Last Updated on September 16, 2021 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.
About Rubber Plants
Part of the fig family, Moraceae, rubber trees were first used for their latex sap to make rubber before synthetics became available.
Apart from being used to make rubber, the roots of rubber trees are also used to make living bridges in tropical Northeastern India.
Rubber plants grow to approximately six to ten feet tall and thrive in zone 10 or zone 11.
The leaves of a rubber tree houseplant are typically dark green but are also seen in myriad color varieties such as deep maroon or marked with yellow, cream, pink, or white.
Variegated rubber plants are available (amazon link), in a wide range of colors, and are relatively inexpensive when compared to the cost of variegated philodendrons such as the Pink Princess.
Rubber plant leaves are oblong to oval, and grow to roughly 8 to 12 inches long. For example, burgundy or black prince rubber plants have reddish-black leaves. Rubber plant care is fairly easy, given that they’re a low-maintenance plant.
5 Benefits of a Rubber Tree
Before giving you the lowdown on rubber tree care, here are 5 amazing benefits of the rubber tree plant.
1. Inexpensive to Grow
The rubber tree 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 rubber plants to keep at your home or office.
2. Low Maintenance Plants
Rubber tree house plants aren’t fussy when it comes to maintenance and even grow with little or no attention. They are adaptable to indirect light conditions, require infrequent watering cycles, and moist potting soil.
3. No Allergic Properties
While there are certain plants that can cause an allergic reaction in people in your household, this is not something you need to worry about with a rubber tree.
The rubber plant does not release pollen, hence it does not cause allergies, making it a great choice for several environments, including homes, businesses, and even hospitals.
4. Removes Pollutants
Rubber plants can purify the air in your space by removing various chemicals and contaminants such as exhaled carbon dioxide.
The rubber plant inhales carbon dioxide and mixes it with hydrogen to create oxygen. This oxygen is then expelled back into your surroundings through the plant’s leaves.
5. Easy to Clean
Rubber plants have waxy, colorful foliage that’s easy to clean by simply wiping them down with a soft cloth. Speaking of which, rubber plant leaves feature a shade of mahogany and a rich green color, making them a great choice for any indoor space.
Are Rubber Tree Plants Toxic?
The rubber plant can be toxic if ingested by cats, dogs, horses, and humans. Rubber trees generally aren’t toxic to be fatal if ingested in small doses, and cause minor irritation in most cases.
The rubber plant contains caoutchouc — a compound that gives rubber its elasticity. Even though caoutchouc has myriad different uses, it can cause irritation in the eyes and mucous membranes upon contact.
If eaten, the rubber 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 rubber plant poisoning, most notably mild to acute skin dermatitis, rashes, and even blistering.
If any part of the rubber plant gets in contact with the mouth, nose, or eyes, it can cause severe burning. Signs of rubber tree houseplant poisoning include nausea, vomiting, lack of coordination, and lethargy, among others.
The best way to protect your pets, children, and yourself from ficus elastic poisoning is by avoiding direct contact with the rubber plant.
When pruning or propagating rubber trees, it’s highly recommended that you wear protective latex gloves to prevent latex sap irritation.
If your children, pets, or yourself come in contact with the leaves, tree trunk, or any other parts of rubber plants, 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 for roughly 10 minutes. But if you do notice rashes or blisters, seek medical attention immediately.
What Type of Light Does Ficus Elastica Need?
Rubber plants prefer bright indirect light. You should provide your rubber plant with bright indirect light and not direct sunlight, as doing so may scorch the plant’s leaves.
The best location to place your rubber plant is near a window to give it the right amount of indirect sunlight.
The variegated varieties of rubber plants require more light to enhance their colors. Hence, it’s important they get the right amount of light.
Rubber houseplants 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 rubber plant near air conditioning units or areas that receive a cold draft.
Your rubber plant requires more light if its leaves lose their luster, the lower leaves fall off, or if the plant becomes leggy.
How Much Water Do Rubber Plants Need?
The amount of water a rubber houseplant needs depends on the season, where the plant should be kept moist during the growing season (summer). You can keep the plant moist by simply wiping the leaves of your rubber tree with a damp cloth or misting them.
Water rubber plants thoroughly, and let the top inch of soil dry out to the touch before watering again.
Furthermore, make sure that the pot of your rubber plant has a proper drainage hole, and is packed with well-draining soil to prevent root rot. Drainage holes 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 rubber plant soil dry, but not fully dry.
If you notice droopy leaves on your rubber houseplant, it’s a good indication that your plant needs more water.
With regard to the type of water, you can use distilled water and tap water that’s left out overnight to get rid of the chlorine. Do not use tap water 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?
A water-soluble houseplant fertilizer is a great choice for your rubber houseplant and should be applied during the plant’s active growth in the spring and summer, and every two weeks.
Additionally, apply the fertilizer at the rate of one tablespoon per square foot of potting soil. 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).
How to Prune a Rubber Plant
You’ll need to prune your rubber plants to help them support themselves because they can grow tall and lanky indoors. Pruning also helps promote new growth, and 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 the leaf, but be careful not to remove more foliage than necessary.
How To Propagate Rubber Plant
There are two ways to propagate a rubber plant — with cuttings or by using air layering.
How to Propagate a Rubber Tree Plant with Cuttings
After pruning your rubber plant, you should keep the cuttings to use to grow new plants 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 leaves.
Next, and this step is optional, where you remove the bottom set of leaves 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 indirect light, and you will notice the roots 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 air layering, 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.
Rubber plant care is fairly easy, as long as you provide the right conditions. They are hardy plants that are a great choice for novice and seasoned gardeners, and feature large glossy, leathery leaves.
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 clippings root in soil or water or by air layering, and they are a great addition to your plant collection.