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. 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.
Standard Planter Instructions
There are two types of standard planters offered by Greenery Unlimited—those with drainage holes, and those without. Within these two categories are an array of sizes and styles to choose from. The presence of drainage holes and the size of the planted vessel both play a role in the quantity and frequency of water given to your plant.
Plants purchased in pots without a drainage hole have been set up with a built-in drainage system. A layer of Aeration Stones (porous, absorbent material made of recycled clay) has been placed beneath the soil to act as a reservoir for any excess water that flows through the soil. You will need to be slightly more cautious not to pour too much water into these containers as there is no way for the excess water to escape. We suggest slowly pouring small amounts of water in bit by bit, until you have reached the desired moisture level in the soil.
For plants potted with drainage, water until the excess begins to come out the bottom of the pot and into the catch tray.
Self Watering Container Instructions
The self-watering containers require a deep and thorough watering of the topsoil after they are first placed. This is important because the roots of the plants first need to grow into the reservoir in order to drink from it. Follow the standard planter instructions for at least four weeks, before testing the reservoir. During the dormant seasons, or for plants that have slower growing habits, consider top watering for up to ten weeks.
TEST: After the initial top water period, fill the water reservoir until the red indicator reaches half way between the MAX and MIN line. If the indicator goes down over the first few days, 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 red indicator goes down, meaning the plant has started drinking from the reservoir.
RESERVOIR SERVICING: Once the indicator goes down, do not refill the reservoir right away. Similar to how humans need a breath of air between gulps of water, almost all plants require a drying out period. Always allow for the reservoir to empty all the way, and after a drying out period of a few days, be sure to refill it until the indicator reaches the MAX line.
From here on out, you should NEVER topwater the plant while using the reservoir system. If you water from the top, it can drown the plant. In the Self Watering Container, the top layer of soil will eventually become extremely dry and hard, and may even pull away from the edges of the pot. This is not a cause for concern, but simply because the plant is drinking directly from its roots in the water reservoir. You may opt for adding fresh soil into the gaps between the soil and planter, so as to give the plant a nutrient boost. You may annually, or bi annually, top water the plant to flush the foot system. Only do so when the reservoir is empty and the plant is ready for more water.
Step 1: Top water for four to ten weeks. The indicator will look empty, like the picture above.
Step 2: Fill the reservoir until the red indicator reaches the MAX line.
Step 3: Watch the indicator over the next day or two. If it goes down on its own, it means the roots of the plant have grown into the reservoir. From here on out, ONLY water into the reservoir.
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.
We've tried countless pruners over the years, and none surpass the ARS. Our team uses these pruners daily for all manor of indoor and outdoor plant work and we'll never go back to another brand.
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.