Houseplants Plant propagation

A Rubber Plant From a Leaf Cutting?

Question: I accidentally knocked a leaf off my rubber plant and have placed it in a glass of water. Will it root and produce a new rubber plant or am I simply wasting my time?


Réponse: Your rubber plant (Ficus elastica) leaf may well root, but it will never produce a new plant. 

Ficus leaves, especially those of large-leaved species—the fiddle-leaf fig, F. lyrata, for example—do have the capacity to produce roots from a leaf petiole if conditions are good. However, what they don’t have is the capacity to produce a new plant from a single leaf. There is no dormant bud on a ficus leaf that can eventually grow into a plant. You’ll get plenty of roots and the leaf may live on for months, even a few years (you’d have to pot it up into soil for that), but it will forever remain a single, lonely leaf.

Rooted leaves that never produce shoots are said to be “blind cuttings”. 

On the Internet, I often see thrilled indoor gardeners marveling over the leaf cuttings they took of a rubber plant: “Look,” they crow, “my leaf has roots!” They all look forward to the huge and beautiful rubber plant it will one day become, but they are going to be bitterly disappointed. 

A stem cutting from rubber plant, even one with only a single node, can root and produce a new shoot and, eventually, an entire new plant. Photo:

Now, if a piece of stem were included as part of the cutting, that would change everything. A stem cutting of such ficus plants, even only one with a single leaf, does have a dormant bud, found at the leaf base. So, if the stem roots, the bud will begin to grow and will soon produce a new plant.

But a leaf alone will be forever blind. 

There aren’t many plants that are capable of producing an entire new plant from a leaf cutting. African violets, streptocarpus, sansesverias, sedums, echeverias and (some) begonias are exceptions and will readily produce new plants from a healthy leaf. But none of ficus varieties will. 

Sorry to disappoint you!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

3 comments on “A Rubber Plant From a Leaf Cutting?

  1. I did an experiment recently too. It can produce new leaves. But the process is very long. I planted four leaves in a pot with regular soil. It didn’t take very long for the leaves to root. But for new leaves to grow, in my case, it has taken more than 4 months.

  2. Gloria Aranzanso

    I actually have a friend who tried to experiment putting a leaf in water and when roots came out, she planted it on a pot and there it grows into a new plant. ?

  3. They actually ‘can’, they just don’t. The same undifferentiated callus growth from which adventitious roots develop has the potential to also produce adventitious buds. However, such buds are rare, and by the time they start to grow, the original leaf is old and fading, and unable to sustain shoot growth.
    I managed to get Ficus microcarpa leaves to root and grow into small houseplants, but would not recommend it. I only did it because I was rooting some cuttings I brought back from down South, and stuck the broken leaves in with them. I was annoyed when the cuttings got pulled out by squirrels and left out to die on a hot day, just after getting potted, so I tended to the rooted leaves. They eventually developed adventitious shoots, but it took a long time. Since the shoots grow from undifferentiated burl growth, they suckered profusely, not matter how much I tried to prune them onto just a few dominant stems. Normal cuttings grow from just a few distinct buds, so are easier to prune to just a few, or a single main stem.
    We sometimes, although very rarely, find rooted leaves in our flats of rhododendron cuttings. We do not intentionally stick them, but they sometimes break off in the process, and develop callus growth and roots right next to the cuttings from which they broke off of. We discard them, just because they can not keep up with the stem cuttings.

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