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Scientific: Ficus elastica
Common: rubber tree, rubber plant
Family: Moraceae
Origin: India and Malaysia

Pronounciation: FII-cus e-LAS-ti-ca

Hardiness zones
13 with building protection), 16-24
USDA 9 (with building protection)-11

Landscape Use: Mostly used outdoors in Phoenix as a large foundation shrub or tree "up tight" against north and east walls of single and multiple story buildings, commercial building courtyard planters, large residential estate front entryways, and in large atriums and courtyards. It is also used as container plant on patios or indoors. Its large leaves make it a bold textural accent plant.

Form & Character: Upright and rounded with age and size, bold, visually impressive, bright and tropical, somewhat irregular at times.

Growth Habit: This is an evergreen, soft-wooded, broadleaf perennial large shrub to tree that is upright and branched from 5- to 35-feet tall (taller in more favorable climates) with a somewhat less than equal spread.

Foliage/Texture: Large, glabrous, simple, ovate, thick fleshy leaves with a distinct mid-vein and rounded petiole, foliage ranges in color from green to deep burgundy green, 12- to 16-inches long tapering to a blunt, soft tip. Leaves emerge at terminal meristems from a reddish sheath. All leaves and stems drip copious amounts of white latex when cut or damaged; very coarse texture.

Flowers & Fruits: Not showy and rarely seen when cultivated in Arizona.

Seasonal Color: Nothing outstanding, but the new foliage can sometimes have a reddish to bronze color.

Temperature: Intolerant of freezing temperatures below 32oF or desert summer heat above 115oF.

Light: Partial to full shade is best in Phoenix (especially from western sun). Mature specimens of rubber tree can take some full sun for up to 6 to 8 hours a day, but absolutely NO western exposures (otherwise it's french fry time!!!).

Soil: Tolerant

Watering: In Phoenix, rubber tree needs regular amounts of supplemental water.

Pruning: Rubber tree requires ample pruning to develop a strong scaffold branch structure when young. Once mature, one must take great care to preserve a full canopy of leaves (no crown thinning) to protect the crown structure from sunscald injury.

Warning: Rubber tree leaves and stems exude copious amounts of white latex sap that can stain indoor or outdoor surfaces. Make sure to place a large tarp underneath any larger rubber tree when pruning due to the heavy exudation of white milky, sticky latex sap from pruning wounds (I'm serious, it is that bad!).

Propagation: Asexually by softwood cuttings or air layering are both quite easy.

Disease and Pests: None of note in Phoenix because of our arid climate.

Additional comments: Worldwide rubber tree is a long-time popular container house plant. However, its range of outdoor culture in Phoenix is rather narrow due to its abiotic sensitivities to desert light and temperature regimens.

There are many named cultivars including: