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. (It never did and I gave up.)

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.

Planting the Rooted Rubber Tree Cutting

I planted the rooted cutting in my front yard under an Oak tree (see photo below).  So far it is doing well without much attention from me.  

Having plants beneath a tree help give it shade (obviously) but also keep it protected from wind and cold.  Plants that grow near other plants can survive cold overnight temperatures better, and being in the shade means less watering.

When the temperature will be close to, or below, freezing I will cover this little plant with a towel overnight.  It’s was 38 degrees the other night, and the rubber tree baby looks fine and I did not cover it.

For those who don’t know, when you cover plants over night be sure to remove the cover in the morning!  Leaving them covered is not good.

Rubber plant cutting still doing well outside

Starting New Crotons From Old Plants

It’s easy to start new croton plants from cuttings.

Finding plants that will propagate easily has always been a goal of mine. Starting new crotons from old plants is easy. In fact it’s easier than propagating most things I’ve tried.  Cut the stem, put cuttings in water and wait a few weeks.  More detailed explanation below.

It is possible to propagate hydrangeas, but that takes time. It’s worth it, because in the end you have a new, lovely hydrangea bush. In fact my baby hydrangeas grew quite large before I had to move.

But back to the crotons. These plants love sun and heat and can live through a draught. The wilted leaves come back after getting some water. Crotons like well-drained soil, and the sandy soil of Florida helps this plant to love it outdoors. It can even survive the cold nights we sometimes get here in Central Florida.

This first photo below was taken over the winter months, when the leaves are duller in color with more green and dark purple colors.  Or maybe this one just needed better care.

crotons and birdhouse
Winter Croton

In this second photo, you can see that this plant’s leaves have turned stunning red, orange, yellow and pink from the bright Florida summer sun.  I’ve also given it fertilizer and cleaned out the pot a bit.  It was full of ferns.

croton
Summer Croton

So, to propagate this croton, I waited until Spring when it began to grow some new leaves. Then I cut off the top of a longer stem, also making the stem long enough to drink from a vase of water. Remove the lower leaves of that cutting, and put it in water.

croton
Bright Orange Leaves of the Croton

You will want the stem to not be touching the bottom of the vase, so find one that leaves it hanging. The new roots will grow out of the bottom of the cut stem.
Wait a few weeks and the roots will emerge. Be sure to change the water in the vase daily! Once you see roots, it won’t be long before they are long enough and you can plant the new croton in a pot or the ground.  Don’t plant until the roots are at least an inch long.

propagated croton plants
Three New Croton Plants

These are my three new croton plants. Their leaves are not as bright because I took the cuttings before the mother plant’s leaves turned so pretty. But once these new plants are in the ground, in a sunny location, they will turn just as bright.

As you can see below, the baby croton is turning color.  I need to fertilize these plants for better result, but even without much attention, crotons will grow beautifully.

croton

Organizing Pictures of Hydrangeas

hydrangea cutting in vase
Rooting

With the busy gardening time of summer over I am not surprised that readers are scarce on my hydrangea blogs. My blog posts are pretty scarce too. I took a bunch of photos as my new hydrangeas grew and flowered over the summer and into fall, but they did not all get organized into the correct Picasa folders.

Today I came across a page at Wizzley, where I write also, and decided to add more photos to that page. As I was trying to do that I had to go search for the pictures I wanted. That, of course, led me to get all the pictures from summer organized for ease of use next season.

Organization is so important in all areas of life and many of us struggle with it. Once it’s looking good, I always feel so much better.
Oh, this photo is one of the cuttings I rooted in a vase and then planted out in the yard this Fall. I’ll have to wait until Spring to see if they will grow. My fingers are crossed, and if they do, I’ll have two (I think) new little hydrangea shrubs.

Those who garden always have something new to look forward to!

How To Propagate Hydrangeas

stem cutting
Hydrangea cutting with roots and new leaves.

Propagating means starting a new shrub from an existing one. There are a couple of ways you can do this with hydrangea plants.  Hydrangeas grow quite fast, and within a couple of years you will have a nice size addition to your landscape.

Taking stem cuttings, using new growth, sometimes works.  I have not used this method much yet, but while I was planting my new shrubs, a few of the stems broke so I stuck them into a vase of water to see what would happen.  After a few weeks, one of the cuttings has begun to sprout new little leaves and is growing roots – right in the water.  So I plan to get that into a pot and baby it along until Fall when I’ll add it to the yard. (Pictures to come!)

I’ve had success with root layering, and hydrangeas, with their low hanging branches, are perfect for doing this.  In fact if you check around the base of your plants that droop to the ground, you may find that a branch or two is already rooting itself into the soil.  The mophead variety tends to have the low to the ground stems.

I started a new plant by digging up the rooted stem and planting it in another area of the yard one Spring.  I was renting the house, so I don’t know how it’s doing today, but by the time I moved, a beautiful new hydrangea shrub was gracing the front yard at no cost to the homeowner.

Read how I did it, with pictures along the way, at my Wizzley page about Propagating Hydrangeas.