Ficus Elastica Care: Growing Rubber Trees

Ficus Elastica [FY-kus ee-LASS-tih-kuh] is a popular houseplant native to the tropics of India and Southeast Asia. Most know it by the common name of the rubber plant or rubber tree plant.

There are several varieties of rubber plants with green, burgundy and variegated leaves. 

Green, leathery leaves of Ficus ElasticaPin
| AntonMatyukha-DepositPhotos

It is a resilient indoor/outdoor plant ideal for beginners. It can grow up to 45′ feet tall when used for landscaping purposes.

Ficus Elastica is a perennial with large, leathery green leaves. Some Elastica varieties have more color, variegated leaves from white and pink to gold accents.

It can adapt to many environments, and thrives in the jungle, growing up to 100′ feet tall.

Ficus Elastica Care

Size and Growth

In the home, Ficus Elastica can grow to 6′ to 10′ feet tall if given enough space. The glossy, oval-shaped leaves are around 8″ to 12″ inches long.

For a smaller plant, prune Elastica to keep it under control.

Rubber plants can grow quite tall, the plant may need a stake to provide extra support. Pruning the plant back is also an option.

Fruit and Flower

Ficus Elastica produces small, egg-shaped greenish-yellow fruit early in the summer. Flowering and fruiting is rare with Ficus living indoors.

Light Conditions and Temperature

Outdoors Ficus prefers full direct sun or partial shade. It grows best with (bright indirect light) the early morning sun in a south or east window. Indoors, direct afternoon sun can be too much.

During the day, temperatures from 75° to 80° degrees Fahrenheit are ideal, and 60° to 65° degrees at night.

Avoid sudden temperature drops, cold drafts, and temperatures 55° degrees Fahrenheit and below.

Watering and Feeding

One of the reasons Ficus Elastica is excellent for beginners is its under demanding watering needs.

NOTE: Ficus trees like consistent moisture and not extremes. Not too wet and not too dry.

With adequate drainage, water Ficus elastica when the soil becomes dry to the touch. If anything, the biggest mistake you can make is overwatering.

During the spring and summer, fertilize every two weeks with a 1/4 strenegth liquid fertilizer.

The less light your rubber plant receives, the less it needs feeding.

Also, reduce watering during fall and winter.

Soil and Transplanting

The potting soil best for Ficus Elastica is well-draining with plenty of aeration. It does well in clay, loam, or sand as well. An ideal mix, in particular, is:

  • 1 part pine bark
  • 1 part coarse sand or perlite
  • 1 part peat moss

When should you transplant Elastica?

Spring and summer are active growth seasons. It is best to transplant your rubber tree in late winter or early spring.

When the plant is young, it is best to repot once a year. Once matured, repotting every three years is enough.

Grooming and Maintenance

Use a soft, damp cloth or sponge to wipe the leaves of dust monthly.

Ficus Elastica also loves humidity, so misting it on warm summer days will make it extra happy. Ficus plants do not like being moved around. Keep your Ficus in one spot for best results.

It is beneficial to prune the rubber plant on occasion, especially if you do not want it to get too large.

Pruning is also essential to prevent the development of a weak structure. Spring and summer are the best times for it, but it is acceptable to do it whenever it needs it.

Related: Growing The Burgundy Rubber Tree – Ficus Elastica ‘Burgundy’

Ficus Elastica Propagation

Propagation of Ficus Elastica is a little tricky.

There are three ways to propagate Ficus:

  • Cuttings – the easiest way to propagate at home
  • Tissue Culture – this method is not practical for homeowners
  • Air layering – not as common on indoor plants

Propagating From Cuttings

  • Take a cutting 6″-8″ inches long
  • Allow the sap to dry for at least an hour.
  • Dip the cutting in a rooting hormone
  • Place the cutting in a well-draining soil. (50/50 mixture of peat moss and perlite)
  • Place cutting in indirect bright light
  • Keep the soil temperature around 70°-75° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Roots should begin in 3-4 weeks
  • As the plant begins to grow it may need some support.

NOTE: I have rooted 100’s of 1000’s of Ficus cutting in my career using a mist bench.

Common Pests and Disease Problems

Rubber plants do not get lots of diseases and pests. Outdoors the plants may experience more diseases.

Most of the pests occur indoors.

  • Plant scale insects are something to watch out for.
  • Spider mites in warm dry condition during winter
  • Mealybugs on Ficus find their way to leaf axils and begin to reproduce.

Root rot is more likely to affect your Ficus Elastica. This problem can be due to overwatering or soil that does not drain well enough.

Leaves may turn yellow with too much water and will fall when the plant gets too cold.

When cut, the leaves produce a sticky, milky sap used in the early 1900s to create substandard rubber.

This sap irritates the skin or stomach if ingested. Keeping it away from pets and children is critical, as it can be toxic.

Related: Types of Ficus Trees

Suggested Uses

Other than being a lovely houseplant, Ficus Elastica is excellent for providing shade and cover outdoors.

It has a strong presence when used in landscapes. There are also several medicinal uses.

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