Who doesn’t like a good rubber plant? These timeless indoor greens are easy to look after and make for fantastic decorations. However, many of us end up buying these plants without knowing how to give them the TLC they deserve. Knowing how to care for a rubber plant properly will ensure years of lovely green displays for years to come.
Rubber plants can be prolific growers, or controlled to retain smaller and bushier forms. Their speedy growth is why they’re often used as magnificent, ‘arty’ plants in public buildings, shopping centers, hotels, and other spacious areas.
They are also increasingly popular as house plants – in fact, they have been a staple for decades.
Caring for a rubber plant means more than just watering occasionally, however. In this guide, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about rubber plant indoor care. Don’t worry – all it takes is a little bit of vigilance and attention!
Choosing your new rubber plant
Before you go ahead and stock up on everything you need to start caring for a rubber plant, it pays to know what you’re looking for in the plant itself! Choosing a rubber plant for your home isn’t just an act of dressing it up! Not only are they beautiful, but they are also great at removing toxins from the air.
Choosing one for your home should be based on four key elements. If you consider these factors, caring for them can be easy and rewarding:
- Do you have the right space for a rubber plant?
- Can you offer a rubber plant enough light?
- Do you have any children or pets likely to come into contact with your plant?
Of course, you can apply any of these factors to other houseplants – but rubber plant care is rather particular, as you’re about to find out.
Planning space for a rubber plant
Rubber plants can grow fast! However, they are relatively simple to control and propagate. If you have a small home, it may be better to buy a smaller plant that will save you money and be easy to care for without pruning for several years.
Small rubber plants are usually purchased in small to medium size containers. Check this is a well-draining pot because these plants do not like to sit in pools of water. Once you get your new plant home, choose a site where it gets plenty of light (more on that a little further down).
In this instance, we need to consider spatial awareness in two ways. First, the size of the rubber plant you’re bringing home. Will it fit in the space you have, and for how long? In temperamental environments, moving plants in containers can be awkward and strenuous.
Think about the weight and size of pot you’ll need and how often you may want to move it around. You might need to get a strong friend to help maneuver bigger plants!
A small Rubber plant purchased years ago could have quadrupled in size in less than two years, quickly stretching from floor to ceiling! In these circumstances, you may need to give your rubber plant a bit of a haircut.
But don’t worry – pruning is a fantastic opportunity to propagate plenty more baby rubber plants!
Rubber plant soil and temperature conditions
Your rubber plant is likely to be a little picky about the soil you place it in, so do take care to make sure it drains well. As mentioned, these plants don’t like sitting in water period – so be sure to choose potting soil or compost that is well-aerated and which sits in a well-draining pot so it can easily dry out on its own.
In some cases, you may need to consider mixing in bark or coarse sand to really help it drain – but providing your soil is aerated enough, and the pot you host it in allows it to pool into a saucer or similar, you’ll likely find no problems getting started.
But, what about temperature? As it happens, rubber plants love humidity. You may discover it is happiest in your bathroom – and that it’ll be content to live there for years!
Of course, try not to get your plant too wet while showering, etc. – the number one rule of rubber plant care is to avoid deluges.
Try and house your rubber plant off to the side of a bathtub or shower, so it benefits from the humidity but none of the excess H2O.
You may also wish to place a smaller specimen on a shelf, high and out of the way. If you’re really worried about soil moisture after showering, etc. – be sure to check the condition of your rubber plant’s medium daily.
Rubber plant light requirement
Rubber plants require a good amount of light, but thrive best away from strong, direct sunlight. It’s an excellent idea to envisage where you intend your rubber plant to live before buying it or moving it to a new spot.
Consider somewhere with good humidity, like a bathroom (as mentioned), a wet room, or a kitchen. Semi-shady areas in sheltered positions are ideal.
As part of caring for rubber plants, you will need to check the condition of the leaves regularly. Too little light can result in sparse growth and leggy stems. Plants can look weak and even limp.
Light is a major factor in the ongoing health and vitality for this plant, so please don’t take it too lightly (pun completely intended).
Wherever you keep your rubber fig, rubber tree or plant, ensure it has a good light source without being exposed to harsh burning sunlight.
If you envisage placing a rubber plant in a room with windows on more than one side, always check that no harsh direct sunlight will reach your rubber plant as the seasons change.
You may need to consider moving it to another corner of the room or relocating it to another part of the house. As seasons change, we should remember that although windows don’t change place, the sun and daylight hours do!
