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How to Identify a Rubber House Plant

By Jay Golberg ; Updated September 21, 2017
A toy cow inside a rubber plant.
gummikuh im gummibaum image by eyewave from Fotolia.com

The rubber tree plant (Ficus elastica) is a common houseplant in the United States. It is rarely seen growing outdoors, except in the extreme southern portions of the country, due to its intolerance of freezing temperatures. In its native habitat, the jungles of South America, a rubber tree can grow to 100 feet tall. As a houseplant it can become rangy; it needs occasional pruning to promote bushy and attractive growth.

Look at the size and shape of the leaves. The leaves of a rubber tree houseplant range from 6 to 12 inches in length and have an elongated oval shape.

Notice the color of the leaves. The leaves of a rubber tree houseplant are smooth and dark green on top, and the bottom of the leaves are either gray or burgundy, depending on the variety of plant.

Observe how the leaves are arranged on the stems. Rubber tree plant leaves grow from the stems in an alternate pattern rather than two leaves growing from each side of the stem in the same location.

Snap off a leaf from the plant in an area where removal of the leaf will not be noticed. Simply grab the leaf and gently push down on it until it snaps off the plant. If the plant is a rubber tree it will immediately begin to "bleed" a white non-toxic latex material from the area where the leaf was removed. This will not harm the plant and the plant will heal shortly and recover.


About the Author


Jay Golberg is a certified Texas nursery professional and professional project manager. He has 30 years of business and farming experience and holds bachelor's degrees in English writing from St. Edward's University and finance from Lamar University.