Rubber Plant – How to Keep It Small(Pruning Guide)

To keep a rubber plant small, regular pruning is essential. This article provides a practical guide on how to prune and maintain the size of your rubber plant effectively.

Rubber plants (ficus elastica) are popular houseplants known for their large, glossy leaves and ability to thrive in various indoor conditions. However, as these plants grow, they can become large and overpowering for smaller spaces. Thankfully, with some simple pruning techniques, you can keep your rubber plant small and manageable, while still enjoying its beauty.

Pruning not only helps control the size of the plant but also promotes branching and denser foliage. We will guide you through the step-by-step process of pruning your rubber plant to ensure it remains compact and visually appealing. Let’s delve into the world of rubber plant pruning and discover the secrets to maintaining its ideal size.

Benefits Of Pruning A Rubber Plant

Pruning plays a crucial role in maintaining the small and appealing size of a rubber plant while also boosting its overall health. By regular pruning, you can enjoy the following benefits:

  • Enhanced growth and overall plant health: Pruning stimulates new growth by removing dead or damaged leaves, allowing the rubber plant to redirect its energy towards healthy foliage.
  • Promotes bushier and compact growth: Trimming the rubber plant encourages lateral branches to develop, resulting in a denser and more compact appearance.
  • Controls the plant’s size and shape: Pruning enables you to manage the size and shape of the rubber plant, preventing it from becoming overly large or unruly.

Pruning a rubber plant not only maintains its aesthetic appeal but also supports its overall vitality. By employing proper pruning techniques, you can ensure that your rubber plant remains visually pleasing while thriving in a healthy and controlled manner.

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Table of Contents

Factors To Consider Before Pruning

Understanding The Plant’S Growth Habit:

  • Rubber plants (ficus elastica) are known for their vigorous growth and can reach heights of up to 6-10 feet indoors.
  • They have large, glossy leaves that add an attractive touch to any space.
  • Rubber plants can become too large for their surroundings if not properly maintained, which is why pruning is essential.
  • Understanding the growth habit of the rubber plant is crucial before embarking on the pruning process.

Identifying The Right Time For Pruning:

  • Rubber plants are best pruned during the active growing season, which is typically in spring or early summer.
  • It is essential to choose the right time because pruning at the wrong time can adversely affect the plant’s health and growth.
  • Look for signs of new growth or when the plant starts to outgrow its space as indications that pruning may be needed.
  • Avoid pruning during the plant’s dormant period as it may impede its ability to recover.

Choosing The Appropriate Tools And Equipment:

  • Before starting the pruning process, gather the necessary tools and equipment to ensure a smooth and successful endeavor.
  • Here are some essential tools for pruning a rubber plant:
  • Sharp pruning shears: These will help you make clean cuts without causing damage to the plant.
  • Clean cloth or cotton balls: These can be used to apply rubbing alcohol to disinfect the pruning tools before and after use.
  • Gloves: Protect your hands from any potential irritants or sap that may be released during the pruning process.
  • It is vital to use sharp and clean tools to avoid causing unnecessary damage or introducing infections to the plant.

Remember, understanding the rubber plant’s growth habit, identifying the right time for pruning, and choosing the appropriate tools and equipment are crucial factors to consider before pruning. By taking these aspects into account, you can ensure a healthy and manageable rubber plant in your indoor space.

Rubber Plant - How to Keep It Small(Pruning Guide)

Step-By-Step Guide To Pruning A Rubber Plant

Assessing The Plant’S Overall Health And Condition

  • Before you start pruning your rubber plant, it’s crucial to assess its overall health and condition. This helps you determine the extent of pruning required and identify any underlying issues that may need attention.
  • Look for signs of pest infestation, disease, or nutrient deficiencies by examining the leaves, stems, and soil.
  • Check for any dead, damaged, or diseased leaves and branches that need to be removed.
  • Evaluate the plant’s growth pattern, noting any long or leggy stems that could benefit from trimming.

Removing Dead, Damaged, Or Diseased Leaves And Branches

  • Begin by removing any dead, damaged, or diseased leaves and branches. These can negatively impact the plant’s overall health and aesthetics.
  • Using clean and sharp pruning shears, make clean cuts close to the main stem or trunk to prevent infection or further damage.
  • Dispose of the removed foliage properly to prevent the spread of pests or diseases.

