Care of rubber plant

How to Care for a Rubber Tree

Use these instructions to care for a Rubber Tree plant. This guide will tell you how to water your Rubber Tree; its light, temperature, and humidity preferences; and any additional care your plant might need to help it grow.

LIGHT REQUIREMENTS

Your Burgundy Rubber Tree will grow best with consistent, bright, filtered light—which produces the dark, burgundy color of the leaves. Many people put their rubber trees near a window where the light is filtered through a pair of sheer curtains. This plant tolerates low light, but the leaves will fade to a light green color. However, if the plant gets less light while growing, the leaves will actually become larger!

WATER REQUIREMENTS

Water when the top inch of the soil becomes dry, then thoroughly drench until the water drains into the saucer. Empty the saucer if the water level is high so not to drown the roots. Do not splash water on the leaves, this can cause stains. The worst thing you can do to your Rubber Tree is to over water it.

HUMIDITY PREFERENCE

As a native to the tropics, your Rubber Tree will appreciate you misting its leaves to increase humidity—especially when it gets very warm in the summer. Misting regularly also helps to keep the mites (damaging insects) from making themselves at home on the leaves.

OPTIMUM TEMPERATURE

The Burgundy Rubber Tree enjoys average room temperatures of 65-78 degrees. Avoid temperatures below 55 degrees, sudden temperature drops, or cold drafts.

PLANT FOOD

For best results, feed your plant every month during the spring and summer with a diluted liquid fertilizer. No fertilizer is necessary during the winter when plant growth naturally slows.

ADDITIONAL CARE

Once your Rubber Tree has grown to the height you want it at, you can cut the top off. You may also want to prune or trim back any unwanted branches to give the plant a fuller shape. It’s best to trim your Rubber Tree in the spring and summer. Gently clean the leaves with a very soft cloth or sponge and warm water to keep them glossy. If leaves are stained, use a tiny amount of liquid hand soap to gently remove the stains.

TOXICITY

Rubber Tree leaves are mildly toxic to humans and pets. Typically, ingestion will cause mouth and stomach irritation and possible vomiting.

How to Care For and Grow Your Rubber Tree

Take care of your Rubber Tree and it will take care of you! Below are simple tips to continue caring for your Rubber Tree over time.

  • Pruning – Remove dry or dead leaves all year round, but save any major pruning for the spring and summer months. When pruning your rubber tree, wear gloves and protect your floor with newspaper — the sap that leaks out can be sticky and damage floors. Use sharp, clean shears and cut just above the node at a 90 degree angle.

  • Cleaning – Take each leaf between two soft tissue cloths and wipe off the top to reveal a healthy shine (also helps the plant soak in more light!).

  • Repotting – Houseplants grow much slower than they would in the wild. Depending on the size of your plant and the density of the roots, this is nice to do every 2-3 years to provide fresh nutrients and encourage new growth.

    • When to repot – if the roots start to become visible outside the soil, it is time to consider repotting your rubber tree

    • Pot sizing – if you want your plant to grow taller, find a nursery pot that’s 2” in diameter larger than the current pot. If you want your plant to stay the same height, you can reuse the same pot and simply change the soil.

    • Get your hands dirty – spread out newspaper on the floor, remove the plant from the pot and shake off as much of the old soil as possible so that you have clean roots. Place the plant in the center of the pot, add new soil and pat down firmly. Water the soil thoroughly and place the plant in an area with bright indirect light. Your plant will take 2-4 weeks to settle from the shock and adjust to its new home.

Ficus elastica – the rubber plant, a member of genus ficus, under family Moraceae. Care for this rugged plant with shiny leaves is easy to learn.

Many rubber tree varieties have been grown indoors as a houseplant for decades. Ficus elastica has been a plant which has helped many a homeowner begin their journey of growing plants indoors.

The rubber trees popularity was probably at its highest from the song by Frank Sinatra “High Hopes”.

Rubber plant ficus elastica and its many varieties handle neglect much better than the rubber plants cousin – Ficus benjamina.

Native to India and eastern Asia, the plant can become massive reaching a height of 100 feet. When grown as a houseplant, it will need pruning to maintain its shape.

Sturdy plant stems hold shiny, usually dark green leaves, 12 inches long, 6 inches wide and oval.

How To Care For A Rubber Plant

When given proper care – a well-drained soil, good light and water – ficus elastica plants can quickly become impressive specimens.

Temperatures between 70-78 degrees will produce an excellent rubber plant. During the winter keep temperatures above 55 degrees.

The quantity of leaves of the rubber tree may not be as numerous as Ficus benjamina, but their size means they hold lots of water.

When watering, water thoroughly, completely saturating and soaking the soil media. Frequency, will depend on lighting, temperatures and plant size.

During the active growing months of spring and summer, fertilize with a liquid plant food once per month.

When repotting the ficus tree, use a commercial houseplant soil, adding a little extra peat moss would not hurt. Plants can grow quickly and require repotting every couple years.

To encourage branching, remove the top growing tip and new shoots will begin to form and branch out of the rubber plant.

