The rubber plant (Ficus elastica) is a popular ornamental plant from the Ficus genus. In its natural habitat, it grows over 30 metres tall, however, the varieties grown indoors are a much more manageable height.
For the indoor grower looking for a tree-type plant species with attractive foliage which can grow from 1ft to over 8ft tall, this is an excellent choice.
Rubber Plant Description
There are a number of Ficus elastica varieties grown successfully indoors which includes, “the most common one” Ficus elastica decora (has shiny leather-type leaves which grow to a foot long), F.elastica robusta (has larger leaves than decora), F.elastica black prince or burgundy (has near black reddish leaves) and a selection of variegated types.
How it looks and displays: The rubber plant is all about having a small tree indoors with broad shiny attractive leaves. When this plant is about 1 – 2ft tall it’s well suited sitting as a centerpiece on a table, on a shelf, or on a windowsill, but once it begins to grow above 3ft it looks great standing next to a fireplace, television area or near door entrances (as longs as there are no cold drafts).
I prefer the decora which has plain green leaves, but others like other leaf color variations and there is a nice choice.
Once the plant begins to mature and grow in height it’s common to train and support the trunk and branches by staking or tying them back to keep them growing upright.
Care level: This species is quite an easy plant to care for and can grow well in low light. The worst a grower can do (which are common mistakes) is over-water, move the plant around too much or to a spot with less light or with colder temperatures. Sudden drops in temperature or cold drafts are also not good.
Rubber Plant Facts
|Origin:||India, Nepal, Myanmar, China, Malaysia & others.|
|Names:||Rubber plant or tree, rubber bush (common). Ficus elastica (botanical/scientific).|
|Max Growth (approx):||Height 10ft (3m).|
|Poisonous for pets:||Toxic to cats and dogs.|
Rubber Plant Care
|Temperature:||These can be quite tricky to propagate by stem tip cuttings, but you can succeed. Take a cutting (a few inches long) and allow the sap to dry for 1 hour. Before potting the cutting in soil use rooting hormone and then provide the bottom of the pot some heat (usually using a heating pad). The temperature wants to be kept at around 70°F (21°C) – 75°F (24°C) ideally.|
|Light:||A nice brightly lit spot is ideal, without direct sunlight.|
|Watering:||Water once the soil becomes slightly dry to the touch and make sure the pot has sufficient drainage holes to allow excess water to seep through. The worst thing you can do regarding watering is “give it too much”.|
|Soil:||A well-draining and well-aerated potting soil is needed. 1 part peat, 1 part pine bark and 1 part coarse sand (or perlite) is a good mix.|
|Re-Potting:||Average room temperatures of 60 – 75°F (15 – 24°C are fine. Avoid lower than 55°F (12°C), sudden temperature drops, and cold drafts.|
|Fertilizer:||Feed during spring and summer with a diluted liquid fertilizer every two weeks.|
|Humidity:||Normal room humidity is fine. To improve humidity mist the leaves when it gets very warm in the summer.|
|Propagation:||These can be quite tricky to propagate by stem tip cuttings, but you can succeed. Take a cutting (a few inches long) and allow the sap to dry for 1 hour. Before potting the cutting in soil use rooting hormone and then provide the bottom of the pot some heat (usually using a heating pad). The temperature wants to be kept at around 70°F (21°C) – 75°F (24°C) ideally.|
|Pruning:||Once the rubber plant has grown to the height you want it to grow up to, you can cut the top off. You may also want to prune back any unwanted branches to give the plant a fuller shape. It’s best to prune in spring or summer but any other time will be fine.|
Cleaning: Your plant’s leaves will appreciate being cleaned gently with tepid water and you will enjoy the glossy clean dust free look. Use a very soft cloth or sponge.
- Loss of leaves: The most common cause is over-watering, which will need attention asap (renew top soil or re-pot –pot up–). Other conditions can also cause leaves to drop including, low temperatures, not enough light, or cold drafts. Moving your plant from a bright location to a dim one can also cause leaf drop. It’s normal for some of the bottom leaves to turn yellow and drop, but do check if conditions are OK.
- Leaf edges yellowing: This is really a process of elimination. The problem could be poor soil, under-feeding, or too much water. You’ll need to check each one of the care instructions above and eliminate what you’re doing well and try to find the cause.
- Pests: Mealy bugs, scale, and mites are common pests that like to cause these ficus tree problems.
Everyone’s heard of the rubber plant, right? Loads of people use these plants ornamentally and it comes in lots of shapes and sizes, so it’s really customizable to your space! Just make sure to keep it away from any pets, as the plant is toxic to both dogs and cats.
Whether you’re looking for a small plant to decorate your desk or a large statement plant, the rubber plant is ideal for you. With three different looks to choose from, you can decide which type of rubber plant suits your decorative style the most.
While it is unlikely to flower while indoors, the rubber plant’s shiny and bright leaves are a great way of adding greenery to your space. With a low-maintenance approach to sunlight and watering, this flower is ideal in any room.
However, once you’ve chosen where you want to display your rubber plant it’s best to keep it there. Moving the plant around can cause temperature drops, which doesn’t encourage the plant to grow healthily. Otherwise, the plant is super easy to look after, just make sure not to give it too much water.
Depending on the size of the plant you get, rubber plants can reach great heights quite quickly, so be sure to repot if you think its outgrowing its container. A lot of rubber plant owners choose to move their plants outside during the summer months to maximiZe leaf growth, but this isn’t necessary. This plant can reach a whopping 10ft, and if not pruned, can grow in width too.
Frequently Asked Questions
This could be a sign of overwatering or lack of sunlight. Don’t be alarmed, it’s common in older leaves.
Luckily these plants can be pruned with no damage caused. Simply choose where you’d prefer the top to be and cut the central stem accordingly.
This is common but means your plant is too hot or is being overly watered. Move it into a cooler area and ease off the watering and you should see a huge difference.
As long as you’re looking after them correctly, they can live for over 10 years.
There are 10 varieties of Ficus Elastica. All come in different sizes, shapes, and leaf colors, so the choice is yours!
Rubber plants are relatively common, so you’ll be able to find most varieties in any garden center. A multitude of online shops also sell rubber plants. Prices vary, depending on variety and size, but the smaller plants start at around $35, and the larger ones can be up to $140.
Soil containing one part peat, one part pine bark, and one part sand is the best for growth and nutrition.
Elyssa Goins is a gardener, beekeeper, and a proud mom of four. She is a member of the American Horticultural Society, has been published in a Scientific Journal, and loves to talk about her love of plants. For the past twenty years, she’s been all about growing and caring for various fruits, veggies, herbs, livestock, kids, and houseplants. Managing a big garden to feed four growing kids and raising dairy goats has taught her so much about being an excellent plant parent and now is her time to share with you.