Rubber Plant Care
PRO TIP: Though not the specific species cultivated for commercial rubber production, the Rubber Plant does contain latex, a milky white substance you may notice secreted if the plant gets damaged. Wash your hands after coming into contact with the sap as it can be an irritant.
The Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica), or the Rubber Plant, is an easily cared for ficus native to southern Asia. In their natural habitat, they can grow up to 200 feet tall, and in India, their buttressing roots have even been trained to grow over rivers to form living bridges.
As the Ficus elastica likes to be in soil with a good amount of moisture, avoid placing it somewhere drying, such as near a drafty window or vent, heater, or in direct sunlight. Bright, indirect light is ideal for growing the Rubber Plant, however they are unusually tolerant of lower light spaces for a ficus. To keep the plant happiest though, it is commonly recommended to place it by a southern facing window with sheer curtains for the brighter light to filter through.
If you are unsure of the lighting conditions in your home or office, we have a guide for how to measure light in your space.
Rubber Trees are tolerant of lower light spaces, but their large, rich burgundy leaves will fade to a lighter green color without adequete light.
PRO TIP: The Rubber Tree's large, ovate leaves inevitably collect dust, interfering with the plant's ability to photosynthesize efficiently. Regularly wipe both sides of the leaves with a soft, damp cloth to keep them clean and the plant looking its best.
Always be sure to assess your plant’s watering needs upon receiving it. Before giving your plant a drink, it is best to check the moisture level in the soil first to ensure it isn’t moist right beneath the surface. Also, consider aerating the soil of your plant before the initial watering. Aerating can help the soil breathe and allow moisture to be released.
The best way we have found to obtain an accurate moisture reading throughout the soil is with a soil probe, which allows you to check your plant's moisture level at the root level and can also be used to aerate the soil if ever overwatered. Our Monitor Brass Soil Probe is an elegant option.
Lower maintenance than many of the other ficus varieties we offer, the Rubber Tree wants its soil to be allowed to dry out at least halfway down the pot between waterings, as they do not like to sit in wet soil. When watering, avoid splashing the leaves, as this can cause stains.
Overwatering is the biggest killer of this plant, and is displayed by yellowing, dropping leaves. However, the plant's older leaves will also yellow and drop, so if you observe this happening, be sure to pay attention to which leaves are dropping, and check the moisture levels of the soil before reaching a conclusion. Changes in location, light, and temperature may also cause the plant stress and result in leaf drop, so don't be surprised if it loses a couple when you first introduce it to your space.
We highly recommend direct potting all ficus plants, as it can be a challenging plant family to keep healthy long term in nursery pots — however make sure to pot it in a permanent planter with plenty of soil mass and crucially, drainage. If your Rubber plant is planted in a container without a drainage hole, you must be very careful not to overwater. In this scenario we suggest allowing your Ficus Elastica to dry out slightly more between waterings and use a soil probe to see how damp the soil is at the root level before watering. These plants do particularly well in our self-watering planters.
Rotate your plant periodically to ensure even growth on all sides and dust the leaves often so the plant can photosynthesize efficiently. When dusting the leaves, also take the opportunity to inspect the undersides and keep an eye out for pests.
We recommend using a microfiber cloth and a fine-spray mister to clean your leaves once every couple of months.
Note if you are using a container made from organic materials to pot your Rubber Tree in, we highly recommend using a waterproof saucer underneath to protect your floors, as humidity may accumulate beneath the pot.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Ficus Elastica difficult to care for?
- The Ficus Elastica is easier to care for than its sister plant, the Ficus lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig tree). It acclimates well to new spaces, it’s less finicky when it comes to water, and it doesn’t need quite as much light. We consider it a medium level plant in terms of difficulty to care for.
Why are the leaves of my ficus dropping?
- Typically this is caused by either over or underwatering. If your tree is showing brown tips with yellow edging, and dropping from the lower portion of the plant then you are likely over watering. If you see fully yellow leaves, and some crispy brown tips without yellow edging then it is likely due to underwatering. Always feel the soil to see if its conditions match your diagnosis, and consider the recent care you have given.
Can I place my ficus next to an AC or heating vent?
- It is best not to. Ficus are sensitive to hot and cold air drafts. They prefer humidity and warm temperatures, so anything to aid in maintaining a tepid environment will help keep your plant happy and healthy.
How often should I fertilize my plant?
- In general, house plants will thrive when they are fertilized spring through fall. Fertilize once a month with an organic houseplant fertilizer, following the package instructions for dilution and administration. Greenery NYC uses an organic potting mix with a slow release fertilizer in the soil, so your plant will not need fertilizer within the first 6 months of receiving it.
