How to grow and care for Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) Indoors

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Rubber Plant Care, Ficus elastica Care

Photo Credit: PlantVine

Botanical name: Ficus elastica
Family: Moraceae
Common names: Rubber Plant, Rubber Fig, Rubber Tree, Rubber Bush, Indian Rubber Tree, Indian Rubber Bush

Rubber Plant Description

Rubber Plant is a popular tree-like houseplant, an excellent stand alone plant that is easy to grow and easily adaptable to indoor growing conditions.

The Rubber Plant has a high tolerance to drought conditions but prefers high humidity conditions.

The Rubber Plant of earlier days had narrow, drooping leaves and a rather fussy nature but it has been replaced by a number of larger leaved varieties.

Rubber Plant Origin

Rubber Plant is native to Eastern parts of South Asia and Southeast Asia. It has been naturalized in Sri Lanka, the West Indies, and the US state of Florida.

Rubber Plant Varieties

There are many varieties of Rubber Plant like Ficus elastica decora, the green-leaved one which is the most common.

Ficus elastica robusta (Bronze Rubber Plant) has even larger, wider leaves which are purplish-green.

Ficus elastica 'Black Prince' has near black foliage and more rounded leaves.

There are also variegated types with yellow or cream splashed leaves like schrijevereana, tricolor, variegata among others.

Rubber Plant Air Purifying

According to the NASA Clean Air Study, Ficus elastica was found to get rid of common VOCs; specifically formaldehyde from indoor air.

Rubber Plant Care, Ficus elastica Care

Photo Credit: Hello Plants & Garden Supplies

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) Care Indoors

Rubber Plant Light Requirements

Rubber Plant grows best in bright light with some direct sunlight. Rubber Plant can adapt to lower light but it will grow much slower.

However, the variegated Rubber Plant requires bright light to maintain its variegation. Check out this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

How to Water Rubber Plant

Water Rubber Plant thoroughly during the growing season and allow the top 1-2 in. of soil to dry out between waterings.

Reduce watering for your Rubber Plant during the cold season to maintain the soil barely moist.

Ensure the pot for your Rubber Plant has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to leaf drop and root-rot.

Use tepid, chlorine-free water for your Rubber Plant to avoid spots on the leaves. Read more on how to water houseplants.


Temperature for Rubber Plant

The best temperature for growing Rubber Plant indoors is an average warmth with a minumum of 120C.

Protect your Rubber Plant from cold draughts to prevent sudden drop in temperature as it can lead to leaf drop. Read more on understanding temperature for houseplants.

Humidity for Rubber Plant

Average room humidity is ideal for Rubber Plant. If the air is too dry especially where temperature is high, set the pot on a wet pebble tray to raise humidity for your Rubber Plant. Read more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Regularly mist the leaves of your Rubber Plant and clean them by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to get rid of dust and discourage pest infestation. Read more on how to clean houseplants.

Fertilizer (Feeding) Rubber Plant

Feed Rubber Plant monthly during the growing period with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer.

Withhold feeding for your Rubber Plant during the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time can lead to fertilizer burn. Read more on how to feed houseplants.

How to Repot Rubber Plant

Repot Rubber Plant at the beginning of the growing season only when it has become pot-bound.

Avoid frequent repotting as Rubber Plant prefers to be pot-bound. Repot only when your Rubber Plant has outgrown its current pot; when roots begin to grow through the drainage holes.

Use a pot 1 size larger and one that has a drainage hole for your Rubber Plant to prevent the soil from getting soggy.

Use a heavy pot as your Rubber Plant can become top-heavy and topple over.

The best soil for your Rubber Plant should be free-draining and rich in organic matter.

Never allow the roots of your Rubber Plant to sit in soggy soil as it may lead to leaf drop and root-rot.

For large Rubber Plants which may be difficult to handle, annually replenish the top 2-4 in. of soil with fresh soil.

How to Prune Rubber Plant

Pruning Rubber Plant is easy. Remove dead and yellow leaves to maintain the plant neat and tidy.

When Rubber Plant has reached maximum height or it has become leggy, cut back the branches to rejuvenate growth.

The foliage emating from pruning can be used to propagate new Rubber Plants. Read more on how to prune houseplants.

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) Propagation

Rubber Plant can be propagated during the growing season by air layering or by stem and stem-tip cuttings.

