Rubber Plant – Ficus elastica

Rubber Plant, the best known member of the Fig or Ficus family, is a fool-proof beginner’s plant. The plant is able to thrive on a certain amount of neglect. A well-cared for plant, however, will soon become an impressive specimen plant.

The leaves are a pointed oval shape and are about 10-30cm (4-12in) long. They are dark green and shiny and can be kept in good condition by using a plant leafshine from time to time. Plants grown indoors do not produce any flowers.

Native to India, in the wild the Rubber Plant can grow to 30m (100ft) tall. Even in a container as a house plant it can reach 1.8m (oft) quickly. A well-tended plant can grow as much as 38-45cm (15-18in) in a year. If the plant grows too tall for the space available you will have to cut it back. It will then branch out.

VarietiesRubber Plant - Ficus elastica

The most popular Rubber Plant is Ficus elastica ‘Decora’, which has large, broad leaves. The central veins are white on the upper side and red underneath. There is also a deep reddish-green leaved variety called ‘Black Prince’ or ‘Abidjan’.

There are also a number of variegated plants. F.e. ‘Variegata’ has attractive white and green variegation. It needs plenty of light to bring out the shading. F.e. ‘Schrijveriana’ has shiny dark green leaves marked irregularly with greyish green around the central vein. The edges of the leaves are pale green to yellow, and they are borne on jet black stalks.

The Rubber Plant, Ficus elastica, looks good with the Weeping Fig, Ficus benjamina.

Display

Use tall specimens in a hall. They look attractive on either side of a pair of French doors or on the half-landing of a stairway.

Propagation

Use tip or stem cuttings to grow new plants.

Tip cuttings

1. Tip cuttings should have 3-5 leaves attached.

2. Seal the cut ends (a milky white latex comes out of any cuts on this plant) by dipping them in water or by dabbing on powdered charcoal.

3. Plant the tip cutting in a pot filled with an equal-parts mixture of damp peat and coarse sand. Enclose this in a large polythene bag or place in a propagator.

It is important that the air around the cutting is kept moist to avoid damage through evaporation.

5. Rooting should take place after 3-5 weeks. When new growth is visible, fold back the polythene bag and acclimatize the cutting to room temperature.

Stem cuttings

1. Take these from further down the stem of the plant. Each section should have one sound leaf attached. Treat the cutting as you would tip shoots.

Pests And Diseases

Droopy leaves indicate that the plant needs more water.

Treatment: Give the plant a generous watering. Plunge the pot in water to the rim and allow it to soak for an hour. Then drain off the excess water.

Yellow leaves and leaf drop are a possible sign either of too much water or too little light.

Treatment: Allow the potting mixture to dry out a little between waterings. If the symptoms persist, place the plant in a spot where it will obtain more light.

Fine webbing in leaf axils is due to attack by red spider mites.

Treatment: Keep humidity high by misting plant regularly every day.

PLANT CARE

These are easy plants to look after. Potting: Move young plants into the next size pot each spring until the maximum convenient sized pot is reached. After that top-dress the plant each spring. Use a soil-based potting mixture with a little added peat.

  • Water moderately through the active growth period, allowing some drying out of the potting mixture between applications of water. Water sparingly during the rest period.
  • Feeding: Feed with a standard liquid fertilizer every two weeks from March to September.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: Give this plant bright filtered light throughout the year.
  • Temperature: Normal room temperatures will suit the Rubber Plant. The minimum at which it can survive indoors in winter is 10°C (50°F).

Buying Tips

  • Rubber Plants are on sale all through the year from garden centres and nurseries.
  • Always choose plants with strong, healthy and undamaged leaves — young unfolding leaves are easily damaged. Check that the growing tip too has not been damaged. Transport your plant home carefully, making sure you do not loosen it by shaking.
  • These plants will live for several years.

One of the most popular house plants, the Rubber Plant requires only minimum attention. With its clean, simple lines, it looks attractive on its own or grouped with other plants.

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