The Many Rubber Plant Varieties

There are many varieties of Ficus elastica or types of rubber plant cultivars. The more popular ficus species include:

  • Robusta
  • Decora
  • Ficus Burgundy Rubber Plant
  • Abidjan
  • Ficus microcarpa
  • Ficus carica
  • Ficus benghalensis
  • Benjamina ficus (fig tree)

… and assorted variegated types (Doescheri, Asahi) as well as dwarf varieties.

The true Indian rubber plant – Ficus elastica – has been replaced with other more durable varieties for use indoors.

The variety known as “Robusta” – Ficus elastica robusta or ficus robusta, probably comes closest to the original.

Another variety “Decora” is slightly different than “Robusta” with larger and broader leaves, a center vein which is red underneath. and ‘whitish’ on top.

The sheaths that protect new emerging leaves are red as well.

A dark variety known as Burgundy or ‘Abidjan’ has beautiful dark leaves appearing almost dark reddish-purple.

If exposed to cooler temperatures – burgundy – has a tendency to drop leaves.

There is even a “creeping ficus” – Ficus pumila!

Variegated Elastica Varieties

There are several varieties of Ficus elastica which are variegated with shades of green and white or creamy yellow.

To show off the contrast of the variegation, plants need to be in plenty of light. Without bright lighting, the leaves can be all green and a rather dull in color.

Rubber Plant Propagation

New plants can be easily started from tip cuttings.

Take a tip cutting of 3 -5 leaves. It helps to dip the bottom in a rooting hormone for faster rooting.

Place the tip or cutting in a moist soil with lots of peat moss. Keep the humidity around the cutting high and keep the soil moist.

Tips cuttings could also be started in a plastic bag or a soda bottle to maintain high humidity.

Roots should begin to appear in about 3-5 weeks.

Once roots appear, grow as normal – good lighting and thorough watering.

Potted Ficus burgundy

Problems and Pest

Droopy leaves – usually a sign of a plant in need of water. Place plant in a bucket or saucer of water and allow the soil to become thoroughly saturated. Drain off excess water.

Brown Spots and Leaf Drop – These symptoms show up when the plant gets too cold.

Dropping leaves and yellow leaves – This can happen during winter months when the plant needs more light and being over watered. Move plant to a brighter location and reduce watering.

  • Wooly, white spots on underside of leaves – Check for mealybugs.
  • Small yellow spots and webs on leaves – check for active spider mites.

On the other hand, fig wasps are often seen as pollinators. However, some species (non-pollinators) simply feed off the plant and could cause danger in numbers.

Buying Tips

Look for healthy plants which are compact, holding glossy leaves.

As long as the plant gets good lighting and water, caring for them is easy and a Ficus rubber tree can live indoors for many years.

The burgundy rubber plant is a selected cultivar of Ficus elastica , and a Ficus species from the fig genus, a part of the Moraceae family, Ficeae tribe, and Urostigma subgenus.

More on other Types of Rubber Plants

This particular plant is quite popular among gardeners interested in using it as a houseplant.

The plant is known for its prolific fleshy burgundy leaves.

Elastic is native to many parts of eastern South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Over the years, it has been naturalized in the West Indies and Sri Lanka along with Florida in the United States of America.

The elastica or decora plant has earned quite a lot of common names including:

  • Rubber fig
  • Rubber plant
  • Rubber tree
  • Rubber bush
  • Indian rubber tree
  • Indian rubber bush
  • Burgundy rubber tree

Burgundy Rubber Plant Care

Size & Growth

This cultivar of the Ficus elastica plant is definitely a looker when it comes to rubber trees.

The burgundy-colored leaves are large, about 8” – 12” inches long and around 4” inches wide.

In temperate and tropical climates, the tree can reach up to 40’ feet in height when planted in the ground.

This is proof of a fast growth rate. Indoor plants usually top at 4’ – 6’ feet and pruned to keep them short.

Flowering and Fragrance

The plant is not known for its flowers.

However, like other fig species such as the fiddle leaf fig, the plant needs fig wasps for pollination.

To attract them, they produce insignificant, small ovoid-shape inflorescences called sycones.

These sycones are not very fragrant and have a greenish-yellow hue. They appear in pairs in axils of mature trees’ leaves.

Light & Temperature

Burgundy features rich, deep red foliage, and under lower light levels turns almost purple. The Indian rubber tree plants are hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 through 11.

This means the ideal temperature for burgundy rubber trees is 65° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C) in the nighttime an around 80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C) or more during the day.

In cooler temperatures, the plant is best grown indoors.

As for light requirements, this indoor plant thrives in full direct sunlight.

Low light or indirect light in indoor plants is tolerated but it leads to lighter colored foliage.

On very hot days, bright indirect light is more suitable when the sun is the brightest.

Watering and Feeding

This plant is very sensitive to moisture. It should be watered only when the soil is somewhat dry.

Slowly pour water around the plant and let it run through to the bottom.

Avoid splashing the leaves as it may stain them. Cut back the watering in winter.

Water-soluble and well-balanced plant food specially formulated for houseplants is nutritious for rubber trees.

