The famous Ficus elastica is a plant collection staple that will give you very little trouble once you know what it needs! These awesome plants have three commonly found varieties: Burgundy (dark purple/red leaves), Tineke (white, light green, and pink leaves), and Ruby (pink, green, and white leaves). Read on for all the care tips and info on keeping Ficus elastica happy!
Ficus elastica or Rubber Plant?
The indoor plant commonly known as the “Rubber Plant” or “Rubber Tree” is more accurately Ficus elastica. This means it’s a relative of the beloved Fiddle Leaf Fig, and a member of the moraceae (fig) family. Unfortunately you won’t be making any fig jam from this plant, but its lush foliage and various colours will still bring lots of joy to your home. The real “Rubber Tree” is actually Hevea brasiliensis, which is used for commercial rubber production.
How much light do Ficus elastica need?
Inside, Ficus elastica prefer a bright spot, some direct some will greatly increase the brightness of the leaf colouration. During the peak of summer, be careful of afternoon direct sun as the leaves can burn. If the plant is in too dark a spot, you will see leaves dropping off and becoming greener to compensate. Most sheltered balconies and court yards will be perfect too.
How often should I water a Ficus elastica?
Indoors, Ficus elastica need different watering conditions than would be found in their natural sub-tropical or tropical environments. Inside, it’s best to let the soil really dry out in between watering. They also need great drainage in their pot, and a well-draining potting soil. In Melbourne, giving them a really good soak every 2-3 weeks in the warmer months and every 4-6 weeks in the colder months is a good place to start. You want at least half the soil to be bone dry before you water in Spring/Summer, and you can actually let the soil dry out all the way to the bottom in Autumn/Winter. This helps keep the roots healthy. To give the plant time to soak up all that water, we recommend watering in a deep tray or in a large sink/bathtub with the plug in, and give the plant a few hours to hang out in the water before letting the pot drain fully.
If your fig is in a super bright spot or even outside you may need to water more often!
The roots on my Ficus elastica are coming out the top/bottom! What do I do?
Ficus elastica have an incredibly robust root system, you’ll definitely see roots poking out the bottom and the top sometimes. A few here and there is ok, but you may need to think about repotting if it’s getting really cramped. More about that in the next paragraph!
When should I repot a Ficus elastica?
Ficus elastica can grow quite tall even in a small pot, so you don’t need to repot as often as every year; however, they are still somewhat constrained by pot size. Wait until the roots seem crowded and completely fill the pot before increasing pot size by an inch or two. It’s best to upgrade during Spring or Summer, using well-draining soil and planting into a pot with lots of drainage.
Should I fertilise my Ficus elastica?
You can - and indeed should - fertilise your Ficus elastica during the warmer months of the year when your plant will be actively growing. You can use liquid plant food when you water, as this is super efficient. We love the Plant Runner Liquid Plant Food!
How do I clean Ficus elastica leaves?
Their leaves benefit from regular dusting to keep their glossy shine, as well as to help their natural air purification and photosynthesis processes. Spraying the leaves off in the shower or wiping them with a damp cloth works great.
To help achieve super glossy leaves you can use a soft cloth with a little bit of a natural soap and water, or use a product like neem oil. Regular leaf maintenance will also make sure you catch any pests like scale or mealy bug if they occur.
Are Ficus elastica safe for pets?
The milky sap contained in Ficus elastica can be irritating to the skin and can be toxic if ingested. If your pets generally leave plants alone you should be perfectly fine, but there are lots of other Pet Safe Plants if your pet enjoys gardening as much as you do.
You can buy Ficus elastica here!
Greener House Nursery is an Indoor Plant Nursery located at 95 Sydney Road, Brunswick, in Melbourne, Australia. We have the specialised knowledge to make sure you get the right house plants, pots, and accessories for your home. Weather you're looking for low-light, low-maintenance, pet friendly, hanging, or air purifying plants, we've got you covered.