Last Updated on October 7, 2022 by Plant Mom Care
Ficus Elastica Ruby, indigenous to tropical areas of Malaysia and India, is characterized by the distinctive colored variegation of red, dark pink, green, and cream on its leaves. Taking care of it is similar to the more popular non variegated Rubber tree (Ficus Elastica).
However, it does require more light exposure since the cream and non-green colors of the leaves are less efficient in photosynthesizing, so the plant has to receive plenty of light to maintain its variegation and compensate for the less efficient photosynthesis process in the other colors in its leaves.
The sap is sticky and rather messy to deal with, particularly when pruning, so be careful when handling it.
Ficus Elastica Ruby Light Requirements
Place your Ruby ficus in a place where it can be exposed to bright, indirect light. The pinkish tint of the leaves will be most conspicuously visible when the plant is grown under adequate light, too much direct sunlight will burn the leaves and the plant will not do well under low light.
Placing it a few feet from southern or western windows is perfect, or near an eastern-facing window. Periodically rotate the plant to ensure even growth on all sides. The leaves tend to attract dust, preventing the leaves from getting light. Wipe them down regularly with a wet cloth to allow the plant to photosynthesize properly. Leaf shine products can also be used for a high gloss finish.
Ficus Elastica Ruby Watering
This plant likes slightly moistened soil all the time, but it does not like soggy soil. Weekly watering is ample enough as it allows the plant to breathe and dry out, but the frequency of watering will need to be decreased in winter to once every two weeks to prevent overwatering. Try and avoid splashing the leaves when watering as this could stain the leaves.
Overwatering is the number one cause of death for this plant and symptoms usually show up as leaves turning yellow and dropping. Nevertheless, older, lower leaves also turn yellow and drop, so you should pay attention to which leaves are dropping and check the moisture of the soil before concluding.
Changes in temperature, location, and incorrect light exposure can also stress the plant resulting in leaf drop. The common mistake in caring for this plant is over-watering.
Ficus Elastica Ruby Humidity
The native tropical environment of this plant is naturally humid, but this plant is pretty tolerant of humidity between 40-60% and can tolerate even lower humidity levels.
However, less humidity can cause leaf edges to become brown – in this case, increase humidity by placing a tray of water nearby or using a humidifier. Occasionally misting the plant will also help increase humidity as well as keep the leaves free from dust.
Ficus Elastica Ruby Temperature
This plant grows well in room temperatures between 60 – 77°F. Cold temperatures in winter should be avoided.
Ficus Elastica Ruby Soil
It prefers well-draining soil that is kept lightly and evenly moistened. Standard potting soil mix is fine or you can prepare your free-draining mix of a 3:1 ratio of potting soil and perlite.
Ficus Elastica Ruby Repotting
Spring or summer is usually best for repotting when the growth of the plant is strong and vigorous. It is recommended that you repot smaller tabletop plants once in 12-18 months.
Typically, the new potting vessel should be 1”- 2” larger than the old vessel to provide room for growth. Don’t pick a pot larger than this as this might adversely affect the plant’s roots. If you want to keep the current size of the plant, repot it back into the old vessel after adding new soil and pruning away some of the foliage and old roots.
Ficus Elastica Ruby Propagation
Propagating Ruby ficus can be messy due to the milky substance that oozes from the cutting. This sticky sap is difficult to remove, so be warned.
You will need a clean surface to work in, a healthy and established plant, paper towels, rooting hormone/powder, clean and sharp pruners, a pot filled with 1:1 potting soil and perlite, and a large zip-lock bag.
Choose a stem with healthy leaves, take a 6” cutting about halfway up the stem preferably with a leaf just below the cut on the stem. Sprinkle the cut on the stem of the plant with rooting powder/hormone, being careful to avoid oozing sap.
Remove the lower set of leaves on the cutting with the pruning shears keeping 2-3 leaves at the top.
Dip the end in rooting powder/hormone and insert it into the pot of moistened soil. Create a simple greenhouse for cutting by placing it carefully in the bag, and sealing it at about 90%. Use chopsticks or toothpicks to make sure the leaves don’t touch the bag. Place the cutting in a warm area under partial or indirect sunlight and keep the soil lightly moistened.
New Ruby ficus leaves can take a long time to emerge and some patience is needed. The bag can be removed after a month or so. Roots start developing around a month, with good root and leaf development in about six months.
Propagation in water
Another less reliable option is to propagate the cutting in water. Place the cutting in a small glass container filled with clean water. Make sure the cutting doesn’t touch the bottom as this will impede root development.
Place the container in a warm, sunny area and you will notice some white fuzzy growth appearing at the submerged end in around 2-3 months. Let the cutting continue to grow in water for a few more months before transplanting it into the soil.
If new growth is slow or hindered (particularly in summer), it could either mean the plant has become root bound or that it needs nutrients. Ideally, feed the plant every 2 – 6 weeks with a diluted dose of balanced fertilizer.
It will generally get whatever nutrients it needs from the soil but could use a boost on occasion. Do not feed the plant in winter and do not over-fertilize it.
This plant grows vertically rather than horizontally. Once it reaches the desired height, vertical growth can be prevented by pruning off the top. If you want it to be bushy, encourage branches that emerge from the main stem by letting them grow to the desired length and pruning the tip to encourage more branching. In due course, you will be able to succeed in getting a wider plant.
Ficus Elastica Ruby Common Problems
Bugs like spider mites, fungus gnats, and mealybugs are attracted to this plant. Signs of pest infestation usually are indicated by bugs, sticky goo, eggs, or small holes in the plant. Move the plant away from other plants and treat it with a natural pesticide like neem oil.
If your plant’s leaves start drooping, it’s probably due to under-watering or over-watering. If the top soil is dry, water the plant. If it’s moist, don’t water it for at least a week.
Types of Rubber Plants
How big does Ficus Elastica Ruby grow?
As a potted houseplant, it can grow almost 8 feet or more. However, it can attain heights in excess of 100 feet in its natural habitats.
Is Ficus Elastica Ruby easy to care for?
These plants are relatively low-maintenance houseplants that can be quite a colorful statement in your home. If you provide it with enough sunlight, closely monitor water frequency, and watch out for pests, you will be rewarded with vibrant, colorful growth.
How long does it take Ficus Elastica Ruby to grow?
This plant generally has a slow growth rate when grown indoors and might take 10 years or more to reach its full height. Perfect growing conditions and proper nutrition can increase its growth rate.