How To Grow and Care for Ficus Elastica Ruby Plants

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Of all the rubber plant varieties, the ruby rubber plant is perhaps the most popular.

Known in botanical circles as Ficus elastica (FY-kus ee-LASS-tih-kuh) ‘Ruby,’ this charming plant offers beautiful variegation and requires surprisingly little return.

Ficus Ruby Red plantPin

This perennial member of the Moraceae family goes by many names, such as:

  • Indian rubber tree
  • Pink rubber tree
  • Rubber bush
  • Rubber fig
  • Rubber plant

The parent plant is native throughout Southeast Asia and parts of eastern South Asia (India and Malaysia), although it has become naturalized in many locations, including Florida and the West Indies.

Ficus Elastica ‘Ruby’ Care

Size and Growth

While most commonly known as the ruby rubber plant, the term “tree” is certainly more appropriate.

As an indoor plant, the Ficus Ruby cultivar is capable of achieving a height of 8′ feet and as high as 40′ feet tall outdoors.

This variegated rubber tree is a real showstopper with large, almond-shaped sage green leaves that have variegations of cream, ruby red, strawberry pink, and white.

These leaves sprout from the top, much like a palm tree.

Each one can achieve a length of 13″ inches and a width of 2″ to 6″ inches, making them hard to miss.

Flowering and Fragrance

In their native habitat, rubber trees produce small figs after flowering.

However, this requires the assistance of a fig wasp, so plants in the US tend to remain barren.

However, it’s still possible to get your ruby rubber plant to produce small, uninteresting flowers under the right conditions.

Light Conditions and Temperature

While the ruby rubber plant can live in partial shade, its variegation will suffer.

Likewise, putting it in direct sunlight can result in leaf burn, so try to choose a spot where it receives indirect bright light or medium light and has some shade during midday.

Moderate humidity levels are best for this plant, preferably between 40 – 60% percent.

However, it will still do well in drier areas as long as it has something to boost the local ambient humidity.

Pebble trays work well for younger plants, while bigger ones will need a humidifier.

You may also choose to mist the plant occasionally to help with humidity.

As it’s a tropical plant, the ruby rubber tree is sensitive to cold air drafts.

It is recommended for planting outdoors in USDA hardiness zone 10 to 12.

Indoors, it needs to be kept in temperatures between 60 and 77° degrees Fahrenheit and kept away from drafts,

Watering and Feeding

As with many plants, your rubber Ruby bush is sensitive to both overwatering and underwatering. 

So make sure to check the moisture level to know when it’s time to water your plant.

The best time to water is when its soil has become dry 2″ to 3″ inches down to the touch.

Water the soil evenly with room-temperature distilled water (rainwater is even better).

Be sure there are adequate drainage holes to drain off any excess water to prevent root rot.

Feed the Ficus Elastica Ruby monthly with a 1/2-strength diluted liquid fertilizer for added nutrients, following any instructions on the package.

Reduce watering during the winter months.

Related: More on How Often To Water A Rubber Tree

Soil and Transplanting

Your ruby rubber plant will be happy in most soils if they are well-drained and slightly acidic.

A popular choice for commercial potting soil is a cactus or succulent mix.

When buying commercial mixes, avoid cheap brands, as these often aren’t sterilized and may contain dormant pests or fungal spores.

Don’t be surprised if your plant seems to be eating the soil over time and exposing its roots.

Just add a little more soil, and your plant will stay happy.

This rubber plant cultivar should be transplanted once every two years.

It will usually let you know it’s time when the soil becomes loose to the touch.

Perform any repotting in the spring and use fresh soil.

Grooming and Maintenance

This plant does not need much attention, but you will want to occasionally wipe down the leaves on indoor specimens to ensure proper photosynthesis.

Remove yellow leaves and prune away any damaged leaves as needed to encourage further growth.

Just wear gloves because the plant’s latex or milky sap can irritate the skin and yes.

How To Propagate Ruby Rubber Tree

It can be hit-or-miss when propagating a ruby rubber plant, so try using several cuttings: leaf or stem cuttings.

Generally, the best (and often only) way to propagate is through leaf cuttings.

While the cuttings may be grown in water, the chances of failure are greatly increased.

In the spring, cover the area around your ficus with newspaper, as the sap can ruin many types of floors.

Examine the plant for any leggy branches or spots that are a little sparse, as pruning here will encourage growth on the parent plant.

  • For best results, cuttings should have at least four leaf nodes and be around 6″ inches long.
  • Wearing protective gloves
  • Armed with a pair of sterilized pruners or scissors, make a diagonal cut directly under a leaf node.
  • Cuttings will bleed sap
  • Gently blot the wounds with a paper towel until the bleeding stops.
  • Remove the bottom leaves
  • Make sure at least 2 to 3 leaves remain at the top for faster rooting.
  • Dip the cutting in rooting hormone powder.
  • Plant the cutting in a small pot filled with a 50/50 mix of peat moss and perlite or moist soil.
  • Gently pat the soil down.
  • Once planted, the exposed nodes should all be submerged.
  • Place a plastic bag (such as a freezer bag) over the cutting to help trap humidity.
  • Place the potted cutting in a warm location that receives dappled or bright, indirect sunlight.
  • After 4 to 5 weeks, give the plant a gentle tug, as resistance is proof the roots are forming properly.

Rubber Bush Pests or Diseases

These houseplants are susceptible to all the usual suspects, such as aphids, mealybugs, scale insects, spider mites, bugs, and root rot.

While not normally harmful, the sap of all rubber plants is toxic to pets and humans and may cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction to those sensitive to latex.

Ruby Rubber Plant Uses

This rubber tree is an exceptional clean air plant, especially in the home.

It not only provides oxygen and absorbs air pollutants but will also remove airborne bacteria and mold spores.

The sap is a primary ingredient in making latex rubber.

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