How often does my plant need to be repotted?
- For smaller desktop plants, we suggest repotting once every 12-18 months. Typically you want to choose a potting vessel 1”- 2” larger in diameter to allow for growth. Don’t choose a pot much larger than the previous as this could drown the plant's roots. If you prefer to maintain the current size of your plant, repot into the same vessel, providing new soil and trimming away some roots and foliage. Spring or summer is the ideal time to repot as the plant is at its strongest.
Standard Planter Instructions
All of our Standard Planters include a removable drainage plug to give our customers the option of drainage. While no drainage is sometimes preferred for its aesthetic simplicity, we don't recommend this option for beginners as watering mistakes can be hard to rectify.
Whether you choose to use drainage or not, we always recommend using a layer of drainage (such as our Aeration Stones) at the base of the planter. A drainage layer allows the plant's roots access to oxygen in the pockets between the drainage medium, and a lack of drainage can cause anaerobic damage to your plant.
If you decide to utilize the drainage hole for your pot, make sure to include a Plant Saucer beneath your pot to collect excess water. For most plants in standard planters, we recommend watering about once a week. Water the soil mass until water begins pooling in your Plant Saucer.
With no drainage hole, you will need to be more precise in your watering. While we would love to give you a specific measurement of water to provide for your plant, the reality is that a plant's water requirements vary wildly depending on factors such as light exposure and the overall health of the plant. You will need to learn to tell when the plant is thirsty based on how its foliage looks. Droopy foliage is usually the first sign: when your plant looks a little slumped over that's usually a visual indicator that it's thirsty.
The best solution for checking your plant's moisture level, drainage hole of not, is to use a Soil Probe to determine the moisture content of the soil at the bottom of the planter.
Self Watering Planter Instructions
The Self-Watering Planters require a deep and thorough watering of the topsoil after they are first planted. This is important because the roots of the plants first need to grow into the reservoir in order to drink from it. Water your plant from the top for two to four weeks before using the reservoir. During the dormant seasons, or for plants that have slower growing habits, consider top watering for longer.
TEST: After the initial top water period, fill the bottom water reservoir. If the water in the reservoir is absorbed into the planter, it means the plant is ready for regular reservoir servicing. If not, be sure to continue top watering for a few more weeks until the plant has started drinking from the reservoir.
RESERVOIR SERVICING: Once the reservoir empties on its own, do not refill the reservoir right away. Similar to how humans need a breath of air between gulps of water, most plants require a drying out period. Allow for the reservoir to empty all the way between watering. All plants are different in their needs so the amount of time the reservoir sits empty will need to be determined, but know that for most plants this period is between 1-3 days.
From here on out, you should rarely topwater the plant while using the reservoir system. Watering from below allows the plant to drink at its own pace, and can help combat certain issues like fungus gnats by allowing the top layer of soil to dry out more. Please note that if your plant's soil dries out too much, it can impair the wicking ability of the Aeration Stones in your planter. If your soil becomes too dry, we recommend giving it a thorough watering.
For more information on our Self Watering Planters include planting instructions, visit our blog post on How to Use Our Self-Watering Pots.
Aeration Stones promote healthy root growth by creating air pockets in the soil and absorbing excess water in the basin of your planter. These porous clay stones are a natural, efficient and invaluable material to set your plant up for success. We always suggest using these when working with a planter without drainage holes.
Stainless Steel Pruners
Salts and moisture from potting soil wreaks havoc on cheaper metals. Stainless steel is one of the most durable metals available on a consumer scale, and these heavy duty pruners are built to take a beating. Great for pruning jobs large and small.
Neem Oil is an all purpose insecticide, miticide, and fungicide used for organic gardening. It's systemic, which means the plant will absorb the neem oil into its circulatory system and poison pests from within. Be careful not to overuse, as this can weaken plants and cause discoloration.
Plants do poorly without air to the roots. Overwatering causes the air to be pushed out of the soil, compacting the soil around the waterlogged roots of the plant. Using the Soil Probe aerates the soil as it checks for moisture.
Watering cans come in all shapes and sizes, and the perfect one for your home is the one you're happiest living with. Look for long spouts and a container volume that's appropriate for your plant collection.
Fox Farm Ocean Forest contains all the features we look for when aiming to ensure the long term health of a plant: excellent water retention, breathability, texture, and is made from organic materials.
10-4-3 fertilizer is a great, gentle choice for indoor foliage. Simply mix this in to your watering can using the supplied directions every other week. Ensure that your plant is receiving a good amount of light, otherwise it won't have the energy to process the nutrients and burnt tips may occur on the foliage.