How can I propagate a rubber tree?

Question: 

How can I propagate a rubber tree?

Answer: 

The common rubber tree (Ficus elastica) can be propagated by air layering.  Air layering is a procedure used to induce roots to form on a plant stem while it is still attached to the parent plant.  Complete or partial girdling of the plant stem interrupts the downward translocation of carbohydrates and other compounds.  The accumulation of these compounds promotes rooting at the point of injury. 

Materials that are needed to air layer a rubber tree include a sharp knife, sphagnum moss, a sheet of clear plastic, twist ties, and a rooting hormone.  The procedure for air layering a rubber tree, weeping fig, and other woody Ficus species is as follows. 

Select a point on a stem about 12 to 18 inches from a shoot tip.  Remove any leaves in the immediate area.  Using a sharp knife, make a cut completely around the stem.  The cut should penetrate down to the woody center of the stem.  One inch below the first cut, make a second cut completely around the stem.  Finally, make a third cut connecting the previous two cuts.  Remove the ring of bark.  Scrape the exposed surface to insure complete removal of soft (cambial) tissue.  Dust a small amount of rooting hormone on the exposed surface.  (The rooting hormone promotes rapid root development.  However, the stem will root without it.  It will simply take longer.)  Place 1 or 2 handfuls of moist sphagnum moss around the exposed area.  Wrap a piece of clear plastic around the sphagnum moss.  Make sure none of the moss protrudes out the ends of the plastic wrap.  Secure the plastic wrap above and below the sphagnum moss with twist ties. 

Roots should appear in the sphagnum moss in several weeks.  When a good root system has developed, cut off the stem just below the bottom twist tie.  Remove the twist ties and plastic sheet and pot the rooted stem in a well-drained potting soil. 

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