Trimming Back Long Or Leggy Stems To Encourage Branching

  • If you notice long or leggy stems, it’s important to trim them back to encourage branching and create a fuller appearance.
  • Identify the section of the stem that needs to be pruned. Look for a node or leaf joint where new growth can emerge.
  • Position your pruning shears just above the node and make a clean cut at a slight angle. This encourages new growth to emerge from the dormant buds.
  • Repeat this process for each long or leggy stem.

Shaping The Plant To Achieve Desired Aesthetics

  • Shaping your rubber plant is essential to achieve the desired overall appearance.
  • Consider the style you want to achieve, whether it be a bushier look with more foliage on lower branches or a more uniform shape throughout.
  • Identify any areas that need shaping or balancing, such as uneven growth or overly long stems.
  • Make careful and intentional cuts to shape the plant according to your preferences. Remember to step back periodically and assess the progress as you prune.

Remember, pruning should be done in moderation and with care to avoid excessive stress on the plant. It’s always better to prune gradually over time rather than removing too much foliage at once. Regularly assess your rubber plant’s growth and adjust your pruning routine accordingly to keep it small and maintain its healthy appearance.

Tips For Pruning Different Parts Of A Rubber Plant

Pruning The Main Stem And Branches:

  • To keep your rubber plant small and well-maintained, regular pruning of the main stem and branches is essential. Here are some tips to help you with this task:
  • Identify any overgrown or wayward stems or branches that need to be pruned.
  • Use sharp pruning shears or scissors to make clean cuts just above a leaf node or joint.
  • Trim the main stem or branch back to a desirable length, ensuring you don’t remove more than one-third of its overall length.
  • By selectively removing long or unruly branches, you can promote a more compact and visually pleasing appearance for your rubber plant.
  • Remember to sanitize your pruning tools before and after each cut to prevent the spread of diseases or infections.

Encouraging Lateral Growth For A Fuller Appearance:

  • Pruning can also help encourage lateral growth in your rubber plant, giving it a fuller and bushier look. Consider the following steps to achieve this:
  • Identify any dominant stems or branches that are obstructing the lateral growth of other parts of the plant.
  • Prune these dominant stems or branches back by cutting just above a lateral bud or side shoot. This will divert the plant’s energy towards the adjacent growth points, stimulating more branches to develop.
  • Aim to achieve a well-balanced distribution of branches across the plant, ensuring each section receives sufficient light and air circulation.
  • Regularly monitor the growth patterns of your rubber plant and adjust the pruning accordingly to maintain the desired shape and fullness.

Controlling The Height By Cutting Back The Main Stem:

  • If you want to manage the height of your rubber plant, cutting back the main stem can be an effective method. Follow these guidelines:
  • Determine the desired height for your rubber plant, keeping in mind its natural growth habits and the available space.
  • Using sharp pruning shears, make a clean cut just above a leaf node or joint on the main stem, reducing its height to the desired level.
  • Be cautious not to remove too much of the main stem at once, as this can cause stress to the plant. Gradual pruning over time is preferable.
  • Regularly monitor the plant’s growth and repeat the process as needed to maintain the desired height and shape.

Pruning Leaves And Leaf Stems:

  • Pruning leaves and leaf stems is an integral part of rubber plant care. Here’s how you can do it effectively:
  • Identify any yellowing, damaged, or diseased leaves on your rubber plant.
  • Grasp the leaf stem firmly and gently pull it towards the base of the plant until it detaches from the main stem.
  • Avoid forcefully pulling or tearing the leaves, as this can cause damage to the plant.
  • Removing yellowing or damaged leaves not only improves the plant’s appearance but also redirects nutrients to healthier foliage.
  • Remember to dispose of the pruned leaves properly to prevent the spread of pests or diseases.

Trimming Large Leaves To Improve Air Circulation:

  • Large leaves can sometimes obstruct proper air circulation within a rubber plant, leading to increased humidity and potential fungal issues. Here’s how you can address this:
  • Identify any excessively large leaves that may be impeding air circulation or creating a crowded appearance.
  • Use clean, sharp scissors to trim the outer edges or tips of these large leaves, removing a small portion without damaging the overall leaf structure.
  • Aim to create small incisions or cuts rather than removing a substantial portion of the leaf. This helps maintain the plant’s aesthetic appeal while improving airflow.
  • By trimming large leaves, you allow fresh air to reach the inner parts of the plant, reducing the risk of stagnant moisture and fungal growth.
  • Remember to maintain a balance while trimming leaves to preserve the plant’s ability to photosynthesize effectively.

