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Help! Dying rubber tree

Posted by xkittyxlzt 5 (My Page) on
Sun, Jan 13, 13 at 18:44

Hello, new to the forums, was searching for help for my rubber tree. It's about 4 ft tall, in a 24" round planter about 24" deep, maybe a little more. It was doing great all summer, moved it inside in October before it got cold outside (it was out on the porch all summer). I've had it for over three years now and never had a problem until just this week. I also had a smaller one, about a foot tall that I had purchased at the beginning of summer. That one just died here a couple days ago, and I thought it was a one off, but now it seems the big one's going the same way, and I'm going to cry. The problem starts (it seems) with the leaves getting droopy. They haven't turned yellow or reddish in color, they just look all limp. So I examined the plant, and there are black splotchy spots on the green part of the stem/trunk (down lower where it looks more bark-like there are no spots, only up toward the newer growth). The plants were doing fine until just this week I noticed when this problem started. All of a sudden new growth just stopped and turned dark, when even just a couple weeks ago new leaves were unfurling. I water the plant about a half gallon (the smaller one received much less of course), maybe a little less usually about every 2 weeks. The smaller plant that's already dead it looked like the stem rotted from the inside out, it was all black and squishy after the last leaf fell off, again, at the top, not closer to the base, at the base and a couple inches above, the stem looked fine and wasn't soft. The two plants were not next to each other, one was in the kitchen and the other in the living room. It doesn't look like the pictures of the southern blight I've seen, and there is no fungus visible at the base of the trunks. There are no problems visible on the leaves either, no spots, bumps, tears, etc. No evidence of insects, unless they're under the dirt where I can't see them.
I will try to get pictures up tomorrow when the light's better for taking pics.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Help! Dying rubber tree

Hi & welcome to Gardenweb! Has your plant been in the same pot and soil for 3 years? Your pics should give a lot more info.


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RE: Help! Dying rubber tree

xkittyxlzt, I had to copy & paste the salutation; now way could I type that without error.
Here are your statements
1."It was doing great all summer,
2. moved it inside in October before it got cold outside
3.(it was out on the porch all summer).
4. and never had a problem until just this week."

Whenever a plant is moved to an area of less light one has got to reduce the frequency of watering. Indoors, a probe must be used to check the soil moisture at the base of the root ball. The recently moved plant must be allowed to dry out before water is applied again. In the shade this will take longer - sometimes much longer! If the root ball stays wet for a long time, root rot sets in.
5. "The problem starts (it seems) with the leaves getting droopy.
6. They haven't turned yellow or reddish in color, they just look all limp.
7. just this week I noticed when this problem started.
8. The problem starts (it seems) with the leaves getting droopy. They haven't turned yellow or reddish in color, they just look all limp.
9. there are black splotchy spots on the green part of the stem/trunk ... only up toward the newer growth).
10. All of a sudden new growth just stopped and turned dark,"

Generally, when the youngest parts of the plant start to show disease symptoms, we can look to the roots as the source location. Black (dis)coloration and "squishy" feel - point to a fungus infection.
I would surmise that just around the time the plant was moved inside (mid October?) it was watered. Two weeks later (beginning of November) it was possibly watered again. The root ball remained wet for the whole of November. I can only guess that there was a Pythium infection at the roots which resulted in the rapid rotting of the young above ground parts of the plant. "The smaller plant that's already dead..." tends to confirm the diagnosis.
You can try to dry out the plant (which must not die! I do not want you to cry) by running a fan to quicken the drying out process.
Even so, I expect that you will have to cut back the stems that are diseased; and wait for the lower buds to break out on the remaining "stump(s)".


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RE: Help! Dying rubber tree

Most Ficus seedlings don't normally grow in soil. They start off in another tree or on rocks where their roots are exposed to air. They are prone to rotting quite quickly if their roots are too wet, especially in colder weather. Once the roots rot no water gets through and any lush growth is the first to show the signs by wilting. But they are also very resilient and if the rotting roots are cut off and the plant kept in an airy drier medium they recover quite well. Warmth is also important, they are a tropical plant. In the normal course of events they aren't prone to fungal problems so if the conditions are 'normalised' for your plant it should be okay.


