Ficus elastic Rubber Plant

Many species of Ficus are popular house plants because they have such lovely, evergreen leaves. The most widely cultivated is F. elastica, characterized by its leathery leaves, glossy on the upper side and dull beneath. When new leaves first appear, they are furled and enclosed by red stipules that fall off as the leaf grows. In its natural habitat in Burma and Malaysia, the Rubber Plant reaches a height of up to 25 m (82 ft). The cultivar ‘Variegata’ has leaves mottled yellow-white and green. It is particularly well suited to modern houses as it requires higher temperatures in winter, whereas for the type species the temperature in winter should be only about 15°C (59°F). The cultivar ‘Decora’ differs from the type species in that its leaves are shorter, broader, more leathery, and reddish on the underside, with brownish stipules.

The requirements for indoor cultivation are practically the same for all species of Ficus. The best growing medium is a mixture of frame soil, humus, leaf mould and peat. Water freely in summer when the compost has begun to dry out, but sparingly in winter. The minimum winter temperature is 15° 20° C (59°-68°F). Ficus does not tolerate draughts or abrupt changes in temperature, both of which may cause the leaves to drop. Feed several times a month during the growing period. Repot young plants every year in spring. Large plants need only be repotted if the pot is not large enough for the roots and they become too crowded. Older specimens may drop their leaves, leaving the trunks bare. Cut back to encourage branching growth. Propagation is rather difficult for it takes quite a long time for cuttings to root. The best method is air-layering.

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