Pruning Aerial Roots:

  • Rubber plants often develop aerial roots, which can require pruning for aesthetic and maintenance purposes. Consider the following steps for trimming them:
  • Identify any excessive or unruly aerial roots that may be extending beyond the desired boundaries or becoming visually distracting.
  • Use clean pruning shears to carefully trim these aerial roots, making clean cuts just above the node or joint from which they originate.
  • Be cautious not to remove all the aerial roots, as they serve important functions such as water absorption and stability.
  • Regularly check for new aerial root growth and repeat the pruning process as needed.
  • Pruning aerial roots helps maintain the plant’s neat appearance while preventing potential tripping hazards.

Encouraging Vertical Growth By Pruning Horizontal Roots:

  • Pruning horizontal roots can help stimulate vertical growth in rubber plants that have become too sprawling. Follow these steps to encourage upward growth:
  • Identify any horizontal or outward-growing roots that may be inhibiting vertical growth or causing the plant to spread excessively.
  • Use a sharp pruning tool to carefully trim these horizontal roots, cutting just outside the root ball.
  • Be cautious not to remove too many roots, as they are vital for nutrient uptake and stability.
  • Prune the horizontal roots in moderation, giving the plant room to grow vertically without compromising its overall health.
  • Regularly monitor the plant’s root system and adjust pruning as necessary to promote vertical growth.

Common Pruning Mistakes To Avoid

Pruning is an important task to keep your rubber plant small and healthy. However, it’s essential to avoid common mistakes that may hinder its growth and cause stress. Here are some key points to remember:

  • Over-pruning, leading to stress and slow growth: While it’s tempting to prune your rubber plant extensively, over-pruning can be detrimental. Over-removing foliage can make the plant susceptible to stress and hinder its growth. To avoid this, only prune what is necessary and allow the plant to naturally fill out.
  • Improper use of pruning tools, causing damage to the plant: Using incorrect pruning tools or not maintaining them properly can result in damage to your rubber plant. It’s crucial to use sharp and sterile tools to make clean cuts. Dull or unclean tools can crush or tear the plant tissues, making it prone to diseases or pests.
  • Pruning during the wrong season, affecting plant recovery: Pruning at the wrong time can significantly impact your rubber plant’s ability to recover and thrive. Avoid pruning during winter or when the plant is dormant. Instead, opt for spring or early summer when the plant is actively growing. This timing allows the plant to heal quickly and promotes healthy regrowth.

Remember, pruning is about maintaining the shape and size of your rubber plant while ensuring its overall well-being. By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll help your plant flourish and stay vibrant for years to come.

Aftercare And Maintenance Tips

Providing Adequate Light, Temperature, And Humidity For Optimum Growth:

  • Place your rubber plant in a location where it can receive bright, indirect light. Direct sunlight can burn the leaves, so it’s best to keep it away from intense rays.
  • Maintain a consistent temperature for your rubber plant. Ideally, the temperature should range between 60-75°f (15-24°c).
  • Keep the humidity levels balanced. Rubber plants thrive in high humidity, but they can tolerate average indoor humidity levels. Consider using a humidifier or placing a tray filled with water near the plant to increase humidity.

Regularly Monitoring The Plant For Any Signs Of Pests Or Diseases:

  • Keep an eye on your rubber plant for any signs of pests such as spider mites, mealybugs, or scales. Inspect the leaves for webbing, tiny insects, or unusual spots.
  • If you spot any signs of pests, take immediate action. Use an organic insecticidal soap or neem oil to eliminate the pests. Make sure to thoroughly cover the leaves and stems during application.
  • Check for any diseases like leaf spot or root rot. If you notice discolored or wilting leaves, inspect the roots for signs of rotting. Adjust watering practices if necessary and consider repotting in a fresh, well-draining soil mix.

Watering And Fertilizing The Plant Appropriately To Support New Growth:

  • Water your rubber plant when the top few inches of soil feel dry to the touch. Avoid overwatering, as it can cause root rot. Allow excess water to drain from the pot to prevent waterlogging.
  • During the growing season, from spring to summer, water your rubber plant more frequently. Reduce watering during the winter months when growth slows down.
  • Use a balanced liquid fertilizer specifically formulated for houseplants. Feed your rubber plant every two to four weeks during the growing season. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer packaging for the correct dilution and application rate.

