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How to Grow: Rubber Tree
Rubber tree houseplant (Ficus elastica) grows best in a bright room with lots of light, but no direct sunlight. A South facing window shielded with a sheer curtain is ideal. If your rubber tree starts getting leggy, it doesn’t have enough light.
Bloom Period and Plant Shape
Rubber trees are grown for their large size and big, shiny, thick leaves. The plant grows in a tree shape, so you’ll need to have enough ceiling space to grow this tree.
Mature Height x Spread
Rubber trees grow up 100 feet tall in their natural outdoor tropical environment. Indoors, you can keep the tree smaller by pruning or growing the tree in a smaller pot.
Plant young rubber tree plants in containers filled with well-drained potting soil with compost. Small plants are best because they get acclimated to the indoor environment faster than large trees and rubber trees grow very fast when happy.
Rubber trees are in the ficus or fig family, which includes many houseplant trees such as the fiddle leaf fig and weeping fig. The rubber tree is unique for its shiny, thick, large older leaves, red colored new leaves, and ease of growing. Rubber trees require evenly moist soil that’s well-drained and not soggy wet. Rubber trees grow fast and require lots of water during their growth spurts. Fertilize in summer with a houseplant plant food.
Because of its size, you may have to repot the tree every few years and prune the rubber tree to keep it in bounds. Repot in spring or summer in a container one size larger than the old one with fresh potting soil. Prune also in spring to reduce the height and width. Prune just above a leaf to encourage new growth. The white, sticky sap will ooze out from the wounds but soon will heal. Wear gloves when pruning and place a towel under the tree. The sap is toxic to pets.
Rubber trees are susceptible to scale, mealy bugs, and spider mites, especially if you move the tree outdoors in summer. Flick off the brown or black scale “bumps” on the leaves with your fingertip. Dab white mealy bugs with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to kill them. Increase humidity with a pebble tray filled with water under the plant and by misting to control spider mites.
Rubber trees can get large. Find a good spot in your home with high ceilings to grow this tree. Group it with other high light houseplants, such as croton, to create a corner jungle in your room.
Most varieties of rubber trees have dark green leaves with copper colored undersides. There are variegated varieties of rubber trees with green and white colored leaves. ‘Ruby’ rubber tree features dark colored leaves edged in pink. The multi-colored rubber tree varieties tend to grow less aggressively than the green versions.