Want an easy-care indoor tree with large, glossy leaves? These Rubber Plant care and growing tips will keep yours looking great.
After spending quite a few years in the interiorscaping biz, I found the Rubber Plant to be the easiest of the ficus trifecta (which includes the Fiddleaf Fig and Ficus Benjamina) 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 Rubber Plant growing tips with you.
The Rubber Plant is also known as Ficus elastica and Rubber Tree.
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 many find it a challenge to grow. I’ve found that both of these plants do best in higher light conditions and are much more temperamental than the Rubber Plant.
You have a choice of varieties in foliage color when it comes to 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.
Some Of Our General Houseplant Guides For Your Reference:
- Guide To Watering Indoor Plants
- Beginner’s Guide To Repotting Plants
- 3 Ways To Successfully Fertilize Indoor Plants
- How to Clean Houseplants
- Winter Houseplant Care Guide
- Plant Humidity: How I Increase Humidity For Houseplants
- Buying Houseplants: 14 Tips For Indoor Gardening Newbies
- 11 Pet-Friendly Houseplants
Rubber Plant Care and Growing Tips
Rubber Plants are usually sold as floor plants. Mine was growing in a 10″ pot and I repotted it into a 15″ pot last year (more on that below). It now stands 6′ from the ground.
Growing in their native environments, Ficus elasticas can get 60-80′ tall. Yes, it’s definitely a tree!
I bought a small one in a 6″ pot last year when I was in San Diego. It sits on a plant stand at the moment but will become a floor plant in a year or 2.
When in the desired exposure and getting the care they like, I’ve found Rubber Plants to have a moderate to fast growth rate. This is especially true in late spring and summer when houseplants do the majority of their growing.
The Rubber Tree is a medium to a high light indoor plant. Mine grows in my office in an east/south exposure where a trio of windows gives it a good amount of bright natural light all day. It sits about 5′ away from the windows.
Be sure yours doesn’t get too much direct, hot sun or it could burn.
Because it’s in a corner, I rotate it every 2 months so it gets light on all sides.
Don’t even try this plant in low light – it’ll be a no go.
In the greenhouse taking pictures for our houseplant care book. Ficus elastica burgundy, variegata & ruby lined up in rows ready to be shipped out.
In the summer I water my Rubber Plant every 7-8 days because the sun is usually shining every day here in the Sonoran Desert. In the winter I back off on the watering frequency to every 14-21 days. Plants need to rest at this time of year plus the light levels and temps tend to be lower.
You’ll have to adjust the watering frequency according to the pot size, soil mix, and your growing conditions. You basically want a happy medium with this plant – not bone dry but not soggy wet.
This guide to watering indoor plants will give you more information as well as this guide to winter houseplant care.
As I say in regards to houseplants: if your home is comfortable for you, then it’ll be the same for your plants. Just be sure to keep yours away from any cold drafts as well as air conditioning or heating vents.
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.
The cream & green leaves of the Variegated Ficus look like they’ve been painted on.
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.
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.
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.
Fans of pink unite! Please let me introduce you to Ficus elastica ruby.
Pruning is a big part of Rubber Plant care as yours grows talller. 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.
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.
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 About Rubber Plant Care
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.
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. Rubber Plant care is easy if you follow these guidelines. 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!
We have more plant care guides just for you!
- How To Make A Rubber Tree Branch Out
- How to Propagate a Rubber Plant by Air Layering
- 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.
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I’m a life-long gardener who still to this day gets giddy at the thought of a trip to one of the local nurseries. Yes, I actually studied landscape and environmental horticulture and the practical experience I have garnered through the years has served me well. Childhood memories of chicken manure “tea” still float through my olfactory senses to this day. I have always been an organic gardener and always will be. From the Earth … To the Earth. I was born and raised in rural, bucolic Litchfield County, Connecticut and now joyfully live a few blocks from the ocean in beautiful Santa Barbara, California.
Cindy Bellwood says
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?
Nell Foster says
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
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?
Nell Foster says
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
Toni Brown says
I have my grandmother’s ficus rubber tree plant & it’s like 80 years old & I have pictures
Nell Foster says
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
sony cunanan says
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
Nell Foster says
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
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!
Nell Foster says
Hi Carol – Inconsistent watering usually causes that.Sounds like it was under watered or over watered at 1 time. Nell
I gave my rubber plants the wrong fertilizer now they stopped growing. What should I do?
Nell Foster says
Camille – It depends on the fertilizer, how you applied it & how much you gave it. Watering will eventually flush it out & you could always repot. Nell