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RE: Help! Dying rubber tree

Ok, for the life of me couldn't figure out how to do pictures on here, so here is the link to where they are at. Promise it's safe, nothing bad, just the plant pics.

http://s1210.beta.photobucket.com/user/xkittyxlzt/story/9149

Thanks so much for your responses! :)


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RE: Help! Dying rubber tree

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RE: Help! Dying rubber tree

Well I thought someone would have something to say about those spots. Not something I'm familiar with. Maybe your pics are too dark?


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RE: Help! Dying rubber tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 22, 13 at 22:04

To me, it looks like an unspecific fungal infection that started in the roots & moved systemically into the stem. By the picture that shows the shriveling of the stem tissue and the wilting leaves, it looks like it has the plant's vasculature compromised, blocking the flow of water and nutrients to the upper part of the plant. I'm thinking the situation doesn't look good, even if a systemic fungicide was employed at this point.

Al


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RE: Help! Dying rubber tree

Hello
I have almost similar problem. The leaves of the rubber plant suddenly drooped. I tried to keep it outside in the Sun but it has not helped. What should I do.
I do not want it to die.
I lost one rubber plant like this already.


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RE: Help! Dying rubber tree

Hello
I have almost similar problem. The leaves of the rubber plant suddenly drooped. I tried to keep it outside in the Sun but it has not helped. What should I do.
I do not want it to die.
I lost one rubber plant like this already.


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RE: Help! Dying rubber tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 11, 13 at 15:32

If you had wilting symptoms while the soil was moist that remained persistent after you watered, it's a near certainty that the plant is suffering from a lack of oxygen (O2) in the root zone. Water uptake is an energy driven function, which only occurs in the presence of O2. Take the O2 away by over-watering, and you end up with a plant dying of thirst in a sea of plenty.

Soil choice is probably the most important choice a grower will make when establishing a planting. Things like light levels and temperatures can be changed by moving the plant from one location to another, but when you put a plant in an inappropriate soil, you'll be fighting that soil for as long as the plant grows in it.

There are some things you can do to help you deal with the problem, but I'll suggest you first read the outline I'll link to below. It covers the bases that must be covered if you wish to consistently bring along healthy plant material. After that, I'll help you understand as much about growing in containers as you'd like to learn, starting with any specific questions you'd like to ask.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: An overview for you to think about ....


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RE: Help! Dying rubber tree

Dear Al
Thank you so much for your prompt reply. I have gone thru the complete link sent by you and can only wonder in amazement at my ignorance and wrong notions. Thank you for clarifying so much. I now have many questions for you and I hope you will answer and guide me further:
1. How to make the right mix of soil? What all should I put in it.
2. Can I help revive this plant. It is breaking my heart to know that I have killed 2 other and this third plant by not knowing the basics. Can we help revive this one.
3. I had repotted it about a week ago as an attempt to revive with completely new soil which again must have damaged it further. what Can I do now?
3. Can I take cuttings from its top and keep them in water to grow roots to create new plants?
Thanks so much for all the info. I am hooked to your articles and searching from there everywhere right now.
Nita


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RE: Help! Dying rubber tree

I'd just like to post a little follow-up about my tree. It was actually two trees in one pot, I ended up cutting off the sicklier looking one at the base. It was sad to do, but seems to have helped give the surviving one a better chance. The black splotches are still visible in a few places on the trunk, but that shriveled sort of look it had is gone. It made it through the winter, and when warm weather came again, it went back out on the porch for the season. Seems to have thrived, grew many new leaves and branches. Now it's cold again, so it's back inside. I have not watered it in weeks, as seems like I way overwatered it last winter, so trying to avoid doing that again. Still looks good. Has lost a couple leaves since coming in, all were singletons off the main trunk, all the leaves on the branch parts are hanging in there still.
One thing I did see in the warmer months was it grew some funky mushrooms in the soil. They were bright neon yellow/green, rounded tops, kinda bumpy looking, but kinda almost fuzzy looking in their 'root' area. Never seen mushrooms like that growing in the yard or nearby woods, so I have no idea where they came from. All I did was scrape up the top layer of soil, trying to remove all the fungus. That dirt I just tossed away, keeping it out of the pot. Visually, it was gone, though they did come back a couple times, I just kept removing the soil that I could see it in. Has not come back since the last time I did that. I was wondering if perhaps a fungicide or something could be applied to the dirt to keep them from coming back. Doesn't seem to have hurt the tree, it's still looking ok.
Sorry for the really long, rambling post :)


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RE: Help! Dying rubber tree

Heythere, everyone loves an update, such a positive one is great to hear!

