Complete Rubber Plant Guide

23 Sep 2021

Ficus elastica, popularly known as rubber fig is a plant species in the genus fig. It is native to South Asia and some parts of Sri Lanka, Florida (USA), and the west indies. It is called a rubber plant due to the latex kind of sap it produces.

Its leaves are evergreen with oval shape. There is a myth about it in Feng shui, China for bringing good fortune. This guide contains a summary of what you should know about the rubber plant, including its care and planting. Read on to find out more.

Main Characteristics

Ficus has certain characteristics unique to it, below are a few.

How Big Do They Get?

In the wild, it can grow as tall as 100 feet (30 m) but can also be cultivated as indoor plants, sometimes trees. They are medium-sized plants with an impressive height of up to 4-10 ft (1.2-3 m) under the best condition. Their leaves are 4-14 inches (10-35 cm) long and 2-6 inches (5-15 cm) broad, depending on the species.

How Fast Do They Grow?

Rubber figs are fast growers. They have an average growth rate of 24 inches (61 cm) per growing year. This rate is dependent on the kind of care they receive.

How Long Do They Live?

The lifespan of this plant is dependent on the frequency of tapping and tapping starts once it is 7 years old. It can survive for up to 30 years or more provided that it receives good care.

Are They Toxic to Cats and Dogs?

Yes, the rubber plant is toxic to pets and humans too. Although it has mild toxicity, the symptom is very severe. The symptoms included reduced/loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea.

Rubber plant - size, lifespan, toxicity, growth speed (infographics)



Like the Peace Lily, it requires moderate watering every 6-7 days. It needs regular wetting during summer and once or twice a month in winter. Be certain that the water reaches the bottom of the soil. In other words, it is not well-watered if the excess doesn’t drain down the drainage.


Like most house plants, Ficus elastica also requires good drainage. A pot with 4-5 holes is best for removing excess water from the soil after wetting. The soil too plays an important role in the plant’s drainage.

Alternatively, you can create a drainage layer by placing pebbles at the bottom of the pot before adding soil to it. This technique is befitting for pots without draining holes.


This plant needs pruning to remove dead leaves but there are pruning rules. It is best to start pruning the plant early. You can only trim the top of the plant if it gets to the height you want it.

This is aimed at keeping the height short and branching it out rather than making outgrow tall. Pruning should be done with clean and disinfected shears at a slant angle


It outgrows its pot quickly like most house plants and it requires regular transplanting into a wider pot. The conventional rule is to use a pot 2 inches bigger than the previous one. It should be reported annually when in its early age but once in 3 years when grown.

Transplanting Ficus spp is similar to transplanting a Lucky Bamboo. Once the root becomes visible above the soil, it’s an indication that your plant needs reporting.

  1. Fill the new pot with soil up to 3-4 inches (7.5-10 cm)
  2. Water the pot containing the plant to loosen the soil
  3. Pull out the plant from the pot. Hold the stem close to the root with one hand, with the other hand remove the plant from the soil
  4. Put it in the new pot with the root top about 2 inches (5 cm) from the pot’s rim
  5. Fill up the pot with soil till the root is completely covered
  6. Water it until excess water starts running off from the draining holes
  7. Once the turbulence is reduced, place the pot on its tray
  8. Position the plant in a partially shaded corner


To successfully grow a plant indoors, you need at least 80% replication of their natural habitat.

Sunlight Needs

It is sensitive to direct harsh sunlight, but they do well in partially shaded light. In addition to that, they can also take in mild morning sun directly. This is because their natural habitat is subtropical.

Best Soil

It shares similar soil characteristics as the elephant ear plant. Although, it flourishes well in almost all kinds of soil, the best one for it is a good drain soil with acidic pH of 5.5-7.0.

The loose (well-designed) potting soil is the best. You can also make a composition of peat, pine bark, and sand in ratio 1:1:1.


Asides from the nutrient gotten from the soil, it also requires additional nutrients from fertilizers. Mix half a teaspoon of 10-10-10 water-soluble fertilizer e.g. NKP (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) with a full gallon of the watering can.

It should be fertilized every 2-4 weeks. Wet the plant with the fertilizer mixture until it is completely soaked and draining. It is best to fertilize it during its growing season (spring) and less often when it doesn’t receive enough light.

Best Pot

Horticulturist recommends that you start planting from the smallest sized pot and gradually increase the size by two inches for each transplant. Choose a well-draining pot with at least 3-4 holes to remove excess water. The pot can be made of plastic, glass, and ceramic.


