Pruning rubber plants: when & how


Having studied organic farming, I enjoy trying out new cultivation methods and other gardening experiments with friends in our community garden. I care deeply about exploring sustainable and mindful approaches to working with nature. This is my biggest passion, but I am also a real ornamental plant enthusiast!

Favourite fruit: strawberry, mango, guava
Favourite vegetables: artichoke, tomato, rocket

In order for a rubber plant to maintain healthy growth, it must be pruned regularly. Below, find out everything you need to know about pruning rubber plants.

Ruber plant outdoors
In our article, you will learn everything you need to know about pruning rubber plants [Photo: es3n/]

If a rubber plant (Ficus elastica) feels really comfortable in its home, it can grow up to 60 centimetres in a year. Fortunately, this popular houseplant is extremely tolerant of pruning and will not resent pruning or shaping. In addition, regular pruning is necessary to keep the tree in shape and not let it grow too large. Below, we will tell you why you should prune your rubber plant, when it is time to prune, and how to do it properly.

In tropical rainforests, their natural habitat, rubber trees can grow up to 40 metres in height. In the process, their trunk can reach a diameter of up to two metres. Of course, you will not want to keep one of these jungle giants indoors. This factor alone is enough to demonstrate why it is necessary to regularly prune your rubber plant. But of course there are still many other reasons to get out your pruning shears.

Reasons to prune your rubber tree:

  • Contain growth
  • Stimulate new growth
  • Topiary
  • In the event of disease or pest infestation
  • Propagation

Pruning rubber plants: when to prune

Generally, you can prune your rubber plant at any time of year. However, winter is the best time for pruning. This is when the tree’s sap flow is lowest. In the evening, the tree will secrete less milky-white sap than during the day, you can take advantage of this when choosing the time to prune. If you would like to propagate your rubber tree, the best time to take cuttings is in the spring.

Summary: When to prune rubber trees

  • Best time: In winter
  • The excretion of sap is lowest in the evening
  • For propagation, take cuttings in the spring
rubber tree in front of window
When your rubber tree starts growing towards the window, it is time for a trim [Photo: Zapylaieva Hanna/]

How to prune rubber plants

The good news first: rubber plants are very tolerant of pruning and will forgive you, even for more radical pruning. However, always use clean tools for pruning. Either a sharp knife or garden shears are suitable. You will need to prune differently depending on why you want to prune your rubber tree.

Pruning rubber plants: containing growth

If your rubber tree is already brushing the ceiling and towering way over your head, it is high time to take action. To contain the growth, you can bravely remove the entire crown of the tree. Using pruning shears, simply trim down your houseplant to the desired height.

Pruning rubber plants: promoting growth

If you want to encourage your tree to branch out, you can easily do it by pruning. This is because pruning in the right places will encourage the tree to form new side shoots. To do this, first take a good look at your rubber plant and decide where you want new side shoots to grow. Then look for so-called ‘nodes’ on the trunk. You can recognise them by the small bumps found along the trunk. These nodes will develop into new side shoots after pruning. Therefore, always cut a few centimetres above one or more nodes at the desired height.

rubber tree leaves
New side shoots develop from so-called ‘nodes’ on the trunk of the rubber tree [Photo: Liviu Gherman/]


Sometimes a rubber plant may not be growing uniformly or branches out too much. This can also be remedied by pruning. To promote upward growth, cut the side shoots of the tree – either directly on the trunk or above a node where you want new branches to grow. If unwanted side shoots have formed after pruning, you can also cut them off. If some side shoots become longer than the main shoot, you should also cut them back. These can be shortened according to your taste to create the desired shape.

In the event of disease or pest infestation

Dead or wilted parts of the plant should be removed at any time. If parts of your houseplant are affected by diseases or pests, you should also remove them immediately, in order to prevent further spread to the whole tree.

Pruning rubber trees for propagation

If you want to propagate your rubber tree yourself, you can do so by taking cuttings or by airlayering. For cuttings, cut seven to ten centimetre shoots from the tree. For air layering, choose a suitable shoot below a leaf node to make a diagonal cut.

We have prepared detailed instructions on how to propagate a rubber tree for you here.

Pruning rubber trees: aftercare

Pruning produces fresh cuts on the tree, which causes sap to leak out. This is why appropriate wound care is important. It is often enough to just clean the wound with a cloth dipped in lukewarm water. At room temperature, the sap will stop flowing after a short time. If the wound still does not close up after some time, it should be sealed. To do this, first sprinkle the wound with warm water. Then seal it with wax or special plastic plugs.

Cut on rubber plant stem
White, sticky plant sap oozes from cuts made on a rubber plant [Photo: Essence Photograph/]

Tip: Despite the appropriate wound care, it is sometimes possible for a short piece of the stem to dry up and die. However, as long as this part is located above a node it is usually not a problem and the rubber plant will sprout again.

Summary: Pruning rubber plants

  • Use scissors or a sharp knife when pruning
  • Pruning to contain growth; trim the entire crown to the desired height
  • To encourage side shoots, cut the trunk above ‘nodes’
  • Cut off side shoots for upward growth
  • Trim side shoots that are longer than the main shoot
  • Immediately remove dried, dead and disease- or pest-infested plant parts
  • To propagate, take cuttings or try airlayering
  • Tending a wound with a moist cloth is usually sufficient
  • For large cuts, rinse the wound with warm water and seal with wax or plastic plugs

Tip: Go outside for pruning or lay a tarp or newspaper under the tree, because the sap that comes out of the pruning points of the tree is very difficult to remove from clothing or carpets.

Pruning is not the only maintenance measure that is good for the rubber tree. You can read more about how to care for your rubber plant in our special article on the topic.

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