If you want to add elegance to your home, ficus elastica is the plant to go with. The gorgeous foliage really grabs your attention and since Ficus Elastica care isn’t all that demanding, there really isn’t a reason why you wouldn’t have one in your home (unless you have a plant chewing pet).
The Rubber tree (Ficus elastica) was once known as an important source of natural rubber.
In the forest, this tree can reach 50-100 feet in height. It has thick, shiny glossy evergreen leaves, and a spreading canopy that makes it stand out from the rest. The Rubber trees can be grown as indoor plants and are most popular as such.
How To Care For Dieffenbachia
- Bringing the plant home
- Light conditions
- Humidity and temperature
- Toxicity Information
- Pests and other common issues
All the relevant Ficus elastica care information at a glance
Plant name: Ficus elastica
Common names: Rubber fig, rubber bush, rubber tree, rubber plant, or Indian rubber bush, Indian rubber tree
Native to: Southern China, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia
Lighting: Prefers well-lit or bright areas but not direct sunlight.
Care: Has high tolerance for drought and can survive in low light. All in all, an easy plant to care for. Normal humidity is fine but misting can be done during summer.
Common problems: Loss of leaves, leaf edges yellowing, and dust.
Toxicity: Toxic to cats and dogs.
Bringing The Plant Home
This small indoor tree with shiny leaves and an exotic vibe looks great in any room.
When you bring it home, inspect it for signs of pests or other issues. While a sturdy plant, you can still bring uninvited guests home along with it and you don’t want them to spread to your other plants if you have any.
Keep your new plant away from others for two weeks and check for any signs of trouble regularly.
Some plant owners opt for treating new plants with insecticides (natural or other). This is optional. Luckily this plant with big leaves makes inspection for pests easy.
Ficus Elastica Light Requirements
For the Rubber plant, bright space with indirect light is an ideal place. Variegated varieties will require more light while the plain green one will be more forgiving even if you place it in a spot with a little less light.
If you don’t have many bright spots in your home, you can opt to have the green types, as they can grow well even in some poorly lit spaces. Just make sure you place them in well-lit areas once in a while.
If they don’t receive enough light you will notice darkening or dulling of the leaves as well as shedding of the lower leaves.
Ficus elastica does not like to be under direct light when grown as an indoor plant.
How Often to Water Ficus Elastica Plant?
When it comes to Ficus elastica care, proper watering is the most important thing. Incorrect watering is the number one reason for ficus elastica struggling. Too much water, or better put, watering too often is a sure way to kill it.
There are two seasons to keep in mind in watering your Rubber plants. There is what we call the growing season that occurs in the spring/summer.
During the active growing season (spring – late summer) the plant will be more active and will require watering more often. Higher temperatures will also play a role here as the water evaporates from the soil faster.
Water the plant generously when the top layer of soil (finger to the first knuckle) feels dry – this should be roughly once per week or two weeks. When watering, make sure all the excess water drains out from the drainage holes.
For the dormant season which falls in winter, it is best to water your Rubber plant a little less, once or twice a month only. If you start to notice drooping of the leaves, you may water them again until they perk back up.
Temperature and Humidity
Rubber trees prefer indoor temperatures between 50°F (10°C) to 85°F (29°C). It is a tropical plant therefore it loves warmer temperatures.
But don’t fret; these plants can tolerate indoor temperatures as low as 39°F (4°C). Just make sure to avoid sudden temperature drops and cold drafts because these can lead to stretching internodes and leaf yellowing.
Moderate humidity (around 50%) is perfect for these plants. They do well with humidity levels that are higher or lower than that as well. You can easily grow it next to humidity-lowing tropical plants.
Cleaning and Pruning
Rubber plants are easy to take care of. The leaves, however, can collect dust. You can wipe the leaves with a soft cloth or sponge from time to time to remove dust.
Once the plant begins to mature and grow in height make sure to provide it with a lot of vertical space. As they grow, the trunk and branches might also need support to keep them upright. You can tie them or stake them to avoid drooping or irregular growth.
You can also prune back any unwanted branches. This can promote new growth and can result in a fuller shape of the plant. Cutting the top off can also be done to prevent your plant from growing too tall. You can prune your Rubber plant in the summer, but it doesn’t hurt to do it anytime. Just make sure to use proper cutting materials and clean them before using them to avoid infecting your plant.
Keep in mind as you cut this plant the rubbery white sap comes out when cutting the stems and leaves. You must wash your hands and the cutting materials thoroughly after pruning or use gloves when handling this plant.
How Often Should You Fertilize Ficus Elastica?
Add fertilizer during the growing season (spring, summer). All general houseplant fertilizers or foliage plant fertilizers are OK. Use them according to the instructions on the box (or a little less) as the frequency and amount of fertilizer needed to vary from brand to brand.
Do not fertilize during the winter. Also, skip on fertilizing if you have repotted your plant into fresh soil as it’s already packed with nutrients that will keep your plant happy for a while. You should be able to find the info on how long the soil’s nutrients will last on the packaging.
Repotting your Rubber plants
Rubber plants can be fast growers if they are given the right ficus elastica care and have optimal conditions. As they grow they will need bigger pots to accommodate more growth, you might even need to repot them every year if they are growing really well.
Make sure to repot them into a container that is slightly larger, usually an inch bigger in diameter than the original pot. A container too large can cause damping of the roots as too much water accumulates in the soil and that is not good for this plant.
If there comes a point in your life that you decide to re-plant these Rubber plants in your outdoor garden, then you better think twice. While a small tree indoors, Ficus elastica can grow to more than 30 meters in a garden if not regularly maintained. Rubber trees are notorious for their invasive roots system and can cause damage to footpaths, roads, and pipes.
Rubber plants dislike sitting in water for a long time. This is why you should plant them in fast-draining soil.
General houseplant soil mixed with cactus mix soil works well (50/50). You can also mix potting soil (50%) with equal parts of peat, bark, and coarse sand.
Propagation of the rubber plant can be done during the warm months. There are two methods that you can use, cutting or layering. The first one is a simple method; simply take a small branch (4-6 inches long) from a healthy rubber plant, dry the sap for about 30 minutes, and then dip the cutting in a rooting medium of your choice. You must keep the soil moist but not soggy and then place it in a warm spot with indirect sunlight. You can help it grow by placing a heat pack under it, to keep the soil or other medium warm at all times.
The other method is air layering. You must always use a healthy rubber plant for propagation. Make a cut in the plant stem (peel it a little). Push a toothpick in the slit you made (to keep it apart). Pack damp moss around the cut. Wrap with plastic wrap to keep the moisture level high. Once roots begin to appear, cut the branch off and plant.
If you own a pet especially cats or dogs, you should keep in mind the sap that oozes out from the cut stem and leaves of the rubber plants – if swallowed, this milky latex is moderately toxic to them as well to humans.
It can also cause irritation to the eyes and to the skin, so make sure you wash it off completely.
Here are some of the symptoms that you might see in your pets if they have swallowed the rubber plant sap: oral irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea. Bring your pets immediately to your vet once you observed these.
Common Problems You Might Encounter With Ficus Elastica Care
Ficus Elastica Leaves Curling
There are many things that can cause the leaves to curl, most often it has to do with water – either overwatering, underwatering or humidity being extremely low. Curling leaves can also be signs of pests, so make sure you check your plant carefully.
Ficus Elastica Drooping Leaves
Leaves will start drooping if your plant isn’t getting enough of something – water, light, nutrients…
Mealy bugs, scale and aphids are most common.