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How To Care For a Rubber Plant

By Staff Writer
Share to PinterestHow To Care For a Rubber Plant

The long-lived rubber plant with its beautiful oval-shaped leaves comes from Southeast Asia. It goes by many names, including ficus elastica, rubber tree, rubber bush, and rubber fig, and it might be the most under-rated houseplant out there.

The rubber plant boasts elegant simplicity, has an undemanding nature, and adds a pop of brilliant green to your home, and it even helps remove toxins, mold spores, and bacteria from the air.


Bringing your rubber plant home

Share to PinterestWoman holding a Rubber plant to offer to customers

When selecting a rubber plant, you'll want to look for a specimen without discoloration on the leaves. Brown or yellow borders are a no-no, and the stems and branches should be sturdy, not floppy.

If you plan on repotting as soon as you get home, buy a pot that's only one to two inches in diameter larger than the nursery pot.


Planting your rubber plant

Share to Pinterestpotting a rubber plant, hand holding soil

You'll need well-draining and well-aerated potting soil for your rubber plant. Without adequate drainage, your plant will acquire "wet feet" and won't get as much oxygen as it needs to live its best life.

Peat, bark, and perlite are an excellent mix, and peat moss is slightly acidic, which works well here.


A healthy start: sunlight requirements for rubber plants

Share to Pinteresttall rubber plant indoor plant in shaft of sunlight

These babies love dappled sunlight, which makes them ideal for your interior. If your rubber plant isn't getting enough light, you'll notice it leaning towards the nearest source in your room. It'll also get leggy, drop its lower leaves, and the foliage will look duller.

Soft, direct morning sunlight should be fine on your balcony or patio, but afternoon sun can scorch the leaves.


A healthy start: watering

Share to PinterestPerson watering a rubber houseplant

Water your plant to help it settle. A pot with drainage holes makes life easier, but be sure to dispose of the drained water promptly. Subsequently, you'll need to check the top inch of soil surrounding your rubber plant. If it's dry, your plant needs a drink.

Hydrate with water that's been sitting at room temperature for a while. This allows the chlorine to evaporate and prevents distress related to too-cold H2O.

During dormancy and the cooler months, you might only need to water your rubber plant once a month. Low maintenance, huh? Droopy leaves signal thirst and yellowing leaves indicate overwatering.


A healthy start: humidity levels

Share to PinterestWoman misting the leaves of a rubber plant to increase humidity
Asian Woman hand spray on leave plants in the morning at home using a spray bottle watering houseplants Plant care concept

Rubber plants are from the tropics and prefer a warm, humid environment, but they do well in homes with average humidity levels.

If you're concerned that the air is too dry where you live, mist your rubber plant, wipe the leaves with a damp cloth, or keep it in a cluster with other plants.


A healthy start: special nutrients

Share to Pinterestwoman scooping fertilizer with rubber plant in the background

You can feed your rubber plant during the active growth period between spring and summer. They're fast growers and appreciate the nutrient boost after soil depletion.

Fertilize with an all-purpose fertilizer every three months, and your plant should thrive. Top dress with some fresh soil when the warmer months begin.


Healthy growth: pruning your rubber plant

Share to Pinterestwoman pruning a rubber plant houseplant with scissors

Rubber plants don't need much pruning. Dead leaves should go, of course, and if you like the current shape, don't cut from the top until the specimen stretches to your preferred height, or it will branch out.

Use a clean pair of scissors to limit bacterial diseases and remember that neat incisions are less likely to shock your plant.


Healthy growth: repotting your rubber plant

Share to Pinteresthouseplants ready for repotting in sunroom

These plants don't like a home that's too tight.

You can repot your rubber plant in spring or summer if you want it to get bigger. Go a pot size up every two or three years and water your plant a few days before the transplant.

Fill the bottom of the new pot with potting soil, so the rootball can sit half an inch below the rim of your planter. Put your rubber plant in after loosening up the roots slightly, and add more soil mix before watering well.


Can I propagate my rubber plant?

Share to Pinteresttaking a cutting for propagation from a rubber plant

Propagating a rubber plant is no trouble. Use node cuttings and remove the leaves from the lower third of your cutting—you won't be needing these. Stick what's left into some water for half an hour to prevent the sap from hardening.

Before inserting into compost or soil, dip the end of the cutting in a rooting medium. Bright indirect light will help your cause, but a heating pad under your pot will also stimulate root development.


Common diseases

Share to Pinterestrubber plant with an unhealthy yellowed leaf

Your rubber plant may develop botrytis, powdery mildew, root rot, rust, or southern blight. Root rot is a common issue for beginners and results from overwatering or poor drainage.

If you notice your plant's leaves turning yellow, remove it from its pot, snip off damaged roots and replant. Without proper watering practices, your plant may struggle with fungal diseases that can be fatal.


Common pests

Share to Pinterestclose up of mealy bugs on a plant stem

Rubber plants are fairly resilient, but they're not immune to pests. You may come across sooty mold on your rubber plant's leaves. It's a sign that your space could use more ventilation or that honeydew-producing insects such as scales, mealybugs, and aphids are present.

Crack a window open or switch a fan on indoors. Wipe the foliage with mild soapy water or spray a fungicide like copper soap. You'll want to quarantine the plant to prevent the problem from spreading to your other greenery. If you notice creepy crawlies on the undersides of leaves, use a natural pesticide like neem oil after you pick them off.


Displaying your rubber plant

Share to Pinterestrubber plant in wicker basket on display in corner of room

There's a lot you can do with this species. It can grow tall indoors when given time and space. Start with standing planters, but move your plant to the floor before it becomes too heavy and the same height as LeBron James.

Rubber plants work well as space dividers in airy rooms, as a duo of sentries near your front door, or as privacy screens.


Similar plants

Share to Pinteresta woman holding two fiddle leaf fig potted plants

Ficus lyrata, the fiddle leaf fig, is an attractive and trendy alternative to a rubber plant. It can take up just as much vertical and horizontal room if you need a filler and certainly makes a statement.

But, newbies beware—the popular fiddle leaf fig is temperamental and not as easy to keep alive as the shrub-like rubber plant.


Cautions and additional information

Share to Pinterestcat sitting among many potted plants including rubber plant

Rubber plants are mildly toxic so keep them out of reach of animals and kids. They can cause appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, and drooling in pets.

Folks with sensitive skin should handle the rubber plant carefully and wear gloves because the sap can cause allergic reactions.


Varieties of rubber plant

Share to Pinterestvarigated leaf type of indoor rubber plant

These are some of the rubber plant varieties you'll find:

  • The 'Tineke' variety is popular and has variegated leaves and cream-colored edges that soften its look.
  • 'Abidjan' rubber plants have deep green, burgundy-tinged foliage.
  • The 'Robusta' variety has broad, glossy leaves.
  • The 'Sophia' has a lighter hue but is vibrantly green.
  • The 'Ruby' cultivar is variegated and pinker than its 'Tineke' counterpart.



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