Ficus elastica/ Rubber Plant
A plant in your pot, a tree in the lot!
Yes, that’s what our Ficus elastica is – a slow-grower while in the pot, masquerading as a houseplant. But once it begins to shoot up, it needs larger ground to become the full-fledged tree it’s meant to be! Yes, it’d be more accurate to call it the Rubber Tree.
Native to the Indian sub-continent and S.E. Asia, the rubber tree oozes a milky latex when its stem is cut or leaves are plucked. Some reports suggest the ancient usage of this latex to make poor quality rubber, which explains its common name.
With large, glossy green leaves that have even been genetically manipulated to yield a pleasing variegated variant, the Rubber Tree has become a frequent member of the horticultural trade.
The most distinctive – and indeed diagnostic – part of this tree is its new leaves. They appear as red swords, looking so as the leaf is tightly packed inside a sheath. The sheath grows and drops off as the leaf unfurls.
Caring for the rubber plant is easy. Avoid overwatering – water it when the finger/stick test indicates dried up soil. Watering schedule is a function of – a) sun exposure, b) potting mix composition, c) size of plant and d) geography. For example, a 3-4 foot high rubber plant in a 10-inch pot, kept totally indoor in an air-conditioned Mumbai office is okay with once or twice-a-week watering.
FUN FACT – The Rubber Tree is a member of the fig family. And like all figs, it can only get pollinated by a specific type of wasp! No wasp, no pollination, no fruit.