Rubber Fig (Ficus elastica) has thick and wide leaves with a dark green color. The top buds is bright red and it has obvious trunk and fewer branches. The leaves are oval, bright green, with multiple and parallel lateral veins, red young leaves, and stout petioles; rubber trees are of high ornamental value and are well-known potted foliage plants. It is very suitable for indoor beautification layout. Small and medium-sized plants are often used to beautify living rooms and study rooms; medium and large-sized plants are suitable for arrangement on both sides of the entrance hall and the center of the lobby of large buildings. This article will introduce all aspects of rubber tree that you are interested in.
How to Choose and Prepare a Planting Site
While rubber plants prefer bright, indirect light (like the kind that streams in through south- or west-facing windows), they will also grow in dimmer light, which makes them fantastic office plants. They really aren’t too picky about light aside from the fact that harsh, direct light can sunburn them. Rubber plants are native to tropical areas, so they don’t like to be hit with cold blasts of air from doors or drafty windows, and may begin to drop some leaves if they are.
If you live in zones 10 through 12, you can also grow rubber plants outside in both sunny and shady areas. Rubber trees growing outdoors in rich, well-draining soil can get pretty big (20 to 30 feet tall), so be sure to plant them they can spread out a bit—or plan to prune them.
How to Grow Rubber Fig (Ficus elastica)
Steps for Rubber Fig Propagation with Cuttings
You can propagate additional plants from your Rubber Plant while it’s actively growing through the warm months of spring throughout summer. The propagation steps are basic and even those with black thumbs should have success.
- Using clean pruning tools snip off about a 4- to 6-inch section from the end of a branch.
- Snip off all the leaves other than the top one or two. This allows the cutting to put its energy into forming new roots and not into developing new leaves.
- Since the cut section will exude its milky sap, allow the cutting to rest for about 30 minutes before potting.
- Fill a 6-inch to 1-gallon container that has bottom drain holes with a lightweight potting mix, or seed-starting mixture. Water the soil in the container so it settles.
- Make a several inch indentation in the center of the pot where the end of the cutting will be inserted.
- Before planting the Rubber Plant cutting, dip the cut end in a rooting hormone.
- Place the cut end treated with the hormone into the center hole and firm the soil around it using your fingers.
- Water the soil again and until it runs from the bottom drain holes. Keep the soil moist but not soggy while the cutting develops roots.
- Place the container in an indoor location that receives bright, indirect sunlight.
It generally takes around four to six weeks for the Rubber Plant cutting to start developing roots. After three to four months, it should have a good root system developed. If you touch the cutting, it should stand firmly in the soil, if it’s developed a root system.
How to Care for Rubber Fig (Ficus elastica)
Rubber plants prefer bright, indirect light that isn’t too hot. Direct sunlight can result in scorched leaves. You can keep your rubber plant near a window with a sheer curtain to give it just the right amount of sunlight. The more variegated varieties need more light to help bring out their colors, so make sure they especially get enough bright light.
When it comes to their soil composition, rubber plants aren't picky. Typically, any good, fast-draining potting soil will likely do—many indoor gardeners opt for a cactus mix. In addition, rubber plants prefer an acidic soil mixture. Like fiddle leaf fig trees (which many believe they resemble), they also "eat" their soil and will eventually have their roots exposed. When this happens, simply top your pot with additional soil and it will not be an issue.
These plants require more water during their growing season in the summer. You should keep the soil moist, but not drowning. You should also wipe the leaves down with a damp cloth to keep them moist and to help your plant absorb more sunlight. Misting is another option if you don’t want to wipe down every leaf. Keep your rubber plant in well-draining soil at all times to combat root rot.
In their dormant season in the winter you want to keep the soil dry but not too dry. Let the top few inches of the soil dry in between watering to make sure you don’t over water. If the leaves start to droop, then your rubber plant is telling you it needs more water.
Temperature and Humidity
Rubber plants generally prefer temperatures between 60°F to 75°F. In the winter, they can survive in temperatures as low as 50°F. Just like with water and sun needs, a good balance of temperature is ideal for this plant’s growth. It prefers moist and humid air due to its tropical origin, but can survive in less humid temperatures. Rubber plants are sensitive to temperature changes and prefer to live in areas with consistent humidity and temperature.
According to Clemson University's Home and Garden Information Center, it's important to fertilize regularly with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer during active growth in the warmer months. This should be done every two weeks—unless plants are growing in lower light, then they should be fertilized less frequently.
If you're looking to give your rubber tree a boost during the growing season, do so with a regular monthly fertilizer during the spring and fall with a half-diluted indoor plant fertilizer in either liquid or slow-release form.
You’ll need to prune your rubber plant to help it support itself, promote new growth and control its size so that it doesn’t grow too large. It’s best to prune in the spring and to avoid the winter, but a rubber plant can be pruned at any time of the year. Be aware that cutting the branches will release some of the plant’s sap.
Pests and Diseases
Rubber plants are vulnerable to a variety of pests that typically infest indoor houseplants, including aphids, mealy bugs, spider mites, scale, and thrips. If possible, identify the infestation as early as possible and treat it with the least toxic option, like neem oil.
Varieties of Rubber Fig (Ficus elastica) to try in your garden
These are attractive indoor trees that make an eye-catching statement, with their large, glossy leaves ranging around a foot long and 5 inches across. The standard Rubber Plant’s leaves are solid green, but you also have choices in the various cultivars that pump up the color on the foliage. Some of the various varieties of Rubber Plants include:
Has dark green foliage with a white midrib.
Has dark green foliage with a red midrib.
Has green leaves with patches of pink and cream.
Produces larger green leaves that grow around 18 inches long.
Produces variegated leaves in gray and cream with pink ribs.
Produces smaller leaves variegated in yellow and green.
Has gold margined leaves.
Rubber Fig (Ficus elastica) FAQ
Are Ficus Elastica difficult to care for?
The Ficus Elastica is easier to care for than its sister plant, the Ficus lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig tree). It acclimates well to new spaces, it’s less finicky when it comes to water, and it doesn’t need quite as much light. We consider it a medium level plant in terms of difficulty to care for.
Why are the leaves of my ficus dropping?
Typically this is caused by either over or underwatering. If your tree is showing brown tips with yellow edging, and dropping from the lower portion of the plant then you are likely over watering. If you see fully yellow leaves, and some crispy brown tips without yellow edging then it is likely due to underwatering. Always feel the soil to see if its conditions match your diagnosis, and consider the recent care you have given.
Can I place my ficus next to an AC or heating vent?
It is best not to. Ficus are sensitive to hot and cold air drafts. They prefer humidity and warm temperatures, so anything to aid in maintaining a tepid environment will help keep your plant happy and healthy.
How often should I fertilize my plant?
In general, house plants will thrive when they are fertilized spring through fall. Fertilize once a month with an organic houseplant fertilizer, following the package instructions for dilution and administration. Greenery NYC uses an organic potting mix with a slow release fertilizer in the soil, so your plant will not need fertilizer within the first 6 months of receiving it.
How often does my plant need to be repotted?
For smaller desktop plants, we suggest repotting once every 12-18 months. Typically you want to choose a potting vessel 1”- 2” larger in diameter to allow for growth. Don’t choose a pot much larger than the previous as this could drown the plant's roots. If you prefer to maintain the current size of your plant, repot into the same vessel, providing new soil and trimming away some roots and foliage. Spring or summer is the ideal time to repot as the plant is at its strongest.