If you’re after a houseplant that you can use as an accent or make a bold statement, you can’t go wrong with Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’. It’s tough, versatile, and easy to maintain. However, you must care for it properly to enjoy its ornamental qualities to the fullest.
Grow your ficus elastica tineke in well-drained soil, ensure 40-50% relative humidity, and keep temperatures in the 60-85 °F (15-29 °C) range. Fertilize once monthly, give bright indirect light, and water when the top 1″ of soil has dried out.
Ficus elastica is a close cousin to the edible fig, a broad species that’s indigenous to tropical cloud forests. Tineke sports drop-gorgeous glossy tricolor leaves of green, gray-green, and creamy white with hints of maroon. However, you must give it a good dose of humidity, indirect light, and warmth to ensure they grow splendidly.
The variegated rubber plant is easy to care for once it has acclimatized to its new environment. Keep reading as I remove any guesswork from growing and caring for your ficus elastica Tineke.
What Does a Ficus Elastica Tineke Look Like?
Also known as rubber plant, rubber tree, or Indian rubber fig, Ficus elastica tineke is one of the most beautiful houseplants you can have in your home. It’s native to tropical climate regions, so the foliage is often thick, lush, and glossy.
The leaves of a ficus elastica tineke are large, thick, and leathery. They feature a tricolor of variegated patterns in shades of cream white, gray-green, or green, often tinged maroon or burgundy. The coloration of the foliage is most intense and beautiful in bright light.
The flush of burgundy or maroon is often more pronounced in new leaves. You can expect this overtone to fade away as your plant matures. Young or mature, ficus elastica tineke is a burst of beauty and looks amazing as a potted plant in offices, entrance ways, living spaces, hallways, and stairwells.
You can use a rubber plant as a décor centerpiece, accent plant, or add pizzazz to a group of houseplants in your home. I love mine in my bedroom and living area because it purifies the air of formaldehyde present in carpets, mats, and furniture. Besides, you’ll love that it thrives at standard room temperature.
As a houseplant, ficus elastica tineke can stand anywhere between 2” and 10” tall. The leaves can be pretty large, spanning up to 5 inches wide and 14 inches long. Outside, the plant can grow well over 50 feet tall. When cared for and grown in the right conditions, ficus elastica tineke will be a great ornamental houseplant.
Ficus Elastica Tineke Care Details
|Origin||Southeast Asia, spanning Northern India, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanma, Malaysia, and Indonesia|
|Scientific Name||Ficus elastica|
|Family||Moraceae (Mulberry family)|
|Common Name||Rubber plant, Indian rubber fig, ficus tineke, or rubber tree|
|Max Growth (approx)||Around 10 inches as a houseplant; up to 20 m (65 ft.) as an outdoor tree|
|Watering Needs||Water thoroughly once every week using room temperature, non-softened water. Ideally, you should wait for the top 1-inch of soil to dry out before you water again.|
|Light Requirements||Your ficus tineke loves a spot that receives plenty of bright, indirect light. It can tolerate 3-4 hours of direct sunlight, though.|
|Humidity||Ficus tineke will do well in moderate ambient humidity of around 50%. You’ll need to occasionally mist, or a humidifier/pebble tray.|
|Soil||It loves well-drained compost potting mix, preferably sandy, loam, or a blend of both. It must be slightly acidic in the 6 to 6.5 range.|
|Fertilizer||Apply a standard water-soluble houseplant fertilizer once monthly from spring through summer. Dilute the fertilizer to half strength before application.|
|Season||Ficus elastica tineke grows relatively fast during spring and summer. It may lose a few leaves during winter if exposed to atmospheric conditions.|
|Temperature||Ficus tineke prefers warm temperature in the 60-85 °F (15-29 °C) range. Make sure temperatures don’t dip below 55 °F (12 °C) during winter.|
|Pests||Keep an eye out for mealybugs, scale insects, aphids, nematodes & spider mites. Use insecticidal soaps or horticultural oil to get rid of them.|
|Diseases||A few diseases inflict ficus tineke, most commonly root rot from infection by Phytophthora fungi. Foliar nematodes (Aphelenchoides spp.) and Anthracnose may also pester your plant.|
|Propagation||You can propagate your ficus tineke using 12” branch cuttings via either soil or water method.|
|Pruning||Prune primary branches during late spring and summer to maintain the desired height, shape, and bushy appearance. Avoid pruning in winter.|
|Repotting||Repot with fresh soil after every 2-3 years, or until it nearly outgrows the container.|
|Toxicity||The milk sap from the plant is mildly toxic to both pets and people. When ingested, it’ll irritate your stomach and mouth, possibly resulting in vomiting.|
|USDA Plant Hardiness Zone||Does well outdoors in zones 10b, 11 & 12, but may grow in zone 9 if there’s winter protection.|
First Steps After Purchase
Ficus tineke is one of the easiest houseplants to grow and care for in your home. However, you must take a few necessary steps to ensure it acclimatizes to its new environment quickly and robustly.
