Ficus Robusta - The Rubber Tree
Ficus robusta is but one of a fairly large number of ficus species. Ficus robusta is actually a variety of the species Ficus elastica. A ficus tree is literally a fig tree, but many varieties of this species bear fruit or "figs" that are barely noticeable, or not observable at all. Although some members of the ficus family are grown outdoors and can become quite large, most are more suitable as an indoor plant, and are found not only in homes, but in many offices as well.
The Rubber Plant - The most popular ficus house plant is most likely Ficus benjamina, the "Weeping Fig". Ficus elastica "Robusta", also known as the Rubber plant, has become a very popular and attractive indoor plant. Ficus Robusta has very large deep green leaves, often 10" long and 5" wide. The Ficus elastica species is a native of India, and grows to be a very large tree, reaching 100' in height. Robusta is a variety of this species, which has been bred as a much lower growing and compact house plant. One of the characteristics of the elastica species, hence the name Rubber Plant, is when the leaves or stems are cut or damaged, they bleed a creamy, sticky, latex-like substance, similar to that used in the production of rubber.
Ficus Robusta is a tropical tree which can be grown outdoors only in USDA Zone 11. Consequently, it is rarely seen in the United States as an outdoor plant. As an indoor plant it needs to be placed where there is strong light and the soil needs to be kept moist. Most plants are sold when between 1' and 3' in height, and can grow to a height of about 20' if allowed to do so. They can be pruned back as needed.
Ficus Robusta Care - One reason for keeping the soil moist is if the soil becomes to dry, Ficus Robusta, like most other ficus species, will interpret drying soil as a signal that a dry season is approaching, and it will begin to shed its leaves as a matter of self protection. If this happens, the leaves will grow back, but it's better to keep the soil moist and enjoy an attractive plant all of the time rather than just at the intervals where one remembered to water it. Misting the plant regularly can be very beneficial in this respect. Misting the leaves every day, or every other day will more than likely keep leaf dropping to an absolute minimum.
Between misting and occasional light watering, the tree will get the water it needs. Too frequent, or too heavy watering may cause the leaves to begin to turn yellow, and they may also begin to drop off. Like the other ficus species, Robusta doesn't particularly like being moved, and may shed at least a few of its leaves after being transported from one place to another. When placed in one location, facing bright light, it is a good idea to rotate the tree partially from time to time, unless it is becoming too large to do so. This is done to insure a more uniform growth, and also ensure an overall healthier and more attractive plant. The bottom line is, this is an easy care plant, but in some ways is rather finicky, and does have a tendency to drop its leaves if it feels it isn't being treated right.
Get Off To A Good Start - Many problems can be avoided by looking for a healthy and hardy plant to begin with. A healthy plant, once purchased and subjected to tender loving care, is bound to remain that way. If you haven't yet purchased one of these for an indoor decorative effect, viewing a few images will quite possibly convince you that Ficus Robusta, the Rubber Plant, is a “must have”.