than just at the bottom of the soil.
Another benefit of watering your Rubber Plant using the top-down method is that it flushes out any excess minerals or fluoride that might be hanging around in the soil. This is why we recommend always top-down watering your plants occasionally even if you prefer the bottom-up method.
Soaking your Rubber Plant
The final method of watering your Rubber Plant is by soaking it in a bowl of water or a bath.
This method isn’t super convenient for regular water as it requires moving your plant around a lot but it’s a great method for when you might have been underwatering your plant, have just gotten back from holiday or if there’s been a bout of really warm weather.
The soaking method is also good to avoid overwatering and when you soak for about 10-15 minutes, you make sure that your Rubber Plant only takes up the water it needs! It’s also important that you let it drip dry before putting your plant back to avoid the soil being too soggy.
How to prevent overwatering and underwatering
Only water when the soil has dried out
Rubber Plants really don’t like to have soggy soil for extended periods of time and prefer their potting mix to be dry. This is why it’s really important that the soil has fully dried out before you even start to think about watering again.
Monitoring the soil moisture on a regular basis will help you figure out when is best to water your plant and if the soil is taking a long time to dry out, then you might want to cut back on how deeply you water next time.
Equip yourself with several methods including the chopstick method and the lifting method alongside owning a moisture meter (these things really are a lifesaver). A combination of these will help you know when the soil has dried out enough to be watered again.
Adjust the frequency of watering
Pay attention to any fluctuations in temperature and sunlight as these will have an impact on how quickly (or slowly) the soil dries out and therefore impact when your plant needs more water.
Over the colder, darker months of the year, you want to cut back on how deeply and frequently you water your Rubber Plant quite a bit as not only does your plant need less water, but the potting mix will take longer to dry out in cooler weather.
Alongside this, cold wet soil is a breeding ground for fungal growth so just another reason to ensure it dries out properly. If you do spot fungal growth, remove it as soon as possible and replace any potting mix if still soggy.
There are also other factors alongside environmental changes that will impact how quickly the soil dries out, notably the soil-to-root ratio. If your Rubber Plant’s root system is taking up a lot of the pot, then the soil is able to retain less moisture and will dry out quicker.
However, if your pot is largely made up of potting mix, then it will absorb a lot more water and take a long time to dry out. This increases the risk of root rot and is why we always recommend only repotting into a pot a few inches bigger.
You might be tempted to repot into a much larger pot to save yourself having to do it for a few years but this can be damaging to your plant. Alongside root rot risks, it can cause stability issues for your Rubber Plant.
Adjust how deeply you are watering
Beyond just how often you water your plant, it’s also important to pay attention to how much water you are giving your Rubber Plant each time you water it. It’s best to water deeply but less frequently as it allows the potting mix to dry out. Watering a little bit and often is more suited to plants that like evenly moist soil that never dries out.
Just like frequency, you’ll need to see how best to adjust how much water you give your plant depending on temperature, light level, plant maturity, size and location in the room.
Our top tips for correctly watering your Rubber Plant
Use room temperature water
It’s really important that when you water your Rubber Plant you use room temperature water. If you are using really cold water then it could shock your plant and if you’re using hot water it can actually burn the roots slightly. Make sure to test it against your hand before giving it to your plants.
Water when it’s light outside
Another tip that we live by is only watering when it’s light outside. Watering in the evening or at night just means that the temperature tends to be a lot lower which doesn’t pair too well with super soggy soil.
Watering during the day also means that if any part of the plant (stems or leaves) is splashed during watering, there is enough time for the water droplets to evaporate before nightfall. If the leaves get really cold at night and have damp spots then this can cause them to rot.
Cut back watering in winter
During the colder and darker months of the year, you want to make sure that you are significantly cutting back on how much you water your Rubber Plant for two main reasons.
Firstly, as we’ve mentioned earlier in the article, the colder weather means the soil will take a lot longer to dry out which can not only cause root rot but also fungal growth. This can appear as white fluffy patches across the top of the soil. These must be removed as soon as you spot them.
The second reason why you need to cut back on how much you water your Rubber Plant in winter is simply that your plant enters a dormant state during winter. Rubber Plants aren’t quick growers even during summer but in winter they will pretty much just stop entirely. This means they just require less moisture compared to the growth period.
Use terracotta pots instead of plastic ones
If you find yourself often overwatering your Rubber Plant (or at least worrying about it a lot), one thing we recommend is switching to a terracotta pot instead of a plastic one.
The reason terracotta pots are so good is that they are permeable which means some excess water can evaporate out of the sides. So if you accidentally overwater, that moisture isn’t just trapped in the soil, rotting the roots but some of it will escape out through the pot.
This reduces the risk of overwatering compared to plastic pots which retain every drop of moisture. Terracotta pots also look great so that’s another bonus!
Always have drainage holes
Never try to grow a plant without drainage holes, ever, ever, ever! They are a really important feature that allows excess water to either drain out of the pot (or in the case of bottom-up watering, allows your plant to take up water in the first place).
Watering the exact right amount is impossible and means you would have to be topping it up precisely pretty much every day without drainage holes.
It’s also really important to make sure that the drainage holes aren’t blocked by anything. If you find yourself watering your Rubber Plant but nothing is coming out into the saucer, or it’s hardly taking up water even though the soil is dry, it may be that the drainage hotels are blocked.
If the soil is very dry, water from the bottom up
If your Rubber Plant is suffering from severe underwatering and the soil is completely bone dry, then we recommend watering from the bottom up for a while. This is because when you water really dry soil it will simply flow over the edges of the soil, straight down to the bottom of the pot and out of the drainage holes.
Soaking as a first instance is also a really good idea as it allows your plant to slowly take up water.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much should I water my Rubber Plant?
It’s important that you alter how much you water your Rubber Plant depending on environmental factors such as light, temperature and humidity. On average in summer you want to be watering your Rubber Plant a maximum of once a week and about once a month during winter.
How do I know when my Rubber Plant needs water?
Your Rubber Plant likes its soil to fully dry out between waterings so it’s important you only water when the potting mix is dry. Use a moisture meter to determine how much moisture is in the soil and adjust your watering habits throughout the year.
What is the best method for watering my Rubber Plant?
We recommend bottom-up watering for a Rubber Plant as this encourages the roots to grow downwards towards the moisture. This increases the overall stability of the plant which is crucial for a tall, upwards-growing plant like Rubber Plants.
Should I water my Rubber Plant from the top or the bottom?
Whilst you can water your Rubber Plant in both ways, we recommend trying to mostly water from the bottom up. This increases the root stability as they are encouraged to grow downwards towards the moisture and it will help with overall plant stability.
How long can a Rubber Plant go without water?
Ideally, you want to be watering your Rubber Plant once every week or two during summer and around once a month during winter. These plants do like their soil to dry out so won’t die immediately if they aren’t given water for a while.
We hope that our guide to watering a Rubber Plant has been useful to you. Alongside light level, ensuring you are watering correctly is one of the main pillars of plant care so it’s crucial that you pay attention to when your Rubber Plant needs water and if you are watering it correctly. They might be known as fairly low-maintenance and adaptable plants, but overwatering is one of their biggest killers and they can be pretty sensitive to it.
Make sure that you keep a very close eye on your plant to spot any early warning signs that your plant is unhappy with how much water it’s receiving. Things like drooping stems, curling leaves and brown or yellow patches across the leaves can all be signs that you are overwatering or underwatering so watch out for those.
If you want to learn more about how to care for your plant and keep it happy and healthy, check out our Rubber Plant care guide.