Rubber Plant 101: A Comprehensive Care Guide

Last Updated March 30, 2024 By Bella Zinti

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The Rubber Plant, also known as the Rubber Tree, is a resilient and visually captivating inclusion in any indoor plant assortment. Known scientifically as Ficus elastica, the Rubber Plant is cherished for its glossy, dark green leaves and impressive stature, bringing a touch of the tropics to your home or office. Indigenous to the rainforests of South Asia, this plant boasts visual charm and serves as an effective air purifier.

In this guide, we'll explore the essentials of how to care for a Rubber Plant, covering everything from optimal lighting and watering to the ideal temperature and humidity levels. Whether you're a seasoned indoor gardener or a newcomer to plant care, our tips and advice will help you keep your Rubber Plant healthy and thriving.

Botanical Name

Common Name

Plant Type

Mature Size

Sun Requirement

Soil Type

Hardiness Zone

Pet Friendly

Ficus elastica

Rubber plant

Evergreen tree / Houseplant

Up to 50 feet tall, but usually 6–10 feet indoors

Bright, indirect light

Well-draining, rich potting mix

10–12 USDA when planted outdoors


What is rubber tree plant

The Rubber Plant, scientifically labeled as Ficus elastica, is a favored houseplant admired for its distinctive appearance and easy care. Native to the rainforests of South Asia, particularly in India, Nepal, and Malaysia, it's part of the Ficus genus, which includes over 800 species.

Characterized by its glossy, dark green leaves that can grow quite large, the Rubber Plant adds a bold and lush element to indoor spaces. The leaf structure is broad and oval-shaped and exhibits a leathery texture. Some varieties of the Rubber Plant have leaves with burgundy, reddish, or variegated patterns, adding to their visual appeal.

In its natural habitat, the Rubber Plant can grow into a large tree, but when grown indoors, it typically remains much smaller, making it suitable for homes and offices. Apart from its visual appeal, the Rubber Plant is recognized for its capacity to purify indoor air by filtering out pollutants.

Rubber Plant on brown pot

Rubber Tree Plant Care Requirements


The Rubber Plant flourishes in indirect, bright light but has adaptability to lower light conditions. Ideally, it should be placed near a window that receives ample sunlight, but direct exposure to harsh sun rays should be avoided, as it can scorch the leaves. A spot near an east-facing or west-facing window works well, providing the plant with the right amount of light without the intensity of the midday sun. The Rubber Plant will grow more slowly in lower light and may have less vibrant leaves.

Frequently rotating the plant will promote growth and prevent it from tilting toward the light source. If your rubber tree is a little dusty, use a damp cloth to remove it so it can absorb light.


The Rubber Plant requires consistent but moderate watering, as overwatering or underwatering can both be detrimental. Hydrate the plant deeply when the soil's surface is dry to the touch up to an inch deep. Ensure proper drainage to prevent waterlogging, which may result in root rot. In winter, decrease the watering frequency, as the plant experiences slowed growth and needs less moisture. The specific watering needs can vary based on factors like the size of the plant, the pot's material, and the environmental humidity and temperature. Before watering, always check the soil's level to prevent excessive saturation.


The Rubber Plant prefers a warm and steady environment, with temperatures ranging from 60°F to 75°F (15°C to 24°C). Protecting the plant from abrupt temperature changes and drafts, as these factors may induce stress and lead to leaf drop. Avoid placing it near air conditioning vents, heaters, or windows prone to drafts. The Rubber Plant can tolerate higher temperatures, especially if humidity levels are adequate, but it's sensitive to cold and should not be exposed to temperatures below 50°F (10°C). Ensuring a stable temperature within this range is essential for the well-being and development of the Rubber Plant.


The Rubber Plant is native to the lush rainforests of South Asia, where humidity levels are consistently high. While it can adapt to lower humidity levels and tolerate normal room humidity, providing some extra humidity can promote better growth and leaf health.

Maintaining a humidity level between 40% and 50% is ideal for the Rubber Plant. This mimics the conditions it would encounter in its native habitat. This range is usually sufficient for the plant to thrive in average indoor settings.

However, if you live in a particularly dry climate or have indoor conditions that result in very low humidity, such as during the winter when heating systems are running, you can take steps to boost the humidity around your Rubber Plant.

