One look at the bold Ficus Elastica or “Rubber Tree” and it’s easy to understand why it has become such a popular and coveted houseplant. This plant is a species of evergreen shrubs that belongs to the family Moraceae and Fig family. The glossy wax like leaves are what makes this plant both beautiful and functional in its ability to make natural rubber. You may see this plant named “Ficus Robusta” for its strong nature and capability to endure harsh conditions. Along with being a resilient plant, this species is known for its high oxygen output and power to remove large amounts of bacteria from the air.
You can find this plant naturally growing as an epiphyte in the Indian content and South East Asia. A common thread for epiphytes is their need for humidity and tropical zones, and this is no different for the Rubber tree. The epiphytes can grow atop host plants and derive their nutrients from the air and debris that surround them. When in the wild, this plant can grow up to 100 ft tall! To keep this plant’s height under control, prune your tree to your liking (but be aware of the white sap that seeps from this plant’s trunk!). The milky sap that this plant seeps when cut is a protective element that is poisonous to humans and animals and helps in protecting the Rubber tree from the critters over eating them. This sap contains latex and is the basis for making natural rubber!
One thing that Rubber trees will not tolerate is overwatering. This means that when deciding on a mixture for your plant you must include a solution that aids in drainage. You’ll want to have a balance of soil to peat while striving for a mix that is slightly more acidic with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0 This will allow your Rubber tree to absorb the nutrients it needs and avoid bacteria build up simultaneously. The soil layer in the Rubber tree’s native place is very thin so it can thrive in a smaller container. However, you’ll know it’s time to re pot when your plant has stopped growth or the root ball is overgrown.
POTTING + WATERING
Being that the Rubber trees typically grow in one direction (up) you will want a pot that can support your top heavy plant. You may even want to consider adding a new or larger stake to your container to support your plant. When transferring your tree, this is a great opportunity to inspect your roots and prune out any rotted areas. Your Rubber tree will easily rot if overwatered and will need different amounts of water depending on the temperature of your home. If you live in a warmer area, you will need to pay a bit more attention to your plant. The same goes with Rubber trees that are placed near windows or outdoors. Watering your plant thoroughly will remove any salt build up from fertilizer needed in the spring and summer months.
Given that this plant derives from tropical zones, a warmer and more humid environment is needed if you desire your rubber tree to grow. Temperatures between 60-75 degrees fahrenheit are ideal with balance of bright indirect sunlight. If your plant is located in an area too dark for it’s liking, you may begin to see your leaves fall off quickly.
This species also grows in a variegated option that lacks chlorophyll and causes beautiful pigmentation to its foliage. These plants need even more light than the normal Rubber tree as it is harder for them to photosynthesize. If you are lacking indoor space, the Rubber tree plant (like many other members of the others in the fig family) can adjust to the outdoors if temperatures are not extreme.
…DID YOU KNOW?
The roots of this plant are more than just ornamental in parts of India as they are used to make bridges! The Rubber Trees roots are guided along the trunk with bamboo toward the other side until they harden. Eventually more roots are trained to complete the bridge, growing stronger as they age. The bridge was first created to link villages during monsoon and flooding.