The rubber tree plant, or ficus elastica by the Latin name, is native to tropical regions of Southeast Asia. Although commonly reaching heights of over 100 feet in their natural setting, rubber trees grown as houseplants usually grow to no more than 10 feet. However, that can be a lot of plant, depending on the size of your home. Regular pruning is essential to keep these plants under control. Light trimming can be done at any time of the year, but hard pruning is best done in the spring. With a little practice, you can soon have a lush, well-shaped rubber tree plant that will give you years of enjoyment.
Decide what size and shape you would like your plant to be. Ficus elastica is generally very tolerant of pruning and will come back nicely even when up to one-third of the plant is removed. The leaves are quite heavy and tend to pull the stems over as the plant gets taller. Removing the top branches will relieve pressure on the stems and encourage lateral growth lower down.
Make sure your pruning clippers are sharp and clean. Wear a pair of gloves to avoid contact with the white latex exuded by rubber trees when cut. The latex can be a skin irritant for some people.
Make your pruning cuts just above leaf or stem nodes. The nodes are the points along a stem at which a leaf or another stem branches off. Reduce the plant to two-thirds of your target height. If you want the plant to be 3 feet high, cut it back to 2 feet.
Prune all branches that have four or more leaves by cutting them just above the first leaf node. The rubber tree plant will start growing new branches at the nodes and you can also prune these in the same way. Repeating these steps will force the plant to keep developing more lateral branches until the desired shape is achieved.
Dispose of the clippings by cutting them up and adding them to your compost pile or bin if available. Clean your pruning shears to remove any latex or sap when finished pruning.