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Publication #ENH411

Ficus elastica: Rubber Tree1

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, Andrew K. Koeser, Deborah R. Hilbert, and Drew C. McLean2

Introduction

Often seen as an interior container plant, rubber tree has large, 3 ½ 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 35 to 45 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. 

Full Form—Ficus elastic: Rubber tree


Credit:

Ed Gilman


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name:

Pronunciation: FYE-kuss ee-LASS-tick-uh

Common name(s): rubber tree, India-rubber fig

Family: Moraceae

USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Figure 2)

Origin: native to India and Malaysia

UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: not considered a problem species at this time, may be recommended (North, Central, South)

Uses: shade; trained as a standard; indoors; screen; specimen; deck or patio; container or planter; espalier; highway median

Figure 2. 

Range


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Description

Height: 35 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

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: elliptic (oval)

Leaf venation: pinnate, brachidodrome

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen

Leaf blade length: 3 ½ to 12 inches

Leaf color: emerge red but turn dark glossy green

Fall color: no color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Leaf—Ficus elastic: Rubber tree


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: unknown

Flower characteristics: not showy; emerge inside the fleshy fruit produced by this tree

Fruit

Fruit shape: egg-shaped

Fruit length: ½ inch

Fruit covering: fleshy fig

Fruit color: greenish-yellow

Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Fruiting: early summer

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically one trunk; no thorns

Bark: brown, smooth, or slightly rough

Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure

Breakage: susceptible to breakage

Current year twig color: green

Current year twig thickness: thick

Wood specific gravity: unknown

Figure 4. 

Bark—Ficus elastic: Rubber tree


Credit:

Gitta Hasing


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Culture

Light requirement: full sun to 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

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.

Cultivars include `Doescheri', which has yellow-variegated leaves; 'Decora' with broad, reddish-green leaves with ivory-colored veins running down center of leaf; and 'Variegata' with 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.

References

Koeser, A. K., Hasing, G., Friedman, M. H., and Irving, R. B. 2015. Trees: North & Central Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Koeser, A.K., Friedman, M.H., Hasing, G., Finley, H., Schelb, J. 2017. Trees: South Florida and the Keys. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH411, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006 and December 2018. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department; Ryan W. Klein, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department; Andrew K. Koeser, assistant professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Deborah R. Hilbert, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; and Drew C. McLean, biological scientist, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; UF/IFAS Extension, 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.