Houseplants

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

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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. I’ve had mine for over 6 years, and it is still one of my favorite plants. I love the variegation so much!

Aside from lighting requirements, it’s considered a straightforward plant to care for and adjust well to new environments. Proof: Mine was sent via USPS all the way from California to Wisconsin and is thriving! These plants are absolute beauties. Nature is truly incredible – each leaf looks like a watercolor painting!

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

 

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

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 on periodically.

I have mine in our foyer, where it gets bright indirect light, relatively close to our south-facing bay window. In this photo, you can see it 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 winter months (cooler 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.

As for all houseplants, it is important to have your plants on a watering schedule to help prevent overwatering, which can lead to root rot.

RELATED READ: 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 60-75°F) is good, but make sure that you don’t keep it too cold or too close to any heat or AC vents.

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 to boost the moisture level in your home.

Related: The Best Humidifiers for Houseplants: Get the Right One for Your Green Thumb!

Fertilizing Variegated Rubber Trees

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 pink rubber plant perk up after it was shipped to me from California.

Soil for Variegated Rubber Trees

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

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

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 and add perlite, or you may have to pull out the plant and re-pot altogether.

  • 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.

  • Spider Mites

Spider mites are difficult to see with the naked eye, but they are serious pests that will puncture leaves and draw out the nectar from your plant’s leaves. You will know mites are on the plant because of their telltale spider webs. They often appear when conditions are dry and dusty. As soon as you start noticing the webs, you need to act quickly.

The best way to get rid of a spider mite infestation is to spray and clean your plant with neem oil or a solution of dawn dish soap mixed with room-temperature water. For the best outcome, make sure to wear gloves and clean the variegated rubber plant leaves thoroughly, and do regular checks of your plants.

It is important to be vigilant against spider mites since they can damage or even kill a plant quickly. I would also recommend changing the soil completely or adding Diatomaceous Earth to the soil.

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 for 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 – which 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.

FAQS

Q: When should I water my Variegated Rubber Tree?

A: The best way to tell if your Variegated Rubber Tree needs water is to stick a finger into the soil. If it’s dry, then you should water your plant. A good rule of thumb is to let the topsoil (top inch or two) dry out before watering it again.

Q: How often should I fertilize my Variegated Rubber Tree?

A: Fertilizing the Variegated Rubber Tree is not necessary, but if you decide to do so, I recommend using a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength once every two weeks during spring and summer. During the winter, there is no need to fertilize.

Q: Does my Variegated Rubber Tree need pruning?

A: Pruning a Variegated Rubber Tree is not necessary unless it is becoming too tall or unruly. If you do decide to prune your plant, make sure that you use clean and sharp scissors or shears when cutting branches. Be sure to prune the branch off at a 45-degree angle so that it can heal properly.

Q: What type of light does my Variegated Rubber Tree need?

A: The Variegated Rubber Tree prefers bright indirect sunlight but can also survive in partial shade. If you notice the leaves beginning to fade in color, it is a sign that your plant is not getting enough light and should be moved to an area where it can receive more sunlight.

Q: What type of soil is best for my Variegated Rubber Tree?

A: The Variegated Rubber Tree prefers a fast-draining potting soil like a cactus or succulent mix. It is important to ensure that the soil is well-aerated and does not become soggy. If necessary, you can add perlite to increase drainage.

Q. How do you keep a variegated rubber plant pink?

A: Because the Ruby Rubber tree is variegated, with pink and white markings, it will do best in bright, indirect light.

To keep your rubber plant pink, place it in front of an east-facing window or near a west- or south-facing window, protected from intense direct afternoon sunlight. And make sure the room that it is in does not fluctuate in temperature.

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Ren Lenhof

Hi there, I’m Ren! Welcome to the House Fur Blog. Life is never dull when you’re living in an 1888 Victorian with over 200 houseplants and two giant dogs – luckily, I know a thing or two about making it all work!

View Comments

  • I have a variegated rubber tree plant I rescued from Walmart. It has not dropped any leaves, but every time a new leave opens up it immediately dries up and falls off. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Cynthia! My first thought would be perhaps it doesn't have enough nutrients to support the new growth. Since spring is just around the corner, I would recommend using an all-purpose slow-release fertilizer or if you use liquid fertilizer make sure to dilute it and use only 1/2 of what the package recommends. Give that a go and see if that helps! Can you comment back in a month or so? I am now curious about this! :)

  • My plant grew one new leaf and the beginnings of a new stew was starting but nothing has happened. I've had the plant about 21/2 months now and I have kelp the plant in non direct lighting. I read everything you said about the soil bring dry before watering because it was told to me before I left the store. The plant doesn't look unhealthy but it doesn't look like it's growing either. What's happening with my plant?

    • You may be watering it too much. I never water it. Maybe once or twice in the dead of summer. I would try to water once a month and see if you notice improvement.

  • I remember when my Variegated Rubber Plant started getting brown leaves, that's when I realized I was giving it too much bright light. This plant likes bright but diffused sunlight better and tolerates shade better than direct sunlight.

    • Hi! Yes, you can or I just completely cut the leaf off. Be careful though - when you cut the leaf off a white milky substance will ooze out the plant and it can burn if you get it on your fingers. :) Thanks for reading!

  • I was given a cutting of this tree. At first it grew straight to the top. I'm in zone 9a in FL and decided to plant it in my garden. Let me tell you. This fun little guy is very misleading. I thought it died several winters only to find it sprout new stalks and I've moved it from my old home to a new one we just purchased and put it back in the ground and it was absolutely beautiful all last year. It looks completely frost bitten as it does each year when left outside. I'm hoping it will sprout another branch and continue to grow tall so I can bring inside for it retire in my southern facing window too! It's my favorite tree or plant in general that I've ever owned.

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