Pruning a rubber plant

How to Grow and Care for Rubber Tree Plants

Rubber Trees really appreciate having their leaves sponged off with a damp cloth.
Rubber Plants have a tendency to lose their lower leaves, usually from environmental reasons.
If this happens very often, new shoots will emerge from the old leaf node.
A very light nick, with a sharp,clean knife, right above the old node will often speed the new growth process from that point,
but be sure to not to cut to deeply.

Pruning an Overgrown Rubber Plant

“My husband has an out of control rubber plant that he is very attached to. He’s let it grow unchecked, and since we live in a small house, it really is cramping our (ok, mine more than his) style. I wouldn’t mind it so much if it didn’t take up 1/4 of our living room!
The shoots extend about 4-5 feet in every direction and it seems to be growing (very robustly) horizontally instead of vertically (the plant is about 4 feet high).
Is there a way to safely prune this plant without damaging it? If so, how do I go about encouraging a tighter, more vertical structure to the plant? I’d appreciate any advice or helpful links, as I don’t have much of a green thumb!”

The branches of your husbands Rubber Tree can be cut back to an appropriate length, using a sharp clean knife, or very sharp pair of pruning clippers.
Rubber Trees have a tendency to bleed a lot of sap when they are cut, so I would recommend that you have some Roottone® or Hormonex® handy to cover the fresh wounds. (these products will aid in the callousing process).
When you cut the stems of the plant be aware that it will more than likely branch out from that point into two or more new stems, making a bushier but larger plant.
The horizontal growth more than likely indicates that the plant is getting insufficient light. If it isn’t feasible to move the Rubber Tree plant to a brighter area, I would suggest that you use an overhead fluorescent or flood type Grow Light which will encourage vertical growth.

Gradually you can train the existing stems into a vertical position using stakes as temporary supports, but don’t try to force the branches to quickly because they may be damaged.

Problems with Growing a Yucca Plant

As far as Harrison’s Yucca Plant, I can only speculate…
It sounds like there has been some sort of trauma to the plant, probably at the root level. Is it possible that it has become overwatered, causing the roots to rot.
Yucca is also susceptible to root mealy bugs.
I had a yucca once that seemed to die overnight. I gave up on it, cut it down, and forgot all about it. The next spring I had about a dozen new Yucca plants coming from the abandoned root stock that was left in the ground. Its very normal for the lower leaves of Yuccas to die off, but for your plant to lose that much at once, there is definitely something wrong.
I wish I could be more help, but this is one of those times I would really need to examine the plant in person.

Rubber Tree Plant
Ficus elastica

Q: I have a great big, old rubber plant in my living room that has gotten so tall its top is growing horizontally along the ceiling. It has no leaves or branches along the stem and it looks pretty ridiculous. Someone told me it would sprout if I cut it off near the bottom. Will it?

A: The rubber plant, Ficus elastica, is actually a tree, which in frost-free climates grows very large, 60 or more feet high. Because it is genetically programmed to grow with one stem. Like most tree species, and because indoor light levels normally are not high enough, rubber trees become very lanky and tall. Before any rubber tree ever gets so tall, it might be worthwhile to pinch out the growing tip of a newly acquired single-stem plant to try to induce it to branch. This may provide for a more busy plant especially if the tips are pinched consistently as the tree grows.

Any rubber tree or other tall, old woody houseplant can be cut off six or so inches above the soil line. After a bit the stump should sprout, and, if you’re lucky, you may get more than one new shoot.

However, before cutting the thing off why not try air layering the leafy top to make a new plant out of it. Get up near the ceiling and cut about half-way through the stem. Force a bit of root-promoting hormone into the cut, and a toothpick or wooden match too, in order to prevent the stem from grafting back together. Place a large handful of moist, squeezed out sphagnum moss around the cut stem and tie a piece of clear plastic around it. Make it tight above and below the moss.

After a time a mass of roots will grow from the cut into the moss. When it appears filled with them, cut the top of the rubber tree off just below the plastic, and pot it up. You should then have a new, smaller rubber plant, which you can begin the pinching process on.

Because of genes, rubber plants and other tree species may never produce more than one new shoot after a pinch is done to the growing tip. In other words it is just about impossible to get them to grow in a more bushy manner. If you’d like more information on air layering and ground layering too, send a long, self-addressed, stamped envelope with a quarter to WSU Extension, 612 Smith Tower, Seattle, WA 98104. Ask for PNW 165, Layering to Multiply Plants.

Gardening runs Friday in the Scene section and Sunday in Home/Real Estate of The Seattle Times. It is prepared by George Pinyuh and Holly Kennell, Washington State University/King County Cooperative Extension agents, Mary Robson, Master Gardener program assistant, and volunteer Master Gardeners. Send questions to: Gardening, The Seattle Times, PO Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. Questions of general interest will be answered as space allows.

