Rubber Plant Cutting

alpantherFebruary 29, 2012

Hello all--

On Thanksgiving, my grandma gave me a good sized cutting from her ancient rubber plant to grow. I read through some posts here and there about what to do and I think I've got some stuff done.

It's in a giant plastic bag, in it's pot. I keep the bag misted to provide moisture and water it from time to time.

I know this was a bad time of year to do a cutting.

Which window is better for this plant? At what point can I stop treating it like a cutting and remove it from the set up and treat it like a small plant?

Thanks for your help!

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Love these plants. I'm no expert but if it was mine, I would take it out of the bag and set it where it gets good light.


    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 1:27PM
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oh, forgot to ask. Has it rooted yet?


    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 1:28PM
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Rubber plant or any plant in the ficus family will easily root from cutting. Just keep it misted, not too much otherwise mold will start growing. The soil should be damp, keep it in a warm lighted location.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 2:08PM
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Hello again--

Sorry for the long hiatus on this. I continued keeping my tree in its 'bag' throghout the winter and this summer, it has been growing pretty awesomely.

I've provided a picture of the plant so far...just needing some additional help:

How's the pot size? Too big? Too small?

How often do I want to keep it watered?

What kind of sun do they like? (east, south, etc)

Thank you so much!

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 1:54PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The pot size is adequate if the plant can't be lifted from the pot with its root/soil mass intact. The upper limit of your pot size isn't determined by how big your plant or its root ball are, it's determined by how well your soil drains. You can use a much larger pot if you grow in a chunky soil that doesn't support a soggy layer of soil at the bottom of the pot. If your soil remains soggy after you water, then pot size becomes very important. Understanding this concept probably provides more fuel for your progress than anything else you can learn. If you're interested in learning how to make your soils work for you instead of against you, let me know and I'll hook you up with some reading here on the forums.

Water as the plant requires. You want the soil to dry down until it JUST feels dry to you, deep in the container, but not so dry it creates a stressful condition for the plant. When the soil feels dry to your touch, there is still 10-15% moisture content still available to the plant. Check with a chopstick or wood skewer stuck deep in the soil, or get used to hefting the pot while it's small. You'll soon be able to feel (by the pot's weight) when it needs watering.

The plant will tolerate the photo load of full sun, but the heat generated indoors as light strikes the leaves may be too much - depending on how your windows are constructed or any other factors that affect the amount of light passing windows. Full sun is ok if you have a fan. I can't tell you that an east/west/south window is best w/o knowing several factors, so use your judgement. If the plant has been in indirect light, expose it to any direct sun gradually. Your plant will LOVE the summer outdoors, btw.

You might find the post at the link below, about ficus in containers, to be of interest to you.

Great job on getting the cutting started, too!


Here is a link that might be useful: More info here

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 3:12PM
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Thank you so much for your input!

My grandmother's plant (the "mom" plant to my cutting) has a habit of losing the leaves at the bottom of the tree. Is this something all rubber plants do? Or is this something I can prevent? What are some causes of that?

And also, my grandma's is a single stalk, growing straight up. Is there a way to get it to branch out at all?

Thanks again for your information!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 1:33PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

There can be several reasons for leaf loss of lower and interior foliage; among them: Nutrient deficiency, usually nitrogen; tight roots - tends to force concentration of growth very near apices (branch tips); low light reduces the flow of auxin, the flow of which is required across the abscission zone at the base of leaf petioles (stems) to prevent an abscission layer from forming and eventual shedding of oldest foliage first; drought response due either to over-watering or under-watering slows photosynthesis, a by-product of which is auxin, so it's by essentially via the same mechanism leaves are shed.

You can get your Grandmother's plant to branch by cutting off the growing tip or maintaining it so it can grow as close to its genetic potential as possible.


    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 4:28PM
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Now, by cutting the growing tip, will it then grow with two branches? She's cut hers several times over the years, but it's never really branched. It'll branch slightly, with the new portion growing and the "other" just being a brown twig poking out.

Also, is there anything that determines the leaf size? My grandma was surprised that my tree's leaves were larger because hers were coming in so small.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 12:07AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The technical answer to why plants grow more branches when you cut the growing end of the branch off has to do with the change in the balance of growth regulators that action causes, but you might think of it like this: The plant is moving water, nutrients, and food (the product of photosynthesis - sugar/carbohydrates) to the branch or stem that would normally be used to make the branch/stem grow longer. Since you truncated the branch/stem so it CAN'T grow longer, the plant has to use these products elsewhere. So, it makes new branches and concentrates on making the NEW branches grow longer. That's back-budding.

