Gardening Guide: Ficus Robusta
The ficus robusta plant, sometimes simply referred to as a “rubber plant” or “rubber tree”, is an evergreen that is commonly used as a house plant. You may be wondering why the ficus robusta was nicknamed the rubber plant. This type of ficus produces a white sap that is very sticky to the touch. When this sap is left to dry out, it actually turns into a mild form of rubber. The rubber plant is hailed as being a fantastic house plant for people who lack a green thumb or have never tried to keep plants indoors before, mainly because it’s just so simple to grow!
Ficus Robusta Traits
The most noticeable characteristic of the rubber tree is the leaves. They are quite large and round, with a gorgeous dark green color. A healthy ficus can produce leaves that average five inches in width and nearly ten inches in length. The leaves of this species of ficus are glossy and sometimes it can be tempting to touch the plant to determine if it is indeed real! This tree has a bit of an exotic look to it, although not so much that it appears too “busy” or eye catching for an indoor setting. The ficus can be a fairly large tree, especially if its needs are well cared for. In the right settings, an indoor ficus could easily reach 10 feet in height! The tree could be trimmed back to keep it at a more modest and indoor-friendly height.
The ficus robusta, being a member of the fig family, will likely produce little pieces of fruit that are of no real value. The little green orbs are usually removed as they are not very attractive, but they can be left alone to fall off naturally. The body and branches of the tree are light brown in color and fairly smooth, which enhances the tidy look of this popular indoor plant.
Materials For Planting
There are a few planting materials that you should gather before you purchase a ficus robusta tree.
First, you will need a pot to put it in. A container that is about 10 inches in diameter should be a great place to start. Anything larger than this could cause the soil to retain moisture for long periods of time, which seriously increases the chances of root rot. You can further decrease these chances by selecting a pot that has drainage holes in the bottom. It may or may not come with a plate to put underneath the pot to catch the excess water; however, you can purchase this separately at most garden supply shops.
You will also need a good quality potting soil. The ficus robusta, being a native of the East, specifically takes well to soil that contains sand and peat moss.
You may also want to have a pair of gloves and a watering can on hand.
Once you have all of these items together, you can start shopping around for a ficus tree. The ficus selection in your local garden store will probably contain plants between one and three feet in height. Please bear in mind that most of these specimens are very young and will not remain this height naturally. You can, however, use pruning shears to trim back the branches every year to keep the height more manageable.
Planting A Ficus
Planting your ficus is a very easy process, although the tree itself can be a bit awkward to manipulate. The process will be a bit smoother if you have someone to help you.
1. First, you need to remove your ficus from the temporary pot supplied by the nursery.
2. After you have gently pulled away the pot, try to work the roots with your fingertips to encourage them to spread a bit. You might also try to remove large clumps of soil from the root ball, which is where the gloves come in handy!
3. Have your helper hold the tree so that the root ball hovers inside the pot. The roots should be about an inch and a half to two inches from the lip of the container.
4. Scoop the soil into the pot; making sure to pack it underneath and around the roots well.
5. Cover the top of the roots with a half inch layer of soil.
6. If you have a plate to catch the excess water, place it under the pot.
7. Water the soil well, but be sure not to add too much water which can cause root rot.
Sunlight, Water, and Temperature Requirements
Although the ficus is easy to grow, there are a few things that you need to provide in order for your tree to thrive. The best spot in your home for the ficus would be an area that receives bright indirect sunlight, or partial shade. Full sunlight would be OK for your ficus if it is morning or afternoon sunlight, which is much milder than mid-day light. To tell whether your plant needs to be watered, just rake your fingers through the soil every couple of days and water only when the soil feels dry to the touch. The optimal temperature range for your rubber tree will be between 75°F and 80°F, although it can withstand temperatures as low as 60°F and as high as 85°F.