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Rubber Plant: Growing Tips for this Easy Care Indoor Tree

Do you want an easy care indoor tree that grows tall & has large, glossy leaves? Well look no further. These Ficus elastica (Rubber Plant, Rubber Tree) growing tips will keep yours looking great.

a rubber tree sits in front of a cactus. the text reads the easy care indoor tree ficus elastica growing tips

In my horticultural book, the Rubber Plant is the easiest of the ficus trifecta to maintain and keep alive.  It’s been slightly pushed aside and I think now’s the time for the Ficus elastica gets the attention it deserves. That’s why I want to share these Ficus elastica, or Rubber Plant and Rubber Tree, growing tips with you.

The Ficus benjamina, or Weeping Fig, drops leaves like it’s fall every day. The Ficus lyrata, or Fiddleleaf Fig, is revered in the groovy design world but we know it’s a challenge to keep looking good.

You have a choice of varieties as far as the Ficus elastica goes if plain medium green isn’t your thing. The ones I’ve seen are decora (that’s mine), robusta, variegata, ruby and black prince. All 3 Ficus’ are in our book Keep Your Houseplants Alive.

Ficus Elastica Care & Growing Tips

Size

This is a floor plant. The smallest you usually see them is in a 6″ post. Mine is currently growing in a 10″ pot & stands 3′ from the ground.  Growing in their native environment, Ficus elasticas can get 60-80′ tall. Yes, it’s definitely a tree!

Growth Rate

If in exposure & getting the care they like, I’ve found these to have a fast growth rate. This is especially true in late spring & summer when houseplants do the majority of their growing.

Exposure

The Rubber Tree is a medium to a high light houseplant. Mine is in my office in an east/south exposure where a trio of windows gives it a good amount of bright natural light all day. Don’t let it get too much direct, hot sun or it could burn. Don’t even try this plant in low light – it’ll be a no go.

A woman is in a greenhouse full of interior plants taking pictures of Rubber Tree plants


In the greenhouse taking pictures for our houseplant care book. Ficus elastica burgundy, variegata & ruby lined up in rows ready to be shipped out.

Watering

In the summer I water mine thoroughly even 7 days. In the winter it’s every 10-14 days because the sun can be out every day here in the Sonoran Desert. You’ll have to adjust the watering frequency according to your growing conditions. Houseplant watering 101 will shed some light on factors to consider. You basically want a happy medium with this plant – not bone dry but not soggy wet.

Temperature

As I say in regards to houseplants: if your home is comfortable for you, then it’ll be the same for your plants.

Fertilizer

I use worm compost & compost to feed all my houseplants in early spring. Worm compost is my favorite amendment & am currently using Worm Gold Plus. You want to apply these sparingly indoors; easy does it.

If combos aren’t your thing, you might prefer a balanced liquid organic fertilizer. You can use this 1 outdoors too so when it comes to your houseplants, dilute it to half strength. Use this in spring & maybe again in late summer but don’t overdo it because too much fertilizer causes burn.

A close up of the large leaves of a ficus elastica variegata variegated rubber tree


The cream & green leaves of the Variegated Ficus look like they’ve been painted on.

Soil

Use a good organic potting soil when repotting this plant. You want it to be enriched with good stuff but also to drain well.  I’m partial to Happy Frog because of its high-quality ingredients. It’s great for container planting, including houseplants.

Repotting/Transplanting

The faster your Rubber Tree’s growing & the taller it’s getting, the more often you’ll need to repot it. That might be every 2 years or every 4 years, depending on the size pot it’s currently in.

I’m going to be repotting mine in a few months so I’ll do a post & video for you. It doesn’t matter if the new pot is 2″ bigger or 6″ bigger; the roots of this tree need room to grow & spread.

Propagation

For me this is the fun part – more plants, please!  The way I like to propagate this fabulous houseplant is by air layering. I’ve always had success with this method &  show you how to do it on my very tall & narrow Ficus elastica “variegata”.  Here’s how you prune off & plant the air layered portion.

Air layering takes about 2 months but it’s a very effective way to propagate this indoor tree. Rooting softwood cuttings (the top 6″ or so of growth) in a propagation mix is another way. With the air layering, you can get a taller plant from the get-go.

Scheffleras, ruby rubber plants & pink hydrangeas grow in a greenhouse


Fans of pink unite!  Please let me introduce you to Ficus elastica ruby.

