Don't rub your Rubber Plant up the wrong way! Read this Rubber Plant care guide.
Ficus Elastica is a fine broad-leafed plant with thick rubbery leaves which appreciate an occasional misting in summer. This tender evergreen tree species hails from the Moraceae family and you might see it being sold as Rubber Tree, Rubber Plant, Rubber Fig and Indian Rubber Bush.
When grown outside in its native habitat in Southern parts of Asia, the F. elastica towers at 60m. While it's unlikely to reach those heights indoors, this fast grower is no desk plant. Its large, oval-shaped leaves can grow up to 20cm in length and given the right conditions it can grow up to 4 metres. For those with the space, Ficus Elastica makes a gorgeous focal point.
It rarely flowers when kept as a houseplant, instead, new leaves emerge encased in a red sheaf which some confuse as flowers. In frost-free areas, the Rubber Plant produces oblong, yellow fruits from diminutive white flowers with egg yolk centres.
While primarily grown for its foliage, another benefit of the Rubber Plant is it is one of the air purifying plants tested by NASA.
How to care for Rubber Plant
The Rubber Plant is relatively easy to care for.
- This increasingly popular houseplant prefers bright, indirect sunlight. While it should cope with a couple of hours of direct sunlight, too much sun may scorch the leaves, too little and your plant will struggle to thrive.
- Rubber plants like a moist, freely draining potting mix. You could add sand or perlite to improve drainage.
- Water when the top two inches of soil are dry and the pot feels light. Reduce watering in winter and don't let the pot stand in water.
- Feed once a month with an organic liquid fertiliser during spring and summer.
- Keep humidity levels up with regular misting in the warmer months.
- It does well with being a bit pot-bound, so keep this in mind when repotting.
- Regularly clean the leaves to prevent dust build-up and keep them looking lush and glossy.
How to propagate the Rubber Plant
It's easy to propagate the Rubber Plant via stem cuttings. And the best time to do this is in spring or summer. Just cut off a healthy stem and remove the lower leaves. Wait until the sap has dried before popping the stem in an open mixture of gritty compost or perlite. Leave your cutting in a warm spot and keep the soil slightly moist. Before you know it, all your friends will be raving about the Rubber Plant.
Common Rubber Plant problems
- Yellow leaves: A sign of underwatering. Sit your plant in the sink and let it drink from the bottom-up.
- Drooping leaves: A sign of overwatering, which could signal the onset of root rot. Your plant may be salvageable in the early stages if repotted in fresh compost.
- Leaf drop: Another symptom of a well-loved but overwatered plant. Don't let the plant sit in water. Leaf drop can also be a sign of cold so keep it away from draughts. The minimum temperature required to keep the Rubber Plant comfortable in winter is 12 degrees. For this reason, the Rubber Plant is grown as an indoor plant in the UK.
- Leggy stems: Insufficient light can cause spindly stems. Trim back the plant to encourage bushier growth and move to a well lit position.
- Curling leaves: Dry air or improper watering can cause the leaves to curl. Up your misting and regularly feel the soil before watering.
- Pests attracted to the Rubber Plant include spider mites and mealybugs. Learn how to control plant pests here:
Are Rubber Tree plants toxic?
When the leaves or stems are pruned, a white sap oozes out. The sap of Ficus plants can irritate the skin, eyes and stomach if consumed. Discover which other plants are toxic to cats and dogs here:
Can I make rubber from the Rubber Plant?
Natural rubber is made from latex, the milky white tree sap of the Rubber Tree, but it's not sourced from Ficus Elastica. The process of harvesting the sap is known as tapping and our rubber stocks primarily come from the Para Rubber Tree (Hevea brasilienses). It is thought the sap helps the trees heal by sealing the wound and protecting it from bacteria. While the manufacture of rubber has proved useful for everything from tyres to wellies, large scale production via Rubber Tree plantations is fraught with sustainability issues, from overexploitation of the trees to low paid working conditions.
Read about the Rubber Tree here:
Types of Rubber Plants
The classic Rubber Plant popular in Victorian times has green foliage, which develops red hues as the plant grows. However, in recent years snazzier variegated varieties have entered the market. Note that variegated cultivars will require brighter light than their less colourful cousins or their markings will fade.
Where to buy Rubber Plant
Got the perfect Rubber Plant-shaped space to fill? You can find the Rubber Plant for sale on the Candide Marketplace.