Last Updated on January 13, 2022 by Grow with Bovees
The rubber tree, also known as; ficus elastica, rubber plant, or Indian rubber bush, is related to banyan trees and is an evergreen tropical tree that’s native to Southeast Asia, Southern China, and Indonesia.
In this article, we will take you through all the steps of rubber plant care for both indoor and outdoor rubber trees.
About Rubber Plants
Part of the fig family, Moraceae, rubber trees were first used for their latex sap which is used to make rubber before synthetics became available. Although, it is actually the Brazilian rubber tree, Hevea Brasiliensis, that produces the majority of the world’s supply.
Apart from the uses of the latex sap, the roots of rubber trees are also used to make living bridges in tropical Northeastern India.
Outdoor specimens grow approximately six to ten feet tall and thrive in zone 10 or zone 11 where they tend to develop into tree-like plants.
House plant specimens tend to be more of a medium level plant.
The leaves of a rubber tree houseplant are typically dark green, but are also seen in myriad other color varieties, such as the Burgundy or Black Prince varieties which have reddish-black leaves.
If you have a good search, you’ll also find other varieties are available with beautiful leaves marked with yellow, cream, pink or white variegations.
Variegated rubber plants are relatively inexpensive when compared to the cost of similar-looking plants such as variegated philodendrons, including the Pink Princess Philodendron.
Rubber plant leaf shapes tend to be oblong to oval, and grow roughly 8 to 12 inches long.
Rubber plant care is fairly easy, given that they’re a low-maintenance plant for your home,compared to other ficus plants.
5 Benefits of Rubber Trees
Before giving you the lowdown on care, here are 5 amazing benefits of ficus elastica plants.
1. Inexpensive to Grow
It isn’t expensive(!), making it a great choice to grow for those on a low budget. Further, you can propagate the ficus elastica tree from cuttings to gain several more plants to keep at your home or office.
2. Low Care Maintenance Plants
While ficus can sometimes be a challenging plant family, Indian rubber bush houseplants aren’t actually that fussy when it comes to maintenance and survive with little or no attention.
There’s no hidden X-factor requirements or anything.
They are adaptable to indirect light conditions, require infrequent watering cycles; simply moist potting soil.
Ficus elastica plants are also not susceptible to many plant diseases – an occasional spray with neem oil will provide all the anti-pest care that they need by keeping most bugs at bay.
3. No Allergic Pollen Properties
While there are certain plants whose pollen can cause an allergic reaction in people of your household, this is not something you need to worry about with this species.
This plant does not release pollen, hence it does not cause pollen allergies, making it a great choice for several environments, including homes, businesses, and even hospitals.
4. Removes Pollutants
All rubber plants can purify the air in your space by removing various chemicals and contaminants such as exhaled carbon dioxide.
The rubber plant absorbs carbon dioxide and mixes it with hydrogen to create oxygen.
This oxygen is then expelled back into your surroundings through the plant’s leaves.
This makes them ideal as desktop plants.
5. Easy to Clean
Indian Rubber Bushes, to use one of their less well known names, have waxy, colorful foliage that’s easy to clean by simply wiping them down with a soft cloth. You can also use some home – made leaf shine from time to time to keep the leaves shiny.
Their ovate leaves feature a shade of mahogany and a rich green color, making them a great choice for enhancing any indoor space.
Are Rubber Tree Plants Toxic?
In short, yes, they can be toxic if ingested by cats, dogs, horses, and humans.
However, I.R. bushes generally aren’t toxic enough to be fatal, if only ingested in small doses, and only cause minor irritation in most cases.
As with all other latex-producing plants, this plant contains caoutchouc, the compound that gives rubber its elasticity.
Even though caoutchouc has myriad different positive uses, in some people it acts as an irritant, as it can cause irritation in the eyes and mucous membranes upon contact.
If eaten, this plant can cause more severe symptoms, which is why it’s a good idea to keep them out of the reach of your children and pets.
There are several symptoms of latex plant poisoning, most notably; mild to acute skin irritation in the form of dermatitis, rashes, and even blistering.
If any part of this plant gets in contact with the mouth, nose, or eyes of someone prone to allergies, it can cause severe burning.
More signs of rubber tree houseplant poisoning include; nausea, vomiting, lack of coordination, and lethargy.
The best way to protect your pets, children, and yourself from ficus elastic poisoning is by avoiding direct contact with the plant.
When pruning or propagating them, it’s highly recommended that you wear protective gloves to prevent latex sap irritation.
If your children, pets, or yourself come into contact with the leaves, tree trunk, or any other parts of I.R. Bushes, use a mild soap or cold water to rinse the area.
If the latex sap gets into anyone’s eyes, flush the area with lots of water, preferably a weak salt water solution, for roughly 10 minutes.
But if you do notice rashes or blisters, seek medical attention immediately.
What Type of Light Does Ficus Elastica Need?
Indian Rubber Bushes prefer bright, indirect light.
So, as a guide, to keep your plant happiest, you should provide it with a source of plenty of lumens, but not direct sunlight, as doing so may scorch the plant.
