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Publication #ENH411

Ficus elastica: Rubber Tree1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2

Introduction

Often seen as an interior container plant, Rubber Tree has large, 5 to 12-inch-long, thick, glossy evergreen leaves, multiple trunks, and a spreading, irregular canopy. Able to reach 100 feet in height in its native habitat in the jungle but most often seen at about 25 to 40 feet in the landscape, Rubber Tree is useful as a screen, shade, patio, or specimen tree. Its coarse texture makes a strong statement in the landscape. Use as a street tree is limited by the tree's tendency to break apart in strong winds. Perhaps the tree could be made stronger by removing branches with weak tight-angle crotches and spacing major lateral branches along one central trunk. Eliminate multiple trunks early in the life of the tree and prune lateral branches so they remain smaller than half the diameter of the trunk to increase longevity in the landscape.

Figure 1. 

Young Ficus elastica: Rubber Tree


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Ficus elastica
Pronunciation: FYE-kuss ee-LASS-tick-uh
Common name(s): Rubber Tree, India-Rubber Fig
Family: Moraceae
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: invasive non-native
Uses: shade; trained as a standard; indoors; screen; specimen; deck or patio; container or planter; espalier; highway median
Availability: not native to North America

Figure 2. 

Range


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Description

Height: 30 to 45 feet
Spread: 25 to 30 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: oval
Crown density: dense
Growth rate: fast
Texture: coarse

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: elliptic (oval)
Leaf venation: pinnate, brachidodrome
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen
Leaf blade length: 8 to 12 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Flower

Flower color: unknown
Flower characteristics: not showy

Fruit

Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: green
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically one trunk; thorns
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Breakage: susceptible to breakage
Current year twig color: green
Current year twig thickness: thick
Wood specific gravity: unknown

Culture

Light requirement: full sun, partial sun or partial shade
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; occasionally wet; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate

Other

Roots: can form large surface roots
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Figure 3. 

Foliage


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Use and Management

Rubber Tree will grow quickly in sun or partial shade on almost any well-drained soil. The soil should be allowed to become fairly dry between waterings, especially in containers. Rubber Tree makes a nice house plant if it is not over-watered.

Available cultivars include: `Doescheri' has yellow-variegated leaves; `Decora' produces broad, reddish-green leaves with ivory-colored veins running down center of leaf; `Variegata' has light green leaves with white or yellow margins.

Propagation is by layering or cuttings.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern but occasionally scales are a problem.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH411, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006. Reviewed May 2011. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.