How to Water Rubber Tree Plants for Optimal Health

Rubber tree plants (Ficus elastica) are reasonably easy-to-grow at home, but getting their watering schedules right is vital to ensure they thrive. In my experience, nothing kills a rubber tree plant faster than over or underwatering the plant, but with a few well-followed guidelines, yours will do just fine.

When and How to Water Rubber Tree Plants

Watering Rubber Tree Plants – 5 Essential Tips to Follow:

  1. Check the Soil Before Watering – Before I water a rubber tree plant, I always check the soil’s moisture level. Stick your finger about two or three inches into the soil. If this top layer feels dry, it’s time to water. If it still feels moist, wait a day or two before checking again.
  2. Water Deeply but Infrequently – Rubber trees prefer to be watered thoroughly, allowing the water to reach the deeper roots before drying slightly in between waterings. This means you shouldn’t be watering them on a strict schedule but rather based on the soil’s moisture content. In my experience, rubber tree plants typically need to be watered every 7 to 10 days in spring and summer and every 14 to 21 days in fall and winter.
  3. Ensure Proper Drainage – Good drainage is crucial. Always make sure your pot has drainage holes. When you water, ensure the excess can escape and the roots aren’t sitting in stagnant water. This can lead to root rot, leading to all sorts of issues. After watering, empty the saucer underneath the pot if any water collects.
  4. Be Mindful of Seasonal Adjustments – The rubber tree’s watering needs will change depending on the season. It will require more frequent watering during its growing season (spring and summer) than the dormant seasons (fall and winter).
  5. Environment Considerations Play a Key Role – Humidity, light, and temperature can influence how frequently your rubber tree needs water. For instance, if it’s placed in a brighter, warmer spot, it might require more frequent watering compared to a cooler, shaded location. Also, remember that rubber trees love humidity.

When to Water Rubber Tree Plants

A person pouring water from a white jug into a potted rubber tree plant pot indoors

In the rubber tree plant’s native environment, the roots are generally kept consistently moist. Like other tropical plants, rubber trees don’t want their soil to dry out completely. However, giving a rubber tree plant too much water is one of the worst things you can do.

A good rule is only to water a rubber tree plant when the top few inches of its potting soil feel primarily dry to the touch. You can determine when your rubber tree plant needs to be watered by using a moisture probe or your fingers to detect when the top few inches of soil are dry.

How Often Should I Water?

Compared to other houseplants, rubber tree plants have moderate water needs. During the growing season in spring and summer, rubber tree plants need to be watered about once a week on average. During the dormant season from late fall through winter, reduce the frequency of watering to only once every two to four weeks.

A rubber tree plant’s exact watering schedule depends on the climate, the amount of light the plant receives, and the home’s temperature and humidity.

What Type of Water Is Best?

Watering a rubber tree plant with filtered water or collected rainwater is best. While tap water can be used in a pinch, it’s not ideal because of the chemicals, like chlorine and fluoride, that are present in city water systems. These chemicals can irritate and burn your plant’s roots.

In addition to using the correct type of water, ensure it’s at room temperature to avoid shocking the plant with ice-cold water or burning the roots if the water’s too hot.

How to Water Rubber Tree Plants

Use a watering can to water a rubber tree plant. Pour water directly on the soil, being careful not to splash the plant’s leaves. Although their leaves like an occasional misting, splashing them with water can stain the leaves.

Soak the plant’s soil thoroughly and allow all excess water to run through and drain thoroughly. After it’s fully dispersed, you can eliminate the excess collected in the saucer to avoid the plant standing in stagnant water. If necessary (and you have the inclination), you can move your plant into a sink or bathtub for this process.

Things to Consider When Watering

While there are guidelines for watering rubber tree plants, there are no hard and fast rules. Several factors affect how frequently and how much each plant should be watered.

Temperature and Humidity

In cooler or damper weather, the soil will hold moisture longer. In hotter, more arid conditions, moisture will evaporate more quickly, drying out your plant more quickly. Watering schedules will change depending on your climate and the weather.

Light Conditions

Light conditions also affect a rubber tree plant’s moisture needs. Generally, rubber tree plants prefer bright, indirect sunlight. Depending on the season, the actual amount of light your plant receives will change. Less light means reduced water intake, and more light results in increased water intake. For more, see our in-depth guide to the best locations for rubber tree plants in the home.

The Season

With the seasons, light conditions, temperatures, and humidity shift naturally throughout the year. During the winter and fall, rubber tree plants enter a dormant phase during which they grow very little, require few nutrients, and don’t take up as much water.

