How to Care for Your Variegated Rubber Plant (Ficus Elastica)

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I am sharing my tips on how to care for your Variegated Rubber Tree. 

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If you’re looking for a new and rare plant to add to your indoor collection, a Ficus Elastica ‘Ruby,’ also known as a Variegated Rubber Tree, is a great choice.

Aside from lighting requirements, it’s considered to be a straightforward plant to care for and adjusts well to new environments. Proof: Mine was sent via USPS all the way from California to Wisconsin and is thriving!

I have been on the hunt for a variegated monstera, but those are extremely hard to come by. I settled for a Ficus Elastica Ruby, also known as Variegated Rubber Tree, and I couldn’t be happier. I ordered mine from a houseplant seller located in California that I found on Etsy. 

These plants are absolute beauties. Nature is truly incredible – each leaf looks like a watercolor painting.

If you are lucky enough to get one of these gems in your home, I want you to be as happy as me, so I am sharing my tips on how to care for your Variegated Rubber Tree. 

Light

Rubber Trees prefer a medium amount of indirect light, but the Variegated version needs some extra light to keep its beautiful variegated pattern. Direct sunlight, however, will be too much for this plant and will burn it. If you want your tree to grow evenly, be sure to turn it periodically.

I have mine in our foyer relatively close to our south-facing bay window. In this photo, you can see it is tilting a tad to the left. That photo was taken a day after it was shipped to me.

Since then, I have put a bamboo stake in it to even it out as I rotate it. It has been about a month and it is growing straight.

Water

If the top layer of soil feels dry, then it’s time to water. You want damp soil, not soaked, and if you don’t have a pot with good drainage then make sure you tip out any excess water.

To keep the leaves shiny and healthy mist them or wipe them down with a wet cloth. In colder seasons your Ruby Rubber Tree will need less watering; if the leaves start to brown or yellow and fall off then you could be overwatering.

I have a whole blog post about “Bathing Your Houseplants” … if you are interested in reading more about the importance of cleaning your houseplants.

Temperature

Anywhere within room temperature ranges (often between 60-75F) is good, but make sure that you don’t keep it too cold, or too close to any heat or AC vents.

variegated elastica

Humidity

There are no extreme measures needed regarding humidity for a Variegated Rubber Tree. Normal humidity is often fine, and if a room is too dry, then increase misting the leaves or set up a humidifier.

misting houseplants

Fertilizing

Never fertilize your plant during the colder seasons, but it’s safe to fertilize in Spring and Summer. One recommendation is to use “diluted liquid fertilizer” every couple of weeks.

I use diluted leftover coffee as fertilizer for my houseplants and it has helped my Rubber Tree perk up after it was shipped to me from California.

bar cart essentials

Soil

Variegated Rubber Trees (and other rubber tree variants) can easily suffer from overwatering, and so require a well-draining soil mixture.

I put old golfballs at the bottom of my planter and then mixed organic perlite into my soil before repotting my Varigated Rubber Tree.

variegated elastica

Common problems with Pink Rubber Trees

  • Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves on a Pink Rubber Tree is common and may be nothing to worry about. In most cases, a yellow leaf is just old and will fall off once it dies.  But, if you notice a bunch of yellow leaves at the bottom of the plant, this could be an indication of overwatering. Like with most plants, remember to always make sure the topsoil of your plant is dry before watering.

  • Pale Leaves

If the leaves on your Pink Rubber Tree are pale or not a strong color of “pink”, this could be a sign that your plant not getting enough light. Pink Rubber Trees, like most ficus, do not like changes in temperature or cold drafts and they sometimes will lose their color during the colder seasons. I find that Pink Rubber Trees love lots of non-direct bright light. During the winter I supplement with a plant light.

  • Brown Edges

Brown edges on a Pink Rubber Tree leaf usually indicate underwatering, but there could always be other reasons. I recommend checking to see how damp or dry the soil is. Use can use a water meter or just use your fingers. If it is completely dried out, your plant may just be dehydrated. If it is very damp, then your tree may be unhappy because it is getting drowned and may have root rot. You will want to aerate the soil, add perlite, or you may have to pull out the plant and re-pot all together.

  • Dropping Leaves

Pink Rubber Trees are sensitive to change, and it is not uncommon for this plant to drop leaves after being moved. Your plant may also drop leaves when the seasons change. It is very important to keep your Pink Rubber Tree away from air vents, heaters, or windows with cold air drafts.

Other Considerations

With an indoor Variegated Rubber Tree, pruning might eventually become necessary. If your tree is growing too tall, that’s when you should cut off the top to your desired height. It’s also safe, and sometimes necessary, to shape your tree and to re-pot as it grows.

Warning to pet owners: All rubber plants/trees can be toxic to pets if ingested, and in some cases, humans may also be allergic to the sap of the tree. If you break off a stem a milky white substance will ooze out – and that is the toxic part. If you already own a Rubber Tree, for the safety of any pets in your house be sure to make certain that it is kept out of their reach, and that they don’t ingest it. My dogs and cats aren’t into eating plants so I am in the clear, but if you have curious pets, I would keep a close watch or put your Ficus in a room they do not have access to when you are not there to supervise.

 

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