The rubber tree, or Ficus elastica, is a very beautiful indoor plant much liked for its shiny thick leathery leaves.
Ficus elastica facts
Name – Ficus elastica
Family – Moraceae (mulberry family)
Type – indoor plant
Height – 10 feet (3 meters) indoors
Soil – indoor plant soil mix
Exposure – abundant indirect light
Foliage – evergreen
Of course, when rubber is mentioned most people think of latex, but we’re all the wiser in knowing that it is a marvelous indoor plant.
Caring for the rubber tree, Ficus elastica
This tropical plant abhors dry air. It must be provided with as much air moisture as is possible to compensate this lack.
- It must be set in a luminous room but cannot be exposed to sunlight.
- Ficus elastica likes temperatures ranging from 60 to 75°F (15 to 25°C).
- Watering is needed when the soil is dry, but not abundantly and always with water at room temperature.
- Lastly, avoid moving it too often, since this tree needs time to adjust to its new setting.
Providing the rubber tree with moisture
Aside from regularly misting the leaves themselves, the rubber tree pot can be laid on a 1 inch (3 cm) bed of clay pebbles that will be doused with water from time to time, so that evaporation can bring moisture up to the leaves.
- Details on how to use leca balls for air moisture
Diseases or mistakes made in caring for the rubber tree
Ficus elastica, rubber tree losing its leaves
Quite common for rubber trees, this is normal as long as leaf loss is regular and not too many are falling.
But in case of stronger leaf fall, first check that it is correctly watered.
- This may also be connected to a change of pots or of place.
- It may also lack light, in which case you must provide more light to it.
- The rubber tree also loses its leaves if its roots dwell in water too long.
It should quickly bounce back more vigorous than ever.
Ficus elastica, rubber tree leaves turn yellow
This is often caused by red spider mites.
- Simply treat it with organic mite killer sold in horticulture stores.
- Avoid other chemical products, especially for an indoor plant.
- Read our page on how to fight red spider mites.
White splotches appear on leaves and get all sticky
This is usually due to mealybugs or scale insects to which the rubber tree is very vulnerable.
Watering the rubber tree
The Ficus tree is a tropical plant that needs water but is vulnerable to having too much of it.
- Water once a week, but wait for the soil to be dry before watering again.
If the air indoors is quite dry, especially in summertime, it’s possible to water more often, but always wait for the soil to have dried up in the surface layer before watering anew.
Oppositely, in winter, you may space the watering somewhat.
Feel free however to mist the leaves on a regular basis, this will increase leafage quality and keep the leaves from drying up, especially in winter when the heating runs at full blast.
Additionally, often clean the leaves with a rag or a moist paper towel, this will do your ficus much good!
Pruning rubber tree, Ficus elastica
No pruning is required, although Ficus elastica copes with pruning very well.
- If you prune your rubber tree often, you’ll be helping it to branch out.
- You can prune it once or twice a year, better at the end of summer and at the end of winter.
No need to cut the tree back severely, light pruning is enough.
- It will help the foliage grow more dense and beautiful.
Learn more about the rubber tree, ficus elastica
The rubber tree is a tree from the Moraceae (mulberry) family that can grow up to 130 feet (40 meters) tall when in the wild, but rest assured, it won’t top 10 feet (3 meters) as an indoor plant.
It’s called the “Rubber plant” because it’s possible to make rubber from its latex. Latex is a milky-white substance that flows out to protect the plant when it’s wounded or broken. It’s different from sap which carries nutrients. It helps the plant heal and protect the wound.
The term Ficus means fig and there are over 1000 different species that have evolved into different shapes, some of them shrubs, some of them trees, and others closer even to vines.
In the Western world, about two dozen varieties are available for sale for indoor use, and the most common and famous of these is Ficus benjamina. Another common one is Ficus retusa, often grown as a small bonsai.
Smart tip about the rubber tree
Take note that the rubber tree leaves are toxic when ingested, and they provoke irritations, including for animals like cats and dogs.
Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Ficus elastica in pot by Margaret Shear under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Rubber tree leafage by Ирина Кудрявцева under Pixabay license