Care Tips & Trivia: Ficus Elastica (aka the Rubber Plant) & Why You Should Love Them!
Ficus Elastica (Burgundy Rubber Plant) is a fantastic plant for those autumn vibes!
The rubber plant is a tried & true year-round classic houseplant that has really stood the test of time. The care skills required are low-to-moderate, the leaves are shiny & beautiful, and the shape is absolutely perfect for those empty corners in your home or office.
This member of the Moraceae Family can grow as a bush or tree depending on its environment. In the wild, the rubber plant can grow up to 100' tall! Indoors the rubber plant can grow up to 10' tall and is still quite a show! They can also be pruned to maintain a smaller shape if needed. The Ficus Elastica has 11 varieties: Decora (pictured above), Robusta, Tricolor, Tineke, Doescheri, Burgundy, Abidjan, Melany, Red Ruby, Black Prince, and Yellow Gem. While these are all Rubber plants they do tend to have varying care needs and should be treated so!
The Elastica is named for its milky white sap with properties of latex that can be used to make rubber. But be careful, this sticky sap can be irritating to skin. It is toxic to dogs + cats, so take precautions as necessary. The leaves often develop Cystoliths (white dots on above plant) and a buildup of Calcium Carbonate and are perfectly normal.
The rubber plant (Ficus Elastica) prefers to stay in one place rather than moving around a space. Moving the rubber plant around too much will cause the leaves to drop. So, once you find that perfect spot, let it relax into its new home. Ideally, you want to avoid direct sunlight or drafts from air vents, as these can cause stress & damage to the plant. Direct sunlight would be too intense for the Ficus Elastica, causing the leaves to fade & drop. Intense & low-humidity airflow will likewise make the rubber plant unhappy because this is generally a greenhouse-grown variety in the U.S. unless you live in an exceptionally balmy location like the humid lower Southeastern region. The rubber plant requires aerated soil and proper drainage holes for watering as this plant does NOT like to sit in water and likes to dry out a little between waterings. So the Ficus Elastica prefers the humid and diffused light conditions of a greenhouse. As much as you can mimic that environment, the happier the rubber plant will be!
To prune or propagate the rubber plant, it is important to wear gloves to protect your skin, identify where the leaf node is (the more nodes on the plant the better success rate), take a sharp knife or scissors to cut straight across and clean up any sap off of the plant, remove bottom leaves from cut stem, dip in rooting hormone, put into a pot of soilless potting mix, and use a ziplock bag to create a greenhouse effect near a filtered window that will avoid direct sunlight.