How to Make a Rubber Plant Bushy (Elastica Ficus): Care Guide

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Do you have a rubber plant (Elastica Ficus) that is looking a little sparse? Are you not sure how to make it bushy?

A rubber plant is a great option if you're looking for a new plant that will liven up your home. With its glossy leaves, the rubber plant is sure to add some life to any room.

However, achieving this lush look requires some work on your part.

Regular pruning is the key to keeping your new rubber plant looking its best. Snip off any new growth every few months, cutting just after the leaf nodes. This will encourage the plant to produce new branches, resulting in a fuller, more compact form.

Of course, this requires patience; it may take several months for the new growth to appear. But trust us, the results are worth the wait. So go ahead and give your rubber plant a little TLC—your home will thank you for it.

This care guide will discuss how to make your rubber plant bushier in no time. We will also cover how to take care of your rubber plant to stay healthy and look great.

What is a rubber plant (Ficus elastica)?

The rubber plant (Ficus elastica) is a tropical plant native to India and Malaysia. The plant gets its name from the latex sap that it produces.

The rubber plant is also grown as an indoor plant. They are popular indoor plants because it is easy to care for and has beautiful, glossy leaves.

The rubber plant can grow quite large, so it is often kept as a floor plant, which, when it matures, turns into an indoor tree. The tree likes bright, indirect light and soil that is evenly moist.

The plant can grow up to be 30 feet tall tree in its natural habitat, but the cultivars grown indoors are much easier to manage.

How to Make a Rubber Plant Bushy

Rubber plants are a type of indoor plant known for their glossy leaves and ability to withstand low light levels. If your rubber plant looks sparse or not very bushy, don't worry – there are several things you can do to help it regain its former glory.

The first step is to understand the needs of a rubber plant. Rubber plants need bright, indirect light and should be watered regularly – about once a week. They also benefit from being fertilised every two weeks and pruned regularly.

how to make a rubber plant bushy

Before Pruning Your Rubber Plant

As any gardener knows, pruning is an essential part of plant care. Not only does it help to encourage growth, but it also helps to keep plants looking their best.

However, before you start pruning your rubber plant, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

  • First, rubber plants are ‘bleeders', meaning they can lose a lot of sap when cut. As a result, it's essential to ensure that your pruning tools are sharp and clean. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging the plant.
  • Secondly, rubber plants are susceptible to changes in temperature and light levels. As such, it's best to prune them in the early morning or late evening when the sun is not as intense.
  • Finally, remember that less is more when pruning rubber plants. It's better to make several little cuts than one large one.

Rubber plant pruning tips:

A rubber plant can outgrow its container quickly and is extremely fast-growing. These tips will help you make your plant bushy and healthy. You can also prune more often as long as the temperature is constant.


Rubber plants don't have many branches, so you may want to prune them to make them bushy. Hard pruning will encourage more branching from low branches. 

You may have to live with a squat plant for a while, but your plant will soon fill out. Just remember to leave two or three leaves on each cut so the new growth can fill out the plant's home. 

How to force side shoots on a rubber plant

Anyone who has ever owned a rubber plant knows they can be fickle creatures. You water them, fertilise them, give them the perfect amount of light – yet they stubbornly refuse to produce side shoots.

Fortunately, there is a way to force them to comply. First, find a ready rubber plant. Gently coax it into submission with regular watering and an occasional bit of fertiliser. Once it seems suitably pliant, begin the forcing process.

The best time to do this is in early spring, during the growing season, and it should be done just above the growth nodes. This will stimulate the middle part of the plant to branch out. 

Cut the main stem back by about half, careful not to damage the leaves. This causes the hormone Auxin to be interrupted, which will then tell the plant to grow a branch from a lower part of the plant.

You should see side shoots beginning to form within a few weeks. You can have a rubber plant covered in lush, green foliage with patience and perseverance.

Apical dominance pruning

Apical pruning is another excellent option if you have difficulty getting your Ficus to branch out. This involves removing the growing tip of the main stem. This will encourage the lower limb to branch and create two new branches. 

It can be tedious, but it's very effective at making rubber plants bushier and producing more branches.


Another technique for getting the Ficus to branch out is “notching.”

Notching involves making a V-shaped cut in the plant's stem, just below a node (the point where leaves are attached).

This cut encourages the plant to produce side branches, which can then be trained to grow in a particular direction. When done correctly, notching is a relatively simple way to give your rubber plant a fuller, more attractive shape.

Just be sure to use a sharp knife or shears, and make clean, consistent cuts. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging your plant.

How to care for a Ficus elastica

Once you have your Ficus elastica bushier, how do you take care of it? Here are a few tips:- Water your plant when the soil is dry to the touch. Overwatering can cause root rot, so let the soil dry out completely between watering.

Place your plant in a bright spot but out of direct sunlight. Too much sun can cause the leaves to scorch. – Fertilise your plant every other month with a balanced fertiliser. – Prune your plant as needed to control its growth and shape.


