dying rubber tree houseplant
I have a 38 year old rubber tree my father gave us when we married. Stretched out, it is currently about 8 feet tall. I have successfully air-layered it two times (couple of years ago). We have lived in Raleigh, NC for 25 years, and every spring we move it to our upstairs porch (unscreened) where it faces west and receives very good light through trees. In the winter, it lives in front of the west window and tolerates poorer light. It has become very ill the past couple of months, losing more and more leaves. It is now droopy, has very few leaves at the ends of branches. The greener branches feel and look soft and wrinkly. The darker "barkier" branches are not hard and one shoot has peeling bark on the lower plant. In desperation, we repotted with new soil in the same pot (12 inch) two weeks ago and the root system looks good but not extensive as I would have imagined. I do not over water and I fertilize monthly. Recently, I have applied the oil spray "volick." A number of years ago, I worked at a premier garden center in Raleigh for 5 years (Logan's Trading Co.) and I have a fair knowledge of plants. I have no answers this time. I hope you can help me; this plant is a part of me and has traveled the country with us throughout our married when my husband was transferred with his job. I have given my 2 grown children the air-layered starts when they married and bought their own homes. I don't know what to do.
Certified GKH Gardening Expert
It may need phosphorous. This nutrient helps plants build roots and if it is lacking, it could cause the plant to fail. A bloom booster fertilizer or bone meal can help provide phosphorous.
It may also be a fungus so treat the plant with a fungicide, as a precaution.
It may also be plain old age. Plants have a life span the same as animals and it is possible that your plant has reached the end of its time. Rooted cuttings start the clock over again so it would be wise to try to get some cuttings from the plant just in case.