- Repot your plant: if it came in a plastic pot, re-pot your ficus tineke in a terracotta or a well-drained container. Ensure it’s at least 1-2 inches larger than your plant.
- Apply insecticides: You can’t be sure if your new plant is pest-free, so spray with insecticidal soap, neem oil, or other horticultural oils.
- Quarantine your new ficus tineke: It’s always better to err on the safer side. Place your new ficus tineke in a quarantine spot, away from the rest of your houseplants for 2-3 days.
- Ensure optimal temperatures: ficus tineke is very finicky about changes, especially with light and temperatures. Maintain ideal temperatures of 60-85 °F (15-29 °C). When subjected to a temperature drop, they’ll respond by losing foliage.
- Ensure soil is fairly moist but not wet: For the first couple of weeks, ensure the soil stays consistently moist. If it’s dry then soggy, you’re calling for waterlogging. Roots will become soft, mushy, and then die. Leaves will respond by yellowing, wilting, and eventually falling off.
- Give bright, indirect light: This is particularly important if your new purchase was in an outdoor nursery. If the light conditions aren’t just right, it won’t get used to the new setting for long. In fact, it’ll lose beautiful cream variegation and drop leaves. An east-facing window would be ideal.
How to Care for Ficus Elastica Tineke
Now that your plant has fully settled, it’s ready to flourish! Here are the basics to keep your ficus elastica tineke alive and healthy [indoors].
How to Water Ficus Elastica Tineke
Ficus elastica tineke is more likely to die from drowning in soggy soil than from getting too little water. Don’t use ice cubes or spritz some water on the foliage, either. You’re simply inviting diseases and tissue damage.
As a general rule of thumb, you should water your ficus tineke when the top 1-2 inches of the soil has dried out. That’s the cardinal rule. Otherwise, keep the following tips in mind:
- Let the soil speak to you: if it’s soggy, wet, and smelly, you’ve probably drowned your plant. Ease up on the watering can. If it’s dusty and dry, it’s time to water again.
- Don’t rely on counting days: Yes, I said that – you shouldn’t depend on day counting. That’s because the soil dries out at different rates depending on temperatures, season, lighting, and whatnot. For instance, you may have to water every 2 or days in summer, then only once in 2-4 weeks in winter.
- Use warm water: Coldwater is a big no-no. You see, the rubber plant is native to warm, tropical regions.
- Avoid overhead irrigation: Don’t splash or throw water all over your ficus tineke. If you do, you run the risk of pests, plus fungal or bacterial infections. To get the best results, water early in the morning or late in the evening.
- Use proper watering technique: Water a little bit first and wait for it to soak. Do this repeatedly until water comes out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Make sure to dump out the run-off after around 10 minutes.
Ficus Elastica Tineke Light Requirements
Your rubber plant prefers an area that receives plenty of bright, indirect light. As such, you can’t go wrong with an east-facing window.
While it can tolerate 3-4 hours of direct sunlight, avoid too much exposure. This will cause the leaves to wilt, sunburn, and fall off. On the other hand, your ficus tineke may lose its gorgeous cream variegation on the foliage if it’s getting low light.
Like most plants in the family, ficus tineke hates sudden changes in light conditions. If you’re transitioning from outdoor to indoor, do it gradually. If it feels light-stressed, your plant will drop a significant amount of leaves.
When it comes to temperature, ficus tineke can be somewhat finicky. Cold drafts, sudden temperature drops, and temperatures below 55 °F (12 °C) will stress your plant. You’ll notice leaf yellowing, a sudden drop of leaves en masse, and stunted growth.
Your ficus elastica tineke will thrive best in temperatures in the 60-85 °F (15-29 °C) range. Avoid heat vents, radiators, etc., as well.
Rubber plants are indigenous to areas where humidity can soar past 90%, such as tropical cloud forests. Even so, your ficus tineke will flourish in areas with 40-50% ambient humidity as a houseplant.
A terrarium, bathroom, or conservatory can be a good, humid spot.
