Despite the name, rubber plants aren’t fake plants made from rubber. Instead, rubber plants are named such because they’ve historically been used for making rubber. A trendy indoor plant known for improving air quality and that’s a little more tree than plant, you’ll likely see this option at your local home improvement store or garden center.
If you want to add this plant to your indoor (or even outdoor, if you live in the right climate) garden, what do you need to know?
Here’s everything to know about rubber plants and how to care for them — plus five rubber plants that require no care at all.
Our Favorite Fake Rubber Plants:
What is a Rubber Plant?
According to Britannica Encyclopedia, rubber plants, or rubber trees or ficus elastica, are native to India and Southeast Asia but can be grown indoors just about anywhere. Durable and a good pick for even those of us with black thumbs, the rubber plant was once used widely as a source of rubber (though the rubber tree from South America replaced the Southeast Asian rubber plant as the world’s main source of rubber in the 1900s).
Rubber plants can grow as tall as 200 feet in the wild, but you won’t need to worry about that if you’re growing one indoors. If you want to restrict its size, just keep the plant in a smaller pot. Stephen Webb from Garden’s Whisper adds, “Rubber plants can be grown outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11, but they are typically grown as houseplants in most other areas. When grown as houseplants, rubber plants usually only reach 3-6 feet tall.”
Rubber plants work well in an array of spaces and don’t require too much care or too much sunlight. They’re known for their ability to remove toxic gasses from the air, improving your home’s overall air quality.
While the most common variety of rubber paint is the ficus elastica “robusta,” with its dark green leaves, there are other varieties of the plant that differ just slightly. For example, the tricolor variety features plant leaves in various shades of green, pink and cream. The burgundy variety, meanwhile, features dark red leaves.
How to Care for a Rubber Plant
While caring for a rubber plant is very easy — especially compared to some other, more challenging houseplants — you’ll still want to keep a few key factors in mind.
Every, or just about every, houseplant needs a proper amount of light to thrive. Rubber trees like a fair amount of light, about six to eight hours per day, but never direct sunlight and nothing too hot. Don’t place your plant in a window that receives a large amount of sun during the hottest portion of the day. Instead, opt for a window that receives primarily morning or evening sun or a window that blocks bright light with a sheer curtain. Webb also advises to keep your plant away from from drafts, heaters and air conditioners that will turn your leaves brown.
Overall, you want your plant to sit in a space that will keep its temperature at a nice, warm constant, about 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Rubber trees also like high humidity environments; if you need to increase the humidity in your home, you might want to check out our list of favorite humidifiers.
A sign your rubber plant may not be receiving enough light? The leaves will turn pale and may fall off the plant.
Water is another necessity for any indoor houseplant — but something that’s oh-so-difficult to get right. Too much water, and your plant dies. Too little water, and your plant dies. Striking that balance can be a challenge.
Webb says that watering should typically happen every 7-10 days.
Ideally, during the growing season, you should water your rubber plant once per week. During the dormant season, however, you only really need to water the rubber plant about once a month.
When are the growing and dormant seasons for rubber plants? They’re just like many other plants; their growing season takes place during the summer, while their dormant season is during the winter.
A sign that you could be watering your rubber plant too much? The leaves will go yellow or brown and then, eventually, fall off. On the flip side, if you’re watering your rubber plant too infrequently, you’ll notice the leaves will turn droopy.
Pro Tip: Webb says to check the top inch of the soil before watering. If it’s still a little moist, it’s not time to water just yet. Let the soil dry out completely before you water the plant again. Luckily, “rubber plants are very tolerant of neglect, so even if you forget to water them occasionally, they will still stay healthy.”
Soil and fertilizer
If repotting your rubber plant, either when you first buy it or later, choose a well-draining soil and go with a 24-8-16 fertilizer. But for those who aren’t up to date on all their plant lingo, what does this mean?
A 24-8-16 fertilizer is one that contains 24% nitrogen, 8% phosphorus and 16% potassium. You can apply this blend of fertilizer to your plant as often as every two weeks during the summer.
Your potting soil should be well-draining but also capable of keeping things moist. Choose a potting mix that includes peat, sand and pine bark for the best results.
Keep your houseplants clean, including your rubber plant. Dust all your houseplants on a regular basis to keep the leaves free from residue and debris. This ensures they can soak up all the sunlight they need.
Rubber plants are susceptible to pests, primarily the same varieties that can plague any house plant. If you notice aphids, mites, mealybugs or any other pest in your rubber plant’s pot or soil, use an all-natural or low-harm treatment such as neem oil.
Propagating a Rubber Plant
Happy with how your rubber tree is looking and want to grow a new one, or share the rubber tree love with a friend? You can easily create a plant cutting from your healthy, thriving rubber plant and pot it for an entirely new plant. Just carefully remove a small branch of about six inches in length from the healthy plant, place it in soil and let it grow from there.
