Caring for rubber trees — everything you need to know about the classic

Ficus elastica, better known as the rubber tree, are popular and robust green plants that quickly convey an exotic flair. With each new leaf you can experience a fascinating spectacle. Before the new leaf develops, it is protected by a red stipule that encloses it like a bag. In the tropics and subtropics, the wood is often found as a meter-high tree with a smooth trunk, countless aerial roots and a lush canopy. Indoors, the ficus grows up to 2 meters high and has shiny dark green or white-green variegated leaves, depending on the species. Ficus elastica belongs to the mulberry family and is only suitable for us as a houseplant. Here, however, the classics grow without a green thumb and, like most ficus, are easy to care for.

Worth knowing Location Care Watering Fertilizing Repotting Pruning Species Pests & Diseases FAQ

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Interesting facts about the rubber tree

Botanical name: Ficus elastica
Other names: rubber tree, Indian rubber tree
Use: indoor plant, indoor greening, room climate plant, winter garden, office plant
Origin: East India, Indonesia
Leaves: glossy, large, green or two-tone yellowish-green, evergreen, large leaves
Special features: since the 19th Known as a houseplant for centuries. Particularly attractive due to the natural shine of the dark green leaves. Can be easily propagated by cuttings. Contains a latex-containing secretion which can cause skin irritation.

In which location does the rubber tree feel most comfortable?

The genus Ficus belongs to the mulberry family and prefers bright sunlight. Direct sunlight should be avoided, partial shade is possible. The potted plant can also do well in locations with less light, but needs a little less water here. A warm place in the house all year round, without drafts and in direct proximity to the heating, is ideal. From May to August, the Ficus elastica can be in a sheltered spot in the garden. Here, too, a bright location without direct sunlight is ideal.

Gardener knowledge: The houseplant should not be exposed to the blazing sun, as direct sunlight can quickly burn the leaves. Make sure that the temperatures are never below 18 degrees Celsius, as the tropical plant feels most comfortable in a warm location.

How do I properly care for my Ficus elastica?

Ficus elastica plants are extremely easy to care for, robust and durable. In a bright location, young plants quickly grow into stately specimens. As with other indoor plants, it is important that sufficient moisture and nutrients are available. In addition to need-based watering and regular fertilizing, there is hardly any work involved in caring for the rubber tree. Small plants can be sprayed with lukewarm water once or twice a year in the shower or outdoors. If the plants are too large and unwieldy for this, wiping the leaves with a damp cloth will help. This removes the dust and supports a good development of the plant. Maintain your Ficus elastica rubber tree regularly and let it appear in new splendor. Every 2 to 3 years we recommend repotting in a larger container and fresh soil. Spring is the right time for this. Make sure that the new pot is first provided with a drainage layer at the bottom. Use high-quality green plant soil or a peat-sand mixture for repotting.

How do I water my rubber tree correctly?

It is important for the rubber tree that you only water it moderately. Too much moisture can lead to leaf drop. Therefore, waterlogging should be avoided. It is best to only water when the soil surface has dried slightly. Check with the so-called finger test and feel whether watering is necessary. Especially new plants with few leaves only need water once a week. How often you have to water depends mainly on the room temperature, the soil and the size of the plant. You can also dive small specimens weekly. Here you place the houseplant in a bucket filled with water and immerse the plant until no more air bubbles rise. The advantage of this method is that the root ball is completely soaked. Remove excess water from the coaster or planter. Water larger plants weekly, checking after 15 minutes and discarding excess water.

How do I fertilize my Ficus elastica correctly?

As with other green plants, regular fertilizer applications are necessary for good development and growth. A special green plant fertilizer that contains important growth and vital substances is best suited. Dose the liquid special fertilizer according to the instructions on the package and pour in fertilizer-enriched water every two weeks from March to October. In autumn and winter you can stop fertilizing or fertilize at intervals of 6 to 8 weeks.

