Rubber trees make gorgeous tropical houseplants and they do just fine outdoors in the summer.
However, if you forget to bring them back inside before the first freeze, they can end up on the receiving end of a fair bit of damage.
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Will A Rubber Tree Freeze?
A rubber tree will freeze and if it experiences deep or prolonged frost it will rot and die.
When freezing occurs, ice forms between the plant’s cells, drawing out stored water and causing cells to shrink.
Then, once the morning sun comes up and temperatures rise, the shrunken cells expand so fast that their walls break.
This is what causes the leaves and stems of your rubber tree to wilt and turn mushy.
Can A Rubber Tree Survive A Freeze?
A rubber tree can survive frost as long as the freeze has not been too severe or prolonged.
If you’ve had your rubber plant out for the summer and forgot to bring it in before the first frost, it should survive, as long as the temperature hasn’t dipped too far below 32 degrees F for a few hours and you get your plant back indoors in the morning.
If the freeze has not been too deep and only a small part of the stem and a few leaves have been damaged, it’s usually not enough to kill the plant.
With a little TLC, most plants can usually recover from this.
As long as the roots are still functioning you should see new leaf growth once your rubber tree begins to recover.
But if the frost has been more severe and prolonged, it can freeze the entire stem of the plant, all of the leaves, and the roots.
If there is too much cellular damage to the roots, they will not be able to take in nutrients and water from the soil and it will be just a matter of time before it dies.
Related Article: Why Is My Rubber Plant Drooping? (And How To Help It)
Can Rubber Trees Handle Cold?
Rubber tree plants thrive in temperatures that range from 60 F to 75 F but they can handle temperatures as cold as 50 degrees F.
These plants are not frost-hardy, though, and will need to be brought back indoors around the same time of year you usually put your home heating on.
How To Save A Frost Damaged Rubber Tree
Your rubber tree can most likely make a recovery if the frost has not done too much damage to the roots.
Keeping your plant in an environment that it finds comfortable and not exposing it to any further stress will be important to its recovery.
The first thing you’ll need to do is inspect your plant to see how badly frost-damaged it is.
Check The Leaves
Any brown, wilted foliage is dead and will not recover.
But this isn’t the biggest cause for concern, even if all the leaves are damaged, the plant can still make a full recovery and grow new leaves.
Check The Stem
If there’s frost damage to the main stem of your rubber plant, scrape a little bit of the discoloration from the surface check that there is still some healthy green matter underneath.
Once you see some green underneath you should be able to save it.
Check The Roots
Lift your rubber tree out of its pot and inspect the roots.
If the roots look good, you can just put the plant back into its pot.
If there are a few mushy, brown, or black roots, you can trim them off and pop the plant back into its pot.
If the entire root structure is black and mushy then it’s probably time to just throw the plant out.
Provided the stem and roots haven’t frozen all the way through, your rubber tree should have a good chance of survival.
Avoid Further Stress
To aid a full recovery, you’ll want to only give water when the soil dries out and avoid stressing your rubber plant any further.
Be careful not to overwater it or expose it to strong direct sunlight and don’t do any fertilizing or repotting until after it has bounced back.
Keep It Somewhere Warm, Bright, And Humid
Your rubber tree is native to the tropical regions of South East Asia and will recover best in a warm, bright, and humid location.
Warm temperatures and bright sunlight will be key to your rubber tree’s recovery.
Move it to a place that’s humid, at least 65 degrees F, and provide it lots of bright indirect sunlight to help encourage new growth.
Remove Dead Leaves And Stems
To avoid stressing your rubber plant further, refrain from pruning until you see leaf buds forming and the first signs of recovery.
Frost damage will not heal, so any remaining leaves or stems that look like they are rotting can be cut off.
From here it’s just a waiting game and if all goes well, you should see your plant make a full recovery.
If your rubber tree ends up spending one night out in a light frost, you’ll probably get away with it providing you get it inside fast and give it plenty of TLC.
But freeze damage is never pretty and seeing your plant on the receiving end of it is no fun at all.
You might be better off setting a reminder on your phone and bringing your plant back indoors well before the first freeze is due to arrive.