Do you want your rubber tree to grow bushier or more compact? Then pruning is a good idea. Here you can learn how to properly prune Ficus elastica.

With its dark green, smooth leaves, the rubber tree (Ficus elastica) is one of the classics among green plants for the room. If you want to encourage it to grow bushier, you can easily prune it. Even rubber trees that have grown too tall or are a bit crooked can be brought back into shape with pruning.

Pruning rubber trees: The most important things in a nutshell

  • The best time to prune a rubber tree is towards the end of winter, in early spring.
  • To encourage better branching, place the pruning over a leaf or dormant eye.
  • Disturbing or dead shoots are removed directly at the base.
  • Hands and clothing should be protected from the irritating milky sap.

When should you prune a rubber tree?

In principle, you can prune a rubber tree all year round. It is recommended to prune it towards the end of winter or in early spring. At that time, the sap flow is not quite as strong, the rubber tree can cope better with the cut and can sprout again quickly in the spring. The practical thing is that you can still use the cut shoots to propagate the rubber tree. Simply place the cut shoots in a glass of water. After four to eight weeks they will form new roots.

Why should you cut a rubber tree?

Rubber trees thrive without regular pruning. However, in the trade you can often find only single-shoot plants. With selective pruning, you can encourage them to branch better. Also, if the rubber tree has grown too large over time or needs to grow straighter, pruning is a good idea. Some enthusiasts even grow their Ficus elastica as a bonsai.

How do you prune a rubber tree correctly?

Since the rubber tree is quite tolerant of pruning, you can be quite spirited when pruning. It can even tolerate pruning back into the old wood. It is best to use sharp, clean pruning shears and prepare a base on which to lay the cuttings. You can use a paper towel to dab the wounds with the escaping milky sap every now and then in between (see below).

To stimulate a rubber tree to branch, cut off the main or middle shoot directly above a leaf – depending on the size of the plant, this is recommended above the third to fifth leaf, for example. If the rubber tree already has side shoots, these are also shortened. You can also make the cut above dormant eyes – these can be recognized by small bumps. As a general rule, always place the scissors a few millimeters above the leaf or the dormant bud so that the new shoots can emerge without any problems.

Your rubber tree has grown too large? Then you can simply clip the main shoot at the desired height. Dead, too dense or generally disturbing side shoots are cut off directly at the base. If you prefer to keep your rubber tree narrow, you can cut off all side shoots above the first or second leaf. Make sure there is no imbalance between the side shoots and that the rubber tree remains sturdy.

After pruning, it is quite crucial that the rubber tree be placed in a bright location – especially if you want to encourage an overall bushy growth. If Ficus elastica stands too darkly, the new growth will often not look much better than before. Therefore, it is best to place it in a bright conservatory or a bright south-facing window. There it will show new shoots after only a few weeks.

Caution: Skin-irritating milky sap

When cutting the ficus, sticky, white milky sap comes out. You can stop the escaping plant sap with a compress that you have previously dipped in hot water. Alternatively, flaming with a lighter can be used to close the wound. As a general rule, sensitive individuals should wear gloves when cutting their gum tree as a precaution, as the escaping milky sap is irritating to the skin. If the milk sap drips onto the floor or onto clothing, it can quickly leave unsightly stains that are difficult to remove. Therefore, it is best to lay newspaper on the floor and put on old clothes before you reach for the scissors. It’s also a good idea to prefer to do the pruning outdoors and not bring the gum tree back indoors until the secretion has dried on the cut.