Rubber plants are one of the less sensitive houseplant types as they can adapt to a range of environments. However, this isn’t to say that your rubber plant will never show signs of suffering and this can often show in the form of brown leaves. The main causes for brown leaves on Rubber Plants are: over- and underwatering, insufficient light and pests. There are a few things to watch out for when diagnosing the problem which we will explain below.
Overwatering can cause brown leaves
If the bottom leaves of your Rubber Plant are turning yellow or brown, are drooping or are becoming a little mushy, these are all signs that you are overwatering.
Overwatering is one of the main killers of Rubber Plant as the impact can be quite quick. Rubber plants absolutely hate sitting in water as this can easily lead to root rot meaning the plant becomes unstable and also cannot get needed nutrients from its root system. Waterlogged soil also gives off quite a damp and musty smell so get up close to your plants every so often.
If you think that your Rubber Plant is waterlogged, check the moisture of the soil immediately and adjust watering accordingly. We also recommend replacing the potting soil straight away (rather than waiting for it to naturally dry out) so that the roots can begin to recover and this will avoid more brown leaves developing. Cut away the rotten roots and dead leaves so that the plant focuses on regenerating healthy growth.
Underwatering can cause light brown leaves
If your Rubber Plant’s leaves have become quite light brown in colour, dry and crispy (starting from the tips) it may be because you have underwatered them.
Too little water can also cause harm to your Rubber Plant so it is important to keep an eye on how dry the soil is. Make sure to regularly water your Rubber Plant, a little and often to make sure that the soil is always slightly damp. Rubber Plants don’t like to be swimming in water, but they don’t like to have dry soil for too long either.
Luckily underwatering won’t instantly kill your Rubber Plant, if you spot a few dry brown tips, adjusting your watering schedule should solve the problem pretty quickly. Trim away the brown parts and any new growth should hopefully be healthy and luscious green!
Brown leaves can also indicate low light levels
Rubber Plants like bright, indirect light and if they spend too long in a shady spot, they may start to develop brown areas on their leaves. Make sure you place them somewhere they receive several hours of bright light. They shouldn’t be directly next to a window, as direct light will cause other issues for your Rubber Plant, so it is about finding the right balance.
You might also need to think about moving your Rubber Plant around depending on the seasons to avoid brown patches occurring on the leaves. In the winter months, when the sun isn’t as strong (and out for less of the day) it might be necessary to move your plant a little closer to the window to make use of the limited sunlight as best as possible.
Pests are a worrying sign of brown Rubber Plant leaves
A slightly less common reason why your Rubber Plant’s leaves are turning brown is a pest infestation. It can happen that pests such as mealybugs, spider mites and scale insects take hold of your plant.
If you find pests on your Rubber Plant we recommend giving the whole plant a shower. They have quite hardy leaves so can withstand the shower better than some other more delicate plants. Make sure the shower isn’t on full pressure and you should be fine. You should also treat your Rubber Plant with an organic insecticide to fight the infestation and avoid more brown leaves.
Make sure to check over your other plants in the room to see if any other plants have pests. Keep your Rubber Plant (and other infected plants) a good distance away from any of your other houseplants as you don’t want the pests to spread.
If only the edges of the leaves have turned brown, then it can be a good idea to leave these as they aren’t all dead and can still be valuable to your Rubber Plant. However, any leaves that are fully brown and have crisped up should be removed. This will stop your plant from wasting energy trying to revive them. Instead, it allows your Rubber Plant to focus all of its energy on new healthy growth.
When removing the leaves, make sure to trim them off using sharp tools. Never rip or pull the leaves off by hand as this can damage the stems and other parts of the plant that might be otherwise healthy.
More often than not, brown leaves on your Rubber Plant are a sign that your plant is starting to die. This can be caused by a whole range of issues that this article discusses. It’s important to act as quickly as possible to find out what is causing your Rubber Plant to develop brown leaves as the sooner you start fixing the issue, the more chance you have at bringing your plant back to full health.
If you accidentally overwater your Rubber Plant then it can start to develop brown leaves. You’ll also notice that the plant starts to feel quite soft and limp compared to normal. This is because the root system has started to rot in the waterlogged soil.
Unfortunately, once the leaves on your Rubber Plant have turned brown, there is no reversing this as that part of the leaf has died.
The key to preventing your Rubber Plant from developing brown leaves is to make sure that it is growing in the ideal environment. You need to make sure that environmental factors such as sunlight, warmth and humidity are right for your plant, as well as balancing watering so that your Rubber Plant is getting what it needs.
The great thing about Rubber Plants is that they aren’t super sensitive to their environment. This means if there is something wrong with it (such as brown leaves), it tends to be because of one of a few possible reasons. Watering is the most common issue with Rubber Plants so we suggest starting there as soon as you spot any brown patches or other issues on your plant.
Check out our Rubber Plant care guide for more information on how to best care for your plant and avoid more brown leaves.
Written by Billy Dawson