With its large and lush, deep-green, leathery leaves, the rubber tree plant (Ficus elastica) is one of the most popular houseplants among indoor plant enthusiasts. Rubber trees are hardy, easy to grow and maintain, beautiful to admire, and they can warm up an empty corner in any home or office. In this guide, we’re going to take you through the 16 amazing uses and benefits of rubber tree plants that supplement their stunning ornamental value.
- About Rubber Tree Plants
- The Benefits of Rubber Tree Plants
- 1. Air Purification
- 2. Oxygen Production
- 3. Use in Feng Shui
- 4. Low-Maintenance Care
- 5. Ornamental Value
- 6. Easy to Propagate
- 7. Tolerates a Variety of Light Conditions
- 8. Hypoallergenic
- 9. Drought Resistant
- 10. Therapeutic Value
- 11. Boosts Productivity and Improves Memory
- 12. Improves Acoustics in the Home
- 13. Improves Sleep
- 14. Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
- 15. Inexpensive
- 16. Living Bridges
- Rubber Tree Plant Benefits FAQs
- Grow a Rubber Tree and Fall in Love With the Fig Family
About Rubber Tree Plants
Ficus elastica (commonly called the rubber tree plant, rubber fig, or Indian rubber tree) belongs to the Ficus genus in the Moraceae (fig or mulberry) plant family and is native to parts of south and southeast Asia.
The rubber tree plant belongs to the banyan group of figs, which means that its seeds usually can only germinate successfully above the ground on the branches of other plants. So, rubber trees begin their lives as epiphytes. Once their seeds have germinated, they grow roots down the side of the host tree or plant into the ground.
Rubber trees produce large, broad, ovate leaves that are shiny green from a narrow trunk. In the wild, at maturity, these plants can grow to be 100 to 130 feet tall (nearly 200 feet tall in rare cases) and have trunks that are 6 to 7 feet in diameter. Indoors, rubber tree plants can reach about 10 feet tall and maintain relatively slim trunks.
Like other plants in the fig family, they produce flowers and fruits, but these features are not showy to attract various pollinators. Instead, they’re nondescript because rubber tree plants co-evolved with a particular fig wasp that pollinates them exclusively.
The Benefits of Rubber Tree Plants
1. Air Purification
NASA’s clean air study demonstrated that several plants – along with their roots, leaves, soil, and associated microorganisms – can remove various toxins from the air. Rubber tree plants, specifically, cleanse particles of formaldehyde from the air in addition to eliminating other nasties like bacteria and mold from your indoor air.
2. Oxygen Production
Like other plants, the intake of carbon dioxide and subsequent release of oxygen is a natural part of a rubber tree’s metabolic processes. Rubber trees, however, produce more oxygen than other plants and more efficiently replenish your indoor air environment.
3. Use in Feng Shui
In feng shui, round leaves are preferable over sharp, pointy leaves. Large leaves are preferable over small ones because large, round ones soften a space and attract positive, nourishing energy.
The soft edges of the rubber tree’s large, glossy, ovate leaves are perfect for attracting positive energy into your home and softening the poisonous arrows of sharp corners. According to feng shui, rubber trees should be placed in the wealth (southeast or back left) and career (north or front center) corner of your home’s Bagua map to attract good luck and abundance to these areas.
4. Low-Maintenance Care
Rubber plants are relatively low-maintenance and easy to care for, making them a great option if you don’t have much time to dedicate to caring for houseplants. With due care and attention to their light preferences, watering needs, soil, and fertilizing habits, yours should thrive just fine.
Other than providing larger rubber tree plants with a stake for support and removing dead or diseased leaves, they don’t need much attention or to be pruned regularly.
5. Ornamental Value
Though low-maintenance, rubber trees offer a high payoff in terms of their ornamental value. Their large, glossy green leaves are stunning. These plants’ tropical silhouettes add visual interest to empty corners and can warm up any room.
6. Easy to Propagate
Rubber tree plants are easy to propagate from cuttings, which means you can fill your home with more rubber trees or give baby plants as gifts to your friends and family.
Simply cut away a stem that’s about 6 inches long and has at least one leaf. For faster results, dip the cutting in root growth hormones. Poke the stem into a small pot with evenly moist soil and cover the whole plant with plastic. Be careful to keep the plastic from touching the plant’s leaves. If you need to, you can trim the cutting’s leaves back about halfway to make the plant easier to cover. Finally, place the potted cutting in a warm location, keep the soil moist, and uncover the plant once roots develop.
7. Tolerates a Variety of Light Conditions
Rubber trees prefer to receive at least 6 hours of bright, indirect sunlight daily, but they can tolerate a range of light conditions, including artificial light. This makes them an excellent addition to a low-light or windowless office.
