Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rubber Plant (Ficus robusta) - Best Air Purifying Plant #9

Once there was a silly old ant.
Thought he could move a rubber tree plant.
Everyone knows an ant. Can't.
Move a rubber tree plant.

For some reason, every time I look at my Ficus robusta, #9 on our air cleaning plants list, this song pops into my head. Now technically a "rubber tree plant" is a Ficus elastica, which can grow up to 50  to 100 feet tall (which an ant definitely can't move). The Ficus robusta is a variety of this species bred specifically to serve as an ornamental plant. Commonly called a "rubber plant", this ornamental plant was bred to have broader, stiffer, and more upright leaves than its gigantic cousin.

I looked for a very, very long time to find a plant like this. I ended up going to the annual plant sale at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, one of our local gardens, and even then I got the second to last one on the first day of the sale. People love these.

If you're looking for one you might have some luck finding a plant on Amazon, a number of sellers are selling both the Elastica and the Robusta. Either one makes a nice houseplant.

This species of plant is native to Asia, including India, Nepal, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bhutan, Burma, and parts of China. It's actually not used to make commercial rubber, at least not anymore, although there was a time that the creamy, sticky substance in the leaf was used for that purpose, and the name stuck. The leaves can get pretty big, upwards of 10 inches long and 5 inches wide if you let it.

It's important to keep the soil of a rubber plant moist--if it becomes dry the plant will interpret this as a dry season approaching and start to shed some of its leaves.On the other hand, you don't want to water it too much or the leaves will turn yellow. That said, a little overwatering and underwatering are fine, as the plant is very forgiving.

When new leaves grow, it makes for one of the most beautiful plants in the house with its thick, sturdy leaves. This plant rates 9 out of 10 for removing chemicals in the air.

Care Tips

1) Ensure that the plant is in a place where it gets bright indirect light throughout the day. Some direct sunlight in the morning is fine.

2) Water the plant thoroughly and let it dry out partially before you water it again.

3) Wash the leaves from time to time with a clean, wet cloth.

4) Use a well-draining potting soil.

5) Repot every 36 months