Ficus elastica – the rubber plant, is a member of the genus Ficus under the fig family Moraceae.
Its other common names include:
- India rubber plant
- India rubber tree
- Indian rubber bush
- India rubber fig
- Rubber fig
- Rubber bush
- Rubber tree
Many types of rubber plants and rubber tree varieties have been grown indoors as a houseplant for decades.
Ficus elastica is a plant that has helped many a homeowner begin their journey of growing plants indoors.
Check out the best indoor plants with names.
The rubber trees’ popularity was probably at its highest from the song by Frank Sinatra, “High Hopes”.
Native to India and eastern Asia, the plant can become massive, reaching 50′ to 100′ feet tall and wide.
When grown as a houseplant, it will often reach about 10′ feet tall and need pruning to maintain its shape.
Sturdy plant stems hold shiny, usually dark green leaves, 12″ inches long, 6″ inches wide, and oval. This plant also rarely flowers.
Care for this rugged foliage plant with shiny leaves is easy to learn.
Ficus Elastic Quick Care Tips
- Botanical Name: Ficus elastica
- Common Name(s): Rubber Tree, India rubber plant, India rubber tree, Indian rubber bush, India rubber fig, Rubber fig, Rubber bush
- Synonyms: Ficus robusta, Ficus decora, Ficus burgundy
- Pronunciation: Fai·kuhs ee·la·stuh·kuh
- Family & Origin: Moraceae family, native to India and eastern Asia
- Growability: Easy to grow
- Grow Zone: 9-11
- Size: Can grow up to 50 to 100 feet tall and wide in the wild but typically grows to 10 feet indoors
- Flowering: Rarely flowers indoors
- Light: Bright, indirect light
- Humidity: Prefers high humidity but can tolerate lower levels
- Temperature: Thrives in temperatures between 70°-78° degrees Fahrenheit
- Soil: Well-draining and slightly acidic soil
- Water: Water when the top inch of soil is dry, but do not overwater
- Fertilizer: Fertilize during active growing months with liquid plant food once per month
- Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to spider mites, mealybugs. Can also be prone to leaf spot and droopy leaves
- Propagation: Can be propagated through tip cuttings and air layering
- Plant Uses: Popular as a houseplant or as a decorative plant; its latex sap to make rubber
Rubber Plant Care Tips
When given proper care – a well-drained Ficus potting soil, bright, indirect light, and water – Elastica rubber plants can quickly become impressive specimens.
It prefers well-draining and slightly acidic soil with a pH level ranging from 5.5 to 7.0.
Room Temperatures between 70°-78° degrees Fahrenheit will produce an excellent rubber plant. During the winter, keep temperatures above 55° degrees Fahrenheit.
It will thrive in USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11. It also prefers high humidity, about 50% or more.
The quantity of rubber plant leaves on a tree may not be as numerous as Ficus benjamina, but their size means they hold lots of water.
When watering, water rubber plants thoroughly, completely saturating and soaking the soil media. Remember to allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
The frequency will depend on lighting, temperatures, and plant size. Overwatering can lead to root rot.
During the active growing months of spring and summer, fertilize with liquid plant food once per month.
When repotting the ficus tree, use a commercial houseplant soil; adding a little extra peat moss would not hurt. Plants can grow quickly and require repotting every couple of years. Use a pot with drainage holes.
To encourage branching, remove the top growing tip, and new shoots will begin to form and branch out of the rubber plant.
The Many Kinds Of Rubber Plant Varieties
There are many Ficus elastica varieties or types of rubber plant cultivars. The more popular ficus species include:
- Robusta rubber plant
- Burgundy Rubber Plant
- Ruby Rubber Plant
- Ficus microcarpa
- Ficus carica
- Ficus benghalensis
- Benjamina ficus (fig tree)
… and assorted variegated rubber plant types (Doescheri, Asahi) and dwarf varieties.
Related: There are other types of Ficus besides rubber plant varieties.
The true Indian rubber plant – Ficus elastica – has been replaced with other more durable varieties for use indoors.
The variety known as “Robusta” – Ficus elastica robusta or Ficus robusta, probably comes closest to the original.
Another variety, “Ficus Decora,” is slightly different than “Robusta,” with larger and broader leaves, and a center vein that is red underneath, and ‘whitish’ on top.
The sheaths that protect new emerging leaves are red as well.
A dark variety known as Burgundy or ‘Abidjan’ has beautiful dark leaves appearing almost dark reddish-purple.
If exposed to cooler temperatures – burgundy – has a tendency to drop leaves.
There is even a “creeping ficus” – Ficus pumila!
Variegated Types Of Ficus Elastica Varieties
Several varieties of Ficus elastica are variegated with shades of green and white or creamy yellow. Check out the Ficus Tineke rubber plant.
To show off the contrast of the variegation, plants need to be in plenty of light. When growing in low light, the leaves can become all green and rather dull in color.
Rubber Plant Propagation
- Propagate new rubber plants easily from tip cuttings and air layering.
- Take a tip cutting of 3 -5 leaves. It helps to dip the bottom in rooting hormone powder for faster rooting.
- Place the tip or cutting in moist soil with lots of peat moss. Keep the humidity around the cutting high and keep the potting mix moist.
- Tips cuttings could also be started in a plastic bag or a soda bottle to maintain high humidity.
- Roots should begin to appear in about 3-5 weeks.
- Once roots appear, grow as normal – good lighting and thorough watering.
Problems and Pest
Droopy leaves – usually a sign of a plant in need of water. Place the plant in a bucket or saucer of water and allow the soil to become thoroughly saturated. Drain off excess water.
Brown Spots and Leaf Drop – These symptoms show up when the plant gets too cold.
Dropping leaves and yellow leaves – This can happen during winter months when the plant needs more light and being over watered. Move the rubber plant to a brighter location and reduce watering.
- Wooly, white spots on the underside of leaves – Check for mealybugs on Ficus.
- Small yellow spots and webs on leaves – start spider mite control.
On the other hand, fig wasps are often seen as pollinators. However, some species (non-pollinators) simply feed off the plant and could cause danger in numbers.
Look for healthy plants which are compact, holding glossy leaves.
As long as the plant gets good lighting and water, caring for them is easy, and a Ficus rubber plant can live indoors for many years.
NOTE: Take care when handling the plant. The sap (latex) can cause mild skin irritation or rash.
Care Questions and Answers
Question: The rubber plant I bought last year had nice dark green foliage, but since it has put on no new foliage, in fact, it has lost three leaves from the bottom. Why?
Answer: Keep the plant in a small pot for the size of the plant. DO NOT water the rubber plant more than twice a week in winter and three times a week in the summer.
Clean the leaves once a month with a damp cloth to remove any dust. Set the plant in a location with bright indirect lighting but not in direct sunlight. DO NOT allow the rubber plant to dry out, or the lower leaves may drop as you have indicated.