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Ficus elastica

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  • Indoor Plants
Ficus elastica 'Ruby'
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Josée Bouthot)

Onglets

Botany

Origin and description

This tree grows to 30 meters tall at the edge of the tropical rainforests of South Asia. As a houseplant, the rubber fig can reach almost three meters in height. The young trees used as indoor plants are rarely branched. This plant has an upright bearing, a very vigorous root system and large (over 30 cm) elliptical leaves that are thick, leathery and shiny.

Species, cultivars and related plants

Ficus elastica ‘Decora’ has darker foliage than the rest of the species. Young leaves appear wrapped in a spectacular red sheath. Ficus elastica ‘Doescheri’ has variegated foliage of white and different shades of green, with a pink midrib. It needs plenty of light to keep its colors. Ficus elastica ‘Black Prince’ has large rounded leaves that are very dark, almost black, and quite impressive. Ficus elastica ‘Tricolor’ has variegated green, pink and cream foliage. Ficus lyrata is highly decorative, with large wavy violin-shaped leaves that reach over 40 cm in length. The leaves are dark green and shiny with very prominent veins. This species requires a higher atmospheric humidity than others.

Toxicity

As a precaution, place the plant out of the reach of children and pets.

Common name

Ficus / India rubber fig / Rubber plant

Latin name (genus)

Ficus elastica

French common name

Botanical family

  • Moraceae
Horticulture

Growing conditions

The rubber fig grows best when exposed to bright light and sun. Place it near a window, preferably facing west or south. It adapts to normal room temperature (18 to 21°C). The minimum temperature tolerated is 15ºC. Protect the rubber fig from cold drafts. It tolerates dry air, but it is preferable to keep air humidity relatively high.

Easy to grow?

Rubber fig maintenance is very easy as it is a fairly hearty plant, but it is sensitive to environmental changes. Do not move it, and provide stable growth conditions. It does not flower indoors.

Watering and fertilizer

This plant is sensitive to excess water. In summer, water copiously but let the surface soil dry out between waterings. In winter, allow the soil to dry thoroughly between waterings. Reduce watering when the temperature is cooler and the light is weaker. Fertilize two or three times during the growing season (March to October) with a balanced fertilizer for houseplants or an all-purpose fertilizer such as 20-20-20. Reduce fertilizer if the plant becomes too large.

Pruning and maintenance

Clean dusty foliage in the shower with warm water or with a damp sponge. For a branched plant, pinch off the stems several times when the plant has reached over one meter in height. To reduce the flow of sticky latex after pruning, spray the ends of the stems with warm water or cauterize the larger wounds with powdered charcoal.

Repotting

Transplanting is usually done when the roots have become pot-bound, approximately every two years. Use a potting soil for tropical plants that drains well, and attach the plant to a stake. To limit the growth of a rubber fig, prune the roots to reduce the size of the root ball, then re-pot in a container of the same size.

Propagation

Pests and diseases
Physiological disorders

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