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Beginner Houseplants: Will cuttings from a rubber plant take root?

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Lacey12
Burson, CA

July 26, 2010
7:29 AM

Post #7997718

My rubber plant is too tall and not bushy enough to suit me. Can I cut it back and root the cuttings around the base of the exsisting plant?
If I cut it back will it send up new shoots at the base?
I've had this plant about 3 years. I don't much about it.
Thanks for any suggestions.
Lacey

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 26, 2010
11:28 AM

Post #7998197

You CAN do what you described, Lacey, but here's what my experience has been with the 30-40 Ficus covering around 10 species I grow as bonsai: If your plant is growing strongly now, you can cut it back hard and it will back-bud, producing more stems. Two things affect the profusion (of new buds) - how much stored energy the tree has and the time of year. The tree should be at or very close to its peak energy levels, and Jul/Aug should be the period when your plant exhibits its most robust growth. IOW, if your plant is growing well, there is no better time than now to cut it back, but the window of opportunity will close soon. It needs time to recover & put on some growth so it can build up energy reserves for the winter.

If you've never repotted (different than potting up) you should consider bare-rooting/root pruning and repotting into a durable, well-aerated soil. If you decide to go that route, I can help with instructions.

If you want to start cuttings, I would suggest you forgo trying to start them in the same container as your parent tree. Your cuttings need constant but low moisture levels, and it will be very difficult to provide that condition w/o over-watering your plant. I suggest you start internodal cuttings in a container filled with screened perlite, screened Turface, or screened NAPA Floor-Dry (I'll tell you about this material if you decide to follow my suggestions), and plant them with your parent plant later. You may decide, because of the back-budding, that the additional plants are unnecessary. You can achieve the same fullness you are looking for by simply appropriate pruning.

Al

WildcatThicket
Trenton(close to), TX
(Zone 8a)

July 26, 2010
11:32 AM

Post #7998202

I airlayered a rubber plant. It worked the first and last time I tried airlayering.
planolinda
Plano, TX

July 26, 2010
4:24 PM

Post #7998779

how did you air layer it?
Blueszz
Maastricht
Netherlands
(Zone 6a)

July 27, 2010
3:47 AM

Post #7999428

I did it about 2 months ago. I stuck the cuttings in the pot with the main plant and hoped they would root. They did without problems! Instead of one leggy stem I have now three stems that are sprouting new branches everywhere! Looks beautiful.

I kept de medium normally damp, as I always had it for the original plant. That was enough to root them.
WildcatThicket
Trenton(close to), TX
(Zone 8a)

July 27, 2010
7:41 AM

Post #7999802

Planolinda I made a downward slice in a stalk. I put a tooth pick in the slice to keep it open. Then I soaked spagnum moss in water, sqeeze out the excess water out. Wrap a handful of moss around the stalk. Then wrap plastic sheet around the moss. Then tape around the plastic at both ends. Then you wait until you see roots forming. Give the roots time to grow into what looks like they would support the cutting. Cut off the stalk and stick in a pot, you are done.

Lacey12
Burson, CA

July 27, 2010
7:51 AM

Post #7999832

Thanks for all the input everybody.
I never thought about it, but I do keep my rubber plant very dry, only watering every 10 days to two weeks. I wouldn't think that would be sufficient moisture for new cuttings.
To Al, I have repotted before and I do think it is time. My plant got a bit leggy when I moved it to a lower light area and is now thriving again after the second move about a year ago. I am hoping to strengthen the stems and improve the width of the plant. I can't imagine rubber plant bonsai. Do the leaves actually get very tiny? Could I start a bonsia from one of my cuttings? I'm very interested.
This is my first experience with a rubber plant. I am very pleased with it.
About keeping the leaves clean - I just use a couple of damp soft clothes and gently wpe each one. Tedious but it works well. Does anyone have a less time consuming method?
It's great to be able to talk to folk from so many places - even the Netherlands.
Thanks again,
Lacey

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 27, 2010
11:20 AM

Post #8000238

Most of the Ficus genus are sun lovers & appreciate the same cultural conditions as their relatives, so although elastica doesn't make a good bonsai subject, there are dozens of close relatives that do. IOW, if you have good success growing any one or two of the sun loving Ficus, there is no reason to think that you shouldn't expect equal success with the rest of the genus or to think one would react any differently than the others when it comes to cuttings & repotting.

You can maximize the density of your foliage mass & increase the number of stems/branches by allowing individual branches to extend to 4 or 5 leaves, then cutting that branch back to two leaves. New branches will occur from dormant buds in each leaf axil. You then allow each of those branches to extend to 4 or 5 leaves and cut those branches back. In bonsai, we would call this 'promoting ramification'. Air-layering is a pretty foolproof way to produce a new plant, but it's much more work than cuttings & it won't promote the back-budding that hard pruning will.