Rubber plants tolerate a wide range of temperatures as long as they're not too extreme. In general, rubber plants prefer warm temperatures and high humidity levels. They'll do fine in most homes and offices as long as they're not placed near a drafty window or door.

However, if you want your indoor rubber plants to thrive, try keeping the room temperature between 18-23c (and 65-75f). With proper care, your rubber plant will thrive indoors at any temperature.

If temperatures are too high, the leaves will lose their puffy appearance, and the plant will grow much smaller than its potential size. On the other hand, if temperatures are too low, it may not even survive. 

If your climate allows, grow your rubber plant outdoors from early summer, especially if the humidity levels remain consistent for this plant to be happy. 

If temperatures drop below that range, bring the plant indoors, and If you live in a dry climate, mist your leaves every few days to maintain humidity.


Watering is one of the most critical factors in caring for a rubber plant. Rubber plants need to be watered regularly, but not too much.

The soil should be kept moist but not soggy. Overwatering can damage your plant and lead to root rot, so make sure the pot has drainage holes.

When watering your rubber plant, please give it a good soak and let the excess water drain away. Another essential tip for watering rubber plants is to use lukewarm water. Cold water can shock the plant and cause the leaves to drop off. (Look at these beautiful watering cans from Crocus!)


Ficus plants are often described as low-maintenance houseplants and are not picky about their lighting conditions.

All-green varieties can tolerate shade, but too much will result in weak stems and leggy plants. They also require bright indirect light. 

A good amount of light is required for variegated Rubber Plants, as too much shade will result in a spindly appearance, and no one wants a leggy rubber plant!

I have my baby rubber plant sitting on my sideboard in my living room, and she gets a few hours of direct sunlight a day, is growing so well and has put out a few new leaves since I got her a couple of months ago.

Rubber plant sap

If you've ever gotten sap on your hands while gardening, you know that it can be a sticky situation. Literally. The milky white sap of a rubber plant is particularly notorious for its adhesive properties.

In fact, it was once used to make chewing gum! These days, however, sap is used primarily in the production of rubber products. It's also an ingredient in some adhesives and paints.

If you find yourself with sap on your hands, the best way to remove it is with a solvent such as rubbing alcohol or vinegar. Soap and water alone won't do the trick.

And whatever you do, resist the temptation to lick your fingers! It can cause skin irritation in some people, so wash it off quickly or wear gloves when pruning.

Also, remember that rubber trees are toxic to pets and small children. 

how to make a rubber plant bushy
Rubber plant sap


These tough plants can withstand a fair amount of neglect, but you can still do a few things to keep them looking their best.

One of those things is rotating your rubber plant regularly. Turning the plant every few weeks ensures that all sides of the plant get enough light.

This helps the plant to grow evenly and prevents it from becoming lopsided. So, if you want your rubber plant to look its best, remember to give it a slight rotation regularly.

The best soil for rubber plants

Rubber plants are demanding customers for soil, and they need a mix that is both well-draining and nutrient-rich. Luckily, there are a few options out there that fit the bill. One of our favourites is a mix of coco coir, perlite, and compost.

This mix provides excellent drainage while retaining enough moisture to keep your rubber plant happy. Another option is to use this pre-made potting mix from my favourite soil supplier, Soil Ninja!

No matter which route you choose, check the label carefully before purchasing to ensure that you get the best soil for your rubber plant.


Potential Problems with rubber plants

Ah, the rubber plant. Such a versatile houseplant – capable of everything from improving indoor air quality to lending a touch of greenery to even the most light-deprived corners of your home.

But like everything else, there can be too much of a good thing. This is true for rubber plants.

While they're generally tolerant of neglect, they can become too enthusiastic if given too much water or fertiliser. Overwatering can lead to leaf drop and yellowing, while too much fertiliser can cause burning and stunted growth.

So if you're thinking of adding a rubber plant to your home, remember to start slowly and gradually increase water and fertiliser as needed. That way, you'll avoid any potential problems down the road.

Pests and rubber plants

As anyone who's dealt with pests knows, they can be a real pain. Whether ants in your kitchen or mosquitoes in your backyard, these unwelcome guests can ruin even the best-laid plans.

But pests don't just annoy – they can also cause severe damage to plants.

Rubber plants are pretty good at defending themselves against pests, but they can sometimes get spider mites and scale causing them to lose vigour and eventually die if not treated.

You can do a few things to protect your rubber plant from these pesky pests.

First, keep your plant clean and debris-free, giving pests fewer places to hide. Second, consider using a natural insecticide or pheromone trap to help keep pests at bay.

And Finally…

A rubber plant is an excellent addition to any home – they're easy to care for and can add some much-needed greenery to even the darkest corners. But like all plants, they can sometimes fall prey to pests or problems with watering.

In this guide, I've talked about how to make your rubber plant bushier and take care of it, so it stays healthy. I've also covered some potential problems you may encounter with your rubber plant and how to deal with them.

So if you're thinking of adding a rubber plant to your collection, and I highly recommend that you do, remember these tips!

Please see all the houseplant supplies I love and use.

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