The number of branches that will be produced when the plant back-buds depends on a LOT of factors. The two most important are how healthy the plant is or how much energy it has in reserve, and when you do the cutting back. Actually, The month of August is technically the best month to cut tropicals back hard if stimulation of back-budding is the ultimate goal, but we usually don't do that unless you live in the southern states where the growing season is longer. The reason is, in the northern states the plant may not have time to recover before winter if you cut back severely in Aug, so usually I suggest cutting back hard in early July (I often use Independence Day as a reference point) to give the plant an extra month of prime recuperation time.

Lots of growers are quick to tell you you can do this or that to a plant any time you wish - and you can, after all, it's your plant. You can prune hard or repot whenever you want, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1 Not giving your actions the consideration I just outlined means you'll be working against the plant's normal ebb/flow of energy that occurs during its growth cycle, and there's certainly no good reason to do that on a whim, or unless it's an emergency situation. It unnecessarily weakens the plant, exposing the plant to additional risk from insects and disease, and ensures a longer recovery period. Why not use a little planning to change helter skelter into harmony?

I'm not sure how much time you want to devote to learning more about your plant and growing in general. Hopefully, you read the link I provided upthread. If your mom's plant has been cut back before, yet hasn't responded with back-budding, it's probably being affected by some pretty severe limitations. A guess would be that it's severely root bound, but other factors might also be in play as well - a picture would be very helpful.

I don't think that anyone will argue with the idea it's better to learn how to prevent problems than it is to fix them as they arise - call it preventive maintenance. If you learn a little about soils so you can ensure your plants ARE indeed in an appropriate soil, learn how to supply a sound nutritional supplementation program (how to fertilize - it's very easy), and how to maintain the roots of your plants so root problems don't lead to permanent limitations, you're golden. A few hours of reading is all it takes. A lot of new or struggling growers have found this basic overview for houseplants to be of value. Hopefully, you will as well.

Normal leaf size is determined by genetics, but cultural factors act on the plant to change leaf size as well. Ficus and other Moracaeous plants are programed such that each successive leaf on any branch will be larger than the last leaf (at maturity). Low light and/or high fertility (especially nitrogen) causes larger leaves. Root congestion, soil compaction, low fertility, high light, drought conditions, and pinching regularly, all work individually or in concert to diminish leaf size.

A newly established ficus cutting with leaves a little smaller than those on your rubber tree. ;-)


    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 10:53AM
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So with Thanksgiving approaching, we are nearing the three year mark since I first took a cutting on this plant. I've included a link to the most recent picture I have.

How is the pot size? I've kept it in that same pot since November 2011. Should I think about potting it up in the spring? Or should I leave it be?

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 16, 2014 at 11:22PM
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MsGreenFinger GW(8 Ireland)

Very nice plant, good job!
I'd pot up next summer.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2014 at 7:19AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

We can't tell if the pot size is appropriate w/o looking at the condition of the root mass.

Here are some things to think about:

The plant wants more light. It's about to flop over if allowed to get much taller. To correct that, you can cut it back, which will have the effect of stiffening the stem - even though it doesn't, really. We know long stems bend easier than short stems, so making the stem shorter by cutting back to a leaf that faces a favorable direction will solve the problem nicely ...... but save that until next summer.

How appropriate the size of the pot is depends on soil choice - not the size of the pot it's in now. With the right soil, you could move the pot into a 55 gallon barrel, if you chose. With the wrong soil, that would be a disaster. If you wait until next summer to root prune and repot, it's likely the pot it's in will be just right, or even too large if you are using a water-retentive soil. If your plant has ever reached the point where it could be lifted from its container with the root/soil mass intact, it will be limited if you only pot up. Repotting, which includes bare-rooting and correcting root problems and congestion, eliminates that limitation.

Good job. Other than the more light thing, your tree looks healthy/happy.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2014 at 4:59PM
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Thank you guys for your input!

How can you tell it wants more light? Because it is getting taller?

Which direction window would you recommend?

    Bookmark   November 17, 2014 at 8:20PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

3 things give it away. The size of the leaves, the length of the internodes (distance between leaves), and the fact the plant is getting ready to flop over (can no longer support its own weight). This plant's normal growth habit is erect and widely spreading where it naturally occurs.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2014 at 10:20PM
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