Greenhouse & Indoor PlantsPlant Care Instructions

How to Care for a Rubber Tree

Rubber trees, or Ficus elastica, are often grown in homes and offices because they require very little care and are easy to grow. Rubber trees prefer to be where they will receive bright light, but they dislike being exposed to direct sunlight. They should be kept away from cold drafts and blasts of warm air from heating vents.

During the spring and summer growing season, rubber trees will be happy if their soil is kept evenly moist, but the rest of the year they like their soil to be slightly on the dry side. Too much water may cause a rubber tree’s leaves to turn yellow and drop, so provide your rubber tree with good drainage and do not allow the soil to become soggy. 

The large, broad leaves of a rubber tree may be sponged off with a soft damp cloth to keep them clean and attractive. There are Neem oil products available for cleaning plant leaves that will give the leaves a nice shine. Neem oil is also a safe insecticide, although rubber trees are rarely bothered by insects.

If they are not pruned, rubber trees tend to grow as one long, leggy stem so to encourage a rubber tree to become full and compact, the plant may be pruned back. Pruning won’t hurt the plant even though it will ooze its milky sap from the wound. The sap is just the plant’s way of protecting and healing the wound. 

To keep a rubber tree from getting taller, the growing tip may be pinched or clipped off. This will encourage the plant to develop more branches. If the entire plant is already too tall, it may be cut back to the desired height and new growth will begin to grow below the pruning cut. Branches that are becoming too long may be pruned back to at least two healthy leaves or removed entirely.

Rubber trees grow outdoors in climates where temperatures stay above 40 degrees year-round. In cooler climates, a potted rubber tree may be kept outdoors out of direct sunlight during the summer months, but the plant may drop some leaves in response to changes in the amount of light it is accustomed to receiving.

Mike McGroarty is the owner of McGroarty Enterprises and the author of several books. You can visit his website at  and read his blog at

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