Clean the leaves with a sharp stream from the hose - your plant will respond much more favorably to being outdoors than cooped up in the house. ;o)

Al



Lacey12
Burson, CA

July 27, 2010
2:54 PM

Post #8000650

Al,
You and your apparent expertise piqued my curiosity about this fellow I have. I was especially intrigued when you said to put him outside and apply a 'sharp' stream of water to the leaves. I don't think so. Regardless, I would still have to dry each leaf top and bottom or there would be spots all over them.
I am in zone 9 in California (in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada), it is normally 90 to well over 100 degrees in the summer with humidity generally in the 20s and 30s, and down to 26 degrees, at the coldest, in the winter. Hard freezes are seldom but, it does get pretty cold. (I know, not for Michigan. We're wimps.)
I got out my 'Sunset Western Garden Book' and read about the rubber 'tree'. I was shocked that I was dealing with something that grows up to 40 feet here in the United States. My tree is over 4 feet and growing in leaps and bounds. I suddenly felt daunted about the possibilities - I might have to put it outside just to still be able to navigate my house!
I noticed that I have 6 large trunks and 2 new ones coming up. Do you think the larger trunks were probably all individual plants when it was potted for sale? I may find out when I repot.
Upon further examination I think I do not need any more trunks and will root the cuttings and eventually give them as gifts. There is no branching on the exsisting trunks. I think your idea of pruning to shape it is my best shot. I am familiar with the basics of pruning but didn't know how this fellow would take to it. (I think I will name him, Al.)
Even though we are having a particularly mild summer, I still think Al would be toast in less than a week. Maybe, he would be okay outside in Michigan until the winter came.
Thanks for getting me going. I have a plan now.
Lacey
planolinda
Plano, TX

July 27, 2010
3:09 PM

Post #8000677

my weather is also ultra hot but it is doing well in the shade--i will not leave it out for the winter--it is in a pot and when it gets too big i will stop taking it out for the summer--it does seem to grow fast
Lacey12
Burson, CA

July 27, 2010
4:53 PM

Post #8000861

Linda,
How does your plant do during the winter? Does it just rest up and wait to go outside again? How big is your plant and how long have you had it? Don't you think it will miss going outside since it is used to it?
Al is growing like crazy all of the sudden. I did put Osmocote on it a couple of months ago - maybe that's the explanation.
Thanks,
Lacey
planolinda
Plano, TX

July 27, 2010
4:57 PM

Post #8000872

well i haven't had my rubber planat long enough yet to have it indoors for the winter--it is about 2-3 feet high and i put a lot of my plants outdoors for the summer and in for the winter--i think they do go a little dormant in the winter but do not die --i like having them inside with me for the winter but then when spring comes i look forward to moving them outside and i feel like they like that too--
i assume the same would be true for the rubber tree since it is for other house plants--i do however have some that are just too large to move outdoors anymore--plus they are large enough that i don't really want them to continue that fast growing that comes with the summer outdoors
Lacey12
Burson, CA

July 27, 2010
5:14 PM

Post #8000898

Linda,
By the time I repot 'Al' I think that will qualify him as being too large to transfer back and forth. I think he is happy where he is. I am in my 60s and I am not looking for extra work, particularly heavy work!
I'll post an update on how the repotting and pruning went. It will be a major undertaking.
Lacey

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

July 27, 2010
6:47 PM

Post #8001038

I didn't mean your plant should go outside permanently, or that you should site it in full sun w/o acclimation. The top of the plant will tolerate any temperatures your locale will offer. The roots should as well, as long as you don't have it in a dark pot and site it in full sun. If you REALLY want to see it take off, a week in open shade, then a few forays into full sun for a half day before moving it to full sun will stimulate abundant growth. When night temperatures no longer remain reliably above 50-55*, it's time to bring it indoors.

You should never need to worry over the height of your plant, because you possess the power of the pruner. I have many extremely healthy and robust Ficus older than 20 years that are less than 24" tall. Chop chop snip snip in the right places ... is all that's required.

If you have 6 stems, they're probably from individual cuttings. New shoots arising at or below the soil line from one or more of these trunks are probably from dormant axillary buds located at old leaf scars.

I routinely take trees up to 12' tall and reduce them to only inches tall as the beginning step to producing bonsai. A healthy F elastica will tolerate the most severe reduction & come back strong if properly timed.

Al
planolinda
Plano, TX

July 27, 2010
7:07 PM

Post #8001067

lacey i think you are right that it is happy where you have it--i forgot how large you said yours is--i do not take out my very large plants either

al-i am impressed at your pruning--i am somewhat whimpy when it comes to pruning back

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