I have a potted rubber tree. Can I store it in my basement during the winter?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Vicki in Ohio: Yes, you can certainly bring your rubber tree (Ficus elastic) to the basement to survive the winter months. This tropical is hardy to about 30 degrees F, so if it is not brought inside it will not survive the winter. It will benefit from some filtered light if possible, or even a grow light will help during these months when the light levels are so much lower. Because of this reason it is not necessary to fertilize your plant or water it as much as you did during the growing season. Your watering routine will depend on the temperature and humidity of the basement, but watering every 10-12 days should suffice. It will not put on any new growth during this time and it may even drop a few of its leaves, but this is perfectly normal so do not be alarmed. Ficus are notorious for dropping their foliage when they are moved. The idea here is just to keep the plant alive so it can go back outdoors next spring after the frost-free date for your area passes. When that time comes, it is a good idea to place the plant in the shade for at least a week and gradually work it back into the filtered sun; this will prevent it from sunscald after living in the basement all winter long. At this time go ahead a give it a dose of your favorite fertilizer and adjust your watering schedule.