How To Prune Rubber Tree Plant

Rubber plant (Ficus Elastica) is a popular indoor house plant. Their leaves are very attractive. If you wish your rubber tree to have a vertical look or a leggy look, then do not prune it. Slim and tall rubber plants are good for rooms with high ceiling. But if you prefer a lower bushy look, then you should prune it to force side shoots or branch out. You can prune a rubber plant to give it a desired shape. A bushy rubber plant looks good on a table or table shelf.

Rubber Plant Branch Out

A Rubber Plant

Rubber tree plants gets large if not pruned in order to control their size. Pruning a rubber tree plant is simple and quite easy. Continue reading below to learn how to prune a rubber tree plant to remove unwanted parts of the plant and make it bushy.The pruning of the rubber plant will confine your rubber plant in a pot or in ground to a lower height but thick and bushy.
If you want your rubber plant to remain tall and thin, prune only when necessary. If you do not cut the top end of your rubber plant, it will continue to grow and become too big. I never pruned my rubber tree plant so it reached to the 12 feet high ceiling and then it turned sideways.
How to care for rubber plant | How to propagate rubber plant | Reasons of Rubber plant leaves falling off

Pruning Rubber Plant To Make It Bushy

Things You Will Need

  1. Sharp pruning shears or garden cutter. Wash with soap and diluted bleach.
  2. A pair of gloves. You should wear the gloves when pruning the rubber tree because the plant will ooze out white sap. This sap is irritating on the skin. wash your hand if you accidentally touch the sap.

When To Prune

  1. Dead leaves and branches can be pruned at any time.
  2. Best time to prune a rubber tree plant is from spring to summer, when the plant is actively growing.
  3. I have pruned my rubber plant in a different season, but it did not harm the plant. The only difference was that the new growth did not occur until the next summer.

Steps in Pruning a Rubber Tree Plant

  1. Cut the main trunk or stem at a lower height, just above a node. A node is a point where the leaves are attached to the stem. The branches need not to be cut at an angle.
  2. The pruning will make the rubber tree branch out. Two or more branches will grow at the cut end. The pruning will force side shoots on the plant. The picture on the left shows that two side branches have grown at the point where the plant was pruned.
  3. Prune again after the new branches grow two new sets of leaves (side shoots). each of the two branches will now two or more new branches. This way the plant will become thick, growing both in width and height.
  4. Continue pruning each branch after the growth of two new sets of leaves.
  5. Over-pruning the plant will reduce the number of leaves on the plant, so it will affect the photosynthesize and may die. If your rubber plant is small, leave at least 2-3 leaves behind. In a larger rubber tree, you can remove up to 4 branches at a time, leaving 6-10 leaves behind.
  6. If you see root coming out from the holes at the bottom of the pot, re-pot your plant in a pot of next size, 1 inch larger in height.

The picture below shows a bushy and dense rubber tree plant. This rubber plant was pruned and trimmed at correct place and correct time.

Bushy Rubber Tree Plant

Bonus

Use the cuttings, which you remove from your plant to grow new rubber plants (how to grow rubber plant from cuttings) .

Watch YouTube Videos on Rubber Tree Plant

Subscribe to Garden Tricks YouTube Channel
Youtube Video on pruning rubber plant
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Youtube Video on how to prune a rubber plant to make it bushy

Ficus elastica

December ,1998 My husband has an out of control rubber plant that he is very attached to. He’s let it grow unchecked, and since we live in a small house, it really is cramping our (ok, mine more than his) style. I wouldn’t mind it so much if it didn’t take up 1/4 of our living room! The shoots extend about 4-5 feet in every direction and it seems to be growing (very robustly) horizontally instead of vertically (the plant is about 4 feet high). Is there a way to safely prune this plant without damaging it? If so, how do I go about encouraging a tighter, more vertical structure to the plant? I’d appreciate any advice or helpful links, as I don’t have much of a green thumb!

Your husband’s Rubber plant (Ficus elastica) can be be cut back without to much danger to the plant itself, however I’m not sure as to the reaction you will get from your hubby if you mess with his prized plant. After you have received his consent, the branches can be cut back to an appropriate length, using a sharp, clean knife, or very sharp pruning clipper. Ficus have a tendency to bleed a lot of sap when they are cut, so I would recommend that you have some Roottone® or Hormonex® handy to cover the fresh wounds. (these products will aid in the callousing process). When you cut the stems of the plant be aware that it will more than likely branch out from that point into two or more new stems, making a bushier but larger plant. The horizontal growth more than likely indicates that the plant is getting insufficient light. If it isn’t feasible to move the plant I would suggest that you use an overhead fluorescent or flood type ‘grow light’ which will encourage vertical growth. Gradually you can train the existing stems into a vertical position using stakes as temporary supports, but don’t try to force the branches to quickly because they may be damaged. For a little more information on Ficus culture go to http://www.thegardenhelper.com/rubberplant.htm and http://www.thegardenhelper.com/staking.htm

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Rubber Plants grow fast and can hit the ceiling in no time. Perhaps yours needs to be cut back because it’s gotten leggy, is just too tall or maybe you want your plant to have a new look. Did you know that you can turn your tall, skinny Ficus elastica into a tree form? Here are some steps to follow if you want to learn how to make a Rubber Tree branch out.

