Rubber Tree Plants

Bark Peeling Off My Rubber Tree Plant

DCeci added on February 17, 2013 | Answered

I have a rubber tree that has grown like mad for ~ the last 10 years. Suddenly I noticed the leaves falling off and a foul smell coming from the plant. When I repotted it, the bottom soil was VERY foul smelling and bark was peeling off. I repotted it in a container with a good drainage system, high quality soil and stones in the bottom, but the plant is still struggling and the bark is no better - is this root rot and can it be treated?

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Certified GKH Gardening Expert
Answered on February 18, 2013
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Answered on February 22, 2013

The loss of bark indicates a problem even more troubling than root rot - the rot has spread to the tissues of the stem. With many plants (dracaena marginata - dragon tree is especially susceptible), when this happens, it is the 'kiss of death'. However, the Ficus decora (rubber tree) is much tougher than the marginata, so with repotting and CORRECT WATERING, it may be able to come back. Going forward, if you test the soil moisture all the way to the bottom of the pot, you should be able to avoid the stinky-rot problems. will give you some tips on moisture testing. Also you might want to do some research on more porous potting medium instead of "high quality soil." I don't know if your plant will survive - it might. If it continues to fail, you might be able to root cuttings from the very ends, before the rot gets there. One last thing: the idea of a drainage layer in the bottom of the pot is a myth that needs to get buried - useless at best, harmful at worst, you just don't need it. Best of luck to you.

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Answered on February 20, 2013

I agree with root rot. Call an arborist or go to your local gardening store and buy a remedy. Good Luck and Happy Growing!


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Answered on February 17, 2013

It sounds as if your ficus has been kept too wet. Usually a foul odor coming from a houseplant that's looking bad is a dead giveaway to overwatering and poor drainage. If the bark is coming off completely around the stem, your plant has serious problems. Your plant has done well for 10 years. You were doing something right, but what changed? With new soil and better drainage, you should adopt the wait and see 'attitude'. If the old roots were damaged, they could see the plant through long enough for new roots to take over. Watch the new soil carefully, and don't keep it too wet.

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