Rubber Plant Care

Placement

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.

Standard Planter Instructions

There are two types of standard planters offered by Greenery NYC—those with drainage holes, and those without. Within those two categories are an array of sizes and styles to choose from. The presence of drainage holes and size of the vessel play a role in the quantity and frequency of water given to your plant.

Plants purchased in a pot without a drainage hole have been set up with a built-in drainage system. A layer of hydro stones (porous, absorbent material made of recycled glass) 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 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 it begins to come out the bottom of the pot and into the catch tray.

Always be sure to assess your plant's watering needs upon receiving it. Refer to the routine maintenance section for your plant’s specific moisture requirements. 

Self Watering Container Instructions

The self-watering planters require a good, solid watering of the topsoil after they are first placed. This is important because the roots of the plants need to grow into the reservoir first in order to drink from it. Follow the standard planter instructions for the first four weeks. Then the reservoir is ready to be tested.

TEST: After four weeks, fill the water reservoir until the red indicator reaches the MAX 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. 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.

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.

Additional Care Guides