Rubber Plant Care: 9 Tips for Growing This Beautiful (and Low-Maintenance) Ficus
So, you have a rubber plant, and you want to help it thrive. We can help with that, but first…what on earth is a rubber plant anyway? The popular houseplant known as the rubber plant (i.e., Ficus elastica) is not, in fact, a fake plant made of rubber, but rather a tree-like plant native to Southeast Asia that produces a white latex sap. Although the Ficus elastica is not the primary source for natural rubber (that would be the Brazilian rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis), it is very hardy and can even be used to make living bridges. (Pretty cool, right?)
At home, these beauts boast large, dark green leaves and can be maintained as a medium-size houseplant or grown to impressive heights for an indoor statement piece; outdoors, these guys can grow up to 50 feet tall. But no matter how large you let yours grow, the rubber plant promises to be an eye-catching addition to your collection. That said, you should know that rubber plants are poisonous to pets, so they’re not a great choice if your furry friend has a habit of munching on houseplants. Still ready to run out and buy one? Read on for the rundown on rubber plant care, courtesy of the plant experts at the Sill, so you can keep your new houseplant happy and healthy. Spoiler: These low-maintenance plants are unlikely to give you a hard time.
SunlightWhen it comes to lighting, the rubber plant prefers bright, indirect sunlight with a few hours of direct sunlight to give it an extra boost. Still, the plant parents at the Sill say the Ficus elastica can acclimate to medium, indirect light if need be, so you don’t have to fret too much. Bottom line: The brighter, the better—just don’t let this baby bake for too long in direct sun.
Compared to other houseplants, rubber plants are relatively low maintenance when it comes to watering. A good rule of thumb is to water your rubber plant every one to two weeks, but let the potting soil be your guide: It should dry out completely in between waterings. Of course, the amount of sunlight your plant gets will influence how quickly the soil dries out, so you can expect to water it slightly more often (i.e., once a week) if it’s getting loads of bright light. Not sure if you have your rubber plant on the appropriate watering schedule? The experts say to pay attention to the leaves: Yellowing leaves and wet potting mix is an indication of overwatering, while crispy, curling leaves are a sign of a thirsty plant. (Note: Leaf drop, on the other hand, means your rubber plant needs more light.)
Because the rubber plant is native to Southeast Asia, it does prefer warm, tropical climates. That said, the rubber plant is fairly flexible though and will fare just fine in moderate temperatures of 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, a rubber plant kept indoors will be happy all year long, so you needn’t change the thermostat on its account.
As with temperature, the rubber plant does not have any strict humidity needs—just avoid keeping your plant in the direct path of an air conditioner and it will be fine. Though not ideal, a low humidity environment isn’t a deal-breaker; in this case, you may just need to water your rubber plant slightly more often.
5 Common Problems of Rubber Plant Care
We covered some of these above, but here’s the breakdown of problems you might encounter with a rubber plant, plus solutions to get your plant back on track.
Problem: Yellowing or dropping leaves and wet potting mix.
Solution: Your rubber plant has been overwatered; To avoid root rot, go easy on the watering as soon as you notice this problem.
Problem: Leaves are crispy and curling inward and potting mix is dry.
Solution: More water! (This is an indication of underwatering.)
Problem: The color of the leaves is starting to fade.
Solution: Move your rubber plant to an area in your home where it will get more light.
Problem: There are scale or mealybugs on your plant.
Solution: Start treating the plant as soon as you notice the problem by giving it a weekly spritz with horticultural oil and regularly wiping it down.
Problem: Your beloved plant is irritating your skin.
Solution: Wear gardening gloves whenever you prune a rubber plant, as the latex sap can irritate sensitive skin.