Our care tip: fertilizer sticks for green plants and palm trees are easy to use. As a convenient solution, they provide continuous nutrition for 3 months. Make sure that the soil never dries out completely.

How do I repot my rubber tree properly?

With a young rubber tree, transplanting is only necessary after 2 to 3 years. With Ficus elastica, it is said that it develops better when its roots are available in a rather confined space. However, if the plant has a completely rooted ball and hardly any soil left, care becomes more complex and moisture is less available. Repotting in spring is recommended. Before transplanting, place the houseplant in a container filled with water for a short time. In this way, the root ball becomes saturated and the old pot can be removed more easily. It is important that there is a hole in the new container, never plant in pots without a drainage hole. Put a drainage layer in the bottom of the pot and use good quality green plant and palm soil with a neutral pH for repotting.

How do I prune my Ficus elastica?

The classic tolerates pruning well and sprouts well from the old wood. The cut is necessary when the ceiling is reached or the growth is no longer harmonious. Shorten the main shoot at the desired height or side shoots that are too long with sharp scissors or a sharp knife. When pruning, make sure you cut just above a dormant eye to ensure the formation of new shoots. The cut off parts of the plant are ideal as cuttings. New plants can be cultivated from the cuttings without much effort. In addition to the cut, the method of ‘mossing off’ has also proven its worth. To do this, slightly cut the shoot close to the trunk from below. This gap is kept moist with the help of moss.

Tip: Gloves should always be worn when cutting. The white milky sap contained in all parts of the plant is sticky and contains chlorogenic acid which can lead to skin irritation. Also make sure that the floor is covered, as the dripping milky juice can leave unsightly marks. Also, you should wear older clothes when trimming back branches.

Which rubber tree varieties are there apart from the well-known variety ‘Robusta’?

In addition to the classic species with green leaves, there are a number of interesting varieties that impress with their different colors. The ‘Tineke’ variety deserves special mention.

This special variety fascinates with large, round to oval variegated leaves. With red leaf veins and different shades of green, the foliage shows fine marbling. The growth is slightly weaker than the green variants and the demand for light is higher.

Tip: Specimens with green leaves tolerate darker locations better than multicolored rubber trees.

Which pests and diseases can the rubber tree get?

Ficus elastica is a robust green plant that is rarely attacked by diseases and pests when cared for properly and in the optimal location. The notorious leaf fall is usually a result of waterlogging. The following problems can also occur:

spider mites

Especially when the air is dry in winter, infestation by spider mites can occur. The affected leaves have silvery dots on the upper side and webs are visible on the underside of the leaves. It is usually sufficient to spray the plants with water and treat them with plant strengtheners. These bio-active agents contain natural plant extracts that contribute to the vitalization of the plant. As a preventative, spray regularly with lime-free water or place an air humidifier nearby.

scale insects

There are brown, slightly curved knobs, especially in the leaf axils. The scale insects are safely hidden under these protective shields and are therefore difficult to combat. As soon as you discover the infestation, you should wipe off the scale insects or cut back the plant. The pests can be controlled biologically with oil-based agents. It is important that the application is carried out several times.


FAQ – Frequently asked questions about the rubber tree

How can Ficus elastica be propagated?

The easiest method of propagation is to obtain cuttings. The top cuttings can be obtained directly when pruning large plants. Let the juice from the cuttings dry a little and put the plant tips in a growing medium. New roots form within a few weeks in a nursery tray with a cover. The substrate should be kept evenly moist and the temperature constantly above 20 degrees Celsius. Especially the young plants do not tolerate cold. Mossing is also a common way to propagate the popular houseplant.

Can the rubber tree Ficus elastica flower?

As with most Ficus species, flowers are rather inconspicuous and rare. The approx. 1 cm large inflorescence contains male and female flowers. Pollination takes place exclusively through the fig wasp. The resulting fruits are inedible.

Can Ficus elastica be grown hydroponically?

Like birch figs, the classic can be kept as a hydro plant. It is important that the water level indicator is always at the minimum. Too much water damages the plant.

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