In the simplest terms, mushrooms are the 'flowers' of an underground network of 'stuff.' They are a sign of healthy decomposition of organic matter, and have no negative relationship to your tree. Removing its' soil is not good, and that could have a negative effect. Removing the mushrooms at the surface is your call. If you think they're cool to look at (and no kids/pets that might try to eat them,) they'll go away in a few days if you do nothing.

If there is enough organic matter decomposing for mushrooms to live, added to your description of how long the soil is holding moisture, we can know that this tree will probably need to be repotted again at a good time next year. As the organic particles in a pot decompose, they become smaller, and more moisture-retentive - a perfect recipe for causing rotting roots. It may actually take a few more weeks until it's really dry. This is the kind of condition in which it's much more important to wait until the soil has dried well before adding more water.


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RE: Help! Dying rubber tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 12, 13 at 17:15

Nita - I linked you to the overview in an attempt to help you understand 2 things. Growing well means that you have know where the "sweet spot" is. We can't provide some conditions that would be considered favorable and some that aren't, because it will always be the least favorable condition that limits growth and vitality. If everything is perfect but for 1 factor, that will be the troublemaker.

Fortunately, most houseplants do very well with only minor variances in their cultural wants. Other than cacti, if you can keep 90% of your plants in a soil that can be kept moist w/o a significant amount of perched water (soggy layer at the bottom - more about that in the next link), at about 70*, at a favorable light level, and using an appropriate fertilizer, your job becomes remarkably easy.

I'll try to answer your questions in order.

1) If you read the link below, you'll discover that it isn't so much what you "put in" your soil as it is the size and physical characteristics of what you use. Basically, you want to start with a very large fraction of coarse material - say 75-80%. It might be fine pine bark pieces or other inorganic particles. It doesn't matter, as long as it allows you to keep a favorable ratio water and air in the root zone. Too much water is primarily what you need to guard against if you want your plants to have the opportunity to grow as close as possible to their genetic potential. I have found that an extremely high % of problems folks come here seeking remediation for are able to be traced back to a poor soil as causal. Spoiled foliage, rotted roots and diseases, and insect infestations are most common, and soil choice is usually the underlying cause.

The link explains how water behaves in soils and offers a couple of recipes to build on. Understanding the concept has changed the way a large number of people approach growing in containers.

2) If the root system is still viable, the plant should recover, even though it will likely shed the leaves as a drought response. Remember, it can't effectively take up water w/o adequate air in the soil. Ideally, soil should only be about as damp as a well wrung sponge. If it was my plant, I would take it out of the pot and inspect the root system for dead roots. If you find slimy roots or a sour-smelling soil, you might need to do an emergency repot. If the roots seem ok, you can unpot the plant and set it on a mat of newspapers, paper bags, clean rags ..... for an hour or two. This will wick the excess water from the soil, which in turn allows more air to make its way into the root zone. I'll wait for a report from you before we go on to the next step.

3) It might be appropriate to return the plant to the container it was formerly in. Having the plant a little root bound in a container small enough that it doesn't remain soggy for extended periods is much better than the inverse of that condition.

4) Cuttings from a struggling/stressed plant are very low % bets. Getting a cutting to strike is a race. The plant needs to grow roots and make a vascular connection to the top of the plant before fungal problems rot the plumbing. The more stored energy the cutting has the faster it makes roots and the less likely it is that rot organisms will spoil the outcome of the race. You'd do better to try to bring the plant back to good health, and then take your cuttings, but you can try if you like. You'll need a very airy rooting medium and a warm, bright spot.

Kitty - I wouldn't use a fungicide on the soil if I were you. Your plant forms all sorts of relationships with other living organisms in your soil, some of which actually help the plant absorb water and nutrients. Any fungicide you select would probably be unselective, and likely to do more harm than good. The exception would be if you were having fungal issues with the foliage, in which case some sort of anti-fungal remedy might be more appropriate. Plus, what Tiffany said.

Al

Here is a link that might be useful: I'm about soils. Please click me then read me.


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RE: Help! Dying rubber tree

Oh, ok then, I will leave them alone. I was worried, but if they are good, then that's cool. Thanks! :)


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