A Comprehensive Guide on How to Grow and Care for Rubber Plants

The stately rubber plant with its vibrant foliage and hard-to-kill nature can be a perfect addition to your interior décor. The tropical plant, which is favored among homeowners for its impressive growth rate and brilliant air-purifying qualities, can brighten up any dull and dreary corner of your home without much effort.

Perhaps the best thing about growing a rubber plant is that it doesn’t require a lot of attention. It is fairly low-maintenance and easy to look after. Even if you are someone who struggles to keep houseplants alive for longer, you can’t go wrong with this one.

In its native habitat in Southeast Asia, this lovely plant can transform into a large tree, growing as tall as 100 feet with a massive spread. However, in an average home environment, a domesticated rubber plant can grow between 6 to 10 feet. The waxy leaves of this plant start with a coral pink hue that gradually deepens to an emerald green color tinted with mahogany undertones.

Although rubber plants don’t bloom, their large textured leaves can add to the aesthetics of your home, making it look more visually appealing.

Introduction: Rubber Plant

rubber plant indoors
Rubber plants make for a great houseplant

The botanical name of the rubber plant is Ficus elastic, and it is a member of the fig or Moraceae family. While it has become one of the most popular indoor plants in the west, the rubber plant tree is native to China, India, Java, Malaysia, Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian countries.

This striking houseplant gets its name from the white latex found in its stem and leaves. The large oval-shaped leaves of this plant also have an almost rubbery and leather-like texture, complementing its name. However, contrary to popular belief, the sap from this plant is not widely used for the commercial production of rubber.

One of the best things about growing rubber plants is that they require minimal care. Of course, you must water them as needed and make sure they are receiving ample sunlight. But even if you lead a busy lifestyle and don’t have enough time to prune and tend to this indoor plant, it will continue to grow without a care. Just make sure you start with a younger plant so it can better adapt to its indoor environment compared to a larger and more mature plant.

In addition, since these plants can grow taller than most other houseplants, they make for great room dividers. Even if you want to keep your rubber plant small and neatly trimmed, its shiny and colorful foliage would instantly make it the focal point of any room you keep it in.

How to Grow Rubber Plant

tips for growing rubber plants
Rubber plants are easy to grow

Rubber plants may be forgiving of neglect and tolerant of most situations, but they also need love and affection to thrive. If you want to grow a beautiful and healthy rubber plant indoors, here are some things you should keep in mind.

Finding the Best Spot

You can plant rubber plants both indoors and outdoors, depending on the weather.

Those who live in the US zones 9, 10, and 11 can grow these plants outdoors, whereas those who reside in colder areas should consider keeping rubber plants indoors. Moreover, gardening experts recommend placing rubber plants in a partially shaded spot near windows.

Ideal Temperature

Being native to tropical regions, rubber plants flourish in temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally, you can move these plants outdoors during the summer months and bring them back inside once the temperature dips to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Humidity Level

Rubber plants prefer a moderately humid environment. If you live in an area that experiences dry weather for prolonged periods, investing in a room humidifier could be a good way to keep your houseplant healthy for a long time.

Potting Mix

A well-draining and well-aerated soil is crucial to the growth of rubber plants. You can make a potting mix containing one part peat, one part pine bark, and coarse sand for your rubber plant.

Exposure to Sunlight

Rubber plants require bright but indirect sunlight to grow. A cold draft can be detrimental to their growth, and exposure to harsh sunlight can burn their leaves. Therefore, you should consider placing these plants at a spot that receives sufficient natural light but isn’t too hot.

Watering Frequency

Rubber plants grow the most in the summer months, which means you should keep them moist when the weather is warm. Watering them once a week or when the top inch of the soil becomes completely dry is generally considered a good practice. You can also try misting them to ensure the leaves receive enough moisture.

Meanwhile, during the dormant winter season, watering your rubber plants once or twice is usually enough.

Propagation

Two tried and tested methods for rubber plant propagation are hacking a branch and planting it in the soil or air layering it.

In the first method, you can cut a piece of the houseplant and stick it in suitable soil. You can also place a heating pad under the pot to promote better growth. Meanwhile, the second method requires you to make a small cut in your rubber plant tree and stick a toothpick in the lesion. Next, wrap a damp moss around the area and cover it with plastic wrap. The first roots will begin to appear as soon as two weeks, though the air-layered portion of the rubber plant will be ready to cut off in about two to three months. You can then remove the air-layered part and plant it in the soil.

Rubber Plant Care Tips

Rubber plant care tips
Rubber plants require minimal care

Now that we know how to grow rubber plants let’s look at some tips on caring for them. Remember, looking after plants can also help you relax while making your home look even prettier.

Trimming and Pruning

All plants require occasional trimming and pruning.

Though rubber plants are very low-maintenance, you should still make sure to keep them neat by removing any dead leaves. You must also trim the unruly branches every couple of months to ensure the plant doesn’t grow out of its shape.

Moreover, unless you don’t want your houseplant to grow taller, please do not cut it off the top. If you do so, the plant will stop growing vertically and only expand horizontally.

Water Temperature

Always try watering your rubber plant with either room temperature or lukewarm water. Using cold tap water can cause shock to the roots of your plant.

