Pruning The Rubber Plant and Taking Cuttings to Propagate

Rubber Trees are something you see a lot of here in Florida. They are tropical plants and don’t like the cold.  They work well as house plants, but I’ve seen them growing outdoors here and can become quite large.  They are susceptible to scorching sun which damages the leaves, and don’t like extreme cold.

I love the uniqueness of this tree with it’s thick, rubbery leaves which are dark green to purple in color.  A reddish spike appears when a new leaf grows.  These plants are hardy, but keep them out of the hot sun or the leaves will burn.

To keep a nice shape, the rubber tree will need pruning. To give it a good “bath” I take it outside and spray dust off the leaves. I can also give the dirt lots of water and some fertilizer.   It’s possible to do that year round here.

I noticed the plant had a lot of new growth making the stems quite long. I’ve never pruned a rubber plant, but decided to give it a try.

Rubber tree in need of pruning
Rubber tree in need of pruning

I ended up cutting back two stems to even up the shape a bit. If possible, I try to root cuttings (propagate) I take of large plants like this. When I searched online for info I got the general “use rooting compound” advice. I’ve never had luck using rooting compound. So I decided to do it my way.

rubber tree after pruning

My favorite way to create new plants from cuttings is to simply put the cuttings in water and wait for roots to develop.  The water must be changed often – I do it every day.  I’ve had good luck propagating crotons this way, but it doesn’t work for every plant. I’ve never tried to root rubber plant cuttings, so this was an experiment.

rubber plant cuttings in vase
The rubber plant has white sap in the stems which is sticky, which is similar to what you see in hydrangea stems. The hydrangea stems can close up due to this white sap and make the cuttings wilt. (Read more about cutting hydrangeas.)

I kept an eye on the rubber plant cuttings and saw no drooping or signs of distress in the vase.

After a while – probably close to 2 weeks – I saw roots developing on one of the stems.

rooted cutting rubber tree
After a few weeks in water – roots!

I will be potting this soon. The other stem has not begun to send off roots, and I’m not sure it will. But I’ll wait a bit longer to see.

The main plant is sending off little shoots near the site of the cutting.  I only see one shoot, so whoever the cut is made is where the new growth will take place – at the next leaf on the stem.  Keep that in mind when making the cut.

new growth rubber tree
New growth from the stem that was cut.

A new leaf unfurls in a pretty green color. It will eventually turn dark like the older leaves. My next chore will be to re-pot into something bigger. First, I may take a few more cuttings to further shape the tree.

new leaf rubber tree
Pretty new leaf emerging.

If the plant is too large to take outside and wash, use a damp cloth and clean the leaves every now and then. Be sure to fertilize it occasionally as well. I like to use organic fish emulsion diluted in water.

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