Use a Humidifier: Placing a humidifier in the room can effectively increase the moisture in the air. This is especially beneficial if you have numerous houseplants or if the air in your home is consistently dry.

Misting: Frequently misting the plant's leaves with water can elevate the humidity near the plant. Mist in the morning to allow time for the leaves to dry before evening, as excessively wet leaves can be susceptible to fungal issues.

Pebble Tray: Position the plant's pot on a tray containing water and pebbles. As the water evaporates, it adds moisture to the air surrounding the plant. Ensure the pot rests on the pebbles, not directly in the water, to prevent overwatering.

Grouping Plants: Grouping multiple plants together can establish a microclimate featuring elevated humidity levels, as they collectively emit moisture through transpiration.


The Rubber Plant thrives in soil that drains well and has a slightly acidic to neutral pH. An ideal potting mix for this plant includes a blend of peat-based soil, perlite, and coarse sand. These components ensure proper aeration, moisture retention, and drainage, preventing the soil from becoming waterlogged, which can lead to root rot.

Using a pot with drainage holes is crucial to allow excess water to escape. Repotting every 2-3 years or when the plant becomes root-bound is essential to refresh the soil and provide adequate space for growth. Ensuring the right soil conditions is fundamental for the Rubber Plant to flourish and maintain its lush foliage.


Keeping your Rubber Plant healthy and thriving requires regular fertilization during its active growing season, typically spring and summer. Using a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer with a ratio of 20-20-20, diluted to half the recommended strength, is ideal. Apply this fertilizer every 4-6 weeks to provide essential nutrients.

When the plant's growth slows down in autumn and winter, reduce or suspend fertilization to allow it to rest. Over-fertilizing can lead to salt buildup in the soil, causing harm to the plant. Proper fertilization encourages robust growth and vibrant, glossy leaves in your Rubber Plant, ensuring it remains a beautiful addition to your indoor space.


Stem Cuttings

Propagating a Rubber Plant through stem cuttings is a straightforward and cost-effective way to create new plants that share the same characteristics as the parent plant. Here's a more detailed explanation of each step in the propagation process:

  1. Select a robust and healthy stem for your cutting. Opt for a stem at least a few inches long and a few leaves attached. The stem should be free from any signs of disease or damage.

  2. Make a clean, diagonal cut just below a leaf node using your pruning shears or scissors. A leaf node is where a leaf is attached to the stem. The cutting should ideally be 3-6 inches long, with at least one or two leaf nodes.

  3. After taking the cutting, place it in a dry, shaded spot for a few hours or overnight. Allowing the cut end to callus is crucial, as it helps prevent rot when the cutting is planted.

  4. Select a small pot with drainage holes for planting the cutting. Fill the pot with a potting mix that provides effective drainage.

  5. Utilize a pencil or stick to make a hole in the potting mix, then insert the cut end of the Rubber Plant cutting into the hole. Ensure that the cutting is planted deeply enough to secure it in place. Gently compact the soil around the cutting to establish stability.

  6. Cover the pot with a plastic bag or plastic wrap to increase humidity around the cutting and create a conducive environment for root development. This helps maintain a higher humidity level, which is beneficial during the early propagation stages.

  7. Place the potted cutting in an area with bright, indirect light. Steer clear of direct sunlight, as it can be overly intense for the young cutting and might result in leaf damage.

  8. Maintaining the potting mix consistently moist without becoming waterlogged is crucial. Periodically check the soil's moisture level by gently inserting your finger into the soil. Water as necessary to sustain appropriate moisture.

Air Layering

Air layering is an effective method to propagate Rubber Plants by encouraging roots to form on a branch while it's still attached to the healthy rubber tree houseplant. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to propagate a Rubber Plant using air layering:

  1. Choose a healthy, mature stem or branch on the mature plant for air layering. It should be at least a year old and have several leaves.

  2. Locate a spot on the selected stem where you want to make the air layer. This is typically done below a leaf node, which is a small bump on the stem where a leaf emerges.

  3. Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to make an upward cut about 1-2 inches long through the bark and into the wood of the stem. Exercise caution not to cut all the way through; the goal is to create a slit in the stem.

  4. Take a handful of moistened sphagnum moss and wrap or pack damp moss around the cut section of the stem. Ensure that the moss or mix covers the entire cut and extends a few inches above and below it.

