If you like large houseplants with big leaves be sure to include a rubber plant in your mix. If you position them in their happy place (bright conditions but not in direct sunlight) they will grow rapidly into eye-catching specimens. They make a real statement grouped together on a table or plant stand, and will steal the spotlight in any houseplant display.
Also known as Ficus elastica, the rubber plant is a member of the fig family and gets its common name from the fact its leaves are thick and pliant not because it produces rubber. The large glossy leaves have a tropical feel which is no surprise as it originates from Asia, particularly India, Malaysia and Java. In the wild the rubber plant grows into a large ornamental tree.
There are a few key things to know about rubber plant care, and from then on it will be plain sailing as it’s pretty perfect in terms of being one of the best indoor plants you can choose.
'The rubber plant is an extremely popular plant with attractive thick, rubbery deep green leaves,' says James Folger of The Stem. 'Part of the fig family, the rubber plant is relatively easy to care for, and if kept in the right conditions, they can grow up to a mighty 10ft (3m) tall.'
3 top tips for rubber plant care
Part of the rubber plant's popularity is down to it being one of the best low maintenance indoor plants, plus of course its glossy good looks.
'Rubber plants are easy to care for and can grow quickly under the right conditions,' says Patch Plants Plant Doctor Richard Cheshire. 'They’re sturdy, tolerant and simple to please.'
We've rounded up all the rubber plant info you need so that this houseplant favorite will really shine as the focal point of your indoor garden ideas.
1. Choose the right spot for a rubber plant
Finding your rubber plant's happy place is important if you want it to thrive as part of your indoor plant ideas. 'Keep your rubber plant at normal room temperature and avoid cold drafts or sudden changes in temperature as this will upset it,' says Jo Lambell of Beards & Daisies. 'The ideal position is in bright, indirect light, so it would be happy in a bedroom, living room or office environment.'
Be wary of any room that has bright sunlight though. 'A south-facing window is perfect if you have a thin drape or curtain to hand if it gets too hot,' says The Stem's James Folger. This will prevent the leaves getting affected by strong sunlight. 'Prolonged exposure to bright direct sunlight may burn and scorch their leaves,' says Leaf Envy's Beth Chapman.
If your home has lots of shady spots, there are plenty of low light indoor plants to choose from too.
2. Look after the leaves of your rubber plant
The leaves of a rubber plant are one of the biggest attractions. Mist the leaves regularly to replicate the native jungle-like environment it thrives in and it will return the favor with lots of lush leaves, just like the peace lily plant.
'Rubber plants like humidity,' says James Folger, 'so mist regularly to keep the foliage fresh. Wipe the leaves with a clean, damp cloth to free the pores from any dust that might have accumulated.' This love of humid conditions means that rubber plants are one of the best plants for bathrooms too.
If the leaves start to drop off it could indicate your rubber plant is suffering from low humidity levels. 'Try misting it more frequently to remedy that,' says Beth Chapman, 'or placing it on a pebble tray partly filled with water, making sure the soil is not touching the water.'
3. Don't overwater a rubber plant
Aim to keep the soil moist but not soggy. 'Make sure the compost dries out slightly between each watering,' says plant expert Sarah Raven, 'as overwatering is the most common problem with rubber plants.'
When it comes to how often to water here's some easy to remember advice. 'Your rubber plant enjoys weekly waterings,' says Beth Chapman, 'except during the winter when you may only need to water your plant fortnightly.'
If you are overwatering your rubber plant it will soon show. 'If the leaves turn brown and start to droop this could indicate your plant has been overwatered,' adds Beth. 'As well as ensuring you let your plant’s soil completely dry out between waterings, allow proper drainage.' Just like caring for a prayer plant, allow the pot to drain well so your plant isn't left sitting in water.
What are the different types of rubber plant?
With so many different varieties to choose from it's hard to know where to start so opt for some tried and tested favorites.
- Ficus elastica 'Robusta': The hero rubber plant that ticks all the boxes, especially if you're looking for a traditional dark green variety. As the name suggests it's sturdy and won't let you down.
- Ficus elastica 'Black Prince': Another one to choose for deep green foliage and indestructible ways.
- Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’: This has variegated leaves blotched with white, pink and green for an altogether different look that's really popular right now. 'Tineke is the variegated version of the 'Robusta' rubber plant,' says The Stem's James Folger. 'Native to Southeast Asia, 'Tineke' leaves have splashes of cream, green and pink hues, making it the perfect plant to bring some exotic color into your home. It's relatively easy to care for, and if kept in the right conditions, can grow up to ten feet (three meters) in height.'
