Rubber Plant

Prepared by Karen Russ, HGIC Horticulture Specialist, and Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Clemson University. (New 03/99.)

HGIC 1510

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Rubber plants (Ficus elastica) are easy to grow and care for and do well in a variety of conditions. They are excellent plants for beginners.

Height/Spread

Rubber trees can easily grow 6 to 10 feet tall or more indoors if there is enough space. They can be pruned to reduce their size.

Ornamental Features

Rubber trees are grown for their glossy, leathery, large leaves. The leaves are oblong to oval, 8 to 12 inches long and in various colors of dark green, deep maroon or marked with yellow, cream, pink or white.

Culture

Rubber plants prefer bright light but are adaptable to low light. They grow best with the morning light from an east window. They do well in warm to average room temperatures. The ideal temperatures are 60 to 65 °F at night and 75 to 80 °F during the day.

Water rubber trees thoroughly, but let the soil dry somewhat between waterings. The soil mix should be a well-drained houseplant mix. Rubber trees prefer humid conditions, but tolerate the dry air common in homes.

Fertilize regularly with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer during active growth. Plants that are in lower light should be fertilized less often.

Rubber trees may grow tall and lanky indoors. You can support them with a stake or prune them in spring to rejuvenate. Propagate new plants by stem or tip cuttings or air layering. Repot in late winter or early spring if needed.

Wash the leaves with water when they get dusty to keep them attractive and help your plant stay healthy.

Problems

In the home, plant diseases are very rarely a problem. Too much or too little water plus insects and mites are the main problems. Root rot usually results from a soil mix that does not drain quickly or overly frequent watering.

Leaf yellowing may occur if the soil stays too wet. Too little light, dry air or cold drafts may cause leaf loss. Mealybugs may infest rubber plants.

The sticky white sap may irritate skin or the stomach if eaten. Keep these plants away from any pets or young children that tend to eat plants.

Cultivars

  • 'Decora' is a widely available cultivar with dark leaves with creamy white midribs.
  • 'Doescheri' has cream and gray variegated leaves with pink ribs.
  • 'Foliis Aureo-marginata' has gold margined leaves.
  • 'Robusta' has very large leaves up to 18 inches long. It is good in low light.
  • 'Rubra' has leaves that are reddish when young and mature deep green with red edges.
  • 'Tricolor' has green leaves with cream and pink patches.

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