Rubber Plant (Ficus Elastica) Care And Growing Tips

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The mighty rubber tree has been a favorite houseplant since the Victorian era. It’s hardy, easy to care for, and actually removes toxins from the air in your home!

In this guide, we’ll take a look at exactly how to care for your own rubber tree plant.

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Rubber Tree Plant Overview


Quick Info about the Rubber Tree Plant

  • Common Name: Rubber tree, rubber tree plant, rubber plant
  • Latin Name: Ficus elastica
  • Family: Moraceae
  • Plant Type: Tree
  • Origin: India and Malaya
  • Temperature: 60-85°F (15-28°C)
  • Humidity: Medium
  • Height: 6-10′
  • Color: Green
  • Insects and Diseases: Mites, scales, aphids, whitefly, root rot

In its native environment, it’s normal for a rubber plant to grow to over 100′ tall. Don’t worry though — as a houseplant, rubber plants usually get to around 8-10′. With careful pruning, you can shape your rubber tree to be exactly as tall as you want.

Its sap is used to produce rubber, hence the name. The plants live for hundreds of years, but take 7 years to be harvested for the first time. After those 7 years, it will produce sap for rubber for about 30 years or so.

While it’s still used for rubber production today, indoor gardeners grow it for two reasons:

  1. It’s a beautiful and hardy houseplant
  2. It’s been proven to remove formaldehyde from the air​

Planting & Potting Your Rubber Plant

Rubber trees are finicky when it comes to change, so be sure to pick a spot to place it and don’t move it. This is especially true when it comes to fluctuations in temperature or air flow.

Rubber Tree Plant Care

Sun

Rubber trees do not require much light, but flourish in bright, indirect light. Many people put their rubber trees near a window where the light is filtered through a pair of sheer curtains.

If the plant gets less light while leaves are growing, the leaves will actually be larger! Fun fact.

Water

While your rubber tree is in its growing season, you keep the soil moist. Water it deep. During the dormant season, keep the soil drier…but not too dry. It is possible to underwater it.

Be sure to clean the leaves of your ficus elastica so it can breathe easier, but don’t use any kind of leaf shine on it. Be sure to mist them as well for pest prevention.

Soil

The container for your rubber tree should be large enough to grow a 4-foot tall tree. Make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom, otherwise you risk root rot.

Place a layer of small 1-inch rocks in the bottom to aid in drainage. Add equal parts of quality peat moss, sand, and garden loam. This will avoid the wet, soggy conditions that rubber trees despise. The soil will drain quickly enough for the rubber tree to feel right at home.​

Fertilize your rubber tree during the spring and early summer, but not when it is dormant in the winter. Half-strength houseplant fertilizer will do just fine.

Pruning

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Cut below the thinner parts, just above the thick part of the branches. Cut right above leaf nodes. Try to prune the over all size of the plant. Everywhere you prune, new branches will spring up. Think of it as giving your Rubber Tree a haircut. Always keep one set of leaves, at least, so it can continue to make food for itself and re-grow.​

Propagation

The best approach to propagating a rubber tree is air layering. It is straight forward and always works well. For a complete guide, check out this video or follow the steps below:

  1. Find a healthy, leafing part of a branch.
  2. Make a cut on the stem below that.
  3. Cut half way into the stem.
  4. Then use a toothpick soaked in root hormone solution to spear the cut sideways and hold it open.
  5. Wrap the cut in thoroughly wet sphagnum peat moss.
  6. Wrap the peat in plastic, but loosely. Make it only tight enough to keep the peat on the cut.
  7. Watch for a few weeks and you will have roots growing in the moss.
  8. Finally, cut off that stem below these roots.
  9. Plant this in a pot and you have your new tree.​

Pests and Diseases

Overall, ficus elastica is a hardy plant that can tolerate most growing conditions. Like many houseplants, it’s still susceptible to a few different types of pests and diseases. Most are easily preventable with a bit of care, though.

Pests

Aphids, scale insects, and mealy bugs — the standard houseplant pests — can also affect your ficus elastica. In most cases, the best approach is to use a horticultural soap or organic liquid insecticide of some kind to get rid of most (if not all) of these pests.

If you catch any of them early, chances are you can simply wipe them off before they really begin to infest your rubber plant.

Diseases

Rubber tree houseplants are resistant to most known diseases. In fact, most of the diseases they’re susceptible to are brought about due to overwatering and creating the perfect environment for pathogens like Phytophthora.

