How to Propagate a Rubber Plant | Step by Step Methods

Last Updated: March 15, 2023

Rubber Plants (Ficus elastica) is one of the houseplant classics! With their elegant leaves and easy care routine, it’s no surprise why these plants are so loved. If you’ve been thinking about expanding your urban jungle, then propagating your plant is a great way to go. They aren’t always the easiest plant to use though but we hope this guide will guide you through everything. From step by step methods, to what tools you’ll need and common problems you might face in the process.

Why propagate a Rubber Plant?

Before we get into the details, you might be wondering why it’s beneficial to propagate your plant in the first place? Well here are some of the main reasons:

 

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    Create more plants for free!

    This is often the most common reason as it’s a great way to expand your plant collection without needing to spend any more money! They also make great gifts for friends and family if you already have enough houseplants.

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    Save a dying plant

    If you’ve accidentally overwatered (which is easy to do), over-fertilised or simply forgotten about your plant for too long and it has started to die, sometimes the best way to save it is by taking the healthy stems and using them to create new healthy plants before it’s too late. 

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    If it has outgrown the spot in your home

    Giving them a trim is a great way to cut back some of the growth. This is a great way to make use of those cuttings. 

What tools/equipment will I need to propagate my Rubber Plant?

Let’s start off with the easy part, here’s everything you’ll need:

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    Healthy and mature Rubber Plant

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    Clean, sharp scissors/shears

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    Spare pot(s)

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    Fresh potting mix and water

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    Newspaper or plastic sheet (if propagating indoors)

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    Rooting hormone (optional)

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    Gardening gloves (optional)

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    Toothpick, peat moss, plant tie and plastic wrap (if using the air layering method)

What methods of propagation can be used?

There are two main methods; stem cuttings and air layering. The first method is definitely the easiest and can be done using top cuttings or stem cuttings (more on that later). Stem cutting method is great for not only all maturities, but it’s also a lot easier so you don’t have to be a pro to get this one right. 

The air layering method can be a bit of a challenge, and the success rate is lower. However, if you are pretty experienced at the other propagation methods and want a bit of a challenge, this method can be a lot of fun!

How to propagate a Rubber Plant through stem cuttings

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    Locate healthy stem(s)

    It’s really important when choosing which bit to propagate, that the section of the plant is healthy. Avoid using any stems or leaves that show signs of disease or pests, most commonly brown or yellow patches on the leaves. You also need to make sure that the part of the stem has at least one node. 

    Nodes are stem joints where the leaves come out from. You will pick the top of one of the stems for the first cutting, but you can then also take stem cuttings lower down to have a few shots at success. The process is exactly the same whether you choose the top cutting, or stem cuttings further down as well.

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    Make the cut(s) 

    This can be the scary bit – especially with Rubber Plants that don’t have many stems so one cut feels like quite a big deal! Now that you have located the section of stem that you want to propagate, you need to cut it off! We recommend wearing gloves in this stage as the sap can be quite toxic if ingested.

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    Take off any lower leaves 

    As you’ll be placing your cutting in water for several weeks you want to carefully remove any leaves on the lower part of the cutting that may end up sitting in the water. They will rot if they are sat in water for a long period of time so best to cut them off now. If your cutting only has a few leaves then skip this step and make sure the water level isn’t super high (this will mean you will have to top up the water more often as there is an increased risk that the cutting will dry out).

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    Fill up a tall container with water 

    Next, you want to fill up a glass with fresh water to place your cutting into. 

    Use temperate water as extremes will harm your cutting and decrease your chances of a successful propagation. We like to use a transparent container, not only to see the roots grow which can be pretty cool but to keep an eye out for any signs of unhappiness. Spotting issues on your cuttings early is the secret to solving them quickly!

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    Place your Rubber Plant cutting in water

    Make sure that the node(s) of your stem cutting is sat in the water so that the roots will start to grow out from there. Place your glass in bright but indirect sunlight (direct sunlight can be too intense for new cuttings) and away from any temperature extremes.

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    Change out the water regularly 

    Make sure you are switching out the water in the glass every couple of days. This will stop it from stagnating and keep it free from bad bacteria that can really damage your cutting. Stagnant water will also smell quite bad so it’s something you really want to avoid.