Pruning

This might be necessary to control the size of this tree which not only grows tall, but wide. Make clean cuts right above a growth node. Avoid pruning in the winter months if you can. And of course, make sure your pruners are clean & sharp.

Pests

This ficus, like other houseplants, is susceptible to scale, mealy bugs & spider mites. The links will help with identification. My best advice: keep your eye out, catch them early on & take action.

Pets

The Rubber Plant emits a white sap when pruned or broken. It’s irritating to their innards & skin so keep your cats & dogs away from this 1 if you foresee a problem. My kitties don’t mess with my plants so it’s not a concern for me.

Good To Know While Caring for Rubber Plants

Don’t be concerned about the dried up roots at the base of the trunk. Those are aerial roots which are how this plant grows in nature.

the aerial roots of a rubber tree houseplant


You can see those dried roots here.  They don’t bother me at all but cut them off if you’d like.

Salt burn can appear on the edges & tips of the leaves over time due to water quality &/or over-fertilization.

The sap can be irritating to we humans also. Be sure to keep it away from your face & wear gloves & long sleeves when pruning or handling a Rubber Plant if you think it’ll affect you.

Those glossy, extraordinarily large leaves can get dirty fast. Mine still has some of the white spots from the growers still on it that I haven’t gotten off. This plant really benefits from a good cleaning which is best done with a soft, slightly moist, lint-free cloth. I clean mine twice a year.

Saved the best until last: for its size, the Rubber Tree is a great value. It’s inexpensive because it grows fast.

If you have the natural light and space for this plant to grow, then here’s the indoor tree for you. I’m getting a Ficus elastica “ruby” for my bedroom because why not have some pink vegetation in the boudoir. Do you have a favorite ficus? I do like the Ficus Alii but the Rubber Plant is mine hands down!

Happy gardening,

Signed by Nell Foster
More Rubber Plant Care Tips:

How To Make A Rubber Tree Branch Out

How to Propagate a Rubber Plant by Air Layering

Easy Houseplant Care:

15 Easy To Grow Houseplants

7 Easy Care Floor Plants For Beginning Houseplant Gardeners

Peace Lily Care (Spathiphyllum) & Growing Tips

You can find more houseplant info in my simple and easy to digest houseplant care guide: Keep Your Houseplants Alive.

the cover of the houseplant care guide keep your houseplants alive

You can also view our houseplant index here.

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10 comments:

  1. Could you please tell us what the real name of the Strawberry and Cream rubber tree is? What is the difference between the Strawberry and Cream and Tineke or Ruby?

  2. Hi Cindy – All the pictures of RT Ruby I took came from a grower’s greenhouse near Santa Barbara. It has quite a bit of deep pink in it. I’ve seen Strawberry & Cream RT also called Strawberry & Cream Ruby RT. They may be the same plant but maybe different growers are calling it different names. Tienke is a relatively new intro on the RT scene. To me it looks more cream & green with tinges tinges of pink. Nell

  3. Hi, I got my pink rubber tree inthe April. I was enjoying it until I noticed that the leaves start falling off. Noticed that the tip of the leaves turned brown. I watered the plant with filtered water since the water in San Diego is hard. Any thoughts on why the leaves keep falling off and why the tips are turning brown?

  4. Hi Malu – Small brown tips are normal on houseplants due to dry air. Leaves falling off are usually a watering issue – either too often or not enough. Nell

  5. I have my grandmother’s ficus rubber tree plant & it’s like 80 years old & I have pictures

  6. Toni – I know someone who has one that’s around 40 years old. Yours is really old – now that’s longevity! What a nice reminder of your grandmother. Nell

  7. i have a very tall rubber tree in my backyard, around more than 20 years old. There are vines coming out of this tree, that neighbors mistake it to be a balite tree. Please advise if it is really a rubber tree.
    thanks. You can reply on my email address

  8. Hi Sony – Balete Trees are ficus’. I don’t know much about them but I do know they grow to be huge. It’s hard to say without seeing the foliage. Nell

  9. Hi Nell, thanks for your advice above! I have a regular all green plant about 7ft tall. The leaves are not browned on the tips, but they are all curved, almost curled on the ends. I have been careful about watering, so as not to over water, and the plant has many new branches since I got it. So seems to be fairly healthy. It just the leaves aren’t flat, none of them, even the new sprouts. Might this be a particular type with curved leaves, or not enough water? Thanks for your time!

  10. Hi Carol – Inconsistent watering usually causes that.Sounds like it was under watered or over watered at 1 time. Nell

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