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: gardentia.net

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!