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Rubber Plant Care Guide

Rubber plant potted inside a house

While tiny succulents and trailing pothos have their place in the home and office, sometimes you want a larger statement plant. If that’s the case, you can’t do much better than the rubber plant. Its tall stems hold large, waxy leaves that come in a variety of colors. No matter which color you choose, the rubber plant will break up the staleness of an office and liven up that empty corner in your living room.

But don’t just plop your new plant down and hope for the best! Learning how to care for a rubber plant is essential if you want to keep your plant looking healthy for years to come. So stay tuned to learn about watering, light, and all other aspects of proper rubber plant care.

Rubber Plant Basics

The rubber plant, also known as the rubber tree or rubber fig, is a type of ficus and common houseplant. Its scientific name is Ficus elastica, which is an ode to the plant’s production of a milky white sap. Although humans can use this sap to produce a rubbery substance, this practice isn’t economically viable.

Where the plant really shines is the ornamental world. Houseplant lovers and tropical gardeners love the rubber plants for their large, waxy leaves. The plants produce long, woody stems covered with these alternating leaves. Depending on the variety, the leaves can be dark green, deep purple, or variegated shades of green and white.

All types of rubber trees are native to parts of South and Southeast Asia. It can grow over 100 feet tall in its native environment but rarely grows taller than humans indoors.

Caring for Indoor Rubber Plants

If you want to maintain shiny leaves and encourage lush new growth, follow these rubber plant care basics.

Choose the Proper Container and Soil Mix

Since rubber plants are native to the tropics, they’re not suited to cold winter temperatures. However, growing them in containers allows you to grow them as houseplants or bring them indoors when the thermometer drops.

If you grow one of these guys indoors, selecting a suitable container is the first step. Make sure the bottom of the pot has drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. Although these plants are native to the topics, they hate sitting in wet soil. Choose a container that’s just a few inches bigger than the plant’s root ball since excess soil can lead to issues with drainage.

Next, fill the container with a well-draining potting mix. A soilless mix designed for houseplants will work just fine as long as the mix contains perlite, pine bark chips, or other chunky materials to encourage drainage.

Provide Lots of Light

Although rubber plants don’t like direct light, they require lots of bright light to thrive. Place them in the interior of a room with lots of bright windows, or tuck them at the base of a south-facing window covered with a sheer curtain.

Water the Right Amount

Like most plants, rubber plant water needs vary depending on the environment. Expect to water more often during the summer as well as during sunny, warm conditions. Although the plants still require a fair bit of water during cooler, darker days, you won’t have to water as often during the winter.

A good way to check if you need to water your rubber plant is to stick a finger in the top two inches of soil. If they’re dry, go ahead and water. But if they’re still wet, wait to water. When you water, thoroughly soak the soil, then remove any water that collects in a drainage dish.

Provide Proper Temperature and Humidity

Since rubber plants are native to the tropics, they prefer warm conditions. If you’re growing these plants indoors, keep the air temperature between 65-85°F. Along with keeping the temperature warm, keep your rubber plants away from both hot and cold drafts since sudden changes in temperature can stress the plants.

Rubber plants aren’t too picky about humidity and will be just fine in an average home.

Fertilize During the Growing Season

Although rubber plants don’t require a large boost of nutrients, they will be happiest if you regularly fertilize them during the growing season. Choose a low-dose, balanced fertilizer designed for houseplants. Both granular and liquid options are fine, but liquid fertilizers are a bit easier to apply. Regardless of which option you choose, apply the fertilizer once a month from mid-spring through midsummer.

Common Rubber Plant Problems

Even if you try your best to provide excellent rubber tree care, it’s still possible that your plant will develop problems. Here are some of the most common rubber plant problems and how to deal with them.

Sap Sucking Pests

Like many indoor plants, rubber trees are susceptible to attack from tiny, sap-sucking pests like aphids, spider mites, and thrips. These pests frequently enter the home on infected plants, so make sure to thoroughly inspect all houseplants before you add them to your home.

Although these critters are small, they can quickly multiply and damage plants as they use their straw-like mouthparts to suck out plant sap. If you spot a few of these pests on your rubber plant, simply wipe them off with a wet, soapy rag. You can also spray larger infestations with neem oil or insecticidal soap.

Yellow Leaves

When rubber trees are healthy, their leaves remain deep purple, green, or a beautiful multicolored pattern. So, if you see your leaves changing to shades of yellow, something’s wrong. But what?

Since there are many different causes of yellow leaves, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s causing the discoloration. Looking at the surrounding environment and your rubber plant care routine can help you determine the cause.

First, check the soil and your watering practices since both underwatering and overwatering can lead to yellow leaves. Ensure that you’re using a well-draining soil mix and a container with drainage holes. And remember to water your plant when the top two inches of soil is dry (but not more).

Another cause of yellowing leaves is cold temperature or a sudden change in temperature. Remember to keep your rubber plant away from drafty areas and slowly acclimate it to new environments.

Popular Types of Rubber Plants

All rubber plants are members of the Ficus elastica species, but plant breeders have created numerous unique cultivars. Look for these varieties during your search for a new rubber plant.

‘Robusta’

With deep green leaves, ‘Robusta’ is a great option if you’re looking for a classic rubber plant. Like most types of rubber plants, it can reach the ceiling with the proper care.

‘Tricolor’

If you have a difficult time deciding between colors, check out ‘Tricolor.’ This rubber plant features leaves that include patches of cream, deep green, teal, maroon, and pink. Make sure to provide the plants with lots of bright light for the best colors.

‘Tineke’

Another multi-color option, ‘Tineke’ displays splotches of cream, dark green, and light green. It’s an excellent choice for smaller and condensed spaces since the lighter colors.

‘Burgundy’

‘Burgundy’ has deep green leaves that almost look black from a distance. The leaves also have a deep reddish-purple tint in certain types of light.

Life is Better with Plants

No matter what type of plant you choose, there’s no denying that life is better with plants. And whether you’re looking for a cute little succulent to decorate your bathroom or a big rubber tree to fill in empty space, we’ve got you covered with a wide variety of plants for delivery.

And we don’t stop there! Since each plant has its own preferences, we’ve put together a variety of care guides to help you acclimate your plant to its new home. Now that you’re familiar with rubber tree care, browse through our resources to find everything from tips for dracaena plant care to everything you need to know about caring for peonies.

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