Tips On How To Prune A Rubber Tree

Tips On How To Prune A Rubber Tree

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By: Nikki Tilley, Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden

Rubber tree plants, (Ficus elastica) tend to get rather large and need to be pruned in order to control their size. Overgrown rubber trees have difficulty supporting the weight of their branches, resulting in an unsightly display and possible snapping of the branches. Pruning a rubber tree plant isn’t overly complicated and it actually responds well to pruning.

When to Prune a Rubber Tree

Rubber tree plants are quite resilient and rubber tree trimming can basically take place any time of the year. In fact, branches that are out of sorts can be removed without any damage to the plant.

However, these plants will usually respond faster to pruning during late spring or early summer—around June. This is also considered a good time for taking cuttings, as they are thought to root quicker and easier.

How to Trim a Rubber Tree Plant

Whether it’s simply a subtle, orderly trim or a hard, heavy prune, rubber tree trimming takes little effort and results in a nice, full plant. As long as you keep in mind the fact that this plant grows back from the next nodes down, you can cut it to whatever length and style you want.

Before you prune a rubber tree, make sure your pruning shears are clean and sharp. It may also be a good idea to wear gloves to prevent any irritation from its milk-like sap.

Step back and study the shape of your tree to get an idea of how you would like it to look. Prune rubber tree plant by making your cuts just above a node– where the leaf attaches to the stem or where another stem branches off. You can also prune just above a leaf scar.

Remove about a third to one-half of the plant’s branches but take care not to remove too much foliage than is necessary. New growth will eventually appear from these cuts so don’t be alarmed if the plant seems a bit haggard looking following pruning.

This article was last updated on

Leggy rubber tree. Should I prune? Please help!

I just found this site, and am overwhelmed by the breadth and quality of information!

I have a rubber tree that I've had for about 5 years, not sure if that still means that it's young or not, but it's been growing steadily over the past several years but now it looks to be a bit on the "leggy" side and I desperately need some ideas. I want it to grow tall, and have a large trunk. Two years ago I took some cuttings from a piece that was dying and created two smaller ones (which are also leggy). I have attached a picture. All of the individual stems are growing well, producing new leaves, etc, but I'm concerned that the stem won't get any larger or stronger because there are no bottom leaves. I also want it to branch, but in the state that it's is notching the wrong play?

I'm also a bit of a newbie and don't want to kill it, so I need some help with what exactly terms like "cutting back to two leaves" means. Does that mean I cut off the whole top part of the stem with the healthy leaves, and leave just a smaller stem coming up from the soil? Is that the same as "tip" pruning?

That is all, and any and all help is greatly appreciated!

Sorry if people see the duplicate post in a different area of the forum. I had no way to delete it, but I needed to make sure the message was posted in the right forum. So sorry, and it won't happen again.

Photo Synthesis

Just make sure you NEVER post a duplicate ever again! Duplicate posts are frowned upon and we will *not* tolerate it here in the forums! Okay, okay, I'm just kidding. Welcome to the GardenWeb. :)
I, myself, have been guilty of duplicate posts a couple of times. It happens, lol. Where's a delete button when you need one?

Checking out your pics, to me, your rubber tree doesn't look too leggy. It's natural to eventually lose some lower leaves. I used to have one that was much taller with no lower leaves whatsoever, and it grew just fine. You can prune them back to, or cut a notch, just above a lower node (where the leaf is connected to the trunk), to get them to branch out. I'm not 100% certain tho, because I haven't tried this yet on my new rubber tree. I'm letting mine grow taller first, before I give it a go and try to get mine to branch out, too. Somebody else will come along soon and give you some advise on what you can do.

How to Trim a Rubber Tree Plant

Rubber tree plants can grow quite large very quickly. The problem with their rapid growth is that they cannot support the weight of their own branches when they get overly long. This can cause the plant to break, which can lead to all sorts of complications. The simple answer is to trim your rubber tree on a regular basis.

While rubber trees can be pruned at any time of the year, late spring or early summer are generally considered the best time to do the bulk of your trimming.

Remove any broken or diseased-looking branches. Make your cuts just above a leaf node, as this is where new growth will appear. Wear gloves and do not get any of the milky saps on your skin as some people are allergic to it.

  • Rubber tree plants can grow quite large very quickly.
  • Make your cuts just above a leaf node, as this is where new growth will appear.

Stand back and study your tree. Get an idea of what shape you want your tree to be cut in and then carefully trim each branch to create the desired shape. Branches can be cut at any length but always cut just past a leaf node, or a node which is growing a branch.

Remove no more than one-third to one-half of the plant's branches. Since your rubber tree can be pruned at any time of the year it is not necessary for you to cut everything at one time. If you feel that your plant needs to be cut back by more than 50 percent of its current volume, plan to make your trims over a period of 2 to 3 months.

