Controlling The Rubber Tree - Knowledgebase Question

Bayshore, NY
Question by MichelleTale
December 2, 1999
How do you prune a rubber tree and create new trees with the clippings?

Answer from NGA
December 2, 1999


With regard to pruning, I found the following notes in our Q&A database:

According to Jean Cook of TerraSalis Garden Center
& Nursery, the Rubber Plant (Ficus decora) is pruned in the
following way: For starters, be sure to use clean, sharp
pruners - also keep some rubbing alcohol handy, you will
need it to clean the prunersperiodically. Take a look at the
plant and note that you will be removing 1/3 to 1/2 of the
plant's branches. Do not remove more foliage than that
because doing so could compromise the plant's ability to
complete photosynthesis and could shock the plant. Leaves
on this plant grow alternately, you should be sure to prune
the growth all the way down to a leaf joint, not between the
leaves. You will eventually get new growth (basal sprouting)
at this area. After awhile, this new growth will help make
your plant appear more full and lush rather than leggy. Jean
Cook reports that pruning a Rubber Plant is messy, as the
plant will probably leak a milky sap at the cut sites. Also, if
your plant will look a bit sparse when you are finished, don't
think you have ruined it! This trim will result in a nice chubby
Rubber Plant in a short while. One other thing I learned
about Rubber Plants during our conversation...a common
complaint with this plant is leaf drop. Jean tells me that when
Rubber Plants are grown in "captivity" they naturally have a
tendency to lose their lower leaves as they put on new
growth at the top....

With regard to starting new plants from cuttings, it's always worth a try but these plants are normally started by air layering instead. I'll try to describe the process
here--but if you visit your library you may find a book with

Begin by deciding where you want to cut the stem. I would
try one of the four stems first, before cutting all three. I
would take the cutting about 18" from the top of the stem.
First, using a sharp knife cut almost halfway through the
stem. Insert a wooden matchstick to hold the cut slightly
open. Now surround the open cut with a ball of moistened
sphagnum moss. Using a plastic bag, wrap the moss
carefully, securing it to the stem above and below the cut.
Check the moss regularly to be sure it stays moist. Roots
should emerge from the cut surface and grow into the moss.
Once you see this happening, cut the stem just below the
new roots and plant in fresh, sterile potting soil.

I hope it works for you! Good luck!

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