If you’re looking for a low-maintenance plant that’s a little more unique than the usual plants that end up on “hard to kill” lists, Ficus elastica, or rubber plant, is a great option. They have glossy leaves, can be several different colors, and can grow up to 60 feet in the wild (don’t worry, they won’t grow that tall indoors). They act more like trees than regular plants, making them a great decorative plant for your home.
What is a Ficus elastica and where does it come from?
Rubber plants are native to South Asia. It was given its nickname because rubber plants have a thick sap that was once used as an ingredient in bouncy balls by the native cultures of Mesoamerica. They have air purifying qualities and their roots can grow very strong, which is why in some parts of India the plants are used to create “living bridges” over rivers.
Many people believe that this houseplant represents abundance, happiness and wealth and the round leaves make it the perfect plant to place in a corner of the house.
The Ficus elastica at a glance:
botanical name: Ficus elastic.
Other names: Rubber tree, rubber tree, rubber fig tree, Indian rubber tree, Indian rubber tree.
Popular varieties: Robusta, Tineke, Tricolor, Belize, Ruby, Melany, Abidjan.
Height and growth rate: Can reach 1.2 to 3 meters and grows rapidly if cared for properly.
Light: Average brightness.
watering: Only water when the top two centimeters of soil are dry.
Temperature: Average household temperatures.
Pet Toxicity: Toxic if swallowed.
Plant parent level: Beginner, thrives when given proper care.
Maintenance of rubber plants
It is best to keep your rubber plant in a bright room. Avoid keeping it near windows that receive direct sunlight as the scorching sun can scorch the leaves of the plant. A good way to tell if your plant is getting enough sun is to see how far the new leaves are growing. If the plant is getting long and seems to be tending towards the light, you need to bring it closer to the window.
It is always very important to check the soil of your plant before watering it. You can either use a water meter or stick your finger in the ground about three inches. If your finger comes out with soil stuck on it, you don’t need to water the plant. If it comes out clean, it’s time for a drink. If your plant’s leaves are turning yellow or falling off, it could be a sign of overwatering.
To avoid overwatering, be sure to water your plant evenly and allow it to completely drain so the roots don’t sit in a puddle. This can cause root rot and can eventually kill your plant.
And in spring and summer, it is better to treat your plant with liquid fertilizer about once a month. Be sure to dilute your fertilizer with water so you don’t shock your plant. This will help give it the nutrients it needs to keep growing and looking great.
The thicker leaves of a Ficus elastica can hold a lot of moisture. This means that they should be acceptable in normal room humidity (temperatures between 16 and 24°C). If your plant is near a heater, you’ll want to mist it regularly or use a humidifier to make sure it gets what it needs.
With any plants that have larger leaves, it’s best to wipe them down with a dust cloth to keep them shiny and healthy. If your plant is growing quickly, you should check its roots once spring arrives. If the roots are sticking out of your pot’s drainage holes, it’s time to repot. When repotting, always make sure you are using the right type of soil and that you only size lightly. Use well-drained soil for your Ficus elastica so its soil can dry out between waterings.
Common problems with a Ficus elastica plant (and how to solve them)
Yellowed or withered leaves: When it comes to your rubber tree, the most common issues that arise are usually related to watering. The leaves will turn yellow with too little or too much watering. This can make it difficult to figure out what’s going on with your plant.
A good rule of thumb is to take a look at the floor. Dip your fingers in there to see if the soil is dry. If it still seems really wet, you should take a look at the roots of your plant to see if there is root rot. The roots will be soft, the soil may smell a bit rotten, and the roots themselves will often appear a reddish-brown color.
Remember that it is always easier to fix your plant if you water it too little than if you water it too much.
Falling leaves: Rubber plants lose their leaves when they don’t get enough sunlight. They will also drop them if the humidity is not high enough. Move plants closer to light and mist them every few days to keep them happy.
Unwanted pests: As with any houseplant, you may encounter pests that take up residence in your Ficus elastica. It’s always best to check the leaves of your new plant before take him home from the nursery. Most can be repelled easily with things like neem oil or a pest killer. If you see any pests, try quarantining your plant so they don’t spread to others you may have in your home.
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