Therefore, don’t get too set on one specific space – unfortunately, this is a plant that’s going to need to travel as the cold seasons drift into warmer days again. A change is as good as a rest, as they say!
If space is limited and you have to place your rubber plant near a strong light source, you’re not completely defeated! Place a tulle curtain or roller blind against the window. This will reduce the intensity of the light and make life more comfortable for your plant – and for anyone else who doesn’t want to be splashed with glare 24/7!
Rubber plants in family homes – points of caution
As part of your ongoing care for rubber plant specimens, you’re going to need to consider little hands, paws, and teeth that may come into contact with them. Rubber plants can be toxic to dogs and cats – and what’s more, children should be cautioned about the risk of irritation from these greens.
If stems are broken or damaged, sticky sap can leak out and cause burning and itching to exposed skin. It’s more of a nuisance than a genuine danger – but worth avoiding all the same!
Leaf care, and preparing for pests on rubber plants
The leaves of rubber plants are attractive and shiny – not just to us, but a host of pesky, microscopic minibeasts, too! Your rubber plant’s leaves will benefit from being wiped down with special, cellophane-wrapped, damp cloths. These wipes are sold specifically for this purpose in many garden stores as well as online – so don’t be afraid to shop around.
Alternatively, a wet microfiber cloth works wonders and can be reused time and again!
Check for mites, scale, and other pests when cleaning the leaves. What’s more, some yellowing leaves may fall off seemingly unprompted! Don’t worry about this.
If there is evidence of mites or pests, Please take your time and ensure you remove them all – otherwise, they’re only going to cause further damage as time goes on.
A little Olive oil on a cloth or cotton wool is ideal for cleaning off pests.
Watering a rubber plant – and feeding with fertilizer
Watering and humidity are essential components for healthy growth. Rubber plants may need regular misting and will visibly perk up from quenching their thirst after suffering from a drought! Recovery can be even quicker if you mist them and offer a little fertilizer!
Bathrooms, showers, or even balconies, where they can benefit from rain, or even summers in the garden, can be great for cherished rubber plants.
It’s generally recommended that you try to fertilize rubber plants during their growth season. This is a good overall tip for most houseplants, of course – but given that the rubber plant is quite sensitive, it’s all the more important to tread carefully.
You’ll know when you’re over-watering or over-feeding your rubber plant as it’ll start to droop or even develop yellow and brown tinges in its leaves. This is a key indicator that you’ve got a poorly plant – so be sure to knock back the misting or direct watering where possible.
As mentioned, regular misting can be worthwhile when caring for rubber plants, but especially keep this in mind if your plants are sitting in a dry or arid room. As mentioned, they thrive on humidity – and if there’s next to no vapor in the air, they are going to suffer.
Some experts even suggest using lukewarm water to mist and feed rubberplants with. The thought behind this stems from concerns that rubber plants can get easily shocked – even with cold water!
Treat your sensitive specimen with water that’s reached room temperature, ideally, for the best results.
How to take care of a rubber plant – final points to consider
These plants are tender and will require nurturing. Pruning rubber plants is easy, and you can encourage bushier growth by nipping off the top shoots of a tall plant.
You can root stems in water, too – if you’d like to grow some more! Do be patient, because this can take a few weeks to start taking effect, and, again, the new root system will perform best during the growing season.
To pot up newly rooted cuttings, don’t be tempted to put too many in the same pot. New plants will happily share their pot so long as there’s sufficient space and enough water. The temperature will need to be as stable as possible.
Once happily settled in its new home with fresh compost and hopefully some sunshine, your rubber plant should not be moved too quickly – again, it’s susceptible to shock.
Keep a close eye on the plant, and don’t allow it to dry out for more than a day or two. Ideal temperatures for your plant are between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rubber plants can live for over a decade, and some are passed from generation to generation. They can become like old friends!
Once you have them settled in the correct container, in the right spot, you can enjoy a simple routine of watering and fertilizing indefinitely.
Rubber plants are amazing indoor display pieces – and while they can be a little sensitive here and there, learning how to care for a rubber plant never has to be stressful.
Finally – and again – please remember to tell anyone you give a cutting to that rubber plants can be toxic for cats, dogs, and some humans – as some people can develop bad reactions to the sap.
The best advice to follow is to rinse off an area where any sap may have dripped to prevent your skin from becoming irritated. If sap drips onto surfaces, it can be sticky or dry to become quite challenging to remove, too.
Try to deal with a spillage as quickly as possible and ideally before your cat licks it!
Otherwise, enjoy your new plant(s) – and be prepared to move it around the home occasionally!