Rubber Tree Plant Care at Home (Ficus Elastica)

Rubber tree plants, or Ficus elastica, are attractive and low-maintenance options for indoor plant lovers. I love the tree’s vibrant and leathery leaves add a bold pop to my indoor space, and it grows large for those looking for a plant that makes a statement. Below, I’ll dive into my essential rubber tree plant care routine including potting considerations, best soil types, water schedules, and ideal light conditions for healthy growth.

Ultimate Guide to Rubber Tree Plants (Ficus elastica)

What to Do Before Planting

Here are some steps I take before adding a new rubber tree plant to my collection.

  • I buy an appropriate pot and saucer to plant my rubber tree plant. I like to use a decorative pot around the plant’s original pot or repot it in a larger planter.
  • Ensure you have the proper soil and tools for potting your rubber tree. I’ll cover these details later on in the guide.
  • I select a spot in my home where your plant can grow happy and tall. Read on to learn the conditions to look out for when choosing the perfect position for a rubber plant.
  • I recommend choosing a younger rubber tree when shopping for the perfect plant. I find that rubber tree plants adapt better to indoor growing conditions than more mature plants.

How to Plant

Rubber plants are an excellent low-maintenance indoor tree for new plant owners. However, to keep your rubber tree happy, you’ll want to maintain a few conditions. I focus on a few requirements when planting a new rubber tree.

  • Choose a pot that is around one-third larger than your rubber tree’s root ball when repotting.
  • I find that terracotta is a suitable material choice, as it can help eliminate excess moisture. Make sure this pot has a drainage hole to remove excess water.
  • You can leave your rubber tree plant in its original pot when you bring it home unless you notice its roots are beginning to crowd. Eventually, it may prefer a larger terracotta or clay pot.

Best Soil Types

Rubber Tree Soil
A chunky, well-draining soil mix works great for rubber plants

In my experience, the best soil for your rubber tree will be a well-draining potting mix, as the plant does not enjoy sitting in moist soil. A soil with peat, sand, or perlite will allow the excess water to drain properly and keep your plant growing happily.

Growth Expectations

Rubber tree plants vary significantly in size. There are dwarf varieties, around eight inches tall, and can reach over 100 feet high in their natural habitats.

The average indoor rubber tree plant can grow over six feet tall, though you can keep it smaller by restricting its pot size.

Light Preferences

My rubber tree plant grows best in bright, indirect sunlight. It can tolerate direct sun and medium light as well, but it thrives best with high quantities of indirect lighting. I recommend avoiding low-light areas, such as rooms with north-facing windows.

Watering

Rubber tree plant on a wooden table next to a watering can
I use a double pot system with my rubber plant. To water, I simply remove the plant in the grow pot.

You’ll know your rubber tree plant needs watering when its top layer of soil is dry. For me this usually works out to watering my plant every 7 to 10 days in spring and summer and every 10 to 17 days in winter.

When I do water, I simply remove the nursery pot from the decorative planter, place in the sink, and water enough for the water to come out of the drainage hole.

In terms of water types, I use either filtered water or distilled water from the tap that’s been left to stand out over night for fluoride to settle.

Fertilizing

I find that rubber tree plants aren’t particularly heavy feeders. I fertilize my plant monthly with a standard, water-soluble plant feed, diluted to half-strength, during the spring and months only. This will provide the plant with all the nutrients it needs for healthy growth.

Pruning

In my experience, you will only need to prune your rubber tree plant if you notice dead or wilting leaves. You can shape the plant if you like, but avoid trimming leaves from the top of the tree. Pruning during the growing season is best, but you can prune at any time of year if needed.

Repotting

I’ve only needed to repot my rubber tree plant on a couple of occasions so far (it’s around 6 years old). Typically they’ll want to upsize to a new container with fresh soil every 2 to 3 years. Here are a few signs I look out for:

  • Consider repotting your rubber tree plant if its roots start to poke through its drainage hole.
  • If you notice its roots creeping out in winter, wait until spring to repot the plant.
  • Repot your Ficus elastica in a pot about one or two inches larger than the previous one.
  • Your plant needs repotting in order to grow. With that said, if you prefer a smaller tree, you can restrict its size by leaving it in its smaller pot.

Pest and Disease Considerations

There are a few pest and disease considerations to consider when caring for your rubber tree plant. Knowing the most common issues will help you ensure your plant stays healthy and thriving.

  • Spider mites: A spiderweb-like material is a sign of spider mites. Remove this plant from other houseplants and eliminate the infestation with insecticide.
  • Aphids: This bug is attracted to a rubber tree’s sap. I treat with a spray mixture of water and dish soap to remove the plant.
  • Scale: These insects also enjoy a rubber plant’s sap. I simply remove them by hand or use a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol.
  • Leaf spots: This may be a sign of southern blight or another fungal issue. Treat soil with a fungicide to try to eliminate this issue.

Common Problems and How to Treat Them

Rubber tree plant next to a brick wall indoors
The large glossy leaves can be a magnet for dust. I wipe mine down every few weeks with a damp cloth.

There are a few other factors you’ll want to know to maintain optimal rubber tree plant care. With a few simple steps, your rubber tree plant will be a gorgeous focal point in any room.

  • Dust: As with any indoor plant, your rubber tree will collect dust over time. To remove the dust, gently wipe its leaves with a damp cloth. This keeps the leaves glossy and vibrant and ensures the plant can access more light.
  • Root rot: This common problem is a symptom of overwatering. To avoid rot, only water your plant when the soil is dry. If you notice root rot, gently remove the affected area and adjust your watering schedule.

Rubber Tree Plants Toxicity

Unfortunately, the rubber tree plant is mildly toxic to pets and humans. The plant has a milky sap in all its parts, and consuming it can lead to gastrointestinal issues.

Additionally, if this sap is left on the skin, it can cause irritation. To avoid this, you can use gloves when handling your plant.

Essential tools

Throughout this guide, we’ve mentioned several tools and materials you’ll want to have when growing and caring for a rubber tree plant. Here is a summary of the items we’ve covered:

  • Terracotta pot and saucer
  • Houseplant fertilizer
  • Well-draining soil
  • Cloth for removing dust from its leaves
  • Shears for pruning and propagating
  • Gloves for handling the plant

Final Thoughts

The rubber tree plant is an excellent choice for anyone searching for a tropical indoor tree. Its beautiful and robust varieties add color to your home without adding too much maintenance to your routine. Choose this as your next plant for a big and bold addition to your indoor foliage.

Further reading: Discover the best types of ficus trees to grow at home.

Editorial Director | andrew@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

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.

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