Ficus Elastica – Rubber Tree Plant


The rubber tree plant (Ficus elastica) was originally an outdoor plant cultivated commercially for its white sap that was used to produce latex. The plant is native to the tropics of India, South Asia, and Malaysia. When grown outside, a rubber plant, part of the banyan tree family, can reach a height well over 100ft (30 m) and has a thick, sturdy trunk that can be 6ft (2 m) wide. Other common names for the Ficus elastica are Rubber Fig, Indian Rubber Bush, Indian Rubber Tree, Rubber Bush. Today, rubber tree plants grow outdoors in warm, temperate climates throughout the world, though they are much shorter than the ones originally found growing in nature.

Rubber Tree Plant Description

Rubber tree plants have thick, leathery, glossy, oval leaves that are about  4”-14” (10cm-35cm) long and 2″-6″ (5cm-15cm) wide. Once damaged, the leaves cannot be trimmed and should be cut off. Interestingly, the leaves of younger plants are larger than those of more mature plants. When small, this versatile plant can be used as table plant and eventually as a bushy floor plant or tall tree. The easy to care for rubber tree can grow up to 10ft tall in a bright room with tall ceilings.

Rubber Tree Plant Varieties

A rubber tree is an extremely popular indoor plant and there are many different varieties with different colored leaves.

Ficus elastica “decora” has shiny, thick, dark green leaves.

Ficus elastica ‘robustica” is a new hardier variety of the Ficus “decora” with larger, wider leaves

Ficus elastica “tineke” has colorful, patterned leaves in green, pink, cream, and yellow.

Ficus elastica burgundy (Black Prince) has very dark almost blackish/ green leaves with a burgundy undertones and stems

Ficus elastica tricolor, also called a “Ruby Red” or “Belize” has leaves that are rose colored when they first emerge and gradually become dark green with leaf patterns in white and grayish green. Ficus elastica “doescheri” has green and gray blotches of color in the center of the leaves and creamy white margins on the outer edges of the leaves.

        A Rubber Tree plant with large, thick, leathery, green leaves.

F. Tineke                  F. Burgundy                F. Tri-Color              F. decora

Quick Care Tips

Like all ficus plants, a rubber tree doesn’t like to be moved around to different locations.

Prefers constant temperatures above 55°F (12.8°C)

Keep the plant away from cold drafts and heaters.

bright indirect lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light.

Be careful not to over water

The rubber tree is a poisonous plant and is toxic to small children, dogs, cats, and other pets. Read more about houseplants that are poisonous in Don’t Feed Me to Your Cat: A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants.



I Have My Rubber Plant in a Very Bright Window and It’s Getting Lots of New Leaves but Some of the Leaves Have Brown Spots on Them. Does It Have Some Kind of Bug?

If you have your rubber tree plant in the direct sun, those brown marks are sunburn. Move your plant away from the window and into bright, indirect light. If the plant is not in direct sun the marks could be Leaf Spot Disease. Keep water off the leaves and don’t mist the plant.

Why Do the Bottom Leaves of My Rubber Tree Plant Turn Yellow and Drop Off? Should I Fertilize It More?

It sounds like your rubber Tree Plant is getting yellow leaves due to a watering problem. Rubber Trees develop yellow leaves when they are either over or under-watered. Check your soil to see which one it is and either water more or cut back on your watering.

My Rubber Tree Plant Has Leaves at the Top but Bare Stems; How Can I Make It Look Better?

You can make your bare, thin rubber tree plant look better by cutting off the growing tip of the main stem; once you do that, the plant will branch out along the stem. Use stem tip cuttings to start new plants. Another way to make a rubber tree bushier is to make small slits above the notches in the stem where the old leaves fell off; new leaves will grow from each slit.

I Tried to Propagate My Rubber Plant With Stem Tip Cuttings but It Never Seems to Work, I Don’t Know What I’m Doing Wrong.

After you cut off the stem tip from a rubber Ttee plant, place it a jar of water for about an hour. This stops the sticky white sap from sealing the cut end of the stem. Once you remove the stem tip from the water, dip the cut end in Rooting Hormone, and plant immediately. Hope this works for you.