To avoid most diseases, simply avoid overwatering your rubber plant. The only other affliction they suffer from are nematodes, to which there is no good control. It’s best to just get rid of your rubber plant and buy a new one.​

FAQs​ and Problems

Q. How can I prevent thrips or mites from affecting my rubber plant?

A. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and in this case it holds true. If you mist the leaves of your rubber tree plant to keep them somewhat moist, you will prevent most mites or thrips from settling in.

Q. My rubber plant is dropping a lot of leaves. They’re dropping and turning yellow. What should I do?

A. ​The most likely problem is over watering. If you have a pot without drainage holes, you’ll need to water much less often, otherwise the water will pool and rot your roots. Either repot to a pot with holes, or simply water less often.

If you’ve determined you have root rot, you should:

  • Remove the plant from its pot
  • Knock off the soil
  • Trim off the damaged parts of the roots and re-pot.

If the leaves droop without falling off, you know you are underwatering your rubber tree. Water more often until the leaves perk up again.

If any leaves fall off, you can make a nick (not deep) with a clean knife just above the node and the new leaf will grow back faster. However, be aware that the leaves at the bottom fall off naturally. Don’t freak out!

Q. My rubber plant has leaf spots. Am I overwatering, or what is causing these?

A. ​Keep the plant right up in front of the south facing window.How do you check for moisture in the soil? Watering weekly could be too much?what type of soil is it in? Did you pot up after you bought it?

Q. The leaves of my rubber plant are drooping downward, but I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong. What gives?

A. ​Over watering or under watering is the most likely cause here.

The rubber tree is quite sensitive to light and water, so getting these right is a must for health, but with a bit of care, you will have a beautiful specimen in your house.

The rubber tree plant is a fantastic indoor houseplant and is pretty easy to take care of. Learn exactly how to grow ficus elastica in this in-depth guide.
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51 thoughts on “Rubber Plant (Ficus Elastica) Care And Growing Tips

    • I’ve had good success with finding rubber plants at local nurseries and even some big-box stores. Just ask the staff if they have any rubber plants and they can help!

  1. I’m looking at buying a planter that’s 14 3/4” wide and 9 3/4” tall. Is that tall enough for it to grow?

  2. My rubber plant is looking slightly yellow. It’s leaves are droopy and some have brown spots. 1-2 of the lower leaves are falling off. What’s causing this?

    • Rubber plants are very sensitive to changes in conditions, so if the environment changed a bit this can happen. Other than that, it’s almost always a watering issue. Either too little or too much!

  3. My rubber tree is shooting roots out the stocks. I have it in a 20 inch diameter pot. Any ideas why it would be doing this?

  4. Hi Kevin! I love my rubber plant! It’s doing so well that it’s kind of outgrowing it’s lovely spot in my kitchen under my south window. I’d like to move it to the living room by a west window. I’m nervous about doing this because I don’t want to stress it out! Please advise! Thanks!

    • Hi Patty! Best advice I have for you is to move it slowly, over the course of a few days if the light difference between the two spots is significant. Light stress can cause leaves to fall off 🙂

  5. I’m struggling to work out the best soil for my ficus robusta. Its a tough little specimen and has survived through a lot of mistreatment (caused by my own inexperience) already, so I wanted to do the right thing for a change!
    I grow a lot of cacti and succulents, and so currently have my ficus in a basic commercial cacti and succulent potting mix. This is great for drainage, but do you think it needs something better?

    Thank you!

    • I’ve noticed that it’s pretty sensitive to overwatering, so unless you’re noticing any issues w/ too much drainage, I’d keep it in that mix and perhaps amend with a bit of standard potting soil when you repot it.

  6. I just got a burgundy rubber tree from a friend it’s very tall but it has leaves on the bottom and has long stems sigh leaves o top a couple of them droop and it looks bare on the long stems, but is root bound can I separate the plant when replant to make more trees in more pots?
    Thanks
    Kellee

  7. I’ve just bought home a rubber plant from Work, where it wasn’t very well looked after – a lot of leaves have fallen off from the bottom and there are holes in a few of the leaves, including one which had just grown?!

    I think it needs a new pot too. Do you have any advice that could help to get the plant back into shape?

    • Rubber plants are tricky to rehabilitate…I’ve been there as well. I would try to repot with some fresh soil, and follow the care guide in the article to the letter to give it the best conditions possible. Then…it’s all about patience!

  8. Hello!
    I recently bought a rubber plant and all of my leaves except a few have fallen off. There are no spots on the leaves left and the ones that have fallen weren’t yellow or brown. Is it possible to be giving it too much direct light? It’s indoors in a southwest facing window or is not getting enough light? I’d be so sad to see it die. Please Help!

    Best,
    Kelly

    • Rubber plants are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment and can often drop leaves when stressed. I’d make sure you haven’t changed too much about the environment and give it the conditions recommended in the guide!

