Rubber Tree

OFFICIAL NAME

Ficus elastica 'Burgundy'

ALSO KNOWN AS

Rubber Fig, Rubber Bush, Rubber Plant, Indian Rubber Plant, Indian Rubber Tree

ORIGINS & CLIMATE

India, Malaysia | Tropical

ABOUT THE
PLANT

Sturdy, leathery leaves that range from a striking deep dark green to burgundy black make the Rubber Tree a standout plant. Generally potted in groups of a few stems, this elegant plant looks just as nice whether a petite, bush-like plant or a stately tree branching out and up!

HOW MANY GREEN THUMBS?

moderate, bright indirect, goldilocks, great heights, upright, bushy or dense, floor, tabletop, tree or tree-like, tropical, color

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Rubber Tree

The basics

Water Needs

Always water thoroughly, but allow the top inch or two to dry out completely before watering again. Reduce watering in winter, allowing the soil to get up to 50% dry.

Water

Preferred Light

right, indirect light is ideal for your Rubber Tree. Susceptible to leaf burn in long stretches of direct light. Can tolerate lower light conditions, but be sure to adjust watering and expect the plant to take on an elongated, sparse look.

Light

Humidity Needs

Can adapt to average room humidity, but will thrive in higher humidity, especially in the summer or hot, dry conditions (like near a heater). Your Rubber Tree will also appreciate occasional misting to help remove dust from their large leaves.

Humidity

Ambient Temperature

Adaptable to average indoor temperatures, but generally prefers the warmer side. Likely to complain with leaf changes or leaf drop when exposed to cold drafts or dry heat from vents.

Temperature

Toxic or Not?

Rubber Tree leaves are mildly toxic to pets and humans. Ingestion will cause mouth and stomach irritation and possible vomiting. Some people experience skin irritation when handling the sap.

Toxicity

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant can grow up to around 6-9 ft tall with a 3-4 ft spread (when mature and with enough light)!

Size

Overall Look

Usually found as a group of a few upright stems with leaves growing along the entire length—lending a full, bushy appearance. However, a single stem can be pruned to encourage branching, which will give the plant a more classic tree-like look. Works best on a tabletop for smaller specimens and on the floor or a plant stand for a larger one.

Format

Leaf Look

Sturdy, leathery leaves that range from a striking deep dark green to burgundy black. These large almond shaped leaves have glossy sheen.

Leaf Shape

Pro Tip

The gorgeous XL large leaves on this plant can quickly accumulate dust. Dust blocks the plant from absorbing light—so be sure to keep their leaves clean and dust-free. You can do this by misting and wiping each leaf or a routine hose-down/shower.

Pro Tip

Did You Know?

The milky white sap you may encounter when cutting into the stem of a Rubber Tree is, in fact, a latex once used to make rubber goods.

Fun Fact

Water

|

Allow top inches of soil to dry between waterings.

Water Needs

Always water thoroughly, but allow the top inch or two to dry out completely before watering again. Reduce watering in winter, allowing the soil to get up to 50% dry.

Light

|

Bright, indirect light.

Preferred Light

right, indirect light is ideal for your Rubber Tree. Susceptible to leaf burn in long stretches of direct light. Can tolerate lower light conditions, but be sure to adjust watering and expect the plant to take on an elongated, sparse look.

Humidity

|

Extra humidity appreciated in drier spaces.

Humidity Needs

Can adapt to average room humidity, but will thrive in higher humidity, especially in the summer or hot, dry conditions (like near a heater). Your Rubber Tree will also appreciate occasional misting to help remove dust from their large leaves.

Temperature

|

Can adapt, but doesn't like sudden change.

Ambient Temperature

Adaptable to average indoor temperatures, but generally prefers the warmer side. Likely to complain with leaf changes or leaf drop when exposed to cold drafts or dry heat from vents.

Toxicity

|

Mildly toxic to humans and pets if ingested.

Toxic or Not?

Rubber Tree leaves are mildly toxic to pets and humans. Ingestion will cause mouth and stomach irritation and possible vomiting. Some people experience skin irritation when handling the sap.

Size

|

A popular plant for those seeking a larger specimen.

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant can grow up to around 6-9 ft tall with a 3-4 ft spread (when mature and with enough light)!

Format

|

Can be trained into a single trunk tree-form.

Overall Look

Usually found as a group of a few upright stems with leaves growing along the entire length—lending a full, bushy appearance. However, a single stem can be pruned to encourage branching, which will give the plant a more classic tree-like look. Works best on a tabletop for smaller specimens and on the floor or a plant stand for a larger one.

Leaf Shape

|

Glossy dark green with an almond shape.

Leaf Look

Sturdy, leathery leaves that range from a striking deep dark green to burgundy black. These large almond shaped leaves have glossy sheen.

Pro Tip

|

A good wipe down, please!

Pro Tip

The gorgeous XL large leaves on this plant can quickly accumulate dust. Dust blocks the plant from absorbing light—so be sure to keep their leaves clean and dust-free. You can do this by misting and wiping each leaf or a routine hose-down/shower.

Fun Fact

|

The latex-based sap was once used to make rubber goods.

Did You Know?

The milky white sap you may encounter when cutting into the stem of a Rubber Tree is, in fact, a latex once used to make rubber goods.

Beyond The Basics

Soil & Potting

Thrives in a rich, very well-draining potting mix—you can use a good quality potting mix labeled for indoor plants or make your own mix. You can try a 1:1:1:0.5 mix of potting mix, orchid bark, perlite, and activated charcoal. Ensure the pot has the appropriate drainage and don't forget to pour out any excess water collected in the drainage tray or cachepot.

