Ask a Question forum: Desperately Trying to Save 2 Rubber Trees

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Name: EmDem
Nov 27, 2015 6:04 PM CST
I have 2 rubber trees that were left outside overnight during a cold spell in Chicago (low temps for this particular night were 34 degrees). The plants also faced a wet wintry mix (rain/sleet) that night. The plants were brought inside to thaw (placed in bathtub for 2 days). From there, they've been residing next to floor/ceiling windows that get the most sunlight in our apartment. It's been several days and there do not seem to be any sign of improvement (leaves are dark & droopy). One of them has dropped 3-4 leaves. The stems appear very weak (they almost have a hollow quality to them). I've pushed them up to the window for support. The plants are going on 10 years (originated as one but divided a number of years ago). They've always been in such great health. I am desperately trying to save them. Is that anything I can do? Or do I need to accept the grim reality they're gone? Any help is much appreciated! I have limited experience with house plants. Thanks in advance! (I have photos that I am looking to post).
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Name: Jean
Prairieville, LA (Zone 9a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Identifier The WITWIT Badge Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Nov 27, 2015 7:14 PM CST
Hi and welcome to ATP.

It appears that there may still be some green stems left. If the stems are mushy and soft, I would suggest cutting them back a few inches at a time until you reach firm viable plant tissue. If the crown and roots did not sustain damage, the plant should recover, but only time will tell. Keep them out of drafts, water lightly as needed, and watch for additional die back.

I do hope they make it, it looks like they were healthy, strong plants before the freezing weather. Good luck.
Name: EmDem
Nov 27, 2015 7:55 PM CST
Thanks Moonhowl! I did trim off the soggy stems. Feeling a lot better about their recovery! Appreciate your insight!
Name: Jean
Prairieville, LA (Zone 9a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Identifier The WITWIT Badge Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Nov 27, 2015 7:58 PM CST
You are most welcome. It is hard to lose favored plants....from experience Sad

Please post how they are doing.
Name: EmDem
Nov 27, 2015 8:43 PM CST
I most certainly will
Name: Cheryl
Texas (Zone 9a)
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Nov 27, 2015 8:46 PM CST
At least it didn't freeze. The rain sleet might have helped protect them from the cold. Don't give up! You might have to cut them back eventually, but with care your dear ones should come back.
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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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Dec 1, 2015 9:11 PM CST
Just give it time, it took quite a shock. It will need as much warmth as can be possible. Good luck!
Name: Christine
Saugerties, NY zone 5a
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Dec 2, 2015 8:16 AM CST
Ditto to what has already been said, keeping away from drafts over the winter will be a big help Welcome!
Name: Lin
Florida Zone 9b, 10a

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Dec 2, 2015 9:51 AM CST
Hi EmDem027, Welcome! to All Things Plants!

Ficus elastica (Rubber Trees): are pretty hardy so if they were only outdoors for one frigid night and the roots didn't freeze, they may very well recover. As has been stated, keep them in a warm spot with as much bright light as possible and away from any drafts and cold window panes. Water very sparingly the next few months; they may drop most or all of the leaves and look pretty pitiful but if there's still viable plant tissue, new growth will appear when the weather warms in spring and at that time you can re-pot in fresh potting soil and move them back outside to enjoy the sunshine.
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Name: Ken Ramsey
Vero Beach, FL (Zone 10a)
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Dec 2, 2015 9:56 AM CST
If the plants survive, (and though these are easy-to-care-for plants, they don't take freezing temperatures well at all), you will more than likely have new growth. Often several branches will erupt, growing from where you cut the plants back. I cut mine back on purpose. That's the way I "induce" them to branch, getting a more dense, bushier tree.
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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database.
Dec 4, 2015 6:23 PM CST
Good luck with your plants!

Maybe, as you cut it back, you could try rooting some of those cuttings so you would at least have descendants of your 10-year-old mother plant? I understand that you divided it some time back, but the ATP plant database says they can be propagated from stem cuttings.

BTW, I love your avatar! What is the background? Machu Pichu? I thought that was more tumbled-down.

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