The different types of Rubber plants are common indoor plants because they are versatile and easy to grow. Their large, waxy leaves make this tropical plant a great addition to your home decor.
If you are new to keeping houseplants, variegated rubber plants are generally hardy but have specific care needs.
Below we share tips for maintaining a healthy, vibrant, variegated rubber plant in your home.
What Are Variegated Rubber Plants?
Ficus elastica variegata (FYE-kuss ee-LASS-tick-uh), known as the variegated rubber plant, has pink splashes throughout its otherwise white and green leaves.
Its unique colors come from variegation, which is a cell mutation.
The variegated rubber plant is part of the Moraceae family. Like the weeping fig tree, its relatives, Banana Leaf Ficus, and other similar perennials are native to southeast Asia.
The genetic mutation of the variegated rubber tree produces less of the pigmentation, called chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll gives plants their natural green color. Less chlorophyll in plant leaves like Ficus tineke displays lighter pink and white colors.
Some scientists believe that the unnatural variegated leaves deter pests because they mistake the plant as diseased or dying.
Variegated Rubber Plant Care
While rubber tree plants, in general, are sturdy, the variegated rubber tree is more sensitive in its care.
Size and Growth
The variegated rubber plant indoors grows between 4′ – 6′ feet tall and 2′-3′ feet wide. When choosing a space, make sure to allow for 3′-4′ feet across for growth space.
Flowering and Fragrance
Rubber plant flowers are small and green. They aren’t fragrant or bright. Instead, the variegated rubber plant has large, colorful leaves.
Some confuse new leaf growth for flower spikes. Many cultivars have a bright, red sheath giving way to new waxy leaves.
Light Requirements and Temperature
This tropical plant prefers a lot of indirect light. Find a bright spot in your home for it.
Indoors, do not expose the variegated rubber to direct sunlight. The leaves may burn. Filter the sun by placing your plant in a sunny window with a sheer shade in front of it.
If you prefer the colorful pinks in the leaves, avoid putting the variegated rubber tree in a shaded spot. It will lose its variegation in dark areas.
If the plant starts dropping leaves and losing color, your plant needs more bright light.
The variegated rubber plant is sensitive to temperature changes. Ficus does not tolerate extreme temperature changes and hates cold air drafts. They respond with leaf drop.
Maintain a temperature of 60°-70° degrees Fahrenheit where you plan to keep your plant.
Watering and Feeding
Avoid overwatering variegated rubber plants by checking the soil before watering. Check to make sure the top one to two inches of soil is dry before watering.
Once the top of the soil is dry, or the leaves start to wilt, water the soil thoroughly. Avoid wetting the foliage.
After watering, make sure all the excess water drains out of the bottom of the pot.
To plan ahead, look to water your plant about once a week in the summer and once every two weeks in the winter.
The type of heating system affects the plants’ watering frequency.
If you have a dry heat, check the leaves for drooping, and increase to once a week if the soil dries fast.
Fertilizing is not essential to keep variegated rubber tree alive. The added nutrition keeps its leaves big, glossy, and vibrant. Overfertilizing may stretch plants.
Look for slow-release fertilizers. They tend to work best for indoor, potted plants. The slow-release formula only requires one application per season. The timed release provides plants with all their nutritional needs.
Soil and Transplanting
Ficus needs well-drained soil.
Ficus plants do best in well-draining potting soil with excellent aeration.
This is important for rubber tree plants as poor drainage can lead to various leaf problems.
The simple potting mix for variegated Ficus plants consists of:
- 1 part pine bark
- 1 part coarse sand or perlite
- 1 part peat moss
When shopping for a pot for an indoor plant, you may try to find something that matches your decor. Keep in mind. It would be best if you were looking for something that also benefits the plant.
When selecting a pot, you must consider drainage.
A pot that drains prevents overwatering. Ficus plants cannot sit in water for an extended period.
If your plant looks like it is outgrowing its pot, consider transplanting it into a larger pot. More space will make it easier for the plant to take up water and nutrients.
Because the variegated rubber plant is tropical, it is best to transplant it in warmer months.
Grooming and Maintenance
Despite what you may think, do not allow your variegated rubber plant to grow too large. Regular pruning encourages the plant to produce more side-shoots.
Depending on your space, pruning will also keep the plant tidy and prevent the root system from overdevelopment. Plants develop a root system to support the foliage.
Related: How To Prune a Ficus Tree
You may need to re-pot the roots get too large for their current pot. A larger pot may cause problems if you have space limitations.
When pruning, use clean, sharp hand pruners. We like the Felco #2. Wear gloves to prevent the milky sap from irritating your skin. Check out – Are Ruber Plants Poisonous?
Prune rubber trees to the size and shape you prefer. Make cuts right above the node – where the leaf attaches to the stem. Or cut right above the leaf scar.
How to Propagate a Variegated Rubber Plant
If your plant is big and healthy, consider propagating it. Like most houseplants, it’s best to propagate in early spring to late summer.
The tools you will need:
- Rooting hormone powder
- Sharp hand pruners
- Small pot
- Well draining potting soil (50/50 mix of peat moss and perlite)
- Paper towels
- Gallon zip-top bag
Follow these easy steps to propagate another healthy variegated rubber plant.
- Pick a healthy stem 8″-10″ inches long. Tips cuttings are best
- Make your cut about halfway up the stem
- Trim the cutting to remove the bottom leaves
- Pot your cutting in the moistened potting soil
- Make a mini-greenhouse by putting your new plant and pot in a plastic bag
- Water and keep warm until you can transfer to a larger pot
If you do not have all of these tools, you can try to propagate in water, but it is tricker to root than propagating in soil.
Variegated Rubber Plant Pests or Diseases
Variegated rubber plants are susceptible to pests like:
- Mealy bugs
- Plant scale
- Spider mites
These soft-bodied insects feed on the plant sap, causing leaves to drop and die. Spray with Neem oil or an insecticide soap to treat a pest infestation.
The variegated rubber plant can also fall victim to certain diseases and fungal pathogens.
Overwatering can grow pathogens that cause root rot and other root decay. Yellowing leaves sometimes indicate root problems.
Cerospora is a fungal disease causing tiny spots on the leaves that turn yellow.
Exposure to cool temperatures or chilling winds turns the undersides of leaves a blush red color.