Has anyone seen their rubber plant do this??

greentea29October 8, 2012

I had this plant a few years ago and cared for it very well. I had to move and let my friend take care of it while I was away. It's been two years and I finally got it back. It lost a bunch of leaves and hardly grew at all. I stuck it under my grow lights and started to care for it again. About a month went by and I saw new growth - but not on the top, like I usually have, but EVERYWHERE. Out of every single node all the way up! Is this normal? I'm loving it!!!

Also, I forgot to mention. I did pinch a new sheath off the top about a month ago because I had heard that it was cause it to branch, although I've never gotten it to and never expected this. Was this just coincidence?

Will I be expecting multiple branches or just the old leaves replacing themselves?

Thanks everyone!

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greentea29

another pic

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 4:59PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

When you pinch the apical meristems (growing tips of branches) - the plant is forced to back-bud. When you pinch and the plant's state of health largely determines how profusely the plant back-buds. Each of the new buds is the beginning of a new branch. If you want to maximize your plants ramification (bushiness/fullness) allow each branch to grow until it has at least 4 leaves, then prune the branch back to 2 leaves. You'll then get another branch from each leaf axil (crotch). Soon, you'll be presented with multiple pruning opportunities - such that you'll be able to selectively prune any unwanted branches from a profusion of potential 'keepers'. Of course, to a large degree, this all depends on your ability to keep the plant healthy and its metabolism robust.

Al

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 5:20PM
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greentea29

Thanks so much. That's exactly what I wanted to hear! I've always wanted the bushiness of a ficus elastica without having to plant mulitples together.

Another thing I should add (in case anyone is wondering)is that I had to pot down to a lower size. I don't know if that also played a role, but I didn't think it was necessary to be in such a large pot.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 5:33PM
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tropicbreezent

In low light these plants will strive to go up into more light but often lose a lot of their lower leaves. By supplying more intense light for it, and having pinched out the growing tip, it will replace with a lot more leaves lower down. But if you lower the light levels again then you risk the plant losing many of the lower leaves and becoming straggly and tall. So keep it in strong light and it will keep its bushiness.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 11:30PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Just to be clear - keeping a plant in a high light situation isn't enough to keep it bushy. The plant's tendency toward gangliness comes mostly from the fact it's very apically dominant and WANTS to grow long and tall; this, whether the plant is in high light or low light. The primary difference between high light & low light conditions is that the plant will exhibit shorter internodes & smaller leaves in high light. The shorter internodes make it easier to keep the plant compact, but (by far) it's regularly truncating the branches through pinching (removing apical meristems) that increases ramification (allows us to maximize it's fullness).

We see this fact in play every day in our landscapes. What plant grows fuller - the one that's allowed to grow unencumbered by pruning in full sun, or the plant in partial shade that's pruned (pinched) regularly?

Al

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 7:45AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Kudos to you for being proactive and trying to guide the plant to your desired shape. Looks like it's going well! I've always loved that deep red of the curled new leaves.

Makes me miss mine that froze in the shed a few years ago because it had ants in the pot. Oops, gamble gone wrong! Now I know how to evict ants from the pots and would love to find another one small enough. Buying one that's already big seems like adopting an adult to me. Their personalities are already too formed and rigid to interest me.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 9:37AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

"Buying one that's already big seems like adopting an adult to me. Their personalities are already too formed and rigid to interest me." ;-) It's funny how varied perspectives can be. I look at big old plants (especially woody ones) as having much more character/interest/immediate potential than their more juvenile counterparts. Neither perspective is more right or wrong than the other, of course, just different.

Al

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 10:19AM
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tropicbreezent

* Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
Tue, Oct 9, 12 at 7:45

"Just to be clear - keeping a plant in a high light situation isn't enough to keep it bushy. The plant's tendency ...................."

Factually and demonstrably wrong, again. You only have to look into rainforests to see the spindly under canopy plants and how they fill out when they reach the top. Also, I have a Breadfruit tree under canopy that's tall, spindly with all the leaves up top. Seen that in the rainforests as well. But other people here have them in the open and they're about the height of mine but full, spreading trees full of foliage. I also have large ficus, full canopy with full leafed branches coming down near the ground, and underneath almost like a cavern. Whilst ficus under the canopy are spindly, tall, with leaves up top, or on extremities. It's in the nature of the Ficus.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 9:26PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

his is a quote from something I wrote about tending ficus in containers & regularly link other ficus growers to:

Although many Ficus begin life as an understory tree and are generally quite shade tolerant, most actually spend their life struggling through the shaded understory until they eventually reach the forest canopy, where they finally find full sun and can begin to come into their own.

We agree that ficus do better in bright light, but bright light doesn't counter a plant's tendency to be apically dominant - i.e. plants wanting to grow long & tall instead of short and full. In fact, variability in a plant's tendency toward apical dominance is what determines the difference between whether the plant grows as a tree or a bush. F elastica is VERY apically dominant, while F pumila is not, and the growth habit of the pumila is radically different than elastica.

Pinching a plant forces increased ramification (more branches) while plant mass is being REDUCED. A plant in full sun only grows more branches as its mass increases. Fullness is a measure of the ratio between the number of branches and the plant's mass, so which plant will be fuller - the pinched plant or the unpinched plant? I already allowed that the shorter internodes created by bright light make it easier to keep the plant compact, but the most effective tool is pinching. Pinching greatly increases (maximizes) the number of growing points (apices) on a plant. The more growing points there are on a plant, the thinner the plant has to spread it's energy allocation. There is less energy per growing point going to each growing point if there are 100 growing points as opposed to fifty. Increasing the number of growing points makes for shorter internodes, which means there HAS to be more leaves and branches in the canopy - pretty much the definition of bushiness.

As a bonsai aficionado, I work with containerized plants every day. Few are more intimately familiar with what it takes to increase ramification (fullness/bushiness) than the bonsai practitioner. I think that if we want to look to whether or not what I said is demonstrably correct/incorrect or factually accurate, we need look no further than some of the pictures of ficus in containers I've posted on these forums over the years.

Bright light is an important part of helping to keep a plant bushy, because of the shorter internodes thing, but our most valuable tool, by far, is pinching.

Al

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 8:16AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

That's kind of what I meant above, about personalities. I could buy a 5-foot stick with leaves on it (the only form I've ever seen for a rubber plant for sale) or I could get a baby and grow a bushy tree from the jump-start.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 11:28AM
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