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Houseplant Profile-Rubber Tree

 

A beautiful indoor showstopper that is easy to grow can be found in the rubber tree or Ficus elastia.  What makes this plant a showstopper is the large, waxy, emerald green leaves perched on elegantly simple stems.  But the beauty is not limited to its outside appearance but also in its ease of care.

The rubber tree is a pretty easygoing plant that only has a few requirements.  First, it is easier to grow rubber trees from small plants verses a very large specimen, especially if it is going to be a houseplant.  Second, the light requirement of this plant is easy to meet.  Simply place it in front of a window that receives bright sunlight.  To keep it from burning, place a sheer curtain over this window.  Once this is done, the light requirement has been perfectly met.

The water requirement is just as easy to meet.  Most indoor environments are too dry so place the rubber tree near a humidifier or place the plant on a saucer filled with stones and water.  Either approach will add much needed moisture to the air.  As far as watering goes, only water once a month during the fall and winter months.  During the spring and summer, keep the soil evenly moist.

When in doubt though, let the rubber tree guide you in watering routine.  A Ficus elastic will begin to droop its leaves when the soil is too dry.  On the other hand, if the soil is too wet the plant’s leaves will turn yellow then brown.  The last stage of this process it the dropping of the leaves.

If either one of these situations occur, adjust your watering schedule.

To encourage leaf development, when a leaf falls off the plant make a simple slit in the node where the leaf used to be.

Rubber trees can be pruned to control growth but do not waste these cuttings.  When pruning or taking cuttings always make the cut at an angle.  Then, place the cutting directly into a good potting medium or place in a glass of water to root.

Another way of starting new rubber trees is through a propagation process called air layering.  This process is a little more involved but it is worth the effort.  To begin this process, one first selects a healthy branch and then pushes a toothpick through the stem where you would like to cut it back at.  Pack this area with premoistend Sphagnum moss and then cover with plastic wrap.  Once roots appear through the wrap, cut the stem off at the plastic wrap, remove the plastic wrap and plant.

The rubber tree is a welcome plant inside and out but keep in mind that this is a tropical plant and it will freeze if exposed to a frost.  So always develop a plan to move it out in the summer and back into its dominant home in the winter.

 

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Purple Knight Alternanthera

This ground cover likes partial sun to full sun.

It grows 16 to 20 inches (40-50 cm) tall, and 2 to 3 feet (60-90 cm) wide. It is very heat tolerant.

Its beautiful purple leaves make an excellent accent plant in the garden.


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