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Ficus spp.
Rubber Tree
Rubber Plant
India Rubber Plant

Ficus elastica

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Zone 10 and Indoors

Ficus elastica is the classic Rubber Tree, Rubber Plant or India Rubber Plant.  Native to India and Malaysia, elastica is among the oldest plants used as houseplants worldwide.

Elastica leaves and stems and even wood 'bleed' white sticky sap when broken or damaged from which rubber can be made.  Some people are allergic to this sap when applied to the skin.

Like most ficus, Ficus elastica is a large tree, growing to 40-50 feet tall and even wider on its spreading branches held up by aerial roots which become multiple trunks.  Many authors refer to growth habit as "widely sprawling."

A very close relative of Ficus benjamina, Ficus elastica tree is invasive and likely a poor choice for your South Florida landscape.  It has all of the same negatives as Ficus benjamina, as well as shedding large, coarse leaves daily, choking any and all undergrowth.   The sun is unable to penetrate the soil below elastica.  Still, elastica is an attractive large tree in wide open spaces.

The South Florida native Ficus aurea, commonly called 'Strangler Fig' is also a huge tree to 50 feet.  Strangler Fig grows like a vine when young often germinating up in trees and up in palm fibers or fronds.  Birds distribute seeds which will sprout almost anywhere and without soil.  It is their aerial roots that surround its victims and over time kills its host with its size.

As a houseplant, Ficus is very popular.  Able to adapt to and endure lower light conditions and generally poor treatment, The Rubber Tree is a winner indoors.  Provide as much light as possible, keep away from cold and drafts in winter, keep soil lightly to moderately moist with good drainage.  Most any soil will be fine and largely sandy soils mixed with some organics are ideal.  Light fertilization is best.

A small young plant should adapt to your home conditions quickly and easily.  Larger plants most often have a temporary decline with much shedding and/or browning of the leaves causing owners concern.

Ficus that may also be called Rubber Tree or Rubber Plant and used as houseplants include:

  • Ficus altissima, Lofty Fig
  • Ficus elastica 'Decora'
  • Ficus elastica 'Doescheri'
  • Ficus lyrata, Fiddle Leaf Fig
  • Ficus religiosa
  • Ficus rubiginosa 'Variegata'
  • Ficus vogelii