While they can tolerate different types and levels of light, a rubber tree that does not receive enough sunlight can become leggy. It’s also essential to keep them out of intense direct sunlight that can dry out, scorch, and damage the leaves.
For more, see our in-depth guide to the best locations for rubber plants in the home.
Although they flower and produce pollen in the wild, rubber trees are unlikely to bloom when grown indoors. As a result, indoor rubber trees don’t add pollen to the indoor environment, aggravating respiratory allergies.
However, if you are allergic to latex, rubber trees and their sap are a natural source of latex. So, the sap of a rubber tree could cause an allergic reaction. If you have a latex allergy or sensitivity, be sure to wear gloves anytime you are handling a rubber tree.
9. Drought Resistant
While rubber trees prefer even moisture in well-draining potting soil, they are hardy and quite drought tolerant. Without enough water, a rubber tree’s leaves might begin to droop, but most can survive months in low-moisture, drought-like conditions.
10. Therapeutic Value
Caring for all plants, especially low-maintenance plants the care of which won’t induce stress, is incredibly beneficial to emotional and mental health. In fact, plant care now boasts its own branch of therapy called horticultural therapy. Caring for plants can reduce stress and anxiety, help combat symptoms of depression, and improve mental health overall.
11. Boosts Productivity and Improves Memory
Indoor plants – especially low-maintenance ones that don’t detract from workday responsibilities – have been shown to increase workplace productivity. Additionally, indoor plants might make you smarter, improving cognitive function, memory, and concentration.
12. Improves Acoustics in the Home
The leaves, stems, and trunks of plants absorb sound and improve indoor acoustics. Plants with large leaves or lots of foliage, like rubber trees, are most effective. Growing a rubber tree can help absorb noises coming from outside, from your next-door neighbors, and even from appliances in your home.
13. Improves Sleep
Rumors exist that it’s not healthy to sleep with a plant in the bedroom because, while they produce oxygen during photosynthesis during the day, they release carbon dioxide at night, hindering a person’s sleep.
However, the rubber tree produces 6.3 times as much oxygen as the carbon dioxide it releases at night. So, keeping one in your room will increase the oxygen levels overall, and greater levels of oxygen can improve your quality of sleep by helping the brain remain in a state of deep, restorative sleep.
14. Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Ficus elastica has a history of use as an anti-inflammatory to treat various inflammatory conditions in traditional medicine practices. While more research is needed to understand the exact mechanism in rubber tree extract that reduces inflammation, studies have confirmed anti-inflammatory properties in the plant.
Rubber tree plants are both common and inexpensive, making them easy and affordable to obtain. Additionally, since they’re so easy to propagate, you only need to purchase one rubber tree to eventually grow as many rubber trees as you desire.
16. Living Bridges
In some parts of India, where rubber trees grow natively, locals guide the roots of these giant trees over chasms, rivers, and ravines to form natural, living bridges. Anchored by large rubber trees on either side, these bridges are strong and enable people to cross safely. Plus, like an idea taken straight out of a fairy tale, these natural rubber tree root bridges are absolutely gorgeous to admire.
Rubber Tree Plant Benefits FAQs
Are rubber tree plants a good indoor plant?
Rubber tree plants are only hardy down to USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11, making them ideal indoor plants in other climates. They’re relatively easy to grow inside since they thrive in most average indoor temperatures and conditions.
Is the rubber tree plant considered a lucky plant?
In feng shui, the glossy, oval-shaped leaves of rubber trees are considered to be an auspicious symbol of wealth and money. When placed in the wealth corner of a home’s bagua map, rubber trees can draw positive energy, abundance, fortune, and an increase in wealth.
What is so special about rubber tree plants?
Rubber tree plants are relatively easy to grow when provided with the right environment and basic care, but they offer a big payoff in looks, decoration, and other benefits.
Are rubber tree plants toxic?
The white sap found inside rubber trees is toxic to people, dogs, and cats. These trees should be displayed well out of the reach of small children and pets.
Where should a rubber tree plant be placed in a home?
Rubber tree plants require lots of bright, indirect, or filtered sunlight. A rubber tree should be placed near a south-facing or east-facing window but not directly in front of it unless the window has a sheer covering that will protect the plant from scorching in direct sunlight.
To avoid shock from blasts of cold air or drying out due to dry heat, be careful not to place a rubber tree in a drafty location or near heating and cooling vents in your home.
Grow a Rubber Tree and Fall in Love With the Fig Family
Although your indoor plant won’t bear any fruit – unless you’re also a keeper of indoor fig wasps, when you grow a Ficus elastica in your home, you might find that you soon fall in love with other popular plants from the fig plant family like the fiddle leaf fig and the Ficus benjamina. These low-maintenance plants require little care but offer a big decorative payoff in addition to their other numerous benefits.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.