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How To Prune Rubber Plant

The ficus elastica, rubber tree plant, or rubber plant, as it is commonly known, can be pruned relatively easily, but how you prune it depends on the reason.

What Is The Best Way To Prune A Rubber Plant?

The reason you are pruning your rubber plant will dictate the best way to prune it. However, a general rule of thumb for pruning your plant is to remove any unwanted branches or leaves and then cut the plant to the desired height.

Always ensure you are using a sharp, sterile blade to cut the stems and wear gloves or wash your hands immediately after. The white sap, known as latex, may cause skin irritation.

Also, prune your plant during its growing season, typically from late spring to early summer. If you prune the rubber tree during the fall or winter, it may stunt the plant’s growth.

Should You Prune Brown Leaves From A Rubber Plant?

If you want to keep your houseplant happy and healthy, remove brown or damaged leaves from the plant at any time of year.

A healthy rubber plant has thick, glossy, dark green leaves. Common problems that may cause browning leaves include overwatering or too much direct sunlight.

Rubber plant care is relatively easy, but these plants typically tolerate dry soil very well, so let your plant dry out in between waterings. Overwatering your plant may cause the lower leaves to brown or turn yellow.

If your rubber plant leaves are brown, you can use sharp pruning shears to cut off the leaves. Or, you can manicure the leaves by trimming off the brown parts in the leave’s growing direction.

Prune away dead leaves as they will not recover.

How To Prune A Leggy Rubber Plant

Rubber plants can grow very large, but without proper lighting (i.e., not enough light), they may become leggy and grow upward, but not outward. Pruning a leggy rubber plant is easy; all you have to do is cut just above a leaf node. 

Cut your plant to its desired height (it may be best to start where the plant begins to get leggy and grow up, rather than out). The new growth will grow from just below the cuts, and your rubber tree will look fuller and healthier.

How To Prune A Rubber Plant To Make It Bushier

There are several ways to make your rubber tree plant bushier. First, you will want to cut your plant right above the nodes (the locations in which smaller stems branch out from the main stems). 

However, always leave 2-3 leaves per branch so as not to over-prune. Also, make sure to remove no more than 5-6 living branches per pruning session.

After you prune the branch, new branches will grow where you removed the old one. Prune your plant regularly to keep it bushy and healthy-looking.

Never prune back more than one-third of the plant.

How To Trim A Large Rubber Tree

In its natural habitat of the Amazon rainforest and southeast Asia, a rubber tree can grow up to 100-130 feet tall! However, this tree-like plant will only get up to between 6-10 feet tall inside, which is still rather large for an indoor plant.

Though they are low-maintenance plants, regular pruning may be needed to keep them to a desirable size. If you have a large rubber tree that you want to cut back, there is an easy but extreme way to prune it.

To prune a large or overgrown rubber tree:

  1. Cut the top of your rubber plant to the desired height.

  2. Make the cut just above a pair of leaves to encourage the plant to branch out.

  3. As new growth appears at the top, continue to cut it back to the desired height.

Because you will have so many stem cuttings, repotting them for propagation is the best way to use them. Strip off leaves close to the cut and apply a rooting hormone to the cut (this step is optional but can increase rooting success).

Then, place the cutting about 2-3 inches deep into a small pot filled with a well-draining potting mix containing perlite. Place your plant into bright, indirect light and follow regular houseplant care for your new plant.

Stem cuttings can be propagated into new plants.

Notching A Rubber Tree To Force Side Shoots

Rubber plants will not produce new leaves from the bottom of the stem on their own. If the bottom leaves of your plant fall off and it’s leggy, consider notching the stem to force side shoots.

Whereas pruning involves cutting and removing a portion of the branches, notching involves making deep, strategic cuts at an angle on the branch just above a node. 

Notching will force a rubber tree plant to branch out and produce side limbs, thus fixing the problem of leggy plants. Making the notches in the stem causes auxin to flow downward, and, in most cases, new branches will form from the cuts in the direction of the notch.

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