How to Grow and Care for Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) Indoors


Rubber Plant, Ficus elastica

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

Description

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) also called Rubber Fig, Rubber Tree, Rubber Bush, Indian Rubber Tree or Indian Rubber Bush is a popular tree-like plant, an ideal stand alone plant that is easy to grow and easily adaptable to indoor growing conditions.

Indian Rubber Tree has a high tolerance to drought conditions but prefers high humidity conditions.

The Ficus of earlier days had narrow, drooping leaves and a rather fussy nature but it has been replaced by a number of larger leaved varieties.

Origin

Ficus elastica 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.

Varieties

There are many varieties of Rubber Tree like Ficus elastica 'Decora', Ficus elastica 'robusta' (Bronze Rubber Plant), Ficus elastica 'Black Prince', Ficus elastica 'Tineke', Ficus elastica 'Shivereana' among others.

Air Cleaning

According to the NASA Clean Air Study, Ficus elastica was found to clean indoor air of formaldehyde.

Where to Buy

Healthy Indian Rubber Plants are readily available online at Etsy. Purchase Rubber Plants from Etsy.

Rubber Plant, Ficus elastica

Photo Credit: Hello Plants & Garden Supplies

Ficus elastica Care Indoors

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) thrives in bright light with some direct sunlight, warm and humid conditions and moderately moist, fertile, well-drained soil coupled with monthly feeding during the growing season.

Rubber Fig requires regular pruning to keep it neat and also encourage a bushy growth. Repotting is only needed when it becomes pot-bound. Keep reading for more on these growing conditions and how to achieve them.

Light Requirements

Rubber Plant grows best in bright light with some direct sunlight. It can also grow under a grow light where natural light is inadequate.

Rubber Tree can adapt to lower light but it will grow much slower. However, the variegated Rubber Plants require bright light to maintain the variegation.

For uniform growth, turn the pot regularly to ensure that the plant receives light on all sides. Check out this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

Watering

Water Rubber Plant liberally during the growing season and allow the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings to keep the soil moderately moist.

Reduce watering during the cold season to maintain the soil barely moist as growth is minimal at this time.

Ensure that the pot 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 to water Rubber Fig to avoid spots on the leaves. Read more on how to water houseplants.


Temperature

The best temperature for growing Rubber Plant indoors is an average warmth within the range of 15-280C. Protect the Indian Rubber Tree from cold and hot draughts to prevent sudden changes in temperature as it can lead to leaf drop. Read more on understanding temperature for houseplants.

Humidity

Average room humidity is ideal for Rubber Plant. However, if the air is too dry especially where temperature is high the plant responds with brown, dry leaf tips and edges.

To raise humidity, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier. Read more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Regularly clean the leaves 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)

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

Repotting

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

Avoid frequent repotting as it prefers to be pot-bound. Repot only when it 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 to prevent the soil from getting soggy. Use a heavy pot as the plant can become top-heavy and topple over.

Never allow the roots 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.

Soil

Rubber Plant soil should be rich in organic matter and free-draining to prevent it from getting soggy while providing the required nutrients.

Most multi-purpose potting mixes are ideal for the plant. Buy quality potting mix for Rubber Fig from Amazon.

Pruning

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

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

The foliage emanating from pruning can be used to propagate new plants. Read more on how to prune houseplants.

Propagation

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) can be propagated during the growing season from stem cuttings or by air layering.

Rubber Plant, Ficus elastica

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Ficus elastica Problems Indoors

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) problems indoors are caused by cultural faults (improper care). These problems include leaf drop, yellow leaves, brown leaves, drooping leaves, pests and diseases among others. Continue reading for more on these problems and how to fix them.

Leaf drop (loss)

Rubber Plant or Rubber Fig may drop its leaves due to a number of varied reasons which include improper watering, pests, root-rot, extreme temperatures, insufficient light among others.

One possible cause of leaf drop in Rubber Fig is extreme temperatures.

Protect the plant from cold and hot draughts to avoid sudden changes in temperature and maintain an average warmth within the range of 15-280C.

The second possible cause of leaf drop in Rubber Fig is too little light.

Move the Rubber Tree to a brighter spot and ensure it is receiving bright light away from direct sunshine or instal a grow light if you do not have adequate natural light in your home. Read more on understanding light for houseplants.

The third possible cause of leaf drop in Rubber Plant is overfeeding.

Feed Rubber Plant monthly during the growing period with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer and follow the instructions on the label of the plant food to avoid overfeeding.

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

Read more on 14 reasons why Rubber Plant is dropping leaves and how to fix them

Loss of lower leaves

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

Cut back the Rubber Fig stem at the desired height to rejuvenate growth. New growth should sprout just below the cut into a new bushy plant.

Leaves turning brown

Rubber Plant or Rubber Fig leaves may turn brown due to a number of reasons which include improper watering, pests, root-rot, high temperatures, insufficient light, improper feeding among others.

Read more on 11 Causes of Rubber Plant Leaves Turning Brown and Solutions

Drooping leaves

Drooping leaves in Rubber Plant may be due to many reasons which include overwatering, underwatering, root-rot, pests, poor lighting, high temperatures among others.

Read more on 13 Reasons Why Rubber Plant Leaves are Drooping & How to Fix Them

Yellow leaf edges

Yellowing leaf edges in Rubber Plant are due to underfeeding. Feed the plant monthly with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer during the growing period. Read more on how to feed houseplants.

Pests

The common 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 with Neem oil or Insecticidal soap. Keep the plant properly pruned at all times to reduce the hiding places for these pests.

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 during the cold season.

Is Rubber Plant toxic?

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica) is toxic to humans and pets according to Pet Poison Helpline.

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

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

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