A Rubber tree, Ficus elastica, is a popular house plant that adds a tropical flair to the home. Find rubber tree facts and information and learn how to grow and care for rubber trees.
Rubber Tree Facts
Rubber trees, also known as rubber plant or India rubber plant, are members of the Fig family and are known for their large glossy tropical looking leaves and sturdy stems. It is a house plant that will often grow 4-6’ high by 3-4’ wide. They are actually a type of shrub used for architectural accents. Rubber trees have an upright form and a coarse texture. Since the rubber trees does not have an over abundance of large leaves, it is a good idea to keep them dusted off so that their glossy leaves really stand out.
Growing and Caring for Rubber Trees
Try to provide rubber trees with medium to high light and average home temperatures between 60-75 degrees. Rubber trees tolerate lower light, but growth will be more open and sparse. Give it average humidity of 30-60 percent.
Keep the plant slightly more moist than other fig relatives when it is in active growth. Allow it to dry out slightly between soakings in winter. In lower light, reduce your watering somewhat. Feed rubber trees three times in summer with a foliage houseplant food if you want the plant to put on growth. If it is at the maximum size that your space can handle, reduce fertilizing to once a year. *You may repot a rubber tree every third year.
Pruning Rubber Trees
Although rubber trees can get large, it can be pruned substantially to keep it smaller and in bounds. Always prune where there is a node. By doing this, you can see which way the remaining bud is facing. This allows you to effectively shape the plant. The rubber tree will naturally loose it lower leaves but may send out new leaves at the nodes of the leaves. To make new leaves appear sooner, simply make a slight nick above a node. Be aware, the milky sap that comes out from the cut may be irritating and it might stain your clothes.
Prune the roots and crown back by about a third at the same time and put the plant back into its original pot. This will keep the plant at a reasonable size for the home. Wipe off the large leaves to keep them attractive and to discourage spider mites.
Propagation of Rubber Trees
Propagation is done by taking stem cuttings. Take cuttings in summer and provide rooting hormone and humidity. Rubber tree can be effectively air-layered when the stem gets bare at the bottom. When you cut off the newly rooted top portion, the old stem will produce new shoots from its base.
Pests and Diseases
Treat scale by routinely spraying the plant with horticultural oil. Dusting off the leaves will prevent a myriad of problems from happening.
- The cultivar ‘Doescheri’ has creamy white variegated leaves.
- ‘Robusta’ is a much more compact plant.
- ‘Burgundy’ has reddish leaves.