Rubber tree is a common name for Ficus elastica. It is a member of the fig genus. Rubber tree plants grow 25 to 40 feet tall in most residential landscapes. It is native to the forests of western Asia and in its native setting, it reaches 100 feet high. In cooler climates, people frequently grow the rubber tree plant as an ornamental, indoor container plant.
Rubber plant leaves are broadleaf evergreens. Oval leaves alternate on the stems. The blade length ranges from 8 to 12 inches. The leaves have a leathery feel with a glossy appearance. A viscous milky sap fills the stems and leaves. The leaves develop inside a reddish sheath at the tip of the branches. The sheath expands as the leaf grows. When the leaf reaches maturity, it unfurls and the sheath drops off.
The fruit is round and small, generally less than 1/2 inch in length. It is green and not showy. Rubber plant fruit does not attract wildlife other than the fig wasp. Every species of fig has its own species of pollinator wasp and does not need a scent or showy flowers to attract other pollinators.
The trunk droops as the tree grows. Prune away secondary trunks early on in the plant’s life to give it the best chance to develop a strong structure. The wood of the trunk is weak and susceptible to breaking when subjected to very strong winds. In some instances, the trunk will develop air roots that extend down and anchor the plant into the soil. These aerial roots provide additional support for heavy branches.
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