Do not be alarmed if your plant appears ragged right after it is first cut it will quickly fill in new leaves and take on a healthy appearance.

  • Stand back and study your tree.
  • If you feel that your plant needs to be cut back by more than 50 percent of its current volume, plan to make your trims over a period of 2 to 3 months.

If you get any of the sap on your skin and you begin to have trouble breathing see a doctor at once as this can be serious for some individuals.

Pruning Rubber Plant

Rubber plant is the most commonly used houseplant, as it is easy to plant and care for. Pruning this plant is necessary for its care, and the article will guide you with the same.

Rubber plant is the most commonly used houseplant, as it is easy to plant and care for. Pruning this plant is necessary for its care, and the article will guide you with the same.

Scientific name of the rubber plant is Ficus elastica and it is also known as the Indian rubber bush. It belongs to the genus Ficus under the family Moraceae. The plant is native to the tropical regions of northeast India, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, China, Malaysia, and Indonesia. This plant can grow very tall, about 50 feet, with widespread branches. These plants require very less care and grow very quickly, and hence are popular with gardeners. They are a very good choice to get some shady corners in your rooms. These trees grow very high, so they need to be pruned when placed inside house.

What is Pruning

Pruning is the procedure of removal of unwanted elements of a tree to improve its growth and beauty. Landscaping usually involves pruning of trees, which includes removing dead leaves and the unproductive and unwanted parts of a tree. The reasons for pruning a tree are maintenance, improvement of tree (fruits, flowers, leaves), and limiting the growth of the tree. Pruning of a tree can be done at any time, but the best results can be seen if it is done in a specific season.

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This season varies according to the species of the plant. This practice does not lead to any harm to the tree, but improper pruning may damage the plant health. Winter or spring are usually considered as suitable times for this. It is done with the help of special tools, called pruners, that are used depending upon the size of the tree. Let us take a look at the method of pruning rubber plant.

How to Prune a Rubber Plant

As discussed earlier, rubber plants grow very tall, and hence need to be pruned to fit inside the house. This helps control the height of the plant and makes it look more beautiful. These plants are strong, so pruning can be done in any season. However, late spring or early summer are considered to be the best seasons for pruning this plant.

Before you start, take a glance at the tree, as you have to prune about ⅓rd of it. Ensure that you use clean, sharp, and proper pruners. Wear gloves before you start, as the tree has white milky sap that may leak while pruning. Do not cut out too many leaves from the plant. While pruning, see that you make cuts above the plant nodes. Nodes are where the leaves are attached to the stem or where new branches grow. Rubber plant should be pruned at a height of one foot from the soil surface. New growth will be seen right below the cut you made.

Rubber Plant Care Tips

  • Place the plant in an area with both adequate sunlight and shade.
  • The plant should be fertilized every 15 days.
  • These plants require accurate water and need soil that drains water well.
  • The humidity level required for this plant is minimum 50%.
  • Clean the leaves regularly with the help of a damp cloth.

You can give the plant a desired shape by removing unwanted leaves, branches, etc., and promote its internal growth. Ensure that you consult an expert to guide you with proper pruning techniques.

Ways of Reviving a Rubber Plant

There are two main steps to revive a rubber plant the first is the identification of the problem, and the second is resolving it.

We have highlighted a few common problems and their solutions below.


Overwatered rubber plants don’t fare well and could face a lot of issues such as:

  • Root Rot
  • Shedding of leaves
  • Yellow color leaves
  • Lots of Pests

The Solution

As soon as you realize your plant is acting up, do the following:

  • Cut off the dying leaves
  • Allow it to breath
  • Stop watering the plant until the soil dries up

Preventative Measures

  • Don’t go overboard with caring for the plant. Leave it alone.
  • Water the plant, but don’t drown the soil.
  • Drain the water thoroughly to avoid excess water in the soil.
  • Water while keeping the season in mind, such as water more in the summers and less in the winter.
  • Mist the leaves to keep them moist.
  • Don’t allow the soil to completely dry up in the winter.
  • Find out how dry or moist the soil is by sticking your finger or a skewer into the soil and checking the top couple of inches. If it is dry, water it. If it’s moist, let it be.


Underwatered plants starve to death. It is the same way of starving yourself every couple of days until you finally pass away. You can easily save your plant from dying by looking for signs of underwatering.

  • Faded leaves
  • Lifeless leaves
  • Soil completely drying out and pulling away
  • Stunted growth

The Solution

  • Immediately water your plant
  • Mist the leaves
  • Keep a check on the draining system. You don’t want to water your plant in an effort to revive it only to die a few days later because you drowned the soil.

