Plant Care  |  February 16, 2021

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.

Ficus Elastica Leaves

Rubber Trees are tolerant of lower light spaces, but their large, rich burgundy leaves will fade to a lighter green color without adequete light.

Routine Maintenance

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. We compact the soil to avoid shifting during transit, so aerating can help the soil breathe and allow moisture to be released.

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.

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.

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.