Ficus elastica (more commonly known as a rubber plant, rubber tree or rubber tree plant) is a popular houseplant because of its waxy leaves and larger-than-life appearance. Rubber plants can grow up to 100 feet in their native homeland of Southeast Asia. As a domesticated houseplant, rubber plants grow anywhere between six to ten feet tall. You can grow outdoor rubber plants if you live in zone 10 or 11. You can check out the USDA’s plant hardiness zone map here to learn more about the different zones.
Rubber plants are tree-like plants that are known for their great height and beautiful leaves. These grand plants also comes in different varieties and colors that complement any home decor theme.
Rubber Plant Overview
Rubber plants earned their name thanks to their sap, which is sometimes used to make rubber. The rubber plant’s leaves also have a shiny and rubbery appearance. These plants will grow tall and produce beautiful leaves if you give them proper care.
Rubber plants are commonly seen in their dark green variety, but also come in more colorful varieties. For example, varieties known as the “black prince” or “burgundy” have reddish-black leaves
Rubber Plant Care Tips
The key to rubber plant care is balance. It likes just the right amount of sun and water. If you can give it just the right amount of both, you’ll have a happy, strong and tall rubber tree. Rubber plants will tell you if they need more sunlight or water if they start to drop their lower leaves. Read on to learn about the most ideal conditions and care for your rubber plant.
Light: 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.
Water: 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 waterings to make sure you don’t overwater. If the leaves start to droop, then your rubber plant is telling you it needs more water.
Temperatures: 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.
Toxicity: A rubber plant’s sap can cause skin irritation for some people. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling your plant, especially if you come in contact with the sap. Consuming this plant can cause mild tummy trouble or more severe symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting depending on how much is consumed.
Pests: Mealy bugs, mites, scales and aphids are a few common bugs that can find a home in your rubber plant. If caught early, you can remove these bugs by wiping them with a warm soap and water solution or an insecticidal soap.
Problems: Due to its need for balance in all forms, it’s easy to make your rubber plant unhappy if you stop paying attention to its needs. The best way to combat this is to keep an eye on the light it’s getting, the moisture in its soil and the overall temperature of the room it’s inhabiting.
Rubber plants are mostly susceptible to plant diseases associated with overwatering. Like we mentioned before, you should let your plant’s soil dry out between waterings to avoid drowning your plant.
Take a look at our guide to reviving a plant if you need more tips for taking care of any of these rubber plant problems.
Repotting: You should repot your rubber plant to allow it to grow. You may need to do this every few years or every year depending on how large your pot is and how quickly your rubber plant grows. Don’t repot your rubber plant if you’d like to keep it at its current size.
Propagation: The easiest way to propagate is to take a small branch from a healthy rubber plant and let it root in soil or water. You want to let the sap from the stem dry first before planting. Another way to propagate is by air layering. To do this, make a cut in a healthy plant and stick a toothpick in the opening. Wrap it in damp moss and then wrap plastic wrap around the moss to keep it on the toothpick. Once you start to see roots growing in the moss, cut the branch off and plant it in new soil.
Pruning: 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.
Rubber plant care is easy if you remember to keep an eye on your plant and honor its need for balance. Rubber plants are well worth the care if you’re looking to grow a tall houseplant to impress your guests.