During the spring and summer, rubber tree plants enter their growing season. At this time, the plant’s water needs will increase, and you can also fertilize your rubber tree plant to encourage healthy growth.

Soil Mix

Rubber tree plants do best in a well-draining potting mix comprising about 1/3 peat, 1/3 sand or perlite, and 1/3 bark. Your plant’s watering needs will vary based on the type of potting mix your plant is in and how much moisture it holds.

See our essential guide to the best soil for rubber tree plants here. 

Potting Container

A potting container with ample drainage holes is preferable. If your pot has no drain holes, your plant will need less frequent watering.

Additionally, consider your plant’s size compared to its container. A smaller plant in a larger container will require less watering. However, a large plant with less room to grow will likely need more frequent watering.

Do Rubber Tree Plants’ Leaves Need to Be Misted?

A person spraying the leaves of a rubber tree plant with water indoors

The rubber tree plant’s native environment has high humidity. You don’t need to keep your home at 90% humidity, but you can make your plant more comfortable by misting its leaves with filtered water when it feels particularly dry.

Like watering, requirements for misting vary by season. Both heating units and air conditioners affect the relative humidity in the air surrounding the plant. 

If you don’t have a gentle misting bottle, you can wipe your plant’s leaves with a damp cloth instead. As a bonus, this will clear dust from your rubber tree plant’s leaves, helping it breathe and keeping the leaves nice and glossy.

What to Do In Between Watering Cycles

Between watering cycles, a rubber tree plant’s soil should remain moist and not be allowed to dry out completely. Keep track of how quickly your plant’s soil dries and how this schedule changes seasonally.

Watch for new growth and shiny, green foliage that indicate a healthy rubber tree plant.

How to Water Propagated Rubber Tree Plants

If propagating from cuttings, keep the plant’s soil wetter than normal until new roots develop. If propagating using the air layering method, continue watering as usual.

Watering After Repotting

After repotting a rubber tree plant, thoroughly wet the soil for its first watering. Allow the soil to settle and the water to drain completely. Top off the container with more potting mix, if needed. Then continue watering as usual.

Overwatering and Underwatering

A yellow and wilting leaf on a rubber tree plant potentially indicating underwatering

When watering plants, you could encounter two possible problems: overwatering and underwatering.

Overwatering

Signs of overwatering include leaves that turn yellow and/or brown and eventually fall off. If your plant is overwatered, reduce your watering frequency and purchase a moisture meter to help you determine when your plant needs to be watered.

If you suspect that root rot might be present, you’ll need to remove your plant from its soil, trim the rotted/slimy portions of its root system, and then repot the plant in a fresh potting mix.

Underwatering

Signs of underwatering include leaves that turn crisp, droop or curl inward. If your plant is underwatered, increase your watering frequency and purchase a moisture meter so that you’ll know exactly when your plant needs more water.

If signs of dryness prevail, your plant’s potting mix might be depleted. You can either repot your rubber tree plant or scrape away the top several inches of substrate and replace it with fresh potting mix.

Watering Rubber Tree Plants FAQs:

How do I know if my Rubber Tree Plant needs water?

Leaves that start to curl, droop, or crisp up at the edges are common signs that your Rubber Tree Plant needs watering.

How much water should I give my Rubber Tree Plant?

Water liberally until you start to see water running through into the saucer underneath the pot. The exact volume will be dependent on the size of the plant and the potting container.

Can Yellow Rubber Tree Plant leaves turn green again?

Depending on the severity of color loss, most rubber tree plants won’t regain their full vivid green color after suffering from over or under-watering issues. If the leaf is in particularly bad condition, look to cut back as close (and neatly) to the stem as possible to allow for new growth to come through.

How do I know if my Rubber Tree Plant is healthy?

As with all house plants, the key is to find the right balance of light, water, feed, and temperature. Every home or office presents unique circumstances, so you’ll need to monitor and adjust to ensure your rubber tree plant thrives. A happy, healthy rubber tree plant will showcase vibrant, glossy, burgundy to dark green leaves and display steady growth.

Can plants recover from overwatering?

Plants can recover from overwatering if you’ve mitigated early and adjusted the watering cycles. Monitor closely over two weeks and observe for general signs of improvement in the plant’s overall health.

Handle Your Rubber Tree Plant with Care

Like most ficuses, rubber tree plants contain toxic white sap. This sap is dangerous for humans and pets to ingest. Plus, it can irritate the skin. To protect your skin, use a watering can, moisture meter, and wear rubber gardening gloves when handling your rubber tree plant.

For more, see our in-depth guide to rubber tree plant care at home and the amazing uses and benefits of rubber plants.

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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