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.
Pronunciation: FYE-kuss ee-LASS-tick-uh
Common name(s): rubber tree, India-rubber fig
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
Height: 35 to 45 feet
Spread: 25 to 30 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: oval
Crown density: dense
Growth rate: fast
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
Flower color: unknown
Flower characteristics: not showy; emerge inside the fleshy fruit produced by this tree
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
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
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.
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.