  5. Cover the entire mossed area with a plastic or foil sheet to protect the moss and promote moisture retention. This will create a mini greenhouse effect.

  6. Position the air-layered section in a warm, well-lit area, but avoid direct sunlight. Keep the moss or mix consistently moist, but avoid waterlogging. Roots should start to form in a few weeks to a couple of months.

  7. After a sufficient root system has developed (usually when you can see roots through the plastic wrap), carefully cut the stem just below the rooted section. Transplant the rooted section into a new pot with well-draining soil. Water it thoroughly and care for it like a mature Rubber Plant.

Indoor Rubber Plant

Common Problems And Troubleshoots

Yellowing Leaves

Yellowing leaves on a Rubber Plant can be attributed to common overwatering. Overwatering can lead to root rot, which affects the plant's ability to absorb nutrients and water. To remedy this, ensure that the potting mix drains well, allowing the top inch of soil to dry before watering again. Additionally, trim yellow leaves as they appear for aesthetics and redirect the plant's energy towards healthier growth.

Brown Leaf Edges

Brown edges on Rubber Plant leaves often indicate low humidity or exposure to dry indoor air. This is particularly noticeable during winter when indoor heating systems may lower humidity levels. To address this, increase the humidity around your plant by regularly misting or using a humidity tray. Placing the plant away from dry air sources, such as heaters and drafts, is also crucial to prevent further leaf damage.

Drooping Leaves

Drooping leaves can result from two primary causes: underwatering or a root-bound condition. To tackle this concern, consistently monitor the moisture content of the potting mix. Water the plant when the top inch of soil becomes dry. If the pot appears too small for the plant, it could be root-bound, meaning the roots have outgrown the container. In this case, it's advisable to repot the Rubber Plant into a larger pot to allow for healthier growth.

Leaf Drop

Sudden leaf drop can be disconcerting but often responds to environmental stress. Rapid changes in light or temperature can trigger this reaction. Aim for consistent environmental conditions for your Rubber Plant to prevent leaf drop. Avoid placing it in areas with abrupt temperature fluctuations or harsh lighting changes.


Rubber Plants are prone to typical houseplant pests like spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects. Inspect your plant for indications of infestation, such as webs, cottony residue, or tiny, immobile insects on the leaves. If an infestation is detected, address it by applying a suitable pesticide and contemplate isolating the affected plant from others to prevent the pests from spreading.

Leggy Growth

Leggy growth is when a Rubber Plant grows tall with sparse foliage at the base. This condition usually results from inadequate light exposure. Place your Rubber Plant in a location with brighter, indirect light to stimulate more compact and lush growth. Ensuring that it receives sufficient light will promote a fuller and healthier appearance.

Falling Leaves

While it's natural for Rubber Plants to shed older leaves, excessive leaf drop can be concerning. Monitor your watering routine, as overwatering can contribute to leaf drop. Moreover, check your plant for indications of pests and address any infestations promptly. If the plant is crowded or root-bound, it may need repotting into a larger container, allowing it to grow more comfortably.

Slow Growth

Slow growth in a Rubber Plant can be attributed to factors such as inadequate fertilization during the growing season or a root-bound condition. To foster healthy growth, make sure to fertilize your Rubber Plant during its active growth phase. Additionally, consider repotting it if it appears root-bound, giving it more room to flourish.

Sticky Residue

If you notice a sticky residue on your Rubber Plant's leaves, it may indicate an aphid or scale infestation. These pests release a sweet substance known as honeydew. To tackle this issue, use appropriate pesticides to eliminate the pests. Additionally, remove any affected leaves to prevent further infestation and maintain the overall health of your plant.

Are Rubber Trees Pet-Friendly

Rubber Trees are considered mildly toxic to pets, including cats and dogs, due to the presence of compounds called saponins and latex in their leaves and stems. Consuming these compounds can induce mild to moderate gastrointestinal distress in pets, leading to symptoms such as drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. While Rubber Tree toxicity is generally not life-threatening, taking precautions if you have pets and want to keep a Rubber Tree in your home is essential.

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About the author

Bella has a Bachelors degree in interior design, is a master gardener. She designs nourishing outdoor & indoor spaces guided by the practice of Feng Shui.