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  • Writer's pictureDenver Plant Club

Tips & Tricks : Rubber Trees!

Rubber trees (Ficus elastica) are popular houseplants known for their striking, glossy leaves and impressive growth. Originating from Southeast Asia, these resilient plants are not only aesthetically pleasing but also relatively easy to care for, making them an excellent choice for both novice and experienced plant enthusiasts. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the essential care needs for rubber trees to help you keep your plant healthy and thriving.

Understanding Rubber Trees

Rubber trees are part of the fig family, Moraceae, and can grow up to 50-100 feet tall in their natural habitat! Indoors, however, they are typically managed to a more reasonable height of around 6-10 feet. The plant’s large, oval leaves are its main attraction, often featuring a deep green hue, though some varieties boast variegated or burgundy foliage.

Light Requirements

Rubber trees thrive in bright, indirect light. They can tolerate some direct sunlight, especially in the morning or late afternoon, but too much direct sun can scorch their leaves. If your rubber tree’s leaves start to develop brown spots or edges, it might be getting too much direct sunlight. Conversely, if the leaves become dull and drop off, your plant might need more light.

Watering Schedule

Proper watering is crucial for rubber tree health. These plants prefer their soil to be consistently moist but not waterlogged. Here’s how to manage watering:

  1. Check the Soil: Before watering, check the top inch of the soil. If it feels dry to the touch, it’s time to water. If it’s still moist, wait a few more days.

  2. Water Thoroughly: When you do water, make sure to do so thoroughly until water starts to drain out of the bottom of the pot. This ensures that the roots get enough moisture and helps prevent the buildup of salts from fertilizers.

  3. Avoid Overwatering: Overwatering can lead to root rot, a common problem with rubber trees. Ensure your pot has adequate drainage and never let the plant sit in standing water.

Humidity and Temperature

Rubber trees are tropical plants and prefer a warm, humid environment. Ideal temperatures range between 60-75°F (15-24°C). They can tolerate occasional temperature drops but should be kept away from drafts and sudden temperature changes.

To maintain humidity, especially in dry climates or during winter, consider the following tips:

  • Mist the Leaves: Lightly mist the leaves with water once or twice a week.

  • Use a Humidifier: Place a humidifier near your plant to maintain optimal humidity levels.

  • Pebble Tray: Set the plant’s pot on a tray filled with pebbles and water. As the water evaporates, it will increase the humidity around the plant.

Soil and Fertilization

Rubber trees prefer well-draining, loamy soil. A good quality potting mix with peat, pine bark, and perlite is ideal. Ensure the pot has drainage holes to prevent water from accumulating at the bottom.

Fertilize your rubber tree during the growing season (spring and summer) to support its growth. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer once a month, diluted to half the recommended strength. During fall and winter, reduce the frequency of fertilization as the plant’s growth slows down.

Pruning and Repotting

Pruning helps manage the size of your rubber tree and encourages bushier growth. Trim any leggy or unruly branches in early spring. Use clean, sharp pruning shears to make clean cuts, and avoid removing more than one-third of the plant at a time.

Rubber trees grow relatively quickly and may need repotting every two to three years. Repotting in early spring is best, using a pot one size larger than the current one. Gently loosen the roots and refresh the soil to encourage healthy growth.

Dealing with Pests and Problems

Rubber trees are generally hardy, but they can occasionally fall prey to pests such as spider mites, scale, and mealybugs. If you notice any signs of infestation, such as tiny webs, sticky residue, or white cottony masses, take action promptly:

  • Isolate the Plant: Move the affected plant away from other houseplants to prevent the pests from spreading.

  • Clean the Leaves: Wipe down the leaves with a damp cloth to remove pests manually.

  • Use Insecticidal Soap: Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil to the affected areas, following the product instructions.

Common Issues and Solutions

  • Yellow Leaves: This can indicate overwatering or poor drainage. Check the soil and adjust your watering routine accordingly.

  • Dropping Leaves: Sudden changes in environment, drafts, or insufficient light can cause leaf drop. Ensure stable conditions and adequate light.

  • Brown Leaf Edges: This often results from low humidity. Increase humidity around the plant using the we talked about earlier.


Caring for a rubber tree as a houseplant is a rewarding experience. With the right light, water, humidity, and occasional pruning, your rubber tree can thrive and become a stunning focal point in your home. Regular observation and attentive care will ensure your rubber tree remains healthy, vibrant, and lush for years to come. Enjoy nurturing this resilient and beautiful plant, and watch it transform your living space with its lush greenery!

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