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I have a rubber tree that's probably 5-7 years old and that's been kept in the same smallish pot the entire time. I've trimmed the tree once. It is about 70cm/2ft tall. I don't have a bigger spot for it so I want to keep it small. It's been doing well until this winter.

About a month ago the tree began dropping its lower leaves. Some lost leaves yellowed, some not. The photo's about a week old, the bottom two leaves have also fallen since. Although it's cold near the window, it's not colder than last winter. I water it every couple of weeks, maybe I overdid it.

enter image description here

I'm not sure what I should do. Prune the top branches for more branches, and keep the "leg" as it is? Or trim the tree down to a few leaf nodes above soil?

Would it be possible to save the entire top with all its leaves, or is it too big to survive in water long enough to grow roots?

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I think the leaves start to yellow and drop because of the too small size of the container. The rootball is too small for the size of the plant above ground and therefore it cannot take up enough nutrients. Some leaves therefore will be sacrificed, the nutrients are taken from these leaves and you'll get yellowing and eventually dropping.

The top of the plant looks very good and healthy, when you would repot it into a larger container it would definitely flourish. As I understand it correct, you don't want to put it into a larger container, so your option is to prune it and refresh the soil. Maybe also prune some roots while repotting as well.

For the size of this pot I would recommend to prune it between the second and the third leaf (counted from the bottom). You'll have to wait for new branches then.

The top of the plant (with the three branches) can easily be used for propagation, they will survive in water long enough until they grow roots. However, once when they'll get roots, I would recommend to put it in an even larger container than the current one.

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  • Thank you. That is really helpful. I doubt it's a good idea to prune now, as the days will be short for another three months or so.
    – bitstuff
    Jan 6 at 12:06
  • Yes you are right, spring would be a better time!
    – benn
    Jan 6 at 12:22

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