The best location for your rubber plant is near a window that either has a sheer curtain or doesn’t receive direct sunlight, to give it the right amount of indirect sunlight and to avoid scorched leaves.
Variegated varieties of rubber plants require more light to enhance their colors. To maintain their variegations, it’s important they get the right amount of light.
You will know that your rubber plant requires more light if; the leaves lose their luster, you notice leaf drop, especially if the lower leaves fall off, or if the plant becomes leggy.
Tips on the Best Temperature for Indian Rubber Bushes
Rubber houseplants need a good balance of temperature and do well in warm to average room temperatures of 60 to 65 °F at night and 75 to 80 °F during the day.
Do not place your I.R. Bush near air conditioning units where the air will be too dry as they like relatively humid temperatures.
One of the most important tips is the knowledge that they also don’t like areas that receive a cold draft.
How Much Water Do Rubber Plants Need?
The amount of H2O an I. R. Bush needs depends on the season.
The plant should be kept moist during the growing season (summer). You can keep the plant moist by simply wiping the leaf surfaces of your bush with a damp cloth or misting them to provide extra humidity.
Water plants thoroughly, and let the top inch of soil dry out to the touch before watering again or use a soil probe to monitor the moisture level.
They don’t like wet soil, so make sure you empty the plant saucer if you see that it contains excess H2O. Alternatively, place gravel in the saucer to help increase the surrounding humidity.
Furthermore, make sure that the pot of your plant has a proper drainage hole, and is packed with well-draining soil to prevent root rot. Drainage holes in the pots of house plants are essential and will help to avoid overwatering.
During the dormant season, that is during the winter, you want to reduce moisture levels, so keep the soil dry, but not fully dry.
You will know if it is too dry. If you notice droopy or brown leaves on your rubber houseplant, starting with the tips, it’s a good indication that your plant needs more water.
To keep your plant happy, with regard to the type of H2O, you should use distilled water to keep the soil moist, or tap water that’s been left out overnight to get rid of the chlorine among other things.
Do not use tap water for watering, without letting it sit out overnight, as it’s rich in chlorine and other chemicals that can damage the plant.
What’s the Best Fertilizer and Soil for Rubber Plants?
Rubber plants like to have plenty of soil mass.
The addition of a water-soluble granular houseplant fertilizer is a great thing for your rubber houseplant and should be applied during the plant’s active growth in the spring and summer, during which time it should be applied every two weeks.
Apply the fertilizer on the top layer of soil, at the rate of one tablespoon per square foot of potting soil, so that it dissolves gradually during watering.
You should plant your rubber plant in a well-draining potting mix such as a blend of; 1 part peat, 1 part pine bark, and 1 part coarse sand (or perlite).
Well-drained soil will help prevent a build up of fertiliser and provide a better habitat to give your specimen the best chance of flourishing.
How to Prune a Rubber Plant
Mature plants will need to be pruned to help them support themselves, because they can grow tall and lanky when grown indoors.
Pruning also helps promote new growth and encourages a healthy rubber plant.
The best time to prune is in the spring, but you can ideally do it at any time of year.
To prune rubber plants, take your sharp pruning snips or razor blade and make your cuts just above the node, where the leaf attaches to the stem.
You can also prune above the scar of dead leaves, but be careful not to remove more foliage than necessary.
How To Propagate Rubber Plant
There are two ways to propagate a rubber plant, by taking cuttings or by using air layering (marcotting).
How to Propagate a Rubber Tree Plant with Cuttings
After pruning your rubber plant, you should keep the cuttings to use to grow new specimens rather than throwing them out.
First, you have to get suitable cuttings that are at least 6 inches long, and have at least two sets of leaf pairs.
Next, and this step is optional, remove the bottom set of leaf pairs from the cuttings, and dip the cutting in a rooting hormone such as Bontone II Rooting Powder.
After you’ve given the cuttings a rooting hormone treatment, place them in a well-draining, potting mix, and cover with clear plastic.
Place the cuttings in a warm area that receives plenty of light but not direct sun rays. The roots should start developing within two to three weeks, after which you can remove the clear covering.
How to Propagate a Rubber Plant with Air Layering
To propagate a rubber tree by this method, start by making a cut in a healthy plant, and sticking a toothpick in the opening.
Wrap damp moss around the toothpick, and a plastic wrap around the moss. Wait for the roots to grow through the moss, and cut the branch off, and plant in new soil.
Final Thoughts On Rubber Plant Care
Rubber plant care is fairly easy, as long as you provide the right conditions.
They are hardy plants that are a great choice for both novice and seasoned gardeners, and feature beautiful leaves which are large, glossy and leathery.
With regard to plant hardiness, rubber plants work both as an indoor plant OR an outdoor plant (in the right zone).
Rubber plants thrive in warm temperatures.
You can prune a rubber plant at any time of year, but the best time is during the spring.
Propagating rubber tree plants is quite straightforward by letting the cuttings root in soil or water or by marcotting.
The ultimate easygoing plant, they are a great fun plant to add to your plant collection.
Plant stress in rubber plants is pretty rare!