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How to care for Ficus Elastica | rubber plant care tips

The Ficus Elastica, also known as the rubber tree, probably already engrossed you with it’s beauty by now. Who could resist to those beautiful leaves, whether it’s the classic green variety, the variegated variety or the Ficus Elastica Robusta with its gorgeous deep dark green leaves. Here are a few tips and tricks on how to care and grow your rubber tree.

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How often do you need to water your rubber plant?

The most important thing for rubber trees is not to over-water them. They don’t like to sit in soggy soil for long periods of time, and if you keep watering them too frequently, root rot and other problems could eventually develop.

Let the soil dry out between watering.

Before you water your Ficus Elastica, check out if the soil has dried out. If the first 10 cm ( ~ 5inch) is dry, you can go ahead and water it. Eventually you’ll get a grip of how frequently you’ll need to water your plant, as there are many factors that affect the watering frequency.

You can read more about watering frequency in the article – 7 factors that affect your houseplant watering frequency.

How to water your Ficus Elastica?

When you water your rubber tree, be sure that the water reaches every part of the root system. You could water it from the top and let the excess water run down the drainage holes, or you could bottom-water it and wait about 30 min for the plant to absorb all the water it needs and then throw out the excess water.

I find that bottom watering works only if the plant has a developed root system. Then roots are able to absorb water from the holes of the pot. But for freshly repotted plants it’s important to provide water from the top, just to make sure the water reached all the roots.

After watering, throw away all excess water.

Whichever method of watering you prefer – at the end the most important thing is to throw away all the excess water. That’s why it’s also important to have drainage holes on the bottom of the pot.

You want your plant to grow fast and bushy, full of new gorgeous leaves? Here is the best way how to grow your Ficus Elastica faster.

How much sunlight does a rubber tree need?

The rubber plant likes, better yet – adores, bright indirect light. The more hours of bright indirect light you provide to your Ficus Elastica, the faster it will grow.

The story of how my rubber tree got 5 new leaves in just 6 weeks

At first when I got my first Ficus Elastica I kept it in a medium lit spot of the house. There it got approx. a few hours of late afternoon light. During that period (and keep in mind it was summer) it developed one, only one, new leaf.

After a couple of months I decided to move it to a room that gets more hours of indirect sunlight during the day, and I could already see how quickly it grew another new leaf.

Entering winter it went completely dormant and this season I decided to put my variegated Ficus Elastica out on the balcony. I found a spot that doesn’t get any direct sunlight. That’s important because even direct late afternoon sunlight can damage the white parts of the leaves. This, of course, wouldn’t be the case for the completely green variety that could tolerate direct sunlight.

Anyway, my rubber tree sprouted five new leaves in just 6 weeks it’s been outside. The new leaves are really close together, and since I previously had to remove all bottom leaves, now it literally looks like a small tree, so cute.

all these are new leaves except for the one on the right

Can a rubber tree survive in low light?

If you have an outdoor place to put your Ficus Elastica during the growing season move it out and it will grow much much faster. Just be sure to find it a spot in shade where direct summer sunlight won’t damage the leaves.

Even if you can’t place it outdoors, place it in a spot of your home where it will get the most hours of sunlight.

Now that we covered how to grow Ficus Elastica faster, it’s also true that the rubber tree can withstand medium lighting. (What I mean by medium lighting I covered in – 2 things you need to know before buying your first plant!) So even if you don’t get many hours of bright indirect sunlight in your home, you can still have a rubber tree – it just won’t grow that fast.

How to propagate Ficus Elastica?

The easiest is to propagate the rubber tree from stem cuttings. There are two ways in which you can do it. You could take one single cutting with many leaves or make a single leaf cutting.

What you’ll need:

Single stem cutting

This one is pretty self explanatory. All you need to do is just cut your rubber tree at a height that you want and place the cutting in water. The rubber tree will branch out from the bottom part that’s left in the pot, and the cutting in water will develop roots.

Before you place the cutting in water, remove the first couple of leaves from the bottom. The funny thing is you don’t need to throw those leaves away because you can propagate them also. You just need to cut them as close as possible to the stem/trunk together with it’s little stem.

Honestly, I’ve tried to root single leaves in water, and I ended up throwing most of them away. The majority eventually just wilted before they developed any roots. But just a couple of weeks ago, one leaf rooted (see pic above) and now I’m super excited to see how it will develop.

Single leaf cutting

What I mean by single leaf cutting is a stem cutting with one leaf.

You can cut the stem above and below a leaf, leaving the leaf attached to a small portion of the stem. As a picture is worth a thousand words, the best is to show you exactly what I mean.

You can use rooting hormone for a faster root development and more chance of success, but that’s totally optional as Ficus trees can root without it.

After a few weeks, a new rubber tree will start to develop.

Do you need to fertilize your rubber tree?

As with almost all my other plants, I fertilize my Ficus Elastica once a month. I’m not even that consistent when it comes to fertilizing it that “once a month” sometimes becomes once every two months, and it’s OK.

I use a diluted complete liquid fertilizer. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label so that you know in what amounts you can use the fertilizer. Although it’s important to fertilize your plants, over-fertilization can be a greater problem that skipping your fertilization routine sometimes.

If you just repotted your Ficus Elastica you don’t and shouldn’t fertilize it for a couple of months because the fresh new soil already has nutrients that your plant needs.

Is the Ficus Elastica toxic to pets?

Ficus Elastica, like other types in the Ficus family, is considered to be toxic. Since it has big meaty leaves, I don’t find that my pets like to nibble its leaves – but if you have a pet that chews on any type of plant, be careful with the Ficus Elastica and find it a place that’s out of their reach.

Here are common Ficus Elastica varieties that you can find along with the classic green one: