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Rubber tree, ficus elastica

Rubber Tree - Ficus Elastica

The rubber tree, or Ficus elastica, is a very beautiful indoor plant much liked for its shiny thick leathery leaves.

Ficus elastica facts :

NameFicus elastica
FamilyMoraceae (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.

  • Caring for a Ficus elasticaIt 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.

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.

Ficus elasticaIf 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. It’ll also keep the leaves from drying up, especially in winter when the heating runs at full blast.

Pruning rubber tree, Ficus elastica

No pruning is required, although Ficus elastica copes with pruning very well.

  • Pruning a rubber plantIf 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.

Read also:

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.

Image credits (edits: Gaspard Lorthiois):
© CC BY-SA 2.0: Margaret Shear
Pixabay: Ирина Кудрявцева

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  • Pragya wrote on 17 July 2020 at 11 h 58 min

    Thank you for the detailed information on the plant. I have a small rubber plant. had 5 leaves since one year. I overwatered my plant and 2 of its leaves started turning black from the tips. I have now stopped watering it and waiting for it to bounce back. Reading your article I am hopeful, it will bounce back. Thank you.

    • Gaspard wrote on 17 July 2020 at 22 h 15 min

      Hi Pragya, rubber plant is also a favorite. Overwatering is common, the plant doesn’t like it much and leaves would tend to turn yellow and fall. There is a very slight chance that perhaps the water used for watering contains too many additives, this happens with tap water. Fluoride, chlorine, etc are useful for people who drink it or to keep the water safe, but for plants it isn’t that good. The absolute best is to collect rainwater and use that for watering, especially for indoor plants.