Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica)
Rubber Tree, Rubber Plant, Indian Rubber Plant
India and Malaysia
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MEDIUM to high INDIRECT SUNLIGHT.
Select the very brightest room in your home and place it there. It's okay if it isn't the world's brightest, but the more the better! No direct sunlight. That being said I have found that a couple of hours of direct sunlight is just fine. I wouldn't allow direct evening sun as it is harsher than the morning sun.
Rubber trees, especially burgundy rubber trees, are fairly good at adapting to new environments and conditions in our homes. It may drop a few lower leaves, or look a bit weak for a while, but give it time and care for it appropriately and it'll bounce back. Just be sure you aren't moving it around too much.
Medium to high: CHECK WEEKLY.
Rubber plants are watered as most indoor plants are: allow the top inch or two of the soil to dry and then water again. I suggest checking every weekly. Rubber trees have a very low tolerance for sitting in soggy soil, so when in doubt err on the side of too dry rather than too wet.
In the Fall and Winter reduce the amount you water. I let mine dry about 3-5 inches and water more deeply in between. Watering every two to weeks. You can also keep the same weekly schedule but use less water each week.
Watering more specifically overwatering is the reason most houseplants die. To be truthful it's a bit more complicated than just overwatering. There are a lot of factors at play! You just want to love on your plant by giving it more water to drink and next thing you know it feels like your houseplant has suddenly died. I can help with that.
In the Becoming Planty, I explain all the factors that are at play when your plant has been "overwatered" so you can identify was piece needs to be changed and how to identify the warning signs. (Yes, your plant does things to warn you it's about to die. I promise it's not as sudden as you think! But don't you sweat it. I can help you figure it all out!)
NORMAL TO MEDIUM: KEEP LEAVES DUSTY FREE
Rubber trees are a tropical tree and therefore require a higher level of humidity than what your home naturally provides, but not too much. Your rubber tree will thank you if once a month or so you use a damp cloth and gently clean the leaves off removing any dust particles that have built up. This will allow your rubber tree to absorb humidity in the air and make for a much happier plant! To increase humidity you can add a small humidifier (I have even used a diffuser) nearby. Some people add a pebble tray filled with water nearby, though I am not so sure this will really do much to increase humidity. You can also keep it in your bathroom. I don't suggest moving it in and out of the bathroom, rubber tree's don't like that much change.
Soil + Pot
POTTING MIX IN A TERRA-COTTA POT
Choose terra-cotta. Because rubber trees like to have good root breathability and a good soaking every other week or so, I suggest terra-cotta so those precious roots don't hold too much moisture. If you have another planter you absolutely love and would rather use be certain it has excellent drainage.
HOUSEPLANT MIX: MONTHLY DURING SPRING AND SUMMER
A general houseplant fertilizer is perfectly fine here. I suggest using a liquid, slow release concentrate. I have used Shultz brand and really loved it.* I just follow the package directions every other time I water during the Spring and Summer. During fall I only fertilize once a month and during winter I do not fertilize at all.
My favorite method is using a vase of water. Cut back your rubber three to four leaves at the nod of the plant, that little bump where the leave is growing from. The nod is where the roots will emerge from. Allow your rubber tree to callous over for a few hours by simply laying on a counter. Then place your cutting in a vase or jar filled with water so the nod stays 100% submerged in water. Keep in their until roots are well established, about three to five weeks. Keep in a mildly light space and away from direct sunlight.
Rooting your rubber tree in soil follows a similar process. After your cutting has scabbed over (this step is more important if you are rooting in soil I have found). Then wet the nod (the bottom scabbed over part) and dip in rooting hormone (this step isn't necessary, but it will certainly help establish stronger growth sooner) and stick into your pot filled with moist soil. Keep soil moist at all times and plant in shady, indirect sunlight being very careful to avoid direct sunlight until roots are fully established.
Varieties + Cultivars
'Burgundy' Rubber Tree
Pictured in the first and second photos above, most commonly found. Dark, nearly black, green leaves that grow larger. New leaves coming in have a red and burgundy sheath covering the emerging leaves.
'Tineke' Rubber Tree
Pictured in the third photo. The leaves are a bright green with pink, cream, and white variegation. Sometimes called variegated rubber tree, strawberry cream, or pink rubber tree.
'Doescheri' Rubber Tree
Not pictured. Bright green with cream and muted green variegation.
'Black Prince' Rubber Tree
Not pictured. Very dark green leaves that look nearly black they tend to have bronze undertones and red sheaths arounf new leaves.
Pests + Common Problems
Usually, yellowing leaves means too much or to little water. In the case of a rubber tree, it can also mean malnutrition or incorrect soil drainage.
Usually overwatering. It can also mean you are moving it around too frequently, or that the temperature and humidity levels are changing too often. Rubber trees really don't like change.
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