Ficus elastica, more commonly known as rubber tree or rubber plant, is a popular houseplant grown for its appealing foliage, durability and undemanding care requirements. The plant produces a milky sap that has been used to produce rubber, hence the common name, although it is primarily grown for ornamental purposes. Native to areas of India and Indonesia, Ficus elastic grows outdoors under very warm conditions. In the United States, gardeners grow the plant almost exclusively indoors, where its environment can be monitored accordingly. With proper care, Ficus elastica lives for many years and reaches up to 10 feet in height.
Keep Ficus elastica in a location that receives four to six hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day. Maintain average temperatures between 55 and 75 degrees F throughout the plant's life for optimal growth.
Fill a shallow tray with pebbles, and then cover the pebbles with water. Keep the Ficus elastica container on top of the tray to increase the relative humidity around the plant. Replenish the water whenever necessary.
Water once each week to keep the soil consistently moist throughout the growing season. Soak the soil until water begins to seep from the pot's drainage holes, and then drain away any excess moisture. Reduce watering frequency to once every two weeks during winter.
Feed using a high phosphorous 5-10-5 NPK fertilizer during the first two months of growth, and then switch to a high nitrogen 10-5-5- NPK fertilizer for the remainder of the plant's life. Fertilize once every three to four weeks during spring and summer, and once every five to six weeks during fall. Apply at half the rate recommended by the manufacturer for the best results.
Re-pot Ficus elastica once every two to three years to provide a fresh growing medium and additional room for the roots to grow. Increase the size of the container by no more than 1 inch in diameter at each re-potting. Use a soil mix made of well-drained, fertile and moist potting soil.