Preventative Measures

  • Water your rubber plant every 5 days, give or take a day or two.
  • Avoid drenching the soil
  • Water only when the soil gets dried
  • For plants that are 3 feet tall, use a couple of cups of water, and, for 6 feet tall plants, use three cups
  • Observe your plant and keep it healthy by taking its needs into account.
  • Water according to the season

Too Little or Too Much Light

As mentioned earlier, rubber plants prefer indirect but bright sunlight. An adequate amount of light is important for the plant to survive. Here is what you should keep in mind about the lighting requirements of your rubber plant

The above table will help you determine how your plants are doing and whether or not they need more or less sunlight.

The Solution

If the plant is not getting enough light and is indoors, keep it near the window. If it is outdoors, find a corner that isn’t too dark or too bright. If the plant is getting too much light, then keep it in the shade.

Preventative Measures

  • You need to keep in mind that balance is key. To make sure your plant doesn’t get damaged, here are some effective and simple steps you can take:
  • Keep the plant at a spot where early morning and late afternoon sunlight hits.
  • Avoid placing it where mid-day sunlight shines it will dry out the soil and burn the leaves.
  • If you live in an apartment with a west-facing balcony, place your rubber plant there. Your plant will enjoy adequate light.
  • Another ideal spot is in front of the window with a sheer curtain
  • If your plants are kept outdoors, then keep them under a shade.

Rotting Roots

Rotting roots are the biggest indication of your plant not doing well. It can happen to even the most experienced gardeners. So don’t panic. You can revive your plant. When you witness your plants acting weird, it means something is wrong. Even if you can’t see the telltale signs of your plant dying, they could be in trouble.

The most obvious signs of root rot are:

  • Yellow leaves
  • Black spots on leaves
  • Leaves looking lackluster and less shiny
  • Brown and soft leaves
  • Shedding and wilting of leaves
  • Damaged roots due to which the plant dies within days
  • Curled leaves
  • Mushy roots

The Solution

  • Early diagnoses and treatment of your plant is the best solution.
  • Inspect the root if the whole root has become brown and mushy, it may be too late to revive your plant. However, even if a few plant roots are firm, healthy, and white, we may be able to revive the plant.
  • Chop the brown and mushy roots. Remember, the brown roots will smell foul and be very slimy. Therefore, wear protective gloves before handling them.
  • Remove the soil so that you could eliminate any chance of mold coming back.
  • Clean the roots with clean water. Do so under running tepid water. You could use a gentle antibacterial soap to clean any fungal particles and bacteria stuck on the roots.
  • Allow the weaker roots to fall off
  • After cleaning and pruning the roots, allow them to air dry to get rid of bacteria. Leave them out for 24 hours.
  • If you fear the roots over-drying while they are out, then wrap them up with a slightly moist paper.
  • Use a dish under the roots to catch excess water.
  • Line the plant pot with stone and pebbles before pouring soil into it.
  • Terracotta pots are excellent for repotting and are very porous and let out more moisture.
  • Replant the roots in healthy soil in a pot with a good drainage system
  • Add compost or fertilizer to facilitate plant growth
  • Again water but don’t drown the soil

Preventative Measures

  • In order to keep your rubber plant happy and healthy, provide soil that can help it thrive.
  • The perfect soil mixture for these types of plants is 20% perlite, 20% cocopeat, and 60% garden soil. Cocopeat helps the soil retain moisture.
  • Keep a check on the roots. Inspect frequently to check if your rubber plant is acting out.
  • Cut the top stem of the plant to increase growth
  • Whenever you use scissors to cut the leaves, sterilize them with three parts water and one part bleach to avoid spreading bacteria and fungus to the soil and other plants.

Infestation of Pests

Your rubber plants are prone to infestation of quite a few different types of pests such as scale insects, thrips, spider mites, mealybugs, etc.

Here are signs of possible pest infestation:

  • Speckled leaves
  • Leaves shedding
  • You’ll see tiny holes on your plant’s leaves. Some pests feed on the cell sap and plant tissue.
  • Leaf Blight

The Solution

Resolving a pest infestation can be a tedious process. However, here are some steps you can take that could help.

  • Use insecticides
  • If you are not okay with the idea of subjecting your plant and your environment to harmful chemicals, use neem oil diluted with a bit of water and spray the leaves.
  • Prune badly affected leaves. This is a great way of ensuring the infection or disease caused by infestation doesn’t spread.
  • If you see any bugs, pick them out using gloves, preferably.
  • Use a DIY organic and environmentally friendly insecticide by combining half a teaspoon of neem oil with gentle dish soap that is bleach-free and 1 liter of water. Spray the entire plant.
  • You can also use Isopropyl alcohol diluted with water and a few drops of neem oil. Take a cotton ball, dip it in the solution, and wipe the leaves. Do it for a couple of weeks.
  • Spider mites are visible when the infestation gets severe. Isolate the plant to avoid other plants in the vicinity getting affected.
  • Cut off infected branches and leaves.

