Rubber Plants (or Ficus Elastica) make wonderful additions to the home and will turn any drab indoor space into an urban jungle. They can be kept at a manageable height or be grown into large specimen trees to happily fill a space. Dependant on the variety the large glossy leaves can range from shades of dark green to more decorative variegated varieties in shades of pinks, reds, and burgundies.
The Rubber Plant gets its name from its white sap which is often used in the production of rubber. With just the right balance of light and water, these plants are easy to care for. Keep reading our Rubber Plant Care Guide and get well on your way to growing lovely, luscious indoor plants.
How to Care for Rubber Plants
Rubber Plants originate from South America, which means they thrive in a warmer, more humid climate. In the UK, it’s best to grow your plants indoors so that you can keep them in just the right conditions. Get all of our care tips below.
Rubber Plant Soil
Rubber plants grow best when planted in well-draining, aerated compost. They don’t tolerate having wet feet so make sure that the pot has large enough holes so that excess water can drain away freely.
Planting in aerated compost gives the plant room to breathe, it allows oxygen to get right to the roots and stops them from becoming too compacted.
Simply grab yourself a bag of regular, high-quality potting soil or make a mix of your own containing 1 part peat, 1 part bark and 1 part perlite (or coarse sand).
Rubber Plant Light Needs
In a nutshell, Rubber Plants are bright light plants but prefer indirect sun. Your plants will thrive in a bright, airy location which gets a good few hours of light throughout the day.
Direct sunlight on the foliage may result in some burning and drying, filter the light using sheer net curtains or keep the plant west or east-facing windows.
If you notice that your Rubber Plant has started to become leggy and its leaves are looking dull and lack-lustre then your plant may not be getting enough light and should be moved to a new location.
Watering and Fertilising your Rubber Plant
In summer, your Rubber Plant will be in full swing of it’s growing season and will need the compost to stay moist but not wet. Feel the compost every couple of days, if the topsoil feels dry make sure to top up with water. Watering your Rubber Plant will vary from season to season, needing more water throughout the summer and less in winter.
In winter, Rubber Plants are more dormant and can be watered around once a week or less. Again, test by checking the first couple inches of topsoil. If they feel dry, it’s time to water.
You can also hydrate your rubber plant by misting the leaves or wiping them over with a damp cloth. As they are used to a more humid environment this will do them a world of good.
Rubber Plants don’t tolerate overwatering so make sure you don’t leave to roots sitting in water and that the compost is draining well.
Top tip: If you are watering with tap water, fill up a jug and leave on the side for a couple of hours. This allows for all the chlorine to evaporate from the water and brings it up to room temperature.
Signs of Over or Under Watering
If your Rubber Plant is looking a little under the weather then this could be a sign of over or under-watering.
If the leaves have turned slightly yellow or brown in colour then this can be a sign of overwatering. The compost is too wet and should be left to dry out before the next watering. If the compost stays wet for too long, there is a possibility that the roots will start to rot. Try repotting your plant with drier compost if this happens to help salvage the roots.
Dry, wilted or fallen leaves are a signal that your Rubber Plant isn’t getting enough water. Top up the compost and the plant should jump right back to life. Remove any foliage that doesn’t return to full health to maintain the plant’s wellbeing.
Pruning Rubber Plants
Once your plant has reached the desired height, prune off the very top part so that it starts to branch out to the side. Avoid doing this if you want your plant to grow taller. The plant should start to branch from the top section once removed. Pruning isn’t a major priority for a rubber plant unless it starts to become out of control and too large for your space. General maintenance pruning can be carried if necessary which includes removing any dead or dying leaves to keep the plant healthy.
If you have a larger rubber plant in your house then pruning can be conducted to keep it at the right height and keep it an attractive shape. Start by pruning away unruly branches that ruin the tree's silhouette.
When you start pruning, please be aware that your plant will start to leak white sap from the cuts. This can be irritating to skin so dab the cuts with a tissue or cloth and avoid getting it on your skin.
Repotting your Rubber Plant
Avoid planting into a pot that is too large for the plant's size, the excess compost can stay wet for longer periods of time which will, in turn, lead to root rot.To keep your Rubber Plant growing at a healthy rate it’s recommended to repot into a larger pot every year or when you feel like it’s grown out of its home. We recommend choosing a pot that is about 3cm (1 in) bigger in diameter than it’s current one.
Once your plant has reached the size you are happy with, it can stay in its pot with regular repottings just to replace nutrients in the soil that are lost over time through regular watering. If there are longer periods of time without repotting, just top-dress the pot with a new layer of compost.
Rubber Plants Toxicity
The sap from the Rubber Plant can cause skin irritation in some people. If you are conducting any pruning be sure to avoid getting it on your skin or wash off immediately if you do.
If eaten by pets, the Rubber Plant can be toxic and cause stomach irritation. While pets aren’t usually interested in the plant, it’s always safer to keep them out of reach.
Check out our Pet Friendly Plants for more information.
Rubber Plants Pests and Problems
When keeping a Rubber Plant indoors, you may not face as many of the outdoor pests but they can still be a threat.
They are mainly affected by aphids, mealy bugs, scales and spider mites. When spotted early, these pests can be dealt with easily but if left they can become an issue quickly. If you spot any pests on the leaves simply create a warm soapy water solution, spray onto the leaves and wipe away.
Buy a Rubber Plant as a unique living gift for a loved one, they can watch it flourish for years to come as it fills the indoor space with tropical colour and greenery. Send for birthdays, house warmings and even to celebrate an anniversary. You can't go wrong with an indoor plant gift such as this.