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Ficus elastica: A Guide to the Rubber Plant

Learn how to grow and care for the striking Rubber Plant, known for its large, glossy leaves and air-purifying qualities.

The Rubber Plant, scientifically known as Ficus elastica, belongs to the Moraceae family. This family is a treasure trove of diverse plants, including figs and mulberries.

The Rubber Plant is renowned for its large, glossy leaves and its ability to purify indoor air.

Why should you consider adding this plant to your garden? Well, it’s not just a pretty face. This plant can grow into a large tree-like structure, making it a focal point in any setting.

Stick around to learn how to grow this impressive plant at home and our top tip on watering your rubber plant.

Family: Moraceae

The Moraceae family, commonly referred to as the mulberry family, encompasses a wide array of flowering plants including diverse trees and shrubs.

A distinctive trait is their often milky sap. Their leaves are typically straightforward and alternate in arrangement, with many bearing juicy and edible fruits.

In the Australian landscape, familiar members include Ficus (figs), Morus (mulberries), and Artocarpus (breadfruit).

Rubber Plant: Basic Information

  • Common Name: Rubber Plant
  • Scientific Name: Ficus elastica
  • Family: Moraceae
  • Subfamily: Moroideae
  • Origin: Southeast Asia
  • Plant Type: Large, evergreen tree
  • Size: 2-3 meters in domestic gardens, up to 30 meters in the wild
  • Leaf Type: Dark green, oval-shaped, 15-30 cm long
  • Flower Colour: Inconspicuous

Appearance and Features

Ficus elastica leave | Plant Profiles

The Rubber Plant is a large, evergreen tree with a thick, rubbery trunk. Its leaves are dark green, oval-shaped, and can grow up to 30 cm long. The plant’s flowers are small and not its main attraction. In the wild, the Rubber Plant can grow up to 30 meters tall and 15 meters wide. However, in domestic settings, it usually reaches a height of 2-3 meters.

Natural Habitat

The Rubber Plant is native to the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. These regions experience consistent rainfall, high humidity, and warm temperatures.

If considering planting in Australia, always check local regulations as certain plants can become invasive.

How to Grow Rubber Plant

Ficus elastica | Plant Profiles

People often choose to grow the Rubber Plant for its air-purifying qualities and its large, glossy leaves. However, be cautious with its milky sap, as it can irritate skin and eyes.

Growing Conditions

  • Soil: Well-draining, pH 6-7
  • Light: Bright, indirect light
  • Climate: Warm, tropical, minimum 10°C

Planting Guide

Plant year-round in suitable climates. Space the plants 1-2 meters apart for proper growth and air circulation.

Care and Maintenance

Water when the top inch of soil feels dry. Pruning can be done throughout the year to maintain shape. Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base.

Pest and Disease Control

Watch out for mealybugs, scale insects, and spider mites. Wipe leaves with a damp cloth and use insecticidal soap for severe infestations.

Ficus elastica varieties

While the standard rubber plant is well-known, there are several distinctive varieties, each with its own unique leaf patterns and colours. Below, we’ve included some of the more popular varieties you may want to check out.

  1. Ficus elastica ‘Robusta’: This variety boasts broad, large green leaves.
  2. Ficus elastica ‘Decora’: Characterised by its dark green leaves.
  3. Ficus elastica ‘Variegata’: Distinctive leaves have cream to light yellow patches.
  4. Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’: A mix of green and white leaves, occasionally with a pinkish hue.
  5. Ficus elastica ‘Ruby’: Leaves have a unique reddish-pink tone.
  6. Ficus elastica ‘Belize’: Features green leaves with a lighter centre and pinkish-red veins.
  7. Ficus elastica ‘Burgundy’: Recognised by its dark burgundy or almost purple leaves.
  8. Ficus elastica ‘Shivereana’: A rarer variety with variegated leaves that resemble a camouflage pattern.

Special Features

The Rubber Plant has large, glossy leaves and can purify indoor air by removing toxins like formaldehyde. These features make it a popular choice for both homes and offices.

Wildlife and Pollinators

While the Rubber Plant does produce figs in its natural habitat, it is primarily pollinated by specific types of wasps. In domestic settings, it’s less about wildlife attraction and more about the aesthetic and air-purifying qualities of the plant.

Uses in the Garden and Beyond

The Rubber Plant is ideal as an indoor plant or in tropical gardens. It pairs well with ferns and palms for a lush look.

Environmental Benefits

While the Rubber Plant is known for its air-purifying qualities in indoor settings, when planted outside, it acts much like any other tree, offering shade and participating in the local ecosystem.

Rubber Plant FAQ

Is the Rubber Plant toxic to pets?

Yes, the milky sap can be irritating to pets, so it’s best to keep them away.

How often should I water my Rubber Plant?

Water when the top inch of soil feels dry, but avoid overwatering as this can lead to root rot.

Can the Rubber Plant grow outdoors in Australia?

Yes, but check if it’s considered an invasive species in your area. It prefers a warm, tropical climate.

Photo of author

Linda Jones

Based in sunny Brisbane, Linda has a keen interest in ornamental plants. She firmly believes that gardens are as much about aesthetics as they are about functionality. Despite being a life-long gardener, she still enjoys learning about new plants and gardening techniques and sharing her discoveries with the Ultimate Backyard community. When she's not immersed in her garden, Linda loves reading and walking.

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