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Rubber Plant (Ficus Elastica): How to Grow and Care for It


Looking for an aesthetically-please and low maintenance plant? Here’s how to grow and care for rubber plant – or commonly known as a Ficus Elastica.

© Elena Grishina | 123rf

Ah, the rubber plant – humble, unassuming, and most likely won’t ever make you feel like you are a failed house parent.

The rubber plant – or also formally and scientifically known as the Ficus elastica – has reigned superior in the indoor plant arena, particularly in the tree-like category. With large, deep green waxy leaves and a larger-than-life appearance, the rubber plant can be grown indoor as either a medium-sized house plant or nurtured into beautiful indoor trees. Think miniature stately trees!

These resilient indoor plants are able to grow to impressive heights, especially if you put them outdoor during warmer weather. They can grow up to 50 feet (15 m.) tall. However, if you want to maintain them smaller and space-friendly, simply keep the plants in small pots so that their growth is restricted. The choice is in your hands, really.

Both way and size, the rubber plant is known to be the least temperamental of the ficus trifecta family – which includes the Fiddleaf Fig and Ficus Benjamina. In other words, they are easy to maintain and keep alive.

Here is a guide to growing a rubber plant as a part of your indoor plant family for years to come.

? Learn how to grow a hibiscus plant here.
? Here’s how to grow low maintenance indoor plants like a spider plant, jade plant and Chinese evergreen here.

Which are the types of rubber plants in Malaysia?

© Elena Grishina | 123rf

All variations of rubber plants are considered broadleaf evergreens, identified by large, thick, and leathery foliage. Their native range is from the Himalayas to Sumatra, Malaysia and Java.

There is a choice of varieties in foliage shades when it comes to the Ficus elastica. If the popular plain medium green isn’t your thing, you have the options of:

  • Decora is a dark green with a white midrib.
  • Rubra, a type of variegated rubber plant that is dark green with a red midrib.
  • Tricolor boasts beautiful green leaves with patches of pink and cream.
  • Ficus Elastica Robusta has larger green leaves that grow around 18 inches long.
  • Doescheri comes with variegated leaves in grey and cream with pink ribs.
  • Variegata gives smaller leaves variegated in yellow and green.
  • Foliis Aureo-marginata comes with gold margined leaves.
  • Ficus burgundy rubber plant with deep red leaves.

How to propagate a rubber plant?


There are a number of different methods for propagating and creating new rubber tree plant.

The simplest method is to take a small branch or leaf from a healthy tree and put it in good quality potting soil, or water, and then let it root.

There is also the air layering method, which is where you make a cut in a healthy rubber tree houseplant, put a toothpick in the hole, and then pack damp moss around the cut. After that, wrap it with plastic wrap. This helps to keep the moisture level higher. Once roots begin to appear, cut the branch off, and then re-plant. All these things will lead to successful rubber plant care.

Read more: Avoid these 7 mistakes and your indoor plants won’t die again

Can a rubber tree plant grow in water? 

You can also propagate rubber plant in water, though this method is not very effective. If you’re using this method, you’ll need to prepare a cutting – make sure to remove the leaves to allow the stem to sit in the water and a glass container with water. Place the cutting in the glass container and wait for it to grow. It may take a few months before you see any root growth. Once the roots begin to appear, relocate the plant into a small pot.

For those who want to promote new leaves on a current rubber tree houseplant, you can cut a slit in the node where a leaf fell off. This will allow a new rubber tree leaf to grow quicker.

What are the benefits of growing an indoor rubber plant? 

Like most indoor plants, the ficus elastic also boasts a ton of benefits, including:

  1. They’re low maintenance and adaptable to most living environments.
  2. They’re hypoallergenic and won’t cause any allergic complications.
  3. Their waxy leaves are slippery to touch, making them easier to clean by wiping.
  4. They help reduce formaldehyde, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide from the surrounding air.

What kind of potting soil should I use?

The first step to caring for ficus elastic is to get the right potting soil. Rubber plants don’t sit in water well, which is why well-draining soil is important. Go for potting soil that is well-draining and well-aerated: one part peat, one part pine bark and one part coarse sand (or perlite) is a safe and good mix.

Read more: Fittonia (nerve plant): How to grow and care for it

When to water rubber tree plant?

© Uladzislau Salikhau | 123rf

While rubber plants are generally fuss-free, the watering needs to be done in accordance with the environment as well as weather.

In general, rubber plants’ water intake varies according to the season: the plant should be kept moist during the dry season, and this includes misting or wiping the leaves with a damp cloth. During the dormant, cooler season, your plant may only need water once or twice a month. Simply adapt accordingly to Malaysia’s tropical weather, keeping in mind how sunny and hot or raining and cool it can be.

A few other tips include using lukewarm water, and misting the plant if the air is too dry – this includes the fact if the air-conditioner is always on in your place. And leaves that turn yellow and brown, and drop, are signals of over-watering.

What are the humidity needs of the rubber plant?

Humidity should be constant for the rubber plant to grow and thrive. This is why providing enough humidity indoors is important, so that your plant continues to produce healthy growth with less potential problems. You should also refrain from placing it in an indoor location where the air is naturally dry like, like directly in front of the air conditioner or fan.

Creating humidity is relatively basic. You can fill a spray bottle up with water and mist the foliage several times each week. Or, try filling a large tray with small pebbles and sit the container on top of the plant. The moisture in the rocks can help create humidity around the rubber plant.

Read more: How to grow a low-cost and minimal care money plant

Can rubber tree grow in low light? 


Tons. Rubber plants thrive in bright light, and a lot of it. However, the trick is that it does not want direct sunlight. A sunny spot shielded by a sheer, lacey curtain is perfect for rubber plants. This allows plenty of light, but not too much.

Here’s a sunlight hack: you can tell if your rubber plant needs more light if it becomes leggy, its leaves lose their luster, and lower leaves fall off. Move your plant to a sunnier spot if this happens.

Why is my rubber plant dying?

Your rubber plant is not doing very well if the leaves a drooping and turning yellow, have spots, or there is no new growth. This is when you should check for humidity and light conditions, if you are over-watering (refer above), the root is rotting, or there is bacteria growth.

Rest assured, however, that with the guide above, chances are less likely for your rubber plant to suffer from these. Enjoy!

Are rubber tree plants toxic to cats and dogs? 

As amazing are they are, some rubber plants like the Indian rubber tree and jade rubber plant are, unfortunately, toxic to cats and dogs. If you have furry friends at home, consider placing your ficus elastic somewhere out of reach. Some of the symptoms of ingesting the plants include a decrease in appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, skin irritation and depression. If you’re looking for non-toxic plants for pets, check this article out.

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? Who says you can’t grow a tree at home? Here are 21 of the best indoor trees to have.

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