Remember, maintaining a rubber plant’s small size requires proper care and attention. By providing adequate light, monitoring for pests and diseases, and watering and fertilizing appropriately, you can enjoy a thriving and compact rubber plant in your home.

Frequently Asked Questions (Faqs)

Can I Prune A Rubber Plant During Its Dormant Period?

  • Yes, you can prune a rubber plant during its dormant period. It is the best time to prune as the plant is less actively growing, which reduces stress on the plant.
  • The dormant period for rubber plants usually occurs in the winter months, when growth slows down. Pruning during this time allows the plant to redirect its energy to new growth in the spring.

How Often Should I Prune My Rubber Plant?

  • Prune your rubber plant once a year to maintain its size and shape.
  • Regular pruning will help control the height and width of the plant, preventing it from becoming too large or unruly.
  • It is best to prune in early spring when the plant is starting to show signs of new growth.

What Are The Signs Of Over-Pruning A Rubber Plant?

  • Drooping or wilting leaves: If you notice that the leaves on your rubber plant are drooping or wilting excessively after pruning, it could be a sign of over-pruning.
  • Stunted growth: Over-pruning can also lead to stunted growth, where the plant fails to produce new leaves or shoots.
  • Increased vulnerability to diseases: Over-pruned rubber plants may become more susceptible to diseases and pests due to the stress caused by excessive pruning.

Can I Propagate A Rubber Plant From The Pruned Cuttings?

  • Yes, you can easily propagate a rubber plant from the pruned cuttings.
  • To propagate, take a healthy stem cutting with at least two leaf nodes. Remove the lower leaves and place the cutting in water or a well-draining potting mix until roots develop.
  • Once the roots have formed, you can transfer the cutting to a new pot and continue to care for it as you would a mature rubber plant.

Frequently Asked Questions For Rubber Plant – How To Keep It Small(Pruning Guide)

How Do You Prune A Rubber Plant?

To prune a rubber plant, use a clean, sharp pair of pruning scissors to cut back any leggy or overgrown branches. Trim just above a leaf node to encourage new growth. Regular pruning will keep your rubber plant small and maintain its shape.

When Should I Prune My Rubber Plant?

The best time to prune your rubber plant is in spring or early summer. This allows new growth to emerge and helps shape the plant. Avoid pruning in winter or fall as this may slow down growth and cause stress to the plant.

Can I Propagate A Rubber Plant Through Pruning?

Yes, you can propagate a rubber plant through pruning. Take a cutting just below a leaf node and place it in a glass of water or a well-draining soil mix. Keep the cuttings moist and provide indirect light. After a few weeks, roots will develop, and you can transplant the new plant.

How Often Should I Prune A Rubber Plant?

Prune your rubber plant every few months or when you notice leggy growth or branches that are out of shape. Regular pruning will help keep the plant compact and maintain its small size.

Will Pruning A Rubber Plant Promote New Growth?

Yes, pruning a rubber plant promotes new growth. By cutting back leggy branches and shaping the plant, you encourage the growth of new shoots and leaves. Regular pruning also helps to stimulate the plant’s overall health and vitality.


To keep your rubber plant small and well-maintained, regular pruning is essential. By following the pruning guide we have provided, you can control the growth of your plant, promote branching, and maintain its desired size. Remember to use sharp, clean tools to make precise cuts, ensuring the health and aesthetic appeal of your rubber plant.

Start by removing any dead or damaged leaves, then proceed to trim back the longer branches to help maintain its compact form. Additionally, you can pinch off new growth at the tips of the stems to encourage a bushier appearance.

Pruning your rubber plant not only enhances its appearance but also promotes better air circulation and reduces the risk of pest infestation. With proper care and pruning, your rubber plant will thrive and continue to bring beauty and greenery to your space for years to come.

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Amelia Clark

I'm Amelia Clark , a seasoned florist and gardening specialist with more than 15 years of practical expertise. Following the completion of my formal education, I dedicated myself to a flourishing career in floristry, acquiring extensive understanding of diverse flower species and their ideal cultivation requirements. Additionally, I possess exceptional skills as a writer and public speaker, having successfully published numerous works and delivered engaging presentations at various local garden clubs and conferences. Check our Social media Profiles: Facebook Page, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Youtube, Instagram Tumblr

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