How to Prune a Rubber Plant (The Ultimate Guide)

Last Updated: March 20, 2023

Loved around the world for being a great low maintenance houseplant, Rubber Plants are a great way to bring a bit of the tropics right into your home. However, caring for your plant isn’t always as simple as watering and light requirements as pruning is an important element too. 

Pruning can often be daunting to plant parents as they are afraid to cut any part of their beloved plant off. However, when done right, it can have great health benefits as well as aesthetic ones. 

We’re here to make pruning your Rubber Plant a little less scary. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about when, why and how to prune your Rubber Plant.

The benefits of pruning Rubber Plants

If you’ve never pruned your houseplants before, then you are missing out on some great benefits. There might be several reasons why you are forced to prune your Rubber Plant but there are also other times when it’s completely optional but still a great decision.

Pruning promotes better growth

It may feel counterproductive to remove whole sections of your Rubber Plant to help it grow more, but pruning in the right way and at the right time can actually help to stimulate faster, stronger and larger growth. 

Your Rubber Plant contains hormones within the stems and when the stem is cut, the hormones kick in to repair and regrow the plant tissue. This leads to your plant regenerating quickly as well as coming back stronger.  

So if your plant has been pretty dormant for a while (and it’s not root bound), then this can be a great way to promote new growth. 

Pruning helps to control the shape of your plant

Rubber Plants can become quite wide and tall which can often not be great for the space that you want it to grow in. Maybe you’re always knocking past it or it’s just dominating the room too much. 

Pruning back your plant is the best way to create the shape and size that you want or need for your home. Pruning and propagating the cuttings also helps create new stems that you can add to the mother plant for a fuller look. 

Top tip: if you find that your Rubber Plant is spreading out a bit much, but you don’t actually want to prune it, then use support stakes to hold the stems upright. This can reduce the space needed for your plant whilst still keeping all of it! 

You can cut back small or leggy growth

During the darker winter months, it’s not unusual for your Rubber Plant to become quite leggy. What we mean by this is either smaller leaves or a lot of space between the leaves on the stem. This can often not look as great as a fuller plant which is where pruning can help you. 

Whilst leggy growth isn’t actually detrimental to the health of your plant, removing them can simply help spruce up your plant and help it look fresher.

Removing unhealthy parts of your Rubber Plant

If your plant has developed brown or yellow leaves, then it can be a good idea to prune these leaves or sections of your plant. Once the leaves have turned brown or yellow, there is no getting them back and they are dying or dead. 

Chopping them off helps your plant to focus energy on growing new healthy leaves, rather than wasting nutrients and energy trying to keep the dying bits of the plant alive. 

Curbing a pest infestation

If you have discovered pests on your Rubber Plant (or any other plant), one of our first pieces of advice is to remove the leaves that are worst affected and have a lot of pests living on them. 

The reason we recommend this is that it just curbs the size of the infestation, making it a little bit easier to treat.    

When to prune a Rubber Plant

Time of year considerations

The best time to prune your Rubber Plant is in spring and summer, once you are sure that the cold weather is behind you. This is because your plant is in (or entering) the growth period and will reward you with plenty of new healthy leaves. 

If you prune during autumn and winter, your plant will be in its dormant phase which means you won’t see any new growth for a while and it won’t be able to recover from the stress of being pruned as quickly.

Pruning in spring and summer also gives you the best chance at successfully propagating the cuttings you remove (if you want to propagate them). This is because cuttings need plenty of sunshine and warmth to grow strong roots. 

Remove sections that are developing issues

If you spot any leaves that are starting to turn yellow or brown, then this can be a good time to prune your plant. It’s important that you try to diagnose what’s causing the issue as quickly as possible to prevent it from spreading.

It’s worth noting that sometimes Rubber Plants can naturally develop brown or yellow leaves as a sign of ageing. This is completely normal and is nothing to worry about. Most commonly natural ageing will mean the lowest leaves turn yellow or brown. They will eventually fall off but for aesthetic reasons, you might want to chop them off. 

Tools needed to successfully prune a Rubber Plant

  1. Scissors or shears.

    Because Rubber Plants do have fairly thick stems, these will need to be sharp to prevent damaging the plant. It’s also vital that your tools are clean to avoid passing on any bacteria or dirt onto the mother plant (or the cuttings if you want to propagate them).

  2. Gloves.

    Rubber Plants are toxic and when you cut through the stem, milky sap will be released. This can cause skin irritation if you come into contact with it and will cause stomach irritation if ingested. This is why it’s pretty important that you wear gloves±

  3. Containers (only if you are propagating).

    If you choose to propagate the parts of your plant that you remove, then it’s good to have some tall containers which you can transfer the new cuttings into. If you don’t want to keep the cuttings then maybe ask friends if they’d like to grow them (not many people will say no to free plants!).

How to prune a Rubber Plant: Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Decide how much to prune 

    Before you pick up your shears, make sure you know what you want to do. If you’re pruning to create a shape, figure out how much you want to cut before just going into it. Making a mark using a pen can help figure out what’s best as once you’ve made the cut there is no going back.

    Because Rubber Plants are quite slow growers, we don’t recommend cutting too much more off than desired. With some other houseplants that grow a lot quicker, we tend to recommend cutting off a bit more to leave room for it to grow. Otherwise, you’ll be right back at it in a few months.

  2. Make the cut(s)

    Use your clean, sharp shears to make one or several cuts across your Rubber Plant. It’s important that the cuts aren’t rough as this can damage the plant. You also mustn’t make half a cut and rip the rest off as this can impact how strong the new growth is. 

  3. Put any cuttings in water to propagate them 

    If you do want to propagate any offcuts, then transfer these into a clear container filled with temperate water. You can only propagate the cutting if it has part of the stem as single leaves won’t grow any roots. You can check out our full Rubber Plant propagation guide to learn more. 

How to care for your Rubber Plant after pruning

You might think that the work is done the moment you put down the shears, but there are actually a few things you need to pay attention to after pruning to ensure the health of your plant. 

Plants can be a little like humans sometimes and get stressed by big changes. Pruning can be one of those events that leave your plant a little stressed. This is why it’s vital that the environment and care are exactly what your plant needs. 

Firstly, you want to give your plant a good soak. You can either do this by top watering your plant and removing any excess water from the saucer, or you can give it a soak/shower. This will ensure that the roots and soil take up as much water as needed, without the risk of overwatering. 

The second thing to pay attention to is if your Rubber Plant is getting the right amount of light. Luckily they are pretty adaptable and can deal with a whole range of light conditions but it’s ideal if they are getting several hours of bright but indirect light. This helps to stimulate new growth and prevent any issues from occurring. This is also the reason why we recommend pruning in late spring and summer where possible. 

When it comes to your fertilizing routine, hold off for a good few weeks just to let your plant recover from the shock. Just a reminder though that fertilizing is optional and you can still see plenty of new growth without it as long as the environmental factors are right. 

Frequently Asked Questions

We hope now that the idea of pruning your Rubber Plant isn’t quite as scary as you would have thought. Although it may seem strange to remove sections of the plant to actually grow more, pruning can be a great way to stimulate new healthy growth. Another really important thing to remember specifically for Rubber Plant pruning is to wear gloves as you really don’t want to come into contact with the sap. 

If you want to learn more about caring for your plant, check out our Rubber Plant care guide

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