Question about Ficus - Rubber Tree

sharbear50(6a Bella Vista)January 28, 2012

Seems I saw somewhere in a previous post from Al/tapla that a rubber tree should be re-potted if; the roots have started growing above the soil. My rubber tree has 2 roots sticking up out of the soil. Should I just bury them or does that mean it needs to be in a larger container? Is it too early to do it?

Oh, one more question. What to do about the water? I don't want to ruin my floors. I can put a saucer under them to catch the exiting water but I obviously don't want the plant to sit in water. What to do? Any suggestions?


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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Sometimes roots grow in wayward fashion w/o a lot of root congestion. The way to determine if your plant will benefit from a repot is to lift the plant and root mass from the pot. If soil and roots come out intact, it will benefit from a repot. Root congestion beyond the point described slows growth, reduces vitality, and causes other physiological responses like smaller leaves, shedding of interior foliage so plants end up with a 'poodle' look, and reduces branch/stem extension. Often, even conscientious growers are willing to live with the negative effects to some degree in exchange for not having to go through the inconvenience of a full repot. That doesn't change the fact the plant is suffering the stress of tight roots, but eventually the loss in vitality is going to weaken the plant. I often let plants grow beyond the point where they should be repotted, but never more than a year - that's just me.

Don't be in a hurry to repot. I suggest that if anyone suggests that you repot in the spring or winter, that you ask them specifically WHY. If they cannot explain the reason, think twice. Repotting houseplants in winter & early spring is not good practice because the plant is at the lowest energy levels of the growth period. Recovery will be much slower than if you do your repots in Early summer. Basically, you want your plants to have enjoyed the benefits of longer days and brighter light in late spring, so they are better able to tolerate the effects of repotting and heavy pruning. Potting up can be done at any time, but is still better in the summer months when roots will quickly colonize the added soil mass and over-watering a less likely problem. It's repotting, which includes bare-rooting and root pruning that is best done when the plant is growing robustly.

Your plant shouldn't sit in the effluent that drains from the pot because it allows the salts you're flushing from the soil to find their way back into the soil. The level of salts in the soil solution and the effluent equalize VERY quickly, so the effectiveness of removing the effluent after the pot has stopped draining is very significantly reduced if the level of salts in pot/saucer is able to reach isotonicity (equalization). I have all my plants resting on plastic blocks so the pot is always above the effluent in the saucer. I can also use the collection saucer as a humidity tray using that approach. If you have a number of plants in the same room, it can be enough to make a difference.

I do hope you found that helpful.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 2:02PM
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If you are talking about the 'rubber tree' that has the big thick fat leaves, not the 'Ficus Benjimina',...the tiny thin leaf plant, that also grows like a weed, they are both fast growers and have invasive root systems. In a container is the only place for them. Here in south Fla, they grow to massive size in no time at all,and can pull up the pipes in the yard,crack pools,crack house foundations. Their roots can take a lot of 'abuse'. You could cut those roots off, put some soil on top of them, push them into the soil if they bother you, you almost cant kill either of those Ficus.

The bigger the pot, the more light you give it, the bigger it will get and the faster it will grow. When it stops growing or it drops its leaves and looks 'thin', like it doesnt have enough leaves on the plant, then it needs to be re-potted. I dont know if it grows outside up in your area,if you wanted it to be out in your yard. If you put it in the yard, put it far away from the house/pool or anything important. It will grow huge and its roots will find your plumbing pipes and grow into them,and crack them,clog them up, and do a lot of damage. Keep it in a pot as long as possible, cut it back if you need to make it 'bushy' or thick. Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 2:20PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I almost feel like they could be playing the "doot doot doot doot" from the Jaws movies right now. ;-)

I agree - they do have invasive and aggressive root systems.

Sharon - I forgot to mention that you'll find a tone of information about Ficus culture at the link below.

Best luck. Let me know if you think I can help in any other way.


Here is a link that might be useful: Ficus in containers

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 2:41PM
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Well it is just fact about ficus....when you see them overturned after a windstorm or a hurricane, you see the roots all intertwined with the sprinkler systems,and yet they are only about 3 feet deep,even on gigantic trees! But they are enormous root systems, but so invasive! And pools being repaired from roots from a tree up to 3 yards away, that have grown that far away from the ficus, and cracked cement.

Not my favorite tree. Even as a hedge,its roots just keep growing FAR away from the plant. But it is cheap and fast growing, so landscapers love it. Now that that white fly has nearly killed every ficus in Ft.Laud. and Miami,or severely damaged every one,something is finally keeping them in check:). But in a pot, ficus varieties are nice.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 11:50PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Oh, you don't have to sell me on what you said - I agree completely. I wasn't trying to diminish what you said or disagree, only trying to add some sinister ambiance. ;-)

In fact, you'll find this in the link I left upthread:

"The roots of some Ficus species are so powerful they can destroy concrete buildings or buckle roads, and can be measured in fractions of miles as they extend underground in search of water." (Technically, roots don't really 'search' for water, but they grow where conditions are favorable WHEN they're favorable, which makes it SEEM like they search for water.)

Take care.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 2:37PM
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sharbear50(6a Bella Vista)

Al, thank you so much. You definately answered all my questions about my Potted ficus "rubber Tree". :-)
I will wait till summer to repot it as right now it looks really healthy and I don't want to "fix what aint broke" lol.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 5:17PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Lol - You're welcome. I think any time we can safely put off a chore like repotting, it comes as good news. Best luck!


    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 9:08PM
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