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Should I trasplant my rubber plant?

Saugerties, NY

I inherited a large rubber plant - 7 woody trunks, tallest is about 7 feet. I put it in the sunroom along the back wall so it wouldn't get direct sun - but it gets indirect bright east sun. In summer, I have mylar transparent shades that reflect a lot of the sunlight to keep the heat down which means the rubber plant doesn't get burned, either. It's in a 14" diameter, 12" tall pot. I have no idea how long it's been in this pot with this soil. I've had it for 5 years, and other than an occasional feeding and watering, I do nothing to it. There are a lot of leaves, but the leaves are pale and dull and I would like to brighten them up. I do clean the leaves with a damp cloth every now and then, but that doesn't cause any change. Should I transplant it giving it new soil in a larger pot? Or should I keep it in this pot and add new soil which would cover the base of the trunks. If I should transplant, when is a good time? The ceilings are very high in the sunroom so I'm not worried about it outgrowing the room right now. I just want to brighten its leaves - glossy and dark green being my goal.

San Antonio, TX

Im not an expert on rubber trees (mine is so little) but if it's been in the pot that long it could possibly benefit from a little more room. Are the roots coming out the bottom? Dont worry; one of our experts will soon jump in here and give you some good advice

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

After 5 years in the same pot, it really ought to repot it and give it some fresh soil. Potting mix really needs to be replaced every so often or else you can start to run into problems. It's hard to say for sure without seeing a picture but that pot does sound a bit small for a 7 foot tall tree. Once you pop it out of the pot you'll be able to tell whether it needs a larger pot or not. If you pull it out and the roots are starting to circle around the outside of the rootball, then you'll need to put it in a bigger pot (untangle the roots as best you can before putting it in the new pot). If the roots look like they've still got room to grow, then you can just give it fresh potting mix and put it back in its old pot. Whatever you do though, make sure you put it back in at the same level as it is in the current pot, don't add extra soil to cover up the base of the trunk as you mentioned above, that can kill some plants.

It would be good if you could post a couple pictures--one a shot of the whole tree, and one a closeup of some of the leaves that look pale and dull. It could all be caused by being in too small of a pot and having worn out potting mix, but there could be other things going on too.

Pilot Mound, IA

I've done a quite a bit of reading this last year on this subject because I had the same problem. there realy is nothing that you can do to get the old leaves to come back to there prevous dark green sheen but what I did was to rejuvenate mine. You can either cut the plant back to three or four leaf bud from the ground and repot the stumps it then should in a few weeks branch out with two or three branches. When I was reading about this I realy did not like the idea of not have a plant for a few weeks and even when it would start to grow it would be at least ayear before it was a foot to two feet tall. So what I did, was last spring I started to air layer it about two or three feet from the top leaves which is a way to root it before the plant has been cut. if you want I can write how to air layer in another post. When the roots formed I cut it off and planted it then I cut the rest close to the grow and it each stump grew back with two or three. so i increased my suply of plants at the same time when these small plants get big enough i am going to air layer them, repot them and give them to friends.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi Terrlevin, yes you need to re-pot your plant, as Ecrane already said, the soil/compost will be depleted of all nutrients and even the soil will be less in bulk than when first placed in the pot, this is because the roots take up more room as they grow which in turn means less moisture being held for the roots to benefit from. IF you are enjoying the size of your plant, you will get a pot 2 sizes larger than the one the plant is in, some new good quality compost for indoor plants and shake as much old compost off the root ball of your plant, check the roots so you can cut away any that have dried up, went too soft and soggy, try to gently unravel some of the roots but be careful as the roots are very fleshy and white, place some compost into the bottom of the new pot, then spread out the roots you untangled and refill the rest of the compost around the roots till you are happy that the plant is at the same depth as it was before, press gently but firmly all the compost around the root ball and water well. dont feed for a week or so right after re planting as the plant needs time to settle into it's new pot, then feed say every few weeks, use a liquid feed, either a seaweed based feed or even a tomato feed would do well, these dont have any chemicals added. for a plant your size, I would recommend you add a MOSS pole at the time you re-pot, this is a special pole used for these plants, when you add this to the compost and fill the pot with soil, you tie the plant stems to the moss pole so that this mossy pole helps to moisten the aerial roots that grow from the stems, it also helps to keep moisture around the foliage wich these plants need. You can buy a moss pole from Garden centers, diy stores etc, or make your own, it is a plastic pole, has holes drilled into it so you can add water from the top of the pole, this wets/dampens the moss wrapped around the pole and the aerial roots get moisture to help support the tall stem of your plant, the pole is soon hidden by foliage and is not unsightly. If your sun room gets to warm even with blinds, the air could be too dry for the plant so you really need to mist it a lot or this can cause the leaves to pale and drop off, lack of food or improper watering can also be a factor, the yellow leaves will either drop off and new foliage will replace it, but the yellow leaves will not go green again. hope all this helps you sort the plant and you enjoy it again. good luck. WeeNel.

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