In recent years, the fiddle leaf fig has been more popular than any other plant that looks like a tree and can be grown indoors.
But we think it’s time to look at this simple but beautiful tree with its big, dark green leaves again and give it a second chance. Here’s how to preserve a rubber plant as a distinctive feature of your home décor for years to come.
About Rubber Plants
Rubber trees, which are also called ficus elastica, can be kept as medium-sized houseplants or grown into beautiful focal point trees.
If you’re patient enough to cultivate your own, plants that start out younger when you buy them adapt better to indoor life than plants that start out more mature.
In a few years, they may grow to be very tall, especially if you put the plants outside in the summer. If you want to keep the plants small, putting them in small pots will stop them from growing.
Soil for Rubber Plants
Rubber plants don’t like to sit in water, so they need soil that drains well.
House Plant Expert suggests, in particular, that a “well-draining and well-aerated potting soil is essential.” A good mix is 1 part peat, 1 part pine bark, and 1 part coarse sand (or perlite).
If your rubber plant gets taller, its leaves lose their shine, and the lower leaves fall off, it may need more light.
Watering and Fertilizing Your Rubber Plant
The water requirements of rubber plants vary depending on the season.In the growth season (summer), the plant should be kept wet. This means using a damp cloth or even sprinkling the leaves to clean them.
During the time when your plant is dormant, it may only need water once or twice a month.
If the air is too dry, especially heated dry air like that found inside during the winter, it will mist at any time of year.
Another idea is to wash with lukewarm water.
Flower Shop Network says, “Let cold tap water sit out until it reaches room temperature.” This lets chlorine evaporate and lessens the shock that cold water can give to plant roots.
As with most indoor plants, only fertilize your rubber plant when it is growing.
Pruning and Re-potting Rubber Plants
Rubber plants don’t need much trimming besides taking off dead or dying leaves. But when shaping, keep this in mind:
Don’t cut off the top of the plant until it’s grown to the right height. When you do chop off the top, your plant will branch out.
You can always prune to get the shape you want by cutting off branches you don’t want. It’s best to prune in the spring or summer, but it’s not necessary.
If you don’t re-pot your plants, they will not grow. However, don’t place rubber plants in pots that are too large.
Transplanting into pots that are approximately an inch wider in diameter than the previous pot is a decent rule of thumb.
Propagating Rubber Plants
When your friends and family see how great your rubber plant is, they will definitely want one of their own.
You might have a better chance of success if you let the sap dry, put the cutting in a rooting medium, and put a heating pad under the pot with the cutting in it.
You can also “air layer,” as explained by Gardening Know How: “To air layer, you make a cut in a healthy rubber tree houseplant, put a toothpick in the hole, and then pack moist moss around the cut.”
After that, you put plastic wrap over it to keep the level of moisture high. “Once roots start to grow, cut off the branch and plant it.”
To stimulate new leaf development where leaves have fallen, cut a notch in the node from whence the leaf fell.
Indoor vs. Outdoors
Otherwise, put them in a container to bring in during the winter months, once the temperature drops below 30 degrees.
Place them in shade or dappled light, where they may grow up to 100 feet. Due to their size, they make fantastic space separators and privacy screens for patios and decks.