Plant in Focus: Ficus elastica
The Ficus elastica, more commonly known as the Rubber plant, is the perfect houseplant for all due to its reliable, adaptable nature, meaning although it thrives in bright light, it’s also more tolerant of lower levels of light (making it perfect for those vacant corners). There are a number of Ficus elastica varieties that can be successfully grown indoors, including the F.elastica robusta that is built up of strong, large, deep green, shiny leaves that have a vein of profound red that runs along the back of the leaf; as well as variegated types such as ‘tineke’, who's leaves are comprised of a creamy coloured base and splashed with patterns of lighter and darker green and vibrant pink.
Native to India, China and Malaysia, the rubber plant has the ability to grow up to three meters tall when placed in ideal conditions:
Will thrive best when placed where it can receive indirect light (South or West-facing). But as said before, it is tolerant to lower levels of light.
This plant will gradually adapt to most temperatures, but cannot cope with temperatures below 13C. Huge fluctuations and extreme lower levels in temperature will cause the Ficus to drop its leaves due to shock.
During the spring and summer give your plant a good, thorougher watering that ensures the soil to be completely soaked, then allow the top 3cm of soil to dry out before topping it up again. Reduce watering over winter. You can also mist this plant regularly to keep humidity levels up. Do be aware that overwatering this plant can lead to dropping leaves.
During the spring and summer months feed every two weeks with a diluted houseplant fertiliser.
It’s always advised to repot your plants in spring (end of March-May). Repot into a pot that is only slightly larger than its existing pot as the Ficus elastica likes its roots to be compacted using a good free draining soil.
This plant’s large leaves collect dust rather well and is easily cleaned by wiping them first with a clean dry cloth, then again with a damp one. You can also use coconut oil to give the leaves a shine.