This post shares everything you need to know about how to care for a rubber plant. Rubber tree care is simple and rewarding; you can grow and beautiful plant for your home with very little work.
How to Care for a Rubber Plant
The rubber plant (also known as the Ficus elastica and the rubber fig) is part of the Moraceae family, Ficus genus. It’s a beautiful and bold houseplant with glossy green rubbery looking leaves—some quite large. It’s name comes from its sap, which dries into a rubbery texture. (Don’t worry, you won’t need to deal with the sap unless you cut the branches.)
Rubber plants are quite forgiving and easy to grow. Like many houseplants, they come in different varieties that can grow to be different sizes. They can grow up to 10 feet in a container! Here’s hoping mine gets there. Likewise, some varieties have branches that spread out more. While most have green leaves, some have red-tinted or outright red leaves or variegated patterns.
Rubber plants like to be pot-bound, and like many houseplants, the best time to repot them is in the spring. However, I repotted my very large rubber plant this past winter because I couldn’t wait any longer. It had completely outgrown its pot and really needed more space. It seems to still be doing great!
(See my tips about how to care for pothos plants, how to care for snake plants, and how to care for indoor succulents for more plant care tips. You can also read about propagating golden pothos from cuttings, how to propagate snake plants, and propagating prickly pear cactus pads.)
How Much Water Does a Rubber Plant Need?
Like other common household plants like snake plants and pothos plants, rubber plants don’t require a lot of water. In fact, over-watering them is one of the main things you should avoid doing. If the plant’s leaves begin drooping and yellow, you’re probably over-watering. (But don’t worry if this just happens occasionally; it’s normal for aging leaves to drop off—see pic below.)
Rubber plants tolerate dry soil very well. That means this is a good plant for you if you have a harder time remembering to water. You can even let its soil dry out completely between waterings and it will be fine. As with a lot of houseplants, you can water less when its in a cooler spot with lower light.
If your plant gets too thirsty, its leaves will begin looking soft, which is a noticeable change from the firm, shiny leaves of a healthy rubber plant. Try not to let it get this thirsty. 🙂 It doesn’t absolutely need to be fertilized, but you can house a diluted houseplant fertilizer monthly during the spring and summer when the plant is active and needy.
Best Soil for Rubber Plants
Soil is critical when planning for how to care for a rubber plant. Rubber plants enjoy well-draining soil that is also well-aerated (something with peat moss would be nice) and a pot with a drainage hole since they are prone to root rot.
However, I do not have my rubber plants in pots with drainage holes because I am a terrible plant mother. (They are doing amazing, though!). See my post about planting in pots without drainage holes.
Rubber Tree Light Requirements
Medium to bright indirect light. I have my large rubber plant in a medium indirect light area, and it’s still growing like a weed. They are forgiving when it comes to temperature and humidity, too. Rubber plants do well in a range of normal household temperatures but do appreciate warmth during the day. Shoot for at least 50 degrees and no colder at night. They also like normal household humidity levels.
Rubber plants like to get comfortable and set up shop in one space. Abruptly changing lighting conditions or temperature can be a shock to its system, causing it to drop its leaves. I once had a rubber plant by a large heat/AC register before I knew any better. Yep, I was an idiot. That plant was not happy and dropped many leaves!
Rubber Plant Pruning & Cleaning
To prune a rubber plant, use shears to cut just above a node. A node is where a leaf grows out of a stem or where a stem grows out of another stem. New growth will eventually begin to appear from the node below the cut. If you’d like to encourage your rubber plant to grow larger widthwise, cut off the tip of the main stem. This will help side branches grow.
Check out my recently pruned rubber plant here. I had one stem that was WAY outgrowing the rest of the plant. It almost reached the ceiling! But it was looking really uneven, so I chopped it off. Here are the before and afters below. And in the third photo below, you can see new growth sprouting out right from below the cut!
Normal household plant pets can infest the rubber plant (mealybugs, etc.), but they aren’t especially vulnerable. It can, however, develop sooty mold, which is a black dusty mold that can grow on leaves. Remote is by wiping the leaves with a diluted dish soap mixture.
Since these leaves are large and shiny, they can be dust magnets. They also very clearly show water spots. Keep your leaves beautiful by wiping them down with a damp cloth—a microfiber cloth will help prevent water spots.
Rubber Tree Plant Propagation
Rubber plants can be propagated by their stem. Simply cut them off at the desired point (remember the bit about how they grow back through nodes), and then stick that cutting into damp soil. Rubber plants can also be propagating through air layering. See my full rubber plant propagation post here!
But remember the pruning section earlier in this post where I cut the top off of my rubber plant? Well, I just popped it in a vase of water and let it start rooting. It can become a new plant 🙂
Is the Rubber Tree Plant Poisonous?
These plants are considered mildly toxic and should be kept away from pets and children.
If you like this post, check out my roundup of my DIY planters to help you decorate with plants! You can also learn how to keep tall potted planted like mine from falling over—the cheap and easy DIY way.