Otherwise, the only instance in which you might need to cut your rubber plant would be when pruning, to remove new growth and new leaves, and keep the plant at a manageable size.
Are Rubber Plants Safe?
If you’re looking for a plant that will be entirely safe around pets and children, you may want to look elsewhere. Rubber plants do emit a latex secretion that can irritate the skin and eyes, so you’ll need to wash your hands every time you care for the plant. Additionally, the leaves are toxic, so they are best kept out of reach of curious children and pets who might accidentally consume them.
Fake Rubber Plants
But what if all of the above just sounds like too much work for you? Even with how simple a rubber tree is to grow and care for, these plants can still be difficult for those who aren’t very attentive to their plants or who travel a lot and don’t want the headache of remembering to ask someone to water the tree once per week during the growing season.
But the good news is, you can find fake rubber plants that give you the look of a rubber plant without the need for care. Fake rubber plants fit in with a range of decor and can be purchased in an array of sizes, with various different bases and pots, so you can pick the best fit for your home.
This fake rubber plant is on the smaller side, but it makes up for what it lacks in height in width. Lush and round, the plant features an abundance of green and cream-colored leaves in a round cylinder base that works well with just about any decor. Place this fake plant on your mantle, a shelf or a plant stand for a touch of green wherever it’s most needed in your space.
If you prefer rubber plants that are on the darker side and not quite so lush, you might want to opt for this faux tree from West Elm that’s on the taller side rather than bushy. West Elm offers the tree in two sizes, and you have the option of purchasing it with or without the planter.
For a fake rubber tree that features a large and eye-catching base, go with this tall option that’s 16 inches planter and 19 inches plant. Scoot it into a corner where you need a little something, or let it stand on its own as a focal point in any room.
This rubber tree features the green and pink leaves that you might get from a tricolor varietal. However, beyond that, it’s also eye-catching thanks to its long, narrow stem. The fake plant is ideal for areas where you don’t have a lot of floor space, but you still want something that will take up substantial wall space.
Artificial plants can easily cost more than $100. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly piece of decor, check out this affordable rubber plant available from Amazon. Choose between two colors — a traditional green or a green and cream pattern — and three sizes, from 22 inches to 40 inches tall.
Caring for Fake Plants
Yes, there’s very little care a fake plant needs, especially compared to a living plant, but you do want to care for your fake plant at least a little. Just setting it in a corner and letting it collect dust will do nothing for your home’s appeal. So, give it a quick clean every once in a while.
To clean your artificial plant, just give them a quick dusting whenever you do your normal house cleaning. However, you can do a deeper clean once or twice a year if you find your plants are collecting quite a bit of dust. This deeper clean is as simple as rinsing the plant in the shower (just be sure to wrap the pot or planter and fake soil in a trash bag first to prevent mold growth) and then allowing it to air dry. You can also clean each leaf by hand, using a damp cloth.
Rubber Plant FAQs
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.
How easy is it to care for a rubber plant?
Compared to many plants, rubber plants or rubber trees require minimal plant care. They can thrive even in low-light and indirect light settings and require minimal watering, pruning and fertilizing.
Is a rubber plant right for my house?
Rubber plants look great with just about any decor style, and they’re ideal for those who want a live plant but not too much work. However, rubber plants aren’t suitable for households with children or pets who have a known history of chowing down on the occasional plant. Rubber plants are toxic when consumed and also secrete a latex substance that can cause eye and skin irritation when touched.
How long will a rubber plant live?
Rubber plants live as long as 10 years with the proper care.
Where can I buy a rubber plant?
Rubber plants are quite trendy, so you can buy them live at your local garden center or home improvement store. You can also order live plants online. If you want a fake plant, you can find those at many home decor stores, on Amazon and elsewhere online, on most sites that sell home decor.
Why is my rubber plant dying?
If you suspect your rubber plant is dying, you can likely trace its ailments to one of a few potential causes — too much or too little light, under or overwatering, lack of humidity or pests.
Ready to Add a New Houseplant to Your Collection?
Whether you’re all fake plants or your apartment looks a little more like a greenhouse, if you’re ready to add a new houseplant to your collection, a rubber plant — either real or faux — can be a perfect fit.
You might also be interested in: 5 Ways Plants Help With Your Mental and Emotional Wellbeing
The Best Fake Rubber Plants:
- Nearly Natural Artificial Rubber Plant in Cylinder
- West Elm Faux Potted Rubber Tree
- Nearly Natural 35” Rubber Leaf Artificial Plant in Gray Planter
- Nearly Natural 65” Variegated Rubber Leaf Artificial Tree
- BESAMENATURE 30 Inch Little Artificial Rubber Tree Plant