How to Grow Rubber Plants
Attention, accidental plant killers! This is one beautiful houseplant you’ll have no trouble keeping alive.
Whether you’re new to houseplants, have killed houseplants in the past (it happens!), or simply don’t have a lot of light for growing, the low-maintenance rubber plant may be the perfect plant for you. While it’s actually a ficus (specifically Ficus elastica), this easy-going plant earned its nickname because it contains a sap-like liquid called latex that can be turned into rubber. With the invention of synthetic rubber, though, rubber plants now are grown mainly as houseplants.
Here’s how to grow your own rubber plants.
Where to Grow Rubber Plants
While rubber plants prefer bright, indirect light (like the kind that streams in through south- or west-facing windows), they will also grow in dimmer light, which makes them fantastic office plants. They really aren’t too picky about light aside from the fact that harsh, direct light can sunburn them. Rubber plants are native to tropical areas, so they don’t like to be hit with cold blasts of air from doors or drafty windows, and may begin to drop some leaves if they are.
If you live in zones 10 through 12, you can also grow rubber plants outside in both sunny and shady areas. Rubber trees growing outdoors in rich, well-draining soil can get pretty big (20 to 30 feet tall), so be sure to plant them they can spread out a bit—or plan to prune them.
How to Plant Rubber Plants
1. Choose a pot that’s no more than ⅓ larger than the root ball of your plant.
2. Fill it ⅓ full with Miracle-Gro® Indoor Potting Mix. This mix is ideal for rubber plants because its unique mixture drains well, allows for good air circulation, and holds and releases water as it’s needed.
3. Before you plant, you may want to put on gloves and a long-sleeve shirt, just in case a stem breaks. The milky latex it contains can cause skin irritation for some people.
4. Place the plant in the container so that the top of the root ball is about an inch below the rim, so the soil won’t overflow when you water.
5. Fill in around the root ball with more soil.
6. Water until moisture begins to drain out of the bottom of the pot.
7. Put a saucer under the pot and move your rubber plant to its new home.
Heads up: Rubber plants are fast growers when they’re happy, so you might have to repot yours every year or so.
How to Water Rubber Plants
Rubber plants are not heavy drinkers. In fact, they like to grow in soil that is about as damp as a wrung-out sponge (translation: not sopping wet, but not super-dry, either). Whenever the top 2 inches of soil is dry, water until it runs out of the bottom of the pot. Let the soil drain completely, then set the plant back in its saucer. Know, too, that soil that’s too wet or too dry can cause leaves to begin to fall off.
How to Feed Rubber Plants in Containers
By the time a month after planting has passed, your rubber plants will be ready for a nutritious meal. Give them what they crave by feeding them once a week while they’re actively growing with Miracle-Gro® Indoor Plant Food, an instant source of just the right nutrition. Apply it directly to the soil and water as normal, using 2 pumps for small pots and 5 pumps for larger pots (over 6 inches in diameter). As with any product, be sure to follow directions!
How to Prune Rubber Plants
Rubber plants growing in low light can get a little leggy and floppy because they’re trying to stretch out and reach more light. Don’t panic if this happens! Simply prune stems back to a leaf (so you don’t leave a bare, ugly stem stump hanging out) and plants will branch as they regrow. Again, be sure to wear gloves and long sleeves when pruning so you don’t get sap on your skin.
How to Make Rubber Plants Look Their Best
Want your rubber plants to look all clean and shiny, like you just brought them home? Simply spray leaf tops with Miracle-Gro® Leaf Shine—so fresh!
How to Grow Rubber Plants: Recap
- Place plants in bright, indirect light (if available) or grow outside with plenty of room to spread out in zones 10 to 12.
- Plant rubber plants in Miracle-Gro® Indoor Potting Mix.
- Let the soil dry out slightly between waterings.
- After a month, feed when plants are actively growing with Miracle-Gro® Indoor Plant Food.
- Prune rubber plants that get leggy or outgrow their space.