I live in Austin, TX. I have a rubber tree plant that's about five years old. It's not in good shape and I'm having trouble getting it healthy again. A few years back I overwatered it and the whole plant turned very droopy. Since then it's been a battle to try to get it back to normal.

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Almost all the leaves have fallen off the two larger branches. There is new growth but they aren't making it very far before falling off as well.

I have it in a pot with a high drainage soil (Miracle Gro garden soil for cactus, palm, and citrus) but the soil seems to get moldy easily. I've transferred the plant to a different pot and changed out all the soil twice now. Both times the soil had a bit of white powder in it.

The plant bounced back pretty well both times and started growing new leaves. However, both times after the one or two waterings it started getting droopy again and the leaves started turning yellow and dropping off. At this point it's losing a leave or two every day.

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These days, I only water it once about ever three weeks with a fairly conservative amount of water. When I do this the leaves immediately start to drop off. The pot has a drainage hole at the bottom.

I can try transferring it again but I don't know how to stop the mold from coming back.

Do I need to use a new soil? New pot? Why is the plant so sensitive to water?

  • Is it in a self watering pot? If not, is it in a pot with drainage holes? If so, do you empty out any outer tray or pot after watering? And lastly, I'm not seeing any evidence of mould in the photo, but I am seeing some bulky (possibly woody) material on the surface of the soil - is that what gets 'mouldy'?
    – Bamboo
    Aug 5, 2019 at 17:43
  • It's not a self watering pot and there is a drainage hole on the bottom of it. I don't have a tray on the bottom. I take it outside to water then bring it back in. I don't currently see any mold on the top of the soil. In the past it's been in the soil down under the surface.
    – d512
    Aug 6, 2019 at 3:44
  • It may be that what you thought was mold was actually mycorrhizae, which can be a healthy component of soil with plants growing in it - how did you notice it if it was below the surface? When you take the plant outdoors to water, how long is it left outside for, and does it receive any sun while its there? What part of the world are you in, and can you add a photo of the whole plant please?
    – Bamboo
    Aug 6, 2019 at 9:56
  • It's possible that it was mycorrhizae but it seemed crustier and not necessarily where the roots were, more towards the edge of the pot. I noticed it below the surface when I transferred the plant to a new pot. I'm no expert, but if it's not mold, isn't it odd that the plant would do so much better when I moved it into new soil? Also seems strange that it would it have such a hard time right after I water it. I usually leave it outside for a few hours in the shade or dappled sun light. I'm in Austin, TX. I will update the post with a pic of the full plant.
    – d512
    Aug 6, 2019 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


When plants are in low light situations they stretch out. Older leaves drop off the stems and newer leaves are smaller and sometimes a paler color.

Most ficus including this species respond well to hard pruning. I suggest

  • move to a high light area
  • cut back all the long stems to just one or two nodes above the ground
  • do not fertilize or repot until the new growth has at least a few leaves
  • when the new growth is established take it out of the pot and look at the roots. They should be firm, even woody, with new growth having a whitish or yellow color. Soft smelly roots indicate root rot due to over watering. Remove all rotting roots without disturbing the root ball too much. Then return to the existing pot with a little bit of new soil
  • Thanks for the tips. It definitely has not been in a room with enough light. I didn't realize they liked that much light. So I will move it. What do you recommend for potting soil? I know they like high drainage soil. Is the Miracle Gro product I mentioned in the post a good one? I feel like maybe I should try something else since I haven't had much luck with that one.
    – d512
    Aug 6, 2019 at 20:07

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