QUESTION: I have a huge rubber plant that is very old. I’ve had to tie it to stakes in the pot to keep it from growing in all directions and out of control. Can I prune it?
A rubber plant, or rubber tree (Ficus elastica) can be transformed from an unmanageable mess into a more dignified plant. It takes a little planning and observation, but the results can be worthwhile, and can provide more plants in the process.
Before you make the first cut, look at the plant to determine how it might look after it’s pruned. New leaves will grow where you cut it, so keep that in mind as you remove the branches. The cuttings you remove can be placed in water, where they will often form new roots. After they grow a good system of roots, they can be potted in soil.
Houseplant experts also suggest a process called air-layering to prune old plants and grow new ones. This is accomplished by cutting into the plant’s stem where you want to prune it. The cut is then wrapped in moss and plastic wrap, and new roots grow from the cut area. After new roots form, cut off the new plant and pot it separately. Early spring, when the plant is entering a period of active growth, is a good time to try to trim it into shape.
Here are general guidelines for keeping a rubber plant alive and well: bright to moderate light (no direct sun) and average room temperature. Keep the soil evenly moist. A rubber plant probably does not need as much water during the winter. It can spend summer outdoors in a protected location, but be sure to bring it in before temperatures begin to drop in the fall.