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    Now just wait 

    Once you’ve gotten into the routine of regularly switching out the water, the rest can be a little boring

    You might not see anything for several weeks and sometimes even months but this is normal and not a sign that it won’t work. Rubber Plants grow slowly and the same is for the cuttings. 

    As long as your cutting is getting the right care and environment, you should see roots pop out soon, followed by new leaves!

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    Plant your cuttings into fresh potting mix

    Once the roots on your cutting have matured, you can now pot into fresh potting mix. Always use a fresh, high-quality mix to ensure your new plant is getting the right balance of nutrients as well as reducing the risk of pests that comes from reusing potting mix. 

    Carefully place your cutting into the mix making sure not to damage the delicate newly formed roots and continue regular Rubber Plant care. 

How to propagate a Rubber Plant through air layering

This method can be a little trickier and fiddlier so we only recommend it if you are slightly more experienced (or you want a little bit of a challenge).

 

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    Locate a healthy stem

    When choosing the air layering method you want to make sure you are using a healthy and strong plant. With stem cuttings, you could get away with using the healthy part of the plant but as you won’t be removing anything from the plant for a while, it’s important that your entire plant looks healthy. 

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    Make a vertical incision into the stem

    Using a clean knife make a vertical cut into your Rubber Plant’s stem that is a couple of inches long. You want it to go about halfway through the stem. When making the cut it’s important you don’t slice all the way through to the other side of the stem. 

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    Open up the incision in the stem

    Insert a toothpick into the centre of the incision to hold it slightly open. This can be a little fiddly as you don’t want to poke all the way through the stem so take your time when doing this.

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    Attach damp peat moss to the side of the incision

    You want to tie the peat moss around the stem with the cutting in making sure it stays damp but not soggy at all times. Use brown string, plant ties or garden wire to secure the peat moss to your plant’s stem. 

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    Wrap up the incision using peat moss 

    Wrap a piece of plastic wrap around the peat moss and stem. Wrap it firmly around the stem but still leaving some air pockets around the peat moss.

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    Once you see a new root you can cut off the stem

    After several weeks you should start to see new roots growing out of the peat moss. Once you see this you can slice the cutting off your plant, remove the film and pot the cutting into fresh potting mix. Handle your new cutting with care as the fresh roots will be delicate and easily damaged. 

Rubber Plant Propagation FAQs

Common problems when propagating a Rubber Plant

It won’t always be successful and you’re more than likely to come across some issues along the way. Spotting the problems early and knowing how to solve them will give you the best chance at getting your cutting back to full health.

Where is the node on a Rubber Plant?

Locating the node on your Rubber Plant is crucial to successful propagation as you’ll know where to make the cut. Without a node, it’s impossible to propagate your Rubber Plant with just a single leaf. Rubber Plants have nodes at each stem joint where a leaf is growing out from.

Nodes can be a little hard to feel on the stem of a Rubber Plant as there isn’t often a bulge like you’ll find on other plants.

How to care for your Rubber Plant cuttings after propagation

After your propagation is complete, now all of your attention will be focused on caring for your new plants and ensuring they mature properly. Although they have a reputation for being easy to care for, there are a few things you need to do and monitor that will help your plant thrive.

When it comes to sunlight, make sure that your Rubber Plant is getting enough sunlight but stay away from direct light. Mature Rubber Plants don’t do well with intense light and you need to be especially careful with less mature plants as they are more sensitive to the extremes.

You also need to make sure that your new plants receive enough warmth after the propagation process is over. make sure they are away from any cold drafts as this will stunt growth and increases the risk of root rot. Misting and using a humidifier will also go a long way to keeping those edges and leaf tips from drying out.

Check out our full Rubber Plant care guide to find all the information on how to continue to care for your cuttings once they have matured.

We hope you have found this guide useful. It is always an unpredictable process so things won’t happen like clockwork. You just have to sit back and wait with one eye on your cutting! But with the right care and the ideal environment, you shouldn’t have too many problems. 

Check out our full Rubber Plant Care Guide for all the information on how to continue care for your cutting once it has matured.

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