- Ficus elastica ‘Burgundy’: As you would expect from the name, ‘Burgundy’ has dark almost black foliage on red stems.
Feeding rubber plants
New rubber plants usually don't need feeding for the first three to six months as they are potted up in nutrient-rich compost. But once your rubber plant has been settled at home for a while it will start to need a regular top-up of nutrients.
'To keep those gorgeous leaves growing well, the rubber plant does appreciate a feed,' says Jo Lambell.' Little and often is a good rule of thumb here with a weak feed every couple of waterings during growing season.'
This generally means once or twice a month in spring and summer. If your plant is in low-light conditions it will need less feeding.
Rubber plant repotting tips
Rubber plants grow fast, much more quickly than other houseplants, except perhaps spider plants that is! Because of their vigorous growth rate, yours will eventually need upgrading to a larger pot. If your plant gets too root bound in its current pot, it won't be able to take up water and nutrients so easily, which will result in an underperforming plant that doesn't have room to thrive.
The guidance on when to repot very much depends on your individual plant's growth rate. They generally max out at around 10ft (3m). As yours grows taller and wider, it will need a larger pot in proportion to its size.
Your plant can be repotted in late winter, spring or early summer, with the general rule being that the colder your climate, the later in the season you will need to repot it for best results.
- Use a good quality compost mix. Fill the new pot so the root ball sits just below the rim.
- Ease the rubber plant into its new pot, gently loosening the root ball as you go.
- Fill in with compost, lightly pressing to make sure the plant is straight and firmly anchored in its new pot.
- Water your rubber plant well after repotting it and don’t let it completely dry out while it’s settling in to its new pot.
Pruning a rubber plant
Sometimes rubber plants become leggy so you need to tidy them up. When it comes to pruning try to do this in late winter with your best secateurs so any cut marks will be hidden by a new flush of spring growth. The stems of rubber plants leak white sap when cut which eventually blackens when exposed to oxygen, so the stems can end up looking a little messy unless disguised by foliage.
'Constant pruning will help encourage new growth off the sides of the central stem to create a much bushier looking plant,' says Leaf Envy's Beth Chapman.
Why is the rubber plant so popular?
Rubber plants are promising to be the next darling of social media, with an image makeover for 2022 that means it's all set to take over from Swiss cheese plants.
'The rubber plant has never really gone out of fashion to be honest, it only ever seems to get more popular,' says The Stem's James Folger. 'The amazing structure of the plant with those big, bouncy lush leaves will just keep growing and growing if you give it the freedom too.'
Everyone loves a large statement piece and this tropical plant is visually striking so perfectly placed to be the star of Instagram feeds. They really are showstoppers, especially when glimpsed through doorways into rooms.
'The curve of the leaves is a great contrast against sharper lines, so the rubber plant makes a great companion for a lonely corner, next to a sofa that is quite linear, or even placed adjacent to a bookcase with sharp lines,' adds James.
What houseplants will grow well next to a rubber plant?
As well finding a spot with bright, indirect light, your rubber plant will benefit from growing alongside other houseplants as it will help to create the humid environment that they love. So gather your houseplants together and give your rubber plant some friends to hang out with.
Choose other indoor plants in the same family such as fiddle leaf figs that like the same conditions, as well such as orchids that also like to be misted in hot, dry weather as a way of cooling them down.
Looks-wise, style up your rubber plants with aloe vera too which also has lovely waxy leaves to get a tropical vibe going.
Why is the rubber plant considered lucky?
It's one of the seven lucky plants (the list includes another one of our favorites, the snake plant) that are thought to bring good karma to your home.
'Feng Shui experts believe that the round leaves are symbolic of money, prosperity and fortune, which is always nice to know,' says The Stem's James Folger.
Bringing home a rubber plant is a quick way to dial up the positive vibes then, as well as adding something that's so aesthetically pleasing (as long as you follow our rubber plant care tips that is) that you will just want to keep snapping shots of its beauteous leaves to show off.
Where to buy rubber plants
So now you know that rubber plant care is a cinch you will want to snap one up fast. They're widely available in garden centers and grocery stores, and there's also a huge selection online. Take the easy option with our quick links below.
Shop rubber plants in the US:
Shop rubber plants in the UK:
Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design, she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.
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