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Ficus elastica ‘Variegata’ (photo courtesy of Annie & Jean-Claude Malausa/Bios/Photolibrary)
Ficus elastica ‘Variegata’ (photo courtesy of Annie & Jean-Claude Malausa/Bios/Photolibrary)

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Zones 13, 16, 17, 19-24, H1, H2
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Ficus elastica

Rubber Tree
Evergreen, Shrubs, Trees


The average gardener would never expect to find the commercial edible fig, small-leafed climbing fig, banyan tree, and potted rubber tree under one heading—but they are classed together because they bear small or large figs (inedible in most species). Ornamental types are discussed here; for sorts grown for tasty fruit, see Fig. Many ornamental species make good houseplants. Generally, they thrive on rich, steadily moist (not wet) soil, frequent light feedings, and bright, indirect light.

Ficus elastica

Native to India and Malaysia. In Hawaii, it is a wide-spreading tree to 60–80 ft. tall (up to 100 ft. in damp, tropical forests). On the mainland, it can become a 40-ft. tree in frost-free zones; often seen as a small tree or shrub in shaded patios and garden entrances in the cooler part of the range. Narrow, leathery dark green leaves are 8–12 in. long. New leaves unfold from rosy pink sheaths that soon wither and drop. Comes back quickly if killed to the ground by frost. Good in containers; if a potted plant becomes too tall and leggy, you can cut off the top and select a side branch to form a new main shoot. One of the most foolproof indoor plants. Partial or full shade.

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