  9. I had 2 leafs stuck together just fall off my rubber tree plant put them in water with a little plant food I looked a week later it had roots 12 years later and I still have it except it’s a tree now

  10. The rims of the older leaves of my rubber plant is turning brown. It was previously placed in my balcony, shaded, but was getting direct light for parts of the day for a while. I took it inside my house a couple of days ago, but somewhere where it could still get light but not direct. I wish I could show a pic here.

    Do you reckon that would fix it or was it my watering? Help ☹️

    I’m new to caring for it as it was mainly my mom who was looking after it. I would like to learn more. Thanks!

    • I’ve noticed that will happen with the bottom leaves of many plants, rubber plants included. Sometimes the leaves just get old and start to die off. I think your adjustment is a good one though – should do quite well 🙂

  11. I have a new small rubber tree & will be taking it along with me when I move next month. Any precautions I should take before taking it on a 6 hour drive? I was planning on repotting it before the move, but hesitant because I don’t want to stress the plant.

    • I think you made the right call – repot AFTER you move, not before. I’d try to keep your car in the conditions it was used to temperature wise. It will definitely experience some stress due to the move, but so long as you give it great conditions in your new place it should recover. Don’t be scared if some leaves fall off though.

  12. I have a very beautiful,deep green rubber tree I’ve had for about 7 years. I’ve propagated it a few times so I could keep it maintained and also to give back to my mom. Lol…I acquired a 2′ stem with 2 leaves on it from her that she had in a vase,completed rooted & no water. Who knows how long she neglected it but it’s my baby now! A few months ago I had 2 mature leaves to break off from carelessness. I put them in water and they rooted! I’ve since planted them individually in soil and Altho they both are green and stable, they have not grown at all. Should I replant them together? I’ve never just planted a leaf before and now I’m intrigued. 🙂

  13. I’ve been reviving a sad looking variegated rubber tree back to health outside in a pot. It’s sprouting many new leaves, but they are super small. Should I move it inside to a south facing window or leave it until the end of summer (I’m in Australia).

    • I’ve found moving it tends to stress it quite a bit, but if you aren’t getting the growth you want where you have it, I’d risk it and see what happens!

  14. I have a rubbertree plant outside in a greenhouse with a dilonge heater. The leaves are turning yellow and would like to know if I can do anything at all to save it. We have had below normal temps and would like to know if this is the problem

    • It COULD be, but there are a whole host of reasons that a plant can have yellowing leaves – go through the standard checks (nutrition, soil, light, temps) and see if anything has changed recently. Best of luck!

  15. My rubber tree is 7ft tall, one stem, no other branches, if I cut it half way will it die? It’s healthy, leaves are dark green, it just keeps growing.

    • If you cut the plant above a growth node, you should be fine! But I wouldn’t expect it to grow back quickly after being so well established – best of luck to you with it Dorothy 🙂

  16. Kevin,
    Is it possible for me to start off multiple new rubber plants off of one stalk? I am planting them with clay pebbles, most everything I grown is hydroponically. I was wondering although it is late October do you think I should wait until spring?

    • Off of one stalk, I’m not so sure. I have only ever done air layering for a rubber plant, so that was a single plant propagated off of a single stalk. You might have better success when the ficus isn’t in dormant season, too!

  17. My neighbors have this tree (over 20 feet tall) in her backyard. The roots have invaded my lawn and are at the foundation. It was searching for water, I guess, because it is near my outdoor faucet. I have had a tree service company come out that will remove the roots and dig a trench on my side. That will delay the problem for a few years, but I will have to do this again. My neighbors can be very difficult, but I plan on inviting them over to see my problem. I’m thinking that they should share in the cost of this (nearly $2K). I think they will see it as my problem When the fence fell apart, I had it replaced and they refused to help. My research on this tree indicates it should be indoors or be in a container if outside. Any suggestions?

    • Ah, that is unfortunate…I dealt with that issue at my childhood home with a large tree as well! The best thing you can do is to invite them over and see if you can get them to empathize with your “side” of the problem…

      Best of luck, Ellen!

  18. My rubber tree plant is more a bush than a tree. It has grown many shoots and they are leggy, without many leaves. Also, the leaves are quite small. I just reported it, as it was in a small pot which I think was hurting its growth. But how can I get it to fill in and grow larger leaves? It seems healthy since it is always creating new growth, just not big leaves or height. Thanks.

  19. During my research on strawberry leaf nematode (Aphelenchoides fragaria (the most difficult control nematode)… Ficus spp.& Coffee … could be promising biocontrol agents … Do You have further information on this field …. Thank You

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