How Does a Rubber Tree Plant “Branch Out?”

If you’re not getting what I’m talking about here, please let me explain it through the pictures below. I worked in the houseplant trade when I 1st graduated from college. The grower’s label plants with leaves all the way up and down as “full to base”. Plants with a trunk and foliage at the top are labeled as “standard.”

My 6′ Variegated Rubber Plant before I pruned off the top & air layered it. It would be hitting the ceiling in my dining room in about a year. This form is called “full to base.”

The same plant developing a branching structure. This is called a “standard” or tree. Riley cat is enjoying a little sniff before I take it back in the house!

How to Make Your Rubber Tree Branch Out

To get this all started, you can cut the trunk or stem (whichever you prefer to call it) straight across with clean, sharp pruners and either toss the top or root it in a light mix. I air layered mine which is another very successful way to propagate a Rubber Tree.

Air Layer Your Houseplant

Some of the other houseplants which air layer beautifully are Weeping Fig, Fiddleleaf Fig, Dracaenas, Dumbcane, Umbrella Tree, Dwarf Umbrella Tree and the Split Leaf Philodendron. The 2 plants which I’ve successfully air layered in the past are the Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia Tropic Snow) and Burgundy Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica Burgundy).

I air layered the mother plant & removed the baby once it was showing significant rooting.

I’m pointing to where the roots are emerging. I cut the propagated portion off about an inch below (just above the next node down. It was a nice, clean cut straight across.

I let the mother plant settle for a few weeks before starting to remove the leaves at the very bottom.

You can see I’ve removed a few of the leaves at the bottom & that the plant is already branching at the top. The baby is doing beautifully & has already put out some new growth.

Every 3-6 weeks I took a couple more leaves off.

Head’s up! Watch out for the sap.

The Rubber Tree emits a milky white sap which is considered toxic to people & pets. The sap has never irritated me but it could be irritating to you. Be sure to keep it away from your face & wear gloves & long sleeves when pruning or handling a Rubber Plant if you think it’ll affect you. You’ll need to clean your pruners soon after.

This was taken right after I pruned the top off. It’s 2 plants for the price of 1!

Immediately after removing any of the leaves I wrap the trunk with a rag to cover the nodes where they’ve been taken off. I also wrap the leaf stem that’s been cut off. The sap drips like crazy for about a minute or 2 & this prevents it from running down the trunk of the plant, onto your skin or clothes, or onto your floor.

Head’s up: The sap can stain your clothing or rug if not contained or cleaned off right away.

You can see my 2 Variegated Rubber Trees here:

A few of the leaves were stubborn to come off. I used a sharp floral knife to start the process & then pulled them off. Be sure not to dig too deep into the bark.

Head’s up: You want to remove the as much as the leaf stem from the trunk as you can. It just looks better that way.

When the top 4 nodes were producing new growth, I then removed the 4 older leaves right below those new sprouts.

I don’t remember any new growth appearing on the trunk after I took the leaves off. I removed the leaves gradually because of the dripping sap factor – it was just easier for me to do it this way than all at once.

Here’s the mother plant right after I cut the air layered top off.

Rubber Tree Plant Care Timeline

I thought you might be interested in how long this has taken. Here’s the timeline of how this all went down:

I did the air layering at the end of April 2018.

The air layered portion was cut off & planted at the very beginning of Sept. 2018. I could have done this at the end of July but got involved in traveling & with other projects. You know how that goes!

I started to remove the leaves in early October 2018.

It is now the end of May 2019.

A close up of the branching. The foliage on this plant is gorgeous!

Rubber Plant Repotting Coming Soon!

I’v already repotted the baby and plan to repot this standard Variegated Rubber Plant as well as my Rubber Plant Decora soon. Stay tuned for that post and video.

My living room has 20′ ceilings but the light in there isn’t quite bright enough for a Variegated Rubber Plant year round. Once this plant hits the ceiling in my dining room in a few years I’ll have to do this all over again. Another pruning adventure!

Happy gardening,

Here are some of our other guides for Rubber Tree Plant Care!

Rubber Plant: Growing Tips for this Easy Care Indoor Tree

How to Prune Off and Plant An Air Layered Rubber Tree Plant

7 Easy Care Floor Plants For Beginning Houseplant Gardeners

You can find this plant, more houseplants and lots of info in our simple and easy to digest houseplant care guide: Keep Your Houseplants Alive.

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