The rubber plant is a beautiful plant that can bring a lot of character to your house as an indoor plant. As an outdoor plant – well – given 50-100 years and you will have something that is gigantic!! Why is my rubber plant growing sideways? Well, it is a rubber plant!! One of the more common problems people experience with rubber plants is their tendency to be a bit “elastic” in their growth so let us have a look at how we can get them to stretch the right way – up – not sideways.
What Is A Rubber Plant?
The rubber plant is a member of the Ficus genus. There are over 850 species of Ficus, or figs as we call them commonly. These are some of the more creative trees you can imagine. Naturally, we get the eating fig that we all know (Adam and Eve and covering their privates). But then there are the other figs that range from strangler figs to giant Banyan trees that can grow like bridges over highways with their roots dripping towards the ground and forming pillars. And of course, there is the rubber tree – Ficus elastica.
The Rubber plant or tree is no longer really used for making rubber, but it was once. It has been superseded by easier to cultivate latex-producing plants that produce more latex. However, this tree is a firm favorite of indoor gardeners due to its brightly colored leaves and aggressive growth style. This is one of my favorite plants.
A few of the ficus plants I grow. The rubber plant is the smaller one in the front with the variegated leaves. You can see it is leaning toward the light – I will solve this problem soon by making the roof of this room transparent so that the plant grows upwards.
Read more about: Will Rubber Tree Leaves Grow Back Fully?
How Do Rubber Plants Grow?
I love watching my rubber plant grow. I have a few different Ficus plants that I grow in my barbeque area which is an enclosed rustic area. My lady recently brought a rubber tree cutting home and we have been enjoying growing this one out into a full plant. They send out a shoot that is wrapped in a sheet, this sheet then splits and falls to the ground and the leaf opens. Every new leaf has a lovely pink color and then eventually fades to the white and green of the other leaves.
This is a plant that enjoys being in moist rich soil, and the rate at which it grows is quite astounding. Our one is in a spot where it only gets an hour or two of dappled direct sunlight and the rest of the day it receives indirect sunlight. Despite this, it is growing at a phenomenal rate adding at least a leaf every 9 days.
I had a large rubber tree a few years ago and made the mistake of overwatering it. It actually died. So this new rubber tree we are providing with the best possible care. We used a good potting soil very similar to this one and then incorporated 30% by volume pearlite into the mix. Pearlite is a funny thing – it really just adds space and airflow into your soil. It also seems to help with fungi that grow in the soil.
The other big trick is to water the plant and then allow it to dry out a little so that the top few inches of soil become nearly dry to the touch.
My Dad is an ichthyologist and I have spent a lot of my life rattling around rivers helping him catch fish. These rivers always had fig trees on them, and I noticed one thing about how these trees grow….they like soil that is over river pebble rocks! If you read all the manuals on the internet, they all say about how to make sure your Ficus does not stand in water, blah blah blah. These trees grow next to pools of water!
What I do is fill the bottom three inches of the pot with river pebbles. I place a bit of geotextile mat on top of the rocks. Then I fill the pot with the potting soil and pearlite mix. What this does is create a lovely natural drainage space for aeration of the roots at the bottom of the pot. You will find that this takes a lot of the guesswork out of the growth of these pants. They also will then put special water sucking roots through the rocks and these do not rot due to being waterlogged in a low air environment such as a waterlogged soil.
You can place the pot in a water tray and the plants will pull water up as needed.
My small rubber plant grew from a little cutting my lady acquired. These plants are a joy to behold. Read above to find out my ficus growing trick with rocks and geotextile that mimics their conditions in nature. This allows your plant to grow at a ferocious rate.
Factors That Can Cause A Rubber Plant To Grow Sideways
A rubber plant is just one of those plants that sort of does its own thing. I have once walked over one which had been made into a bridge in India!! I cannot find the picture here, but it was somewhere over the Ramganga river. The tree had grown sideways and when it reached the other side of the river gorge it had touched the ground and made roots! Truly incredible.
Plants such as rubber plants are phototaxic. In a creative way. Most plants in fact are phototaxic. This means they will adjust their growth to grow towards the light. This makes sense because they need light for energy, so the more light they can access, the better they will do. Rubber plants also often grow on another plant as support. They tend to enjoy the structure another tree provides. A Rubber plant growing sideways is most likely due to the following reasons:
- Light – it is growing towards the light. If the plant is further away from a window, it will reach towards the window and then start to slump on itself, resulting in the rubber plant growing sideways.
- It fell over – these plants do not have much ability to keep themselves standing straight up. They normally find a tree to help them do this in nature.
- You may have trimmed off the growth shoot. This can happen, and the plant will then tend to try to grow from side shoots, which will grow sideways.
Those are the three most common reasons for a rubber plant growing sideways. The good news is that you can fix them quite easily! Here are my hacks and tricks to get your plant growing the way you want it to.
- Light – if you cannot get your plant closer to a window for light, then you need supplemental lighting to help the plant. An LED light can assist your plant. At least 150W will do. Do not waste money buying a little 5W unit with a pretty picture. These do nothing.
- If it fell over – you can use bamboo stakes to hold it up.
- You trimmed off the growth shoot and side branches are not growing outwards…use some training wire and bamboo stakes to bend the branches slowly upwards and get them straight. If they keep bending down again, then it is probably a light issue as well.
I hope this article has helped you understand the causes of a rubber plant growing sideways and what you can do to make your plant healthy and upright. Stake it, light it, and coax it with wires!! These plants are awesome and I will be growing a few more to keep around the house in the next year or two. If you enjoyed this article please share!!
How can I make my rubber plant grow straight?
Rubber plants naturally slouch on another tree for support. They will also tend to try and sneakily find a way to get to light. If this means they must grow sideways they do. So if you want to get your rubber plant to grow up, put it close to light and give it a few supports to bend it straight. If you cannot move it close to light, then buy an LED supplemental light (at least 150W equivalent. This should help it bend straight.
How do you revive a dying rubber plant?
Ascertain the cause of it being unhappy. Did you overwater it? Leave it somewhere to dry. It may pull through. Did it have insects? This is often a symptom of insufficient light. When plants are not able to make enough sugar for themselves they become pest magnets. Instal an LED light (150 minimum) and see if this helps. Did you underwater it? If you did not water your plant it also have every right to try and die. If the soil is very dry, then water the plant. It may just bounce back!
Why is my rubber plant bending?
Rubber plants do this often - they are floppy plants that normally use another plant to guide them straight up. They will also bend towards light. You can fix both problems by using a few bamboo posts to stake your plant upright, and then make sure it has enough light - either move it closer to a window, or use a 150W (minimum) LED grow light to give it some help.
How do I make my rubber plant bushy?
My experience with these plants is that they naturally become bushy. Typically in the past I let them grow to the height I want, then I snip the growth shoot and plant that in a new pot (they root easily). The plant will then send out four to five branches in no time further down the stem. It will be biased on the side of the plant that faces light, so you can end up with a lop sides bushy plant if you do not have enough light.