Preventative Measures

  • Use fertilizers every month during the summer season. Make sure to use fertilizers with high nitrogen content, such as seaweed.
  • Add compost two times in one month.
  • Spray neem oil solution even if you don’t see any pest infestation. It will ward off any bugs trying to inhabitant your plant. Spray the neem solution at night or in the evening. Spraying the plant during the daytime will affect its daily activities, possibly killing it. The next day after spraying the plant with an insecticide, wash the leaves and sufficiently water it for the following few days.

Temperature Fluctuations

Rubber plants thrive in stable temperatures. The fluctuations in the temperatures may cause suffering to the plant. The right balance of nutrients, water, sun, and temperature is what allows the plant to be healthy. Here are a few telltale signs of temperature fluctuations.

  • Disfigured or discolored leaves.
  • Shrunken leaves.
  • Brown blotches on older leaves.
  • Puckering of younger leaves.

The Solution

  • Resolving the effects of temperature shock is fairly simple.
  • Cut off all the badly affected leaves.
  • Place your rubber tree plant at a spot where the temperature is above 55F.
  • Don’t expose the plant to direct sunlight.
  • If the plant has been affected because of a very low temperature, keeping it near a furnace or wood-burning stove will warm it up a bit.

Preventative Measures

Here are some measures to prevent your plant from dying.

  • Keep the plant at an ideal and steady temperature of 55 F.
  • Although the plant may tolerate temperatures lower than 39F. If it goes above 80F, then take the plant to a steady environment.
  • Place the plant near the window from September all through March. For the rest of the year, move the plant to the east or west window.
  • In winter months, burn wood for ideal temperature but keep the plant from direct heat.

Issues with Humidity

As we know by now, rubber plants love humidity. That is how they get their leaves to appear shiny and healthy. The common problem of a plant not getting enough humidity is dried leaves.

  • The Solution
  • Misting the leaves.
  • Moving to a spot where there is plenty of indirect light after watering it.
  • Normal levels of humidity in the room the plant is kept.
  • In the winter season, change the plant’s position to a more humid area. Colder months tend to dry out the plant faster because of the lack of moisture in the air.

Preventative Measures

  • Place the plants where they will be happy all year round with stable levels of humidity.
  • If you feel like the air in the room is too dry, use a humidifier.

You may like the following gardening articles:


The Burgundy Rubber tree measures 8 to 12 inches in height and about 4 inches in width. It can reach up to 40 feet tall if you plant it in the ground. This plant got its name from its burgundy leaves, which in some cases look almost black. While this plant is relatively easy to care for, growers often complain about Burgundy leaves turning yellow, a problem caused by overwatering. Here are some tips and tricks on how to best grow your Burgundy Rubber tree.

As a moisture-sensitive plant, Burgundy needs water when up to 70% of the top part of the soil becomes dry. The water should be poured slowly without splashing the leaves, letting it flow through until it reaches the saucer. Watering should be cut back during winter. Overwatered Burgundy Rubber trees will display yellow leaves. You may consider using an organic mulch to strengthen the structure of the soil and maintain its moisture.

Burgundy prefers bright, filtered light. If indoors, its best position should be close to a window.


The ideal temperature for this plant is between 65 degrees and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, especially if you want to achieve its dark red foliage. As in other varieties of Rubber trees, abrupt temperature changes do not bode well for Burgundy. If you live in a cold climate, Burgundy will do best in an indoor location.

A once-a-month diluted liquid fertilizer will support Burgundy’s growth if fed from spring to summer.

How do you prune a rubber tree?


  1. Remove dead leaves and branches at any time of year.
  2. Do any major pruning in late spring or early summer.
  3. Wear gloves when pruning.
  4. Cut the rubber plant branches just above the nodes.
  5. Prune the rubber plant with a sharp pair of pruning shears.
  6. Don't over-prune the rubber plant.

One may also ask, how do you encourage branching in rubber plants? Make a cut just above the node diagonally and on nodes facing the direction in which it is desired for the tree to grow. Sometimes rubber trees have a central stem cutting it out can encourage branching.

Subsequently, one may also ask, how do you revive a rubber tree?

Once you've determined the rubber tree plant is getting too much water, it's time to revive the plant. Immediately stop watering the plant and allow the soil to dry. Do not water the plant again until the soil is dry to a depth of 1 inch. If you suspect root rot has set in, remove the plant from the pot and its soil.

How much light does a rubber tree need?

When you have a rubber tree houseplant, it needs bright light but prefers indirect light that isn't too hot. Some people recommend putting it near a window that has sheer curtains. This allows plenty of light, but not too much.

Watch the video: How to Repot and Propagate Your Rubber Plant. Ficus Elastica Houseplant


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