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How to Look After Ficus elastica (Rubber Tree Plant) - A Care Guide

Here's how to care for your Ficus elastica , so that you can keep your Rubber Tree houseplant happy, vibrant and healthy.

A variegated Ficus elastica 'variegata' (Variegated Rubber Tree)  being held up at the Garden Geeks store. | Garden Geeks UK
A variegated Ficus elastica 'variegata' (Variegated Rubber Tree) at the Garden Geeks store.

Rubber Plant


Commonly known as a Rubber Plant, fig, bush or Indian Rubber Tree, Ficus elastica is an evergreen tree that can produce small yellow fruits when fully mature.


Know for their satisfyingly thick, glossy, rubbery leaves, this houseplant comes in several colour varieties that can elements of gold, pink, green and cream, which makes them perfect for adding bold splashes of colours to your home and are a good plant for houseplant novices too.


Light


Ficus elastica do best in bright, indirect sunlight. Rubber Plants with plain green leaves can cope in slightly lower light conditions but the more variegated varieties may start to lose some of their colour if not getting enough sunlight.


If your houseplant is not getting enough light, it may grow more leggy and spindly. If your home or office is void of natural light, you may want to consider using a grow light.


Avoid harsh, direct sunlight which may burn your Rubber Plant's leaves.


Soil


While your Rubber Plant can manage in a variety of soil types, it will do best in fertile, well draining soil, to help enhance growth and avoid your plant sitting in too much water for too long.


The number one factor to consider for the soil of your Ficus elastica is drainage. If the plant sits in waterlogged soil for too long it may get root rot.


Adding some pine bark and coarse sand, or perlite to you potting mix, will help to improve drainage.


Watering


During the growing season your Rubber Tree Plant will like its soil to be kept lightly moist and will need watering about every 7-10 days, dependant on your household conditions. In winter, when the plant is more dormant, this schedule can be reduced to every couple of weeks.. To be on the safe side though, make sure the soil of your Ficus elastica has dried out about half way before watering.


When watering, give your Rubber Plant a good soak and let the water run out of the drainage holes at the bottom. Pour away any excess water so that your houseplant isn't sitting in it for too long.


Overwatering your Rubber Plant can cause root rot, you may also notice that some of your houseplants leaves begin to turn yellow or brown and fall off. Yellow leaves may also be a sign of underwatering your Rubber Plant too.

Humidity


In their native range, Ficus elastica grow in relatively constant humidity. Providing a more humid environment for your Rubber Plant will help it grow.


Your Rubber Plant will benefit from a misting of its leaves each day, you could also put it on a tray of pebbles with water underneath.


Try to keep it away from sources of dry air such as radiators or air vents, which will suck moisture out the the air/away form your plant.

Temperature


Generally, if your household temperature is comfortable for you, it will be just fine for your Rubber Plant too.


Ficus elastica can tolerate temperatures as low as 4°C, but try to aim for somewhere between 10 - 29°C. Rubber Tree Plants native homelands remain pretty much frost free all year round, so if you do keep this plant outside at all, remember to bring it in before it gets frosty.


Toxicity


Ficus elastica / Rubber Tree Plants are mildly toxic to pets and humans. The milky sap contained in their stems and leaves (which will come out if broken) can be irritating to some skin types, especially if it gets into cuts or scratches, or if it is left on the skin for some time. It can also cause some gastrointestinal issues if eaten, so keep them away from hungry dogs and cats to avoid any stomach upsets.


Growth


Ficus elastica are moderately fast growers. Outdoors and in the optimal climate/growing conditions, Rubber Tree Plants can grow to a maximum height and spread of up to 100 feet. Indoors and as a houseplant however, your Ficus elastica will average out at around 10ft max - if in good conditions and unpruned.


Although your Rubber Plant isn't too hungry, in the growing season (Spring/Summer), regular applications of fertilizer will help to keep it healthy and assist the growth of its big thick leaves.


If your Rubber Plant's large leaves become a bit dusty, gently cleaning them with a soft, damp cloth will help to ensure it can appreciate the light and humidity you provide for it better too.



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