The Q&A Archives: Transplanting Rubber Tree

Question: I have a rubber tree plant that has been in my family over 30 years. It is 5 foot 4 and is squished in a 9x9 pot. I know it is pot bound and needs to be repotted but am terrified that I could traumatize the plant. Could you provide any tips on what I should do? Also, the plant is bent at a 90-degree angle. Any tips on how to straighten it out? I don't want to lose the plant for fear it will bring bad luck! <br><br>

Answer: Some plants can take amazing amounts of neglect and still keep growing. Your rubber plant is a good example of a "cast iron houseplant". First - it's probably bent over because it's top heavy. It probably had to reach for light at some period in its life and just continued to grow at that angle over the years. I doubt there's much you can do to straighten out the old stem, but if you turn the plant every week or so, the new growth will stay straight. To repot your plant, prepare a 12 to 15 inch pot with new, moistened potting soil. Dig a well in the center to accommodate the rootball of the rubber tree. Then with some help, turn the plant on its side and ease the old pot off. If you've watered well the night before, the plant should slip right out of the pot. Measure the well in the center of the new pot by taking the old pot and placing it in the space. If it fits without forcing, the roots of the rubber plant should fit just right. Remove the old pot and place the plant in its new home. Water to help remove any air pockets, and place the plant in the same location it was growing before you repotted it. As soon as your rubber plant discovers there's new space to explore, new roots will form and new growth will begin. To keep transplant shock at a minimum, work quickly, and don't disturb the rootball any more than necessary.

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