Rubber plants or trees--Ficus elastica--are popular container plants. These tropical beauties, which are native to parts of southeast Asia and South America, are hardy plants, with thick, glossy leaves. The burgundy variety has deep green leaves with a burgundy tint. Rubber plants are often trained to grow on one trunk as trees, which makes them smaller and able to live longer, according to Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson, horticulturists with the University of Florida. Ficus elastica thrives with basic culture.
The burgundy rubber plant is native to tropical rain forests, where it can grow to 100 feet tall. When grown in containers, however, the plant usually remains about 15 feet tall. As such, it needs warm temperatures in order to thrive. As an outdoor plant, it should only be grown in United States Department of Agriculture zones 10b through 11, which are tropical and sub-tropical zones found in parts of California, Florida, Arizona and Texas. Indoors, it should be kept in a warm location, but one that is free of very hot or cold drafts.
The striking burgundy tint of the plant's leaves is only visible in bright sunlight. Therefore, this rubber tree should be placed in a location where it will be exposed to full sunlight for at least six hours per day. If the plant is placed near a window indoors, rotate it once a week so that all sides of the ficus are exposed to the direct rays of the sun. Rubber trees will also grow in partial shade, but the burgundy color of the leaves will not be as apparent.
Soil and Water
Ficus elastica burgundy prefers well-draining soil. Soil that is too wet is a common problem with these plants, especially if they are grown in containers. Work perlite, sand and peat moss into the soil around your tree, or choose a potting mixture that is composed of equal parts of these ingredients, which help soil drain more effectively. Water your rubber plant with lukewarm or room-temperature water, and empty the water catch tray--if your tree is in a container--after the plant has stopped draining. Let the soil dry down to a few inches before watering again.
Ficus elastica is not a heavy feeder, but container plants can always benefit from fertilizer. Choose a water-soluble, balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer formulated for indoor houseplants, and feed the plant once a month during the growing season instead of a usual watering.
Prune your rubber plant to keep it healthy and strong, and to limit it to a manageable size. Clip any broken branches or those that have very tight angles. This is especially important for outdoor trees so that the wind can go through the tree without breaking it. Remove multiple trunks and train it to grow on just one trunk while the tree is still young. Each spring, before new growth appears, prune back branches so that they are only half the diameter of the trunk.