How to care for a rubber plant – the almost unkillable houseplant

Low maintenance and fast-growing, the rubber plant is the perfect choice for beginners and ideal for making a statement in a home

rubber plant in a home
(Image credit: Alamy)

Rubber plants are the perfect introduction to houseplant ownership. Fast-growing, low-maintenance and practically unkillable, rubber plants create a statement without being too demanding. 

When a space calls for a towering houseplant, the humble rubber plant offers the perfect solution – it can gain 60cm of height annually, surpassing 2 metres in just a few years.

However, it’s not just its height that makes this house plant idea a favourite. Bringing colour and tropical flair, the rubber plant's thick, waxy leaves come in a range of hues, from deep forest green to lighter variegations and vibrant pink hues. ‘Ficus elastica has stood the test of time, remaining popular over decades and never losing its appeal,’ says Emily Lawlor, owner of Happy Houseplants. It is also one of the best houseplants to boost wellbeing.

How to care for a rubber plant

The plant’s unusual name stems from its milky white sap, which, in the 1990s, was used to make rubber. This sap is mildly toxic if ingested by humans or pets – so be careful and wear gloves when pruning or propagating. If this is of concern to you – why not take a look at one of these pet-friendly houseplants.

‘A rubber plant is a popular choice among plant lovers not only for its looks but, unlike other types of ficus, being very easy to care for,’ says Charlotte Beckett of Between Two Thorns

A brilliant addition to biophilic design, there are lots of rubber plant varieties. Depending on your preferences for leaf colour, variegation and height, there are several rubber plant varieties. These include Robusta, Tineke, Ruby, Melany, Burgundy and Abidjan.

What you will need

Where to buy a Rubber plant

Where should I put my Rubber Plant?

‘Although the rubber plant comes from tropical environments, it prefers its soil to stay quite dry and is quite easily overwatered when treated like general leafy houseplants,’ explains Evie Brownlee, manager at Grow Urban

‘Originating from the lush rainforests of Southeast Asia, the rubber plant flourishes beneath canopies with varying light levels and thrives in high humidity,’ explains Emily Lawlor from Happy Houseplants. 

To mimic this habitat, place your rubber plant in an area with bright but indirect light. ‘Aim for a temperature between 15-24°C in a spot shielded from drafts,’ she adds. It is also advisable to dust leaves regularly to aid photosynthesis.

A rubber plant is also incredibly effective at purifying the air making them a great choice for your bedroom ideas or home offices. They are also one of the best houseplants to improve wellbeing

rubber plant in a home

(Image credit: Alamy)

How do you water a Rubber Plants?

Just as with prayer plants, watering your rubber plant should be determined by the wetness of the soil rather than time. Test the soil by inserting a finger or moisture meter into the top three inches – if it is dry, then water. 

‘Rubber plants do not like to sit in wet soil, so ensure the soil is dry before watering. This will help prevent root rot,’ says Charlotte Beckett of Between Two Thorns. The plant is dormant in winter, so reducing the watering frequency during these months can ensure a healthy plant come spring. This is very similar to snake plants.

Despite preferring drier soil, rubber plants are humidity lovers, notes Evie Brownlee from Grow Urban, ‘mist the leaves with water in a spray bottle a couple of times a week to maintain good levels.’

How to feed a Rubber Plant

As one of the best air-purifying indoor plants, you must encourage vigorous growth and luscious leaves. To achieve this, feeding is essential. ‘For a rubber plant, we recommend looking for a balanced, water-soluble feed formulated for houseplants. Look for plant food with an N-P-K ratio (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) of around 7-7-7. Feed every two to four weeks during the growing season,’ says Tom Cook, houseplant buyer at British Garden Centres.

rubber plant in woven pot by leather chair and patio doors

(Image credit: Happy Houseplants)

How do you repot a Rubber plant?

With any fast-growing plant, knowing how to repot houseplants is essential. 

‘To see if when your houseplant is ready for repotting, check whether the roots are growing out the drainage holes, or you can remove the pot to see if the roots are spiralling densely,’ explains Evie Brownlee. Repotting your rubber plant is best done during spring and summer. 

‘Before repotting your rubber plant, water the plant to loosen the roots, then carefully remove it from its old pot, teasing out any tightly packed roots. Place a layer of well-draining potting mix in the bottom of the new pot, position the plant in the centre at the same depth, and fill in around the sides. Water thoroughly after repotting,’ advises Tom Cook from British Garden Centres. 

‘When repotting a rubber plant, use a soil mix with perlite – such as Gro-Sure Perlite on Amazon – and pine bark as this echoes the rich, well-draining forest floor of the plant’s natural habitat,’ adds Emily Lawlor from Happy Houseplants.

rubber plant in a home

(Image credit: Alamy)


Does a rubber plant need to be pruned?

Yes, a rubber plant does benefit from being pruned. Not every home can accommodate a 6ft houseplant, but thankfully, you can prune your rubber plant to your preferred height. ‘Always use clean shears when pruning a plant to reduce the risk of any infection,’ advises Charlotte Beckett of Between Two Thorns.

‘However, it is important that you only chop off the top of your rubber plant when it has reached the desired height as this will cause branching rather than continuing vertical growth.’ 

Why is my rubber plant dropping leaves

'A rubber plant that is dropping its lower leaves can be the result of a few issues. Firstly the light levels are too low, try introducing your plant into a brighter spot. It could be a watering issue, remember less is more when it comes to a rubber plant, cut back on watering and let it dry out more between waterings,' says Charlotte Beckett from Between Two Thorns.

Holly Reaney
Content Editor

Holly is one of Ideal Home’s content editors. Starting her career in 2018 as a feature writer and sub-editor for Period Living magazine, she has continued this role also adding regular features for Country Homes & Interiors and the Ideal Home website to her roster.  Holly has a passion for traditional and country-inspired interiors – especially kitchen design – and is happiest when exploring the countryside and hills of the Lake District. A keen gardener, she is a strong believer that you can never have too many houseplants.