Ficus Elastica - NASA CLEAN AIR PLANT #4

 

Native from the Himalayas to Malaysia and was once grown for the rubber produced from its sap; today the Rubber Tree is a very popular indoor house plant. For the indoor grower looking for a tree type plant species with attractive foliage which can grow from 1ft to over 8ft tall, this is an excellent choice. As a young plant, the Rubber Tree makes a great centerpiece for the dining room table, once it grows to 3 feet or more, it makes a great specimen for a corner or entryway. Once the plant begins to mature and grow in height it's common to train and support the trunk and branches by staking or tying them back to keep them growing upright.

The worst a home grower can do (which are common mistakes) is over-water, move the plant around too much or to a spot with less light or with colder temperatures. Sudden drops of temperature or cold drafts are also not good.

Light - Rubber tree plants do best in medium to bright indirect light and will tolerate lower light. The solid green and dark burgundy varieties can adapt to less light, but the stems may be weak and the leaves small.

Temperature - Indoors they do well in warm temperatures between 70°-80° with a night-time temperature around 65°. Keep a Rubber Tree plant away from cold drafts, air conditioners, heaters, and fireplaces.

Water  - These plants are a little difficult to water. Allow the top 25-30% of the soil to dry out before watering. Keep the soil drier when your plant is in lower light or the room temperature is cooler. The leaves turn yellow from under-water and perfectly fine leaves may fall off from over-watering. The worst thing you can do regarding watering is "give it too much".

Humidity - The Rubber Tree is a very easy plant to grow and is happy with normal household humidity.

Soil - To prevent roots from becoming water logged use a well draining aerated potting soil mix. I like to use a 75/25 mix of potting soil and sand.

Fertilizer - Rubber tree plants do not need much fertilizer. During spring and summer feed with a high nitrogen liquid fertilizer mixed at 1/2 strength monthly. After re-potting with new potting mix do not use fertilizer for 2 months.

Re-pot - Rubber Tree plants like to be root-bound in small pots so don't rush to move them to larger containers. Be sure any pot you use has drip holes in the bottom. Large pots retain too much water and will drown this plant.

Maintenance - Remove dying leaves to maintain good looks. Cutting off the growing tip of a main stem encourages the plant to send out new shoots and become bushier. Rubber Tree plants are relatively pest free, but not dust free. It’s important to clean the broad leaves, both for aesthetics and for the health of the plant. Never use milk or mayonnaise to clean the leaves of your houseplants since both attract bugs and clog the pores in the plant leaves. Your plants leaves will appreciate being cleaned gently with tepid water and you will enjoy the glossy clean dust free look. Use a very soft cloth or sponge.

Pests - White flies, scale, thrip and mealybugs can be a problem. Check frequently for pests by examining the backs of the leaves and new growth. If a Rubber Tree  becomes infected, spray with 91% Isopropyl Alcohol mixed with water (2 parts Alcohol, 1 part water) or an insecticidal soap at 1/2 the recommended strength. Rubber Trees are susceptible to sooty mold, root rot, and leaf spot. Large brown spots along leaf edges usually indicate a fungal or bacterial disease. Use a general fungicide. Remove the diseased leaves, replace the soil, and scrub the container with a mild bleach solution. Keep infected plants away from your other plants.

Propagation - Propagation is done by stem cutting or air layering. Its quite easy to start by taking a tip cutting and growing it in a soil mix of 50/50 potting soil and sand.

 

Potential Problems

Loss of leaves: Most common cause is over-watering, which will need attention asap (renew top soil or re-pot --pot up--). Other conditions can also cause leaves to drop including, low temperatures, not enough light or cold drafts. Moving your plant from a bright location to dim can also cause leaf drop. It's normal for some of the bottom leaves to turn yellow and drop, but do check if conditions are OK.

Leaf edges yellowing: This is really a process of elimination. The problem could be poor soil, under-feeding, or too much water. You'll need to check each one of the care instructions above and eliminate what your doing well and try to find the cause.


Special Notes - These plants are considered poisonous and should be kept away from pets and children. Ranked as NASA Clean Air Plant #4 for its ability to remove formaldehyde and other chemical toxins from an indoor environment.