How to Propagate a Rubber Plant

Rubber plants, rubber trees, or Ficus elastica, are very hardy plants. They can survive a lot of mistreatment and what’s more, they’re super easy to propagate at home. If you wish to share this plant with your friends, simply take a small cutting and point them to this article on rubber plant care.

The owner of the plant will need to prune their Ficus every so often to limit its growth. Without pruning, the rubber plant can quickly grow to an unmanageable size. This means that it should be super easy to get hold of a cutting, if you have plant-loving friends.

Before you start pruning and propagating your rubber plant, you should be aware of the dangers. The milky sap of the rubber plant is irritant to humans and animals alike. It is a good idea to wear gloves when handling rubber plant cuttings or when pruning. You can also use kitchen tissue to wipe away any sap from the stem.

rubber plant sap on stem used as a cutting

Propagation will take months, so do not expect to see rapid or instant results. If you wish to speed up the process a little, we suggest starting it in the spring. The temperature and weather conditions in the springtime are more conducive to growth. Comparatively, if you attempt to propagate plants in the winter, the whole process will take a lot longer to complete.

There are 2 main methods to propagate a rubber plant: using cuttings and by air layering. These methods are detailed below.

1) Cuttings

If you are the person taking the cutting, you should not just hack at the plant. Look to see which areas are most suited to being pruned. Cut at areas where the plant appears uneven or bare. If you notice long and leggy areas, we suggest pruning these off too.

The cutting should be taken at a point below a leaf node. This is where new root growth begins and is vital to the success of the propagation. We recommend including at least 4 leaf nodes along the cutting. The cutting should be a minimum length of 6 inches.

You should cut the branch diagonally underneath the bottom leaf node. If sap seeps out, use a kitchen towel to dry the cutting off. Remove any lower leaves from the cutting, leaving just 2 or 3 at the top. This is to expose the stem and encourage faster root growth. It will also direct the growth energy to a new root system instead of using the energy to keep the leaves alive.

Propagation in soil

Grab a small plastic plant pot to use for the propagation. Make up a potting mix of equal parts perlite and potting soil and use this to fill the plant pot. You will need one plant pot per cutting.

Dip the end of each of your cuttings in a rooting hormone. These are chemically formulated powders that encourage and stimulate the growth of new roots. It is not vital to do this step, but it will increase the chance of successful propagation.

Use your finger to make a small hole in the center of the potting mix. Push the cutting in and ensure it is deep enough to cover the leaf nodes. Pat the soil firmly to secure the cutting in place.

We advise placing a ziplock bag over the top of each of your plant pots. This will help to trap moisture and humidity in the immediate vicinity of the rubber plant. This mimics the activity of a greenhouse.

Place your mini greenhouse environments in a warm area with indirect sunlight during the daytime. Direct sunlight will burn the leaves and dry out the cuttings.

An alternative to the ziplock bag method is to regularly mist your plant with water.

Wait for up to 5 weeks until the cutting grows roots. Test for the presence of roots by gently pulling on the stem above the soil. If you encounter any resistance, this indicates a root system has grown.

Propagation in water

This is a method with a lower guarantee of success, but it has still been known to work well. You should be careful though, as the chance of developing root rot increases.

Grab a clear glass jar and fill it about ¾ of the way up with clean water. Place your rubber plant cutting inside, but do not allow the bottom of the cutting to rest on the base of the jar.

Place the cutting and jar on a warm and sunny windowsill. Allow it to sit here for 2 or 3 months while you wait for the cutting to grow roots. They will resemble small white protrusions, to begin with. Leave the jar here to continue growing for a little while longer before you transfer the cutting to a pot of soil.

glass vase with plant cutting showing how to propagate a rubber plant

2) Air layering

This is a method that involves leaving the cutting on the rubber plant as it begins to grow new roots. This requires a different set of processes and can be a little more difficult.

Choose one of the stems from your plant to become the new plant. It must be at least 12 inches long, but it can be longer. Select the area that is going to be the rooting area, and remove any leaves that are immediately above or below this area.

Take a sharp, sterilized knife and cut off a strip of bark from around the stem. This strip should be at least an inch thick, leaving a naked ring around the stem. Once the bark has been removed, strip off the soft tissue too. You should just be left with a hard central portion of the wood.

Cover the exposed ring with a generous layer of rooting hormone. Cover this with some sphagnum moss that you have made damp. This should then be encased in a plastic bag to help trap in some of the moisture and humidity. It is vital that you cover the moss completely with this plastic.

Wait for 2 or 3 weeks, and you should notice some roots growing on the exposed ring. Once you are satisfied with the root growth, you can cut it free from the mother plant. The baby can then be repotted independently, and you have a new rubber plant.

After you propagate a rubber plant

Whichever method you use to propagate your rubber plant, you should keep a close eye on your new plant once it’s transferred to a new pot. Ensure that it is regularly watered, with the soil being moist but not too wet. Also increase the humidity around the new plant by regularly misting or placing a ziplock bag over it, to produce a constant microclimate.

New rubber plants can be relatively quick to grow and it’s a real sense of achievement to see your new plant flourish,

About the author 

Paul - Better Houseplants

Loves orchids and foliage houseplants. Always trying to be a better plant parent. Let's get growing!

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