Repotting

These ambitious growers are fairly quick to fill out their pot and become rootbound. Try to repot every 1-2 years in the spring, especially when tending to a younger plant. Increase the pot size by about 2 inches each time. Once mature and becoming unwieldily to maneuver—you can reduce your repotting frequency and switch to a routine of refreshing just the top few inches of soil. More on repotting here.

Feeding

If you're not already planning to repot, you can fertilize during the spring and summer months. Once to every two months should be plenty. No fertilizer is necessary during the winter when plant growth naturally slows down. You can try a balanced liquid or water-soluble fertilizer—always diluted more than the recommended strength. More on using fertilizer here.

Grooming

Pruning a Rubber Tree with a bit of intention can be a great way to promote branching. The simplest way is to cut off a section of new growth. Plus, you can use these stem cuttings to propagate! In addition, it's always good practice to regularly remove yellowed or dying leaves and any fallen plant debris. Ensure your scissors or pruners are sanitized to avoid spreading disease or pests. More on branching here.

Propagation

If you pruned your Rubber Tree to encourage branching, you can also propagate with that stem cutting! This will be an apical stem cutting (the top of the stem where there is new growth). Trim the stem back a bit, if needed, leaving a decent section with 3-4 leaves and make the cut just below the lowest leaf. Remove the lower leaves to ensure a clear stem before rooting in water or another medium. Rubber Trees are a bit more stubborn to root that other plants, so it can be helpful to dip the cut stem in rooting hormone first. Once the roots are a few inches long you can pot up your new Rubber Tree! More on propagation techniques here.

Variants

Ficus are hugely popular houseplants with many tree-like varieties, ranging from the ubiquitous Fiddle Leaf Fig to Ficus Audrey, Ficus Benjamina, Ficus Ginseng, and beyond. The Rubber Tree itself can refer to any of the many Ficus elastica cultivars like the variegated Tineke and Ruby, the bright green Decora, and the deep dark Black Prince.

TrOUBlESHOOTING

Why is my Rubber Tree dropping leaves?

Symptom

Leaves dropping in droves! Many leaves have suddenly died off.

Cause

Rubber Trees can be particularly sensitive to environmental changes. The most common culprits are sudden temperature changes (when exposed to cold drafts or dry heat from vents) and big moves (from the nursery to your home or simply from one part of your house to another).

Solution

Try to avoid any shocks to the system by introducing change gradually (when possible). For example, if you want to move a plant from their preferred bright light to a lower light location, do so for just a few hours at a time, slowly increasing the duration over time. Otherwise, you may have to accept some leaf drop and simply continue following the best possible care routine for your plant until new growth emerges.

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Why are the leaves on my Rubber Tree wilting and yellowing?

Symptom

Multiple leaves are wilting and turning yellow—particularly the older, lower leaves. You may also notice stunted growth and mushy stems.

Cause

The most likely culprit is overwatering and initial signs of root rot. When a plant's roots sit in waterlogged soil for too long, a fungal infection can quickly take over, causing the roots to rot (turning brown and mushy).

Solution

First, ensure that your plant has appropriate drainage (both in terms of well-draining soil and plenty of drainage holes in the plant's container).

If you think you've caught the overwatering early on, you can simply let the plant dry out more than you have been. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out before watering again. Continue monitoring and only water when needed. You may also try using chopsticks (or something similar) to poke holes in the soil to help the roots get more oxygen. And finally, you can try to "wick" the excess moisture out of the soil by placing the whole pot (with drainage holes) in a tray or container with dry soil. This new layer of dry soil should soak up some of the excess moisture from the waterlogged areas around your plant's roots.

However, if you suspect a serious case of root rot, you'll definitely need to take a peak at the roots by removing the plant entirely from their container. If there are any black and mushy roots, trim them back completely before repotting with fresh soil in a new or sterilized container.

More on leaf changes here.
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Why does my Rubber Tree have patchy, pale spots?

Symptom

Larger grey or pale patches on a few leaves. The spot may look dried out and somewhat bleached.

Cause

When your plant is exposed to the hot sun, it begins to evaporate more moisture from the leaf surface than the plant can replace. Leading to bleached areas or large grey patches on leaves.

Solution

You may be pushing the limits on how much direct sun your plant can handle. Try moving it out of reach of those direct rays of sun or moving to a spot that receives only minimal direct sun in the mornings or evenings. While this should prevent further burning, the spots will not "heal", so it's up to you if you'd like to prune off the affected leaves.

More on leaf changes here.
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Why does my Rubber Tree have dark brown spots or patches?

Symptom

Dark brown spots, or areas, that may be in the middle of a leaf or on the edges. These spots tend to be larger areas with an irregular edge, not a nice neat circular shape. They may also look “wet” or saturated in the middle.

Cause

These spots are usually the sign of a fungal leaf spot disease. These kinds of diseases often go hand-in-hand with overwatering or an overly damp environment, which weakens your plants and makes them more susceptible to disease.

Solution

The first step is to isolate the plant to avoid spread to your other plants. Then, prune or pinch off the affected leaves. Make sure to be diligent in your removal of any fallen plant debris from the soil. Most diseases thrive off humid environments, so it's best to stop misting or providing additional humidity for your plant (for now). You may even try switching to bottom watering to ensure you don't get any moisture on the leaves. Finally, a regimen of neem oil could be in order, focusing on a soil soak rather than spraying the leaves (at least in the initial treatment phase).

Once you've removed the infected leaves, the disease should drastically slow its spread. Make sure that you keep the leaves dry and check them regularly. If you see any symptoms return, remove those leaves as well and continue your treatments.

More on diseases here.
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