Liquid Fertilizer

Your rubber plant tree may not be a heavy feeder, but it will certainly appreciate if you feed it a balanced liquid fertilizer once a month during summer and spring.

Wiping and Cleaning

Dust and other pollutants can clog the pores of the leaves, keeping your houseplants from breathing freely. It is a good practice to wipe the dust from your rubber plants every week or so to make sure they remain healthy and look clean.

Repotting

As mentioned above, rubber plants can grow moderately quickly. This means you should move them to a new pot every year to aid in their growth. Each time, choose a container about one to two inches bigger in diameter than the previous one.

Common Rubber Plant Problems and How to Solve Them

rubber plant trees
Rubber plants are virtually pest and disease-free

Rubber plants are generally very easygoing. However, they may occasionally develop these common problems. Let’s take a look at them.

Foliage Losing Its Color

One of the basic rubber plant care tips is to keep it in a spot that receives bright but not direct sunlight. However, if you keep it in a very dark corner of your home, the leaves will start losing their color.

To troubleshoot this problem, move your houseplant to a spot near your window.

Inward Curling Leaves

If the leaves of your rubber plant are curling inwards, it may be a sign of drying roots. To revive the plant, water it more frequently. Also, don’t forget to mist it.

Dropping Leaves

Most rubber plants tend to shed their leaves when they are being overwatered. If your potting mix is constantly wet, move your houseplant to a brighter spot and reduce your watering frequency. This will help the plant to get healthy again.

Pest Infestation

The rubber plant is mostly resistant to pests and diseases, but poor conditions may lead to mealy bugs, aphids, and spider mites infestation. In such cases, insecticidal soap can be a great help. You can also apply neem oil on both sides of the leaves to get rid of these insects.

Benefits of Growing a Rubber Plant Indoors

Some of the most prominent benefits of rubber plants include:

  • Rubber plants can freshen up your surroundings and indoor air quality by removing pollutants from your home. They can also significantly reduce formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide from the air.
  • Since rubber plant propagation is fairly easy, you can grow new ones without any hassle and gift them to your friends and family on holidays and other special occasions.
  • You don’t have to put in much effort to grow these houseplants. All you need to do is place them at a nice spot and water them as needed.
  • These tropical plants’ shiny and attractive foliage can add a splash of color to any room or office space.

Is Rubber Plant Toxic?

Yes, rubber tree plants are toxic. Though they might not be poisonous enough to be toxic, they can certainly irritate your skin upon touch. In addition, the white sap coursing in rubber trees contains a compound called caoutchouc. If ingested, the plant can be dangerous for children and small pets.

If you have small children or curious critters at home, consider keeping your rubber plant on a shelf or somewhere that is not easily accessible. Since these plants can grow impressively tall, you can cut the lower branches to ensure your toddler cannot grab its leaves.

Symptoms of Rubber Plant Poisoning

Some of the most common symptoms of rubber plant poisoning include:

  • Oral irritation
  • Irritation around eyes
  • Rashes
  • Blisters
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of coordination
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Rubber Plant Types and Varieties

Rubber plant types
There are several different types of rubber plants

Here are some of the most popular rubber plant types that you must know about.

Ficus elastica ‘Back prince.’

The round, leathery, dark green leaves tinted with bronze hues make this variety of rubber plants stand out from the rest. You can place this plant in an ornamental pot and keep it in your living room.

Ficus elastica ‘Decora’

The shiny and thick green leaves of Ficus elastic ‘decora’ can grow up to a foot long. It also requires a high level of humidity to grow. Depending on your preference, you can either plant this variety of rubber plants in a pot or hanging basket.

Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’

This variety of rubber plants has large green and white variegated leaves with undertones of pink and burgundy. These plants thrive indoors and can be an excellent addition to any home.

Ficus elastica ‘Robusta’

This chic variety of rubber plants has large leaves that can grow approximately 18 inches in length. Its foliage is emerald green in color and is very tolerant of low light.

Ficus elastica’ tricolor’

As the name suggests, this rubber plant type features multi-hued foliage. The oval-shaped leaves start as rose pink before gradually changing into a shade of dark green with creamy white and greyish green variegations.

Ficus elastica’ Doescheri’

Commonly known as the Indian rubber tree, this type of rubber plant tree has dark green leaves with patches of white. This plant requires more sunlight to grow compared to the other varieties. 

Rubber Plant FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about rubber plant care and growth.

What makes rubber plant a good option for homes?

Like most other houseplants, rubber plants can produce oxygen and eliminate toxins from your indoor environment. They can also get rid of mold spores and different bacteria.

How to display rubber plants in your home?

Rubber plants can grow up to be several feet tall, making them a perfect alternative to room dividers. You can also place the rubber plants around your deck or patio for privacy.

How fast does a rubber plant grow?

During their growing season, rubber plants can grow up to 24 inches in height.

How long can a rubber plant live?

In the wild, rubber trees can live for hundreds of years. However, if treated with care, rubber plants cans live as long as ten years indoors.

The bottom line is that rubber plants are one of the best plants for any home. These tropical plants are easy to propagate, don’t require a lot of care, and grow quickly. Moreover, they are tolerant of almost all weather conditions and can remain healthy even in low light.