Known as the variegated rubber tree or rubber plant, Ficus elastica tineke is a popular ornamental tree that people around the world grow. Native to Malaysia, India, and parts of Asia, Ficus elastica is listed as a weed and “garden thug” in the Global Compendium of Weeds. But it needs a very specific wasp pollinator to propagate. So, where these aren’t present, its invasive risks are minimized. Also, it’s safe to grow in a pot just about anywhere.
Ficus elastica tineke is an easy-to-care-for houseplant that won’t take up much of your time. If you water your ficus once or twice a week and keep it in bright, indirect light, it will thrive. There are some other valuable tips that we will give you in this article.
What is Ficus Elastica Tineke?
Ficus elastica tineke is an unusual-looking rubber plant that has variegated white and green leaves that feature a touch of pink. Often their veins are also pink.
Each leaf is different, almost as though it has been painted by hand.
Then there is another variation, Ficus elastica tineke Ruby. The variegations are like Ficus elastica tineke but the pink is more intense and there is very little white in the plant leaves.
History and Origin
The rubber plant, Ficus elastica, originated in southeast Asia where it is warm and humid. Like all ficus plants, it is part of the fig family.
In areas where it grows naturally, the plants grow aerial roots that help to anchor it as it grows. In fact, many Ficus plants grow as epiphytes, germinating and relying on other trees and plants for support.
If you’re wondering why they are called rubber plants, it’s because Ficus elastica was grown to produce latex rubber in the early 20th century. Producers used the sticky sap that comes from the tree for rubber.
Later, they discovered the sap from Hevea brasiliensis, a type of Euphorbia, was a superior ingredient for making rubber. But Ficus elastica kept its name.
It grows well in USDA hardiness zones 10B-11.
If you don’t know about rubber plants, when you first see them, you may be forgiven for thinking they are artificial. This is because Ficus elastica leaves are all thick and glossy.
Ficus elastica plants, including Ficus elastica tineke, flower outdoors, but they rarely flower when grown as indoor pot plants. The flowers on these pretty variegated rubber trees are tiny.
According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), on very large trees they develop to form inedible yellow fruit.
When you grow rubber plants in pots, their growth is limited by the size of the pot. They seldom grow taller than 10 feet (3 m).
While they are small, it’s a good idea to repot them every year. Thereafter, about one every three years.
Once it reaches an acceptable height for your indoor environment, you can prune the top.
If left to spread naturally, they commonly reach 25-40 feet. In a jungle environment in their native habitat, they are known to reach a height of 100 feet.
The leaves can grow up to 12 inches long and 5 inches wide, depending on the size of the plant.
Ficus Elastica Tineke Care and Needs\
All types of rubber plants make excellent starter plants for anyone with no experience growing house plants. Ficus elastica tineke, because it is delightfully different, is even more rewarding.
All rubber plants need minimal care and attention. But, if the plant is stressed, dropping leaves can be a problem.
Like other ficus plants, this attractive variety doesn’t like to be overwatered. It’s drought-tolerant and so, if you water your Ficus elastica tineke when the top 1-2 inches of the soil is dry, it will be happy.
A good rule of thumb is to water once a week in summer and then every second week during the fall and winter.
If you’re growing your Ficus elastica tineke in a pot, make sure there are drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Terracotta (natural clay) pots are preferable to plastic pots because they absorb some of the water.
Be careful not to overwater your potted rubber plants. Never let it sit in water or it’s likely to get root rot.
Like many other houseplants and all other ficus plants, Ficus elastica tineke likes bright, indirect light conditions. It doesn’t like to be in direct sunlight.
As mentioned earlier, rubber plants can grow huge. But if you keep them contained in a pot or raised planter, and keep it pruned, you don’t need much space at all.
You can also split rubber plants and repot new growth for friends and/or family. Do this when the roots outgrow the pot.
Aim for an average indoor temperature of at least 55 ℉. The folk at the University of Arizona Campus Arboretum point out that rubber trees are particularly intolerant of temperatures under 32 ℉.
Remember that they don’t like cold drafts either.
Aim for medium humidity levels and mist the plants regularly. If your indoor environment is very dry, you may consider using a humidifier.
Ficus elastica tineke tolerates a wide range of soil types including clay and sand. But it prefers a well-nourished loam soil that drains well.
A combination of 3 parts potting soil to 2 parts perlite, can work well.
Feed your rubber plants every two weeks with a balanced liquid fertilizer during the warmer months. Only feed once a month during late fall and winter.
These ficus plants are particularly easy to care for. Once you find a good place for it, it’s best not to move it.
Clean the leaves regularly using a damp cloth to remove any dust.
Remove dead leaves regularly. If you’re going to prune your rubber plants from time to time, wear rubber gloves to avoid contact with the white sap the plant releases.
If your plants develop aerial roots indoors, you can remove them. While they stabilize rubber trees outdoors, they aren’t necessary indoors. Removing them won’t harm the plant.
You can grow new plants from cuttings but beware of the milky sap that oozes when rubber plants are cut. Wear gloves to avoid the risk of skin irritations.
The propagation process is simple. Cut a branch about 12 inches long and remove the lower leaves.
Put a small amount of rooting hormone on the cut end of the plant. Push the cutting into a pot filled with good quality potting soil. It should take 30-60 days for new roots to form.
Water and place the pot in a warm location away from direct sunlight. A useful tip is to place a plastic bag over the plant and pot to create a greenhouse effect.
The most common problem with rubber plants is dropping leaves. There are several reasons for this.
If the temperature in the room drops or plants are exposed to cold drafts, they often drop leaves. They also respond to direct sunlight by dropping leaves.
If you overwater your plants, and the soil remains wet, the leaf color will change to yellow and the leaves will start to drop.
Ficus Elastica Tineke Pests and Diseases
Ficus elastica tineke is amazingly pest and disease-free. To quote the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, “No pests or diseases are of major concern.”
Occasionally scale can become a problem. But if you catch it early, you can get rid of it fairly easily by cleaning the leaves by hand with soapy water.
Some growers find spider mites to be a problem. But, again, if you spot them and take early action, you will eradicate them very quickly.
The RHS warns that they are more prone to pests when grown under glass in a greenhouse. The bugs to watch out for, they say, are glasshouse red spider mites, thrips, mealybugs, and scale insects.
Where should I place my Ficus Tineke?
Because Ficus tineke isn’t native to North America and can become invasive, it’s best to grow it in a container or above-ground planter. In the northern hemisphere, it’s best to place it close to west- or south-facing windows.
You can also acclimatize it to brighter, sunny conditions. Let it stand next to a window that gets sunlight for a few hours a day and then pull it back for the rest of the day.
Eventually, after about a week, it will be happy in a sunny position.
If you’re looking for a relatively fast-growing houseplant that needs minimal care and maintenance, consider the pretty variegated rubber tree, ficus elastica tineke. Even though it is invasive in some parts of the world, it is a great houseplant that will create a bold statement in your home.
Our garden tips have all the information you need to grow and care for ficus tineke. It also gives some information about its history and where and how it grows naturally.
Why not give it a try?