Ficus Elastica, also known as Rubber Plant, can be enjoyed as either medium-sized house plants or grown to become focal point, beautiful indoor trees. If you’re patient enough to grow your own, plants that start out younger when you buy them adapt better to indoor living than starting with a more mature plant. They can grow to impressive heights within a few years, especially if you put the plants outside during the summer. Keeping the plants in small pots will restrict their growth, if you want to keep them smaller.
While rubber plant are grown as easy-care houseplants, they also improve indoor air quality, according to studies conducted by NASA. Their large leaves can absorb airborne chemicals and break them down, rendering them harmless. They absorb exhaled carbon dioxide and convert it to breathable oxygen. Rubber plants also eliminate bacteria and mold spores in the air.
The large leaves allow it to draw in large amounts of contaminants, making it efficient at cleaning the air. As water is drawn upward through the plant from the roots, air is drawn downward and out through the roots to make air available to the roots. Contaminants are drawn through the plant with the air and deposited in the soil. Once the contaminants are in the soil, they encounter microbes that naturally live around the roots. The microbes break down the contaminants and convert them either into nutrients the plants can use or to harmless compounds in the soil, depending on the type of contaminant.
Carbon Dioxide Removal
Rubber plants improve air quality by converting exhaled carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen. The plants combine carbon dioxide with hydrogen broken down from water taken in by the roots. A by-product of this chemical reaction is oxygen. The rubber plant releases the extra oxygen into the air through the leaves.
Bacteria and mold spores float through the air, looking for places to grow. Soil is a natural place for these organisms to grow, but they can make rubber plants sick. Part of a rubber plant’s defense against these potential hazards kills these organisms while they are airborne. This process will not harm people or pets, but can reduce mold and bacteria in a room by as much as 50 or 60 percent.
Rubber Plant Care
Rubber plants are tolerant of neglect and so can be grown easily by those with little experience with plants. They should be allowed to dry out between watering. Rubber plants handle under-watering better than over-watering. They can thrive in dim light, so they do well in a variety of indoor conditions. Rubber plants can eventually reach 8 feet tall if given the right conditions, so should be planted where there is space for them to grow.
Rubber plants don’t like to sit in water, so a well-draining soil is important. House Plant Expert suggests, in particular, that a “well-draining and well-aerated potting soil is needed. 1 part peat, 1 part pine bark and 1 part coarse sand (or perlite) is a good mix.”
Rubber plants like bright light and a lot of it, but not direct sunlight. A sunny spot shielded by a sheer curtain is often perfect for rubber plants. You can tell if your rubber plant needs more light if it becomes leggy, its leaves lose their luster, and lower leaves fall off.
Watering and Fertilizing Your Rubber Plant
Rubber plants can be watering in every once a week on tropical climate or when you touch the soil completely dried, the plant should be kept moist. This includes wiping the leaves with a damp cloth or even misting them. Watch for droopy leaves, which indicate a need for more water. Leaves that turn yellow and brown and drop signal over-watering.
Pruning and Re-potting Rubber Plants
Aside from removing dead or dying leaves, rubber plants don’t require much pruning. However, for shaping, keep the following in mind: Don’t cut off the top until your plant reaches the desired height. When you do cut off the top, your plant will branch out. You can always prune to your desired shape by cutting back unruly branches. Pruning in spring or summer is best but not absolutely necessary.
If you don’t re-pot your plants, they will not grow. However, don’t put rubber plants in pots that are too big. Transplanting to pots that are about an inch bigger in diameter than the previous pot is a good rule of thumb.
Propagating Rubber Plants
Once your friends and family see how gorgeous your rubber plant is, they’ll probably want one of their own. Although it doesn’t always work perfectly, rubber plants are one of those plants that you can just hack a piece from and stick in soil and they can grow. Allowing the sap to dry, dipping the cutting in rooting medium, and adding a heating pad under the pot with the cutting in it can increase your chances of success.
This plant is toxic to cats and dogs. Chewing or ingestion can result in vomiting and diarrhea