Do you want your rubber tree to grow bushier or more compact? Then a cut back is a good idea. Here’s how to properly cut Ficus elastica.
With its dark green, smooth leaves, the rubber tree (Ficus elastica) is one of the classics among green plants for the room. If you want to encourage it to grow more bushy, you can easily cut it. Even rubber trees that have grown too big or that have turned a little crooked are brought back into shape with a pruning.
Cutting rubber trees: The most important things in brief
- The best time to prune a rubber tree is towards the end of winter, in early spring.
- To encourage better branching, the cut is made over a leaf or a sleeping eye.
- Disturbing or dead shoots are removed directly at the base.
- Hands and clothing should be protected from the irritating milky sap.
When should you cut a rubber tree?
In principle, you can cut a rubber tree all year round. We recommend cutting towards the end of winter or early spring. At that time, the flow of sap is not quite as strong, the rubber tree can cope with the cut better and can sprout again quickly in spring. The practical: You can still use the cut off shoots to propagate the rubber tree. Simply place the cut shoots in a water glass. They form new roots after four to eight weeks.
Why should you cut a rubber tree?
Rubber trees also thrive without regular pruning. In the trade, however, you can often only find single-shoot plants. With a specific cut you can stimulate them to branch better. Even if the rubber tree has grown too big over time or is supposed to grow straighter, it can also be pruned. Some enthusiasts even grow their Ficus elastica as a bonsai.
How to properly cut a rubber tree
Since the rubber tree is quite compatible with pruning, you can go to work boldly when pruning. It can even handle cutting back into old wood. It is best to use sharp, clean secateurs and prepare a mat on which you can place the clippings. With a paper towel you can repeatedly dab the wounds with the milky juice that escapes (see below).
To encourage a rubber tree to branch, cut off the main or central shoot directly above a leaf – depending on the size of the plant, this is recommended above the third to fifth leaf, for example. If the rubber tree already has side shoots, these are also shortened. You can also make the cut above resting eyes – these can be recognized by small bumps. In general, the following applies: Always place the scissors a few millimeters above the leaf or the dormant bud so that new shoots succeed without problems.
Has your rubber tree got too big? Then you can simply cut off the main shoot at the desired height. Dead, too dense or generally annoying side shoots are cut off directly at the base. If you’d rather keep your rubber tree narrow, you can cut off any side shoots above the first or second leaf. Make sure that there is no imbalance between the side shoots and that the rubber tree remains stable.
After the cut, it is very important that the rubber tree is placed in a light place – especially if you want to encourage an overall bushy growth. If Ficus elastica is too dark, the new growth pattern often does not look much better than before. It is therefore best to place it in a bright winter garden or in a bright south-facing window. There it shows new shoots after just a few weeks.
Caution: Milky sap irritates the skin
When the ficus is cut, sticky, white milky juice comes out. You can stop the leaking plant sap with a compress that you have dipped in hot water beforehand. Alternatively, flaming with a lighter can be used to close the wound. Basically: Sensitive people should wear gloves as a precaution when cutting their rubber tree, as the milky sap that escapes is skin-irritating. If the milky sap drips onto the floor or clothing, it can quickly result in unsightly stains that are difficult to remove. It is best to put newspaper on the floor and put on old clothes before you reach for the scissors. It is also a good idea to make the cut outdoors and only bring the rubber tree back into the house when the secretion has dried on the cut.