The ficus elastica, or rubber tree plant, is popular as indoor decor. It is not only easy to grow, but also stays healthy for years. The plant is attractive, with large glossy leaves and heights reaching up to 10 feet tall. Caring for ficus elastica is easy as long as indoor lighting and temperature conditions remain constant. Follow these steps to maintain your plant for many years.
Place your ficus elastica in a location receiving 4 to 6 hours of bright light, but not direct sun each day at a temperature between 55 to 75 degrees. Once you've found a suitable spot where your plant seems to thrive, do not move it. Rubber tree plants do not tolerate changes in light or temperature very well. Keep it away from drafty doors or windows as well as heat sources.
Plant your ficus elastica in a pot with high quality well drained soil. Set the pot over a shallow dish with pebbles filled with water. This will supply humidity to the plant constantly. Every 2 to 3 years in the spring time, assess the plant's growth. If the pot appears to be too small, transfer your plant to a larger pot with new soil so that roots have fresh conditions and space to grow. Be careful not to increase the size of the pot by more than 1 inch in diameter, however. Plant outdoors only if you live in USDA Hardiness Zone 10.
Water once a week, ensuring that soil stays moist, but not waterlogged. Generally, water the plant until liquid drips out from the bottom. In the winter time, reduce watering to once every 2 weeks. While it is normal for some lower leaves to fall off, if you notice yellowing dried leaves, you are probably overwatering your ficus elastica.
During the first 2 months of your plant's growth, apply a high phosphorus 5-10-5 NPK fertilizer. For the remainder of your plant's life, apply high nitrogen 10-5-5 NPK fertilizer. Feed the plant one dose every 3 to 4 weeks during the summer months and one dose every 5 to 6 weeks during the fall.
Mold and Pests
If you notice mold or insects on your plant, treat the condition as soon as possible. Simply wipe off the leaves with a mild soapy water solution and regularly asses the plant's health.
Use sharp scissors or pruning shears to cut back an overgrown and unwieldy ficus elastica. Trimming back the plant dramatically to your desired length will not damage it, but it may sprout additional branches from that spot, which could increase the bushiness. Also, the trimmed sections will drip sap, so protect your floors with several layers of newspapers and apply a rooting hormone to the trimmed exposed stumps.
Grow a New Plant
Ficus elastica can propagate through clippings. During the spring, cut a piece of branch and place the tip which expels the sap into water for half an hour. Next, dip the tip into rooting hormone and plant it into fertile well-drained soil.