Do this every couple of months for optimal results. If your plants are in medium light, fertilizing is crucial.

Soil & Transplanting

The plants do their best when planted in well-draining soil with excellent aeration.

This is important for rubber tree plants as poor drainage can lead to various leaf problems.

The optimal mix for a burgundy rubber ficus consists of one part pine bark and one part coarse sand or perlite.

Rubber plants grow at a relatively fast rate.

Every few years, in the early to late summer, repotting is beneficial for the plants.

Use a pot with a drainage hole, a size bigger than the previous one, and add rocks at the bottom.

Mix two parts peat moss and one part potting soil mix with one part sand.

Place the dug up plant gently, spreading the roots and filling the hole.

Water the plant and place direct sunlight with steady room temperatures.

Grooming and Maintenance

Rubber plant care is not exactly very demanding.

You need to prune the tops of the plant every couple of months to remove leggy growth or if it’s too tall for an indoor tree.

Make sure it has bright light or high light.

Another part of caring for a rubber tree involved dusting. The leaves of the tree have a texture which collects dust easily.

Just wipe them off with a moist cloth and it’ll be good as new. Use leaf shining products to maintain a natural shine on the leaves.

More on –> How To Clean Plant Leaves

How to Propagate Ficus Burgundy

Burgundy rubber plants are difficult to propagate but not impossible.

The best way to go about propagating a rubber plant is by stem cuttings.

Take a few stem cuttings, only a few inches long, and place in an area where the sap can dry.

After an hour or so, use a rooting hormone in the potting mix and provide warmth to the bottom of the pot.

Then plant the cuttings in individual pots and let new growth show up.

The ideal temperature for the new plants to grow healthy is between 70° – 75° degrees Fahrenheit (21° – 24° C).

Ficus Elastica Pest or Diseases

The most common problem in rubber trees is the loss of leaves due to overwatering. Excessive water around the roots can cause rot.

Overwatering will lead to yellow leaves with brown spots and wilting.

Some bottom leaves can turn yellow and drop naturally but it’s better to check the soil conditions.

The plant may also be vulnerable to common pests such as mealybugs, scales, and spider mites.

Consult your local garden center or nursery for advice and a non-toxic or DIY solution to rid your Ficus elastica burgundy of these pests.

Toxicity For Pets

The white latex sap in the rubber tree is an irritant for pets’ skin and innards.

If you have cats or dogs in your home, keep the plant away from their reach to avoid and foreseeable problems.

Suggested Burgundy Rubber Plant Uses

The burgundy rubber tree plant is an ornamental plant, used both indoors and outdoors to showcase its unique foliage.

It’s a very popular houseplant, potted in large containers and placed around homes, hotels, and other buildings.

Ornamental hybrids such as Robusta and others with variegated large leaves are favored.

Besides being grown as indoor plants, the rubber tree is also produced by vegetative propagation.

The plant contains a milky white sap called latex. This is extracted and used for manufacturing rubber.

And lastly, the plant is used in India to form living bridges.

In some parts, the roots of the plant are guided over chasms so they interlock and create a bridge.

How To Care For A Rubber Tree Plant

A rubber tree plant is also known as a Ficus elastica. These large trees can grow up to 50 feet tall. When learning how to care for a rubber tree plant, there are a few key things to remember, but rubber plant care isn’t as difficult as one might think.

Starting with a young rubber tree houseplant will allow it to adapt to being an indoor plant better than starting with a more mature plant.

Proper Light and Water for a Rubber Tree Plant

When it comes to rubber plant care, the correct balance of water and light is crucial, as with any plant. You can control the amount of light and water it gets, which is important because they shouldn’t have too much of either.

When you have a rubber tree houseplant, it needs bright light but prefers indirect light that isn’t too hot. Some people recommend putting it near a window that has sheer curtains. This allows plenty of light, but not too much.

The rubber tree plant also needs the right balance of water. During the growing season, it needs to be kept moist. It is also a good idea to wipe off the leaves of your rubber tree houseplant with a damp cloth or spritz it with water. If you water the rubber tree plant too much, the leaves will turn yellow and brown and fall off.

During the dormant season, it may only need watered once or twice a month. If the leaves begin to droop, but not fall off, increase the water you give the rubber tree houseplant gradually until the leaves perk back up again.

Propagation of a Rubber Tree Plant

Once you know how to care for a rubber tree plant and it is growing well, you can begin the propagation of indoor rubber tree plants.

In order to promote new leaves on a current rubber tree houseplant, cut a slit in the node where a leaf fell off. This will allow a new leaf to grow quicker.

There are a couple different methods for creating new rubber tree plant cuttings. The simplest is to take a small branch from a healthy tree and put it in good potting soil or water and let it root.

Another method, called air layering, is where you make a cut in a healthy rubber tree houseplant, put a toothpick in the hole, then pack damp moss around the cut. After that, you wrap it with plastic wrap to keep the moisture level higher. Once roots begin to appear, cut the branch off and plant.

All these things will lead to successful rubber plant care.

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