How to Propagate Rubber Plant by Air Layering

Air layering consists of notching the stem of a healthy Rubber Plant and coating the notch with a rooting hormone.

Surround the notched area with damp moss and cover the notch with a polythene film or clear plastic wrap.

Once the roots have formed, sever the Rubber Plant stem just below the covered part.

Remove the polythene or plastic wrap and carefully pot the rooted Rubber Plant in moist free-draining soil.

Ensure the pot for your Rubber Plant has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to rotting.

New shoots will sprout from the shortened stem of the old Rubber Plant.

Place the new Rubber Plant in a cool shaded place and maintain the soil moist until the plant is well established after which routine care can begin.

How to Propagate Rubber Plant from Stem and Stem-tip Cuttings

Take non-woody stem or stem-tip cuttings of about 6 in. long from a healthy Rubber Plant.

Strip off the lower leaves from your Rubber Plant cutting and retain 2-3 leaves on top.

Allow the sap to dry and then dip the lower cut end of your Rubber Plant cutting in a rooting hormone to hasten rooting.

Insert your Rubber Plant cutting in moist rooting soil. Ensure that the rooting container has adequate drainage to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to rotting.

To enhance rooting of your Rubber Plant cutting, create a mini-greenhouse by covering the set up with a polythene bag or sheet.

Ensure the leaves do not touch the bag or the sheet too much by propping it up with sticks.

Place the set up in warm, well-lit spot and maintain the soil moist through out until new growth emerges.

New growth indicates that your Rubber Plant cutting has rooted. In about 3-4 weeks, rooting will have taken place.

Gradually over a period of two weeks, remove the plastic cover to acclimatize your new Rubber Plant.

In 4-6 months, there will be adequate root development and normal Rubber Plant care can begin.

Rubber Plant Care, Ficus elastica Care

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Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) Problems Indoors

Rubber Plant sudden leaf loss

There are four possible causes of sudden leaf drop in Rubber Plant.

One possible cause of sudden leaf drop in your Rubber Plant is any changes in the growing conditions like soggy soil.

Ensure the pot for your Rubber Plant has a drainage hole and the soil is free-draining to prevent the soil from getting soggy.

The second possible cause of sudden leaf drop in your Rubber Plant is low temperature.

Protect your Rubber Plant from cold draughts to avoid a drop in temperature to maintain an average warmth with a minumum of 120C.

The third possible cause of sudden leaf drop in your Rubber Plant is too little light.

Move your Rubber Plant to a brighter spot and ensure it is receiving bright light away from direct sunshine. Read more on understanding light for houseplants.

The fourth possible cause of sudden leaf drop in your Rubber Plant is overfeeding.

Do not feed your Rubber Plant during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time. Read more on how to feed houseplants.

Rubber Plant losing the lower leaves

Loss of lower leaves is a normal occurence in Rubber Plant. As Rubber Plant matures, it losses the lower leaves leaving a bare stem with a crown of leaves at the top.

Cut back your Rubber Plant stem at the desired height to rejuvenate growth.

Rubber Plant yellow leaf edges

Yellowing leaf edges in Rubber Plant are due to underfeeding.

Feed your Rubber Plant monthly with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer during the growing period. Read more on how to feed houseplants.

Rubber Plant drooping leaves

Drooping leaves in Rubber Plant are an indication of underwatering. Immediately water your Rubber Plant and the leaves should perk up.

Never allow the soil for your Rubber Plant to dry out completely; maintain the soil moderately moist at all times.

Rubber Plant Pests

The common plant pests in Rubber Plant are Aphids, Mealy Bugs, Scale Insects and Spider Mites.

Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to other plants and treat it appropriately for the pests.

Keep your Rubber Plant properly pruned at all times to reduce the hiding places for these pests.

Rubber Plant Diseases

Rubber Plant is prone to root-rot disease which is enhanced by soggy soil.

Ensure there is free drainage of both the soil and the pot and also reduce watering for your Rubber Plant during the cold season.

Is Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) toxic?

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) is toxic to humans and pets.

The Rubber Plant produces a milky white latex which is an irritant to the eyes and the skin.

If the Rubber Plant is ingested it can cause irritation in the mouth, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and abdominal pains.

Other Ficus Species for Growing Indoors

  1. Ficus pumila (Creeping Fig)
  2. Ficus benjamina (Weeping Fig)
  3. Ficus lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig)

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