The rubber plant or rubber tree (Ficus elastica) is an ever-popular indoor plant and for good reason. Attractive and undemanding, it’s loved for its forgiving ways as much as its looks.
Maybe not the showiest of plants, but rubber plants’ low-key elegance is perfectly pitched for life indoors.
The big glossy leaves signpost their exotic origins in steamy South Asia. But they’re easygoing plants and can happily thrive in any home, anywhere.
Most of the time, a laid-back rubber plant won’t even need much water to keep it happy. In its summer growing season though, your plant will be grateful for a little extra humidity.
Getting rubber plant humidity right
Rubber plants belong to the ficus (ornamental fig) family; a group of tropical plants that generally prefer warm, humid conditions.
Where they’re from, rain falls all year round. So any room with cold, dry air will be a little challenging for a rubber plant.
Likewise, hot dry air will parch them, so you won’t want to keep one next to a radiator or other heat source.
But as a tree type ficus, rubber plants are more resilient and will get by on less humidity than some of their fussier ficus cousins.
Trailing types, like the creeping fig, can really struggle without careful attention to their moisture and humidity.
Fortunately, rubber plants are much more low maintenance. They like relatively moist air and will benefit from some misting, but never in winter – and only occasionally in summer.
How often to mist a rubber plant
For most of the year, the moderate humidity in the average home is perfectly acceptable for a rubber plant. They’ll be quite happy without any misting at all.
Providing they aren’t constantly exposed to the drying effects of central heating, the only water they need is a top up when the soil feels dry.
However in summer, when the plant is actively growing, it’ll appreciate the extra moisture from misting from time to time.
Use a fine spray and aim for the air around the plant, rather than directly at it. You don’t want water dripping from the leaves.
How often you need to mist depends on how warm and dry the weather has been. Spray it only on particularly hot dry days, but keep an eye out for signs that the plant needs more.
Signs your rubber plant needs more humidity
A rubber plant that needs more humidity will show it in the leaves. Have you noticed the foliage starting to go brown and crispy at the edges and leaf tips?
Even if you’re giving your plant adequate water, the leaves can still parch if the humidity in the room is very low.
As long as this is the only symptom, it’s quite likely the air is too dry for the plant and it’s nothing more serious.
A rubber plant lacking in humidity, but otherwise well cared for, may look sorry for itself but is unlikely to die.
Misting or finding another way to increase the humidity around it should see your plant pep up in time.
Other ways you can boost humidity
If your rubber plant’s leaves regularly seem to dry out, it’s worth considering other measures to boost indoor humidity. Here are few ideas you can try:
An easy way is to sit the plant’s pot on a tray filled with pebbles and water. This is a great alternative to misting for busy (or forgetful) folks.
It’s a super simple set-up. As water from the pebble tray evaporates, it increases the humidity level in the air immediately around the plant.
No need to remember when you last used your misting spray – just check the water in the tray and give it a top up if needed.
Displaying plants close together
You could also try clustering the plant with several others, recreating the way plants grow in nature.
Water vapour released by each plant helps create a humid microclimate, with moisture enveloping the plants and being recirculated among them.
Relocating the plant
Moving your plant to a naturally steamier spot is another option. Providing there’s suitable space, try moving it to the bathroom where it’ll be regularly treated to a good steam bath.
Using a humidifier
If you’re serious about your plants and have several humidity lovers, you could even go all in and buy a humidifier.
The initial outlay and running costs aren’t really justified for a rubber plant alone. But if you’ve a good collection of tropical plants, there’s no better way to create the perfect humid conditions.
A quick recap
Despite their exotic origins, rubber plants are adaptable and really don’t make many demands when they share our homes.
They’re far less fussy about humidity than their other relatives in the ficus family. To keep them happy, just adapt a little to the changing seasons.
In winter, rubber plants’ humidity and general watering needs are very few. In summer, refreshing them with a spritz on very hot, dry days along with a weekly water should be plenty enough.
Even if you forget to mist and the leaves start looking a little dry, it won’t trouble the plant too much. Your unassuming friend is sure to forgive you!