If you’re looking to add a larger plant that can be the focus of a certain section in your home, look no further than the rubber tree.
These unique looking plant not only adds a strong presence on tabletops (when they’re small) and corners or your home (as they get larger), they also bring an awesome tropical vibe to it.
So, if you want to learn more about caring for the rubber tree, read on.
About the Rubber Plant
The rubber plant is a tree that traces its origin to India and Malaysia. It gets its name from the fact that its sap is used to make rubber. But, you do need to be patient with it.
While it lives for hundreds of years, it takes 7 years of waiting before you can make the initial harvest. After that, it will be able to provide you with its valuable sap for the next 30 or so years.
But, most gardeners and homeowners are more concerned about its looks. That’s the reason why you’ll find this large plant in many homes.
Their size along with their unique oval-shaped rubbery leaves make them interesting pieces that complement any interior.
Plus, they’re long lifespan means that you don’t need to replace them anytime soon.
Rubber Tree Plant Care
Rubber Tree Light Requirements
Rubber plants don’t need a lot of light. But, they do best under bright, filtered conditions.
Thus, a good place to put them is near a window with sheer curtains.
This provides it with a lot of light that’s not too hot or too intense, either of which will scorch its leaves.
The trick is figuring out how to position it since its size can be an issue.
Just as importantly, keeping it in a dark place or somewhere where there’s too little light can result in some unpleasant changes.
One obvious sign of this is your plant’s leaves will lose their luster and glossiness. And, you’ll be left with a dull color.
Lack of light will also cause them to shed their leaves and become leggy as they try to seek out any glimmer of illumination.
As a general rule, the more colorful and variegated a rubber tree’s foliage is, the more light they’ll need to sustain that vibrancy.
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Rubber Tree Temperature & Humidity
One of the best tips to remember about caring for your rubber tree is moderation.
In almost all aspects, it likes balance. Not too much or too little.
This is the case with its climate preferences.
In general, it likes moderate temperatures ranging from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s worth noting that it can survive as low as 50 degrees. But, once you get there or lower, it starts to have issues.
The same is true for humidity. While its tropical nature makes it prefer humid environments, it’s perfectly happy with medium humidity. Thus, making it a good fit for many homes. The key is to maintain regular humidity come wintertime when the air becomes dry.
Again, the goal with the rubber tree is to stay consistently moderate.
But, if it starts to experience otherwise, you’ll likely see its leaves start turning yellow before they become brown. Then finally, they drop.
Similarly, if they start becoming leggy, it’s a sign to make changes in their environment.
Watering Rubber Trees
Once again, it’s all about balance.
But this time, you’ll need to adjust according to the time of year.
During its growing season (summer), the rubber tree does best when the soil is kept moist. The key is not to overwater it since it doesn’t like wet conditions.
And when you do water it, make sure to so do thoroughly.
It’s worth noting that rubber trees are susceptible to excess dryness. When they experience this, you’ll notice its leaves start drooping.
To prevent this from happening, you can mist it in addition to watering. Or, another option is to wipe its leaves with a damp cloth to keep them moist.
While it’s a bit more work, the latter is actually worth doing since cleaning its leaves helps them maintain their shine. It also lets them absorb more sunlight for photosynthesis.
Once winter comes around, your rubber tree will transition to dormancy. Thus, you don’t need to water it as much and allow the soil to get drier.
This one’s a little trickier since you still don’t want to underwater it and allow the soil to get too dry.
Rubber trees aren’t too picky when it comes to soil. As such, any good potting mix will do. Just make sure that it’s fast draining.
This ensures that your plant doesn’t get wet feet which it hates.
Similarly, do choose a fairly good-sized container. You’ll need one that can hold a tree that’s about 4 feet tall. That’s because rubber plants will grow up to 6 to 10 feet high indoors.
As such, the best place for them is on the floor.
But, do make sure that the pot you choose has drainage holes that allow excess moisture to seep out.
If you live in a zones 10 or warmer, you can likewise grow them outdoors in your garden. But, do make sure there’s enough space since these can get really big.
In their native environment (Southeast Asia), they can reach between 50 to 100 feet tall. Although, that’s less likely to happen in your yard or garden.
Rubber trees are heavy feeders. This allows them to grow quickly.
So, depending on how much or how little you want them to grow, you can somewhat control their size by feeding them the right amount.
That said, they only need to be fed during the spring and summer. Once they become dormant in winter, you can stop.
A good houseplant fertilizer at half-strength does the job.
As mentioned earlier, rubber trees can get very large. This makes pruning very useful especially if you want to be able to limit its size.
Additionally, pruning also allows you to shape it the way you want.
With something that big in your living room or other sections of your home, it’s can quickly become an eyesore if it’s unkempt.
Rubber trees can be propagated in a few ways, including leaf cuttings and air layering. Either way, they’re not the easiest things to do.
This is why most people will just go out and buy one that’s potted. Doing so will save you all the extra effort with the uncertainty of success.
Repotting Rubber Trees
In most cases, you’ll need to repot yearly as the plant grows. Once it reaches your desired size, you can keep it in the same container to limit its growth.
When it comes to the actual repotting, there’s some good and bad news.
The good news is, ficus are easy to repot.
The bad news is, once it gets big, it becomes harder to do so because of its size and weight.
Rubber plants are toxic but not deadly. Thus, it’s important to be careful when handling them.
Their sap has been know to irritate the skin. So, make sure to wash your hands after pruning or coming into contact with it.
Just as importantly, make sure its container is big or wide enough to keep young kids and curious pets away from it. Eating the plant will cause stomach discomfort. And, consuming larger amounts can result in vomiting or diarrhea.