How To Start A Rubber Tree Plant: Propagation Of A Rubber Tree Plant
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By: Heather Rhoades
Rubber trees are hardy and versatile houseplants, which leads many people to wonder, “How do you get a start of a rubber tree plant?”. Propagating rubber tree plants is easy and means that you will have starts for all of your friends and family. Keep reading to learn how to propagate a rubber tree so that you can give your friends a free rubber tree plant.
Propagate a Rubber Tree Plant with Cuttings
Rubber tree plants can grow very tall and this means an indoor rubber tree occasionally needs to be pruned. After pruning, don’t throw out those cuttings; instead, use them to propagate a rubber tree plant.
Propagating a rubber tree plant from cuttings starts with getting a good cutting. The cutting should be about 6 inches (15 cm.) long and have at least two sets of leaves.
The next step in how to start a rubber tree plant from cuttings is to remove the bottom set of leaves from the cutting. If you would like, you can dip the cutting in rooting hormone.
Then, place the rubber tree cutting in moist but well-draining potting soil. Cover the cutting with either a jar or clear plastic, but make sure that the intact leaves do not touch the glass or plastic. If you need to, you can cut the remaining leaves in half, removing the half that is not attached to the stem.
Place the rubber tree plant cutting in a warm place that is lit by only indirect light. In two to three weeks, the rubber tree cutting should have developed roots and the covering can be removed.
Using Air Layering for Propagation of a Rubber Tree Plant
Another way to propagate a rubber tree plant is by using air layering. This method basically leaves the “cutting” on the rubber tree while it is rooting.
The first step in propagating a rubber tree with air layering is to choose a stem to make into a new plant. The stem should be at least 12 inches (30.5 cm.) long, but can be longer if you would like.
Next, remove any leaves immediately above and below the area where you will be rooting the stem, then take a sharp knife and carefully remove a 1-inch (2.5 cm.) wide strip of bark that goes all the way around the stem. You should have a “naked” ring that goes around the stem of the rubber tree plant. Remove all of the soft tissue in that ring, but leave the hard center wood intact.
After this, dust the ring with rooting hormone and cover the ring with damp sphagnum moss. Secure the sphagnum moss to the stem with a plastic covering. Make sure the moss is completely covered. The plastic will help keep the sphagnum moss damp as well.
In two to three weeks, the stem of the rubber tree should have developed roots at the ring. After it has developed roots, cut the rooted stem from the mother plant and repot the new plant.
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Read more about Rubber Trees
How can I propagate a rubber tree?
How can I propagate a rubber tree?
The common rubber tree (Ficus elastica) can be propagated by air layering. Air layering is a procedure used to induce roots to form on a plant stem while it is still attached to the parent plant. Complete or partial girdling of the plant stem interrupts the downward translocation of carbohydrates and other compounds. The accumulation of these compounds promotes rooting at the point of injury.
Materials that are needed to air layer a rubber tree include a sharp knife, sphagnum moss, a sheet of clear plastic, twist ties, and a rooting hormone. The procedure for air layering a rubber tree, weeping fig, and other woody Ficus species is as follows.
Select a point on a stem about 12 to 18 inches from a shoot tip. Remove any leaves in the immediate area. Using a sharp knife, make a cut completely around the stem. The cut should penetrate down to the woody center of the stem. One inch below the first cut, make a second cut completely around the stem. Finally, make a third cut connecting the previous two cuts. Remove the ring of bark. Scrape the exposed surface to insure complete removal of soft (cambial) tissue. Dust a small amount of rooting hormone on the exposed surface. (The rooting hormone promotes rapid root development. However, the stem will root without it. It will simply take longer.) Place 1 or 2 handfuls of moist sphagnum moss around the exposed area. Wrap a piece of clear plastic around the sphagnum moss. Make sure none of the moss protrudes out the ends of the plastic wrap. Secure the plastic wrap above and below the sphagnum moss with twist ties.
Roots should appear in the sphagnum moss in several weeks. When a good root system has developed, cut off the stem just below the bottom twist tie. Remove the twist ties and plastic sheet and pot the rooted stem in a well-drained potting soil.
Rubber Plant Care and Considerations
Wear gloves when propagating or working with your rubber plant. The tree has a sticky, white sap that can irritate the skin, notes the University of Vermont. It can also irritate the stomach if eaten, so monitor children and pets around the rubber plant.
Pot your newly propagated rubber plant in commercial potting soil, advises Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Rubber plants prefer plenty of indirect sunlight. Room temperatures work well for rubber plants, but avoid cold rooms where the temperature drops below 55 degrees Fahrenheit with drafts that can damage the tree.
Water plants regularly when the soil surface is dry. Make sure the pot has drainage holes. Too much water can cause root rot and yellowed leaves, advises Clemson University Cooperative Extension. Rubber plants prefer humid environments but will tolerate dry air. Fertilize with a commercial houseplant fertilizer every two weeks during the spring and summer growing season.
Maureen Malone has been a professional writer since 2010 She is located in Tucson, Arizona where she enjoys hiking, horseback riding and martial arts. She is an outdoor lover who spends her weekends tending her raised garden and small orchard of fruit trees.
What Lighting Conditions Are Best for Rubber Trees?
Rubber plants thrive in natural habitats that have plenty of sunlight and water. It’s for this reason that farmers grow them in large crops in Africa and Southeast Asia. If you’re growing a bonsai variety, then you can leave the pot in indirect sunlight in a bright room in your home for the best results.
Direct sunlight may scorch the leaves of juvenile trees of bonsais, but the plant recovers quickly with the right watering and care.
The variegated varieties of rubber trees require more light to maintain the color in the foliage. Place these trees in full sunlight for best results.
Propagating in Water
Experimenting is fun. A less reliable but additional option to propagate a Rubber tree friend is taking that cutting and letting it grow roots in water. It’s similar to the way a Monstera is propagated. Why is this way less reliable? After three tries, I found only one took to rooting, which I wasn’t happy with. They were all cuttings from the same plant, too. You’re welcome, I did the trial and error portion so you don’t have to.
However, I did find this process, when it did start to work, works well. You’ll only need a cutting (removing the lower leaves as above) and a glass bottle filled with water for this method:
- Take the cutting and plop it into a small glass vessel (Starbucks jars are perfect). Be sure to not have the bottom of the cutting touch the bottom of the bottle/jar. This hinders root development which looks sad.
2. Wait. Yup, just wait. Place in a sunny, warm window and in about 2-3 months you should see white barnacle-looking things, some fuzzy stuff. It’s all good – just let it do its thing.
3. Soon you’ll see small white roots show up that look like this! This is a good sign. Let the plant hang out and continue this root growth for another few months.
This is a new cutting (as of March 2020), so I’m still waiting for some more goods to show. It’s March now and I’m planning to plant in May or June. Yay!
Did you propagate a Rubber tree using either of these methods or another? Need some tips? Leave a comment below!
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