It is a tropical plant and it grows well in a warm environment but not too hot. A temperature of 50-80°F (10-29°C) is ideal for it.

Do They Like Humidity?

Rubber fig thrives in an area of moderate humidity with the level of 40-60% like the ponytail palm. During the dry season, you either use a humidifier or mist the underside of the leaves to keep them moist.

Indoors vs. Outdoors

It can survive both inside and outside. Growing it outdoor is easier. It needs a garden section with direct sunlight. Pruning it may not be necessary.

For inside growth, it requires more care. It needs constant pruning to maintain its height. It also does not need direct sunlight.

Rubber plant - care, water, sunlight, soil, temperature, fertilizer (infographics)


Like the ZZ plant, it rarely ever blooms. It leaves stay evergreen throughout the year, even in winter. It brings fruits rather than bloom under the right condition.

How to Grow


There are two ways to propagate the Ficus spp. It could either be by stem cutting or by air layering.

Stem Cutting

  1. It requires constant pruning to keep it from growing too tall. The cuttings from pruning can be used for propagation to start a rubber tree from its cuttings
  2. Choose a cutting of approximately 6 inches (15 cm) long with a minimum of two leaves for photosynthesis
  3. Although it’s optional, the next step is to dip the bottom of the cutting in rooting hormone
  4. Place it in a loose moist soil
  5. Cover the cutting with transparent plastic or jar. Ensure that the leaves don’t touch the jar or plastic
  6. Place it in a well-lit place, away from direct light
  7. It may take a while, but your plant will eventually development

Air Layering

This technique is to deceive the plant into growing roots on its buds.

  1. Choose a stem of about 12 inches long (30.5cm)
  2. Choose a spot for rooting
  3. Remove the leaves around the selected area
  4. Make a ring strip of 1 inch (2.5cm) around the stem to expose the inner structure
  5. Cover the exposed ring with rooting hormone
  6. Wrap up the stem with plastic
  7. Cut the stem from the mother plant when the root is developed (3 weeks or more)

How to Plant

It can be planted in water or soil.

In Water

  1. Remove the leaves from the lower end of the cutting (a healthy stem)
  2. Fill a glass jar with water
  3. Place the cutting into a glass jar of the appropriate size
  4. Suspend the stem above the bottom of the jar. This is done by adding a layer of pebble at the bottom of the jar
  5. Avoid contacting the stem with the bottom of the jar not to restrict its growth
  6. Place the plant in a warm place to get enough light
  7. Wait for the root to grow before potting it

In Soil

  1. Choose the stem to cut (a healthy one with primary leaves)
  2. Cut the stem halfway up with clean shears
  3. Dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone
  4. Trim the leaves from the lower part of the cutting to create room for planting
  5. Fill a pot with soil before placing the stem in it
  6. Cover it with a transparent plastic bag to create a miniature greenhouse
  7. Ensure the leaves are not in contact with the plastic bag
  8. Place it in a warm and bright spot, away from direct light


It also gets “sick” and may require nurturing to bring it back to health. Some of its sicknesses are caused by environmental factors, fungi, and bacteria

Yellow Leaves

This is caused by several reasons: overwatering or improper nutrition. You have to test each reason to eliminate or pinpoint reasons.

Feel the soil if it’s too wet. Allow it to dry out before watering it again. If it is caused by lack of nutrition, you should add fertilizer to its care of changing the soil most especially if it is due to repotting.

Why Is My Plant Dropping Leaves?

Leaf drops are a normal part of plant physiology, especially in old age. However, excessive leaf dropping is a cause for alarm. It may be caused by overwatering or temperature changes.

When caused by overwatering, you should stop watering it for a while and allow it to dry. Alternatively, you can translate it into fresh soils.

When caused by temperature changes, you should position the plant to receive enough light, especially in the cold seasons.


Indoor plants with large/broad leaves are a target for the dust to settle. When your plant is covered in dust, it may not get enough light, leading to other deficiencies. Leaves should be cleaned occasionally to remove settled and make them glossy.

Leaf Spots

Lead spots are caused by bacteria. It happens when bacteria penetrate the plant through openings (stomata and injuries).

The spots are tiny and wet. It can be treated by staying the plant with antibacterial.


Blights are also known as stem rot or crown rot. It is caused by fungi attacks. They attack the plant below the soil surface (root), causing the crown and the leaves to rot either.

Bottom line

Ficus elastica is one of the many tropical plants that doubles as an indoor plant. It is rumored to bring good fortune. You should have one in your house to test that theory.

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