Your home’s ambient humidity may not be enough, so your plant will appreciate help with humidity from now and then. To boost humidity:
- Group plants together to create a humid microclimate
- Misting regularly is an even more practical approach
- You can spray or spritz with water but add some insecticidal soap
- Place a humidifier closeby
- Put your plant on top of a pebble tray
Ficus Elastica Tineke Soil
Your ficus tineke calls for high-quality, well-drained loamy or sandy soil. You must mix in some compost and chunks of coconut fibers, wood, pine corn, or turf.
- It’s crucial that the soil has high drainage capacity and permeability
- Moderate nutrient content
- It’ll thrive for years in a 3-gallon container with drainage holes
- Your plant prefers slightly acid soil, pH 6.0-6.5 range.
Fertilizing Ficus Elastica Tineke
Your Indian rubber plant will grow well in moderately fertile soil. But it’ll appreciate a nutrient boost from time to time.
- Standard liquid and water-soluble houseplant fertilizers are ideal for your ficus tineke
- Fertilize once monthly from early spring through late summer for best results
- Reformulate the fertilizer to half strength before application
- Don’t apply fertilizer during the dormancy period (i.e. in cold fall and winter months)
Propagating Ficus Elastica Tineke
There are three primary methods you can use to propagate your ficus tineke:
– Air Layering
This entails removing or scarring some of the bark on a strong, healthy branch.
- Sanitize and dust the wound immediately with rooting hormone
- Put moist sphagnum moss around the wound and wrap it in a sheet of dark plastic to keep out the light and ensure moisture & humidity
- Check every 2-3 weeks for root growth. New roots should emerge in 2-3 months.
- Make sure the moss remains moist once the roots have emerged.
- Cut the cutting from the stem right below the main stem and plant it
– Propagating in Water
This is the most common method for propagating ficus tineke. Select top cuttings 7-10 cm long. Use a sharp sterilized knife to make the cuttings.
- Stick the wound immediately with candle wax or sanitize it with charcoal ash. Although optional, you can apply rooting hormone to the cut base.
- Remove bottom leaves, making sure a bud and leaf remains on the shoot
- Place the cuttings in a pitcher filled with fresh water
- New, tough roots should emerge 1-2 months later. From here, you can pot with fresh soil and provide ideal conditions.
– Propagating in Soil
You can propagate in the soil during warmer months of spring and summer
- Select 4-6-inch cuttings from the terminals of branches. Remove all leaves except for the top 1 or 2
- Let it rest for 30 minutes drain out the milky sap
- Treat the wound with charcoal ash and rooting hormone then plant in seed-starting potting mix in a one-gallon container with drain holes
- Keep the soil moist but not wet. Place the pot indoor in a spot with bright, indirect light
Firm, healthy roots will develop in 4-6 weeks.
How to Repot Ficus Elastica Tineke
- Gently dig up your plant. Tease the roots carefully if they begin to wrap.
- Trim off any dead, dry, or rotten roots.
- Fill the new pot with fresh, well-drained soil mix ¼-way
- Place your ficus tineke in the center and fill the pot with potting mix
- Firm the soil lightly with your hands around the plant
- Water until it runs off the bottom. Empty run-off after 10 minutes of soaking.
- Park your ficus tineke in an indoor location with bright, indirect light.
Pruning and Trimming
An indoor ficus tineke doesn’t require much pruning. As a mature plant, you may prune from time to time to remove unwanted branches and maintain its look.
Trim away any dead, diseased, or unwanted foliage, stems, or branches as needed.
Common Ficus Elastica Tineke Problems and How to Fix Them
Your ficus may be prone to root and leaf mealybugs, spider mites, aphids, and scale insects. Avid sap feeders like scale insects leave speckles and stipple on the leaves.
How to fix: Wash off pests with a strong spray of water. Now, apply liquid insecticides, horticultural oils, or insecticidal soaps according to the manufacturer’s instructions
Your ficus tineke is prone to a few diseases, including root rot when infected by Phytophthora fungi, foliar nematodes & Anthracnose. The leaves will likely turn yellow.
How to fix: Get rid of rotten parts, such as roots. Apply fungicides, or organic remedies like baking soda, charcoal, cinnamon, or chamomile.
Black/Brown Spots on Leaves
Black or brown spots on ficus tineke leaves are a sign of disease, underwatering, or sunburn. Mineral and salt burns may also result from over-fertilizing and softened water. Low humidity can also cause leaves to dry, brown, and wilt.
How to fix: Remove entirely brown/black leaves. Flush away excess salt from the soil. Water thoroughly and move to an area with bright, indirect light.
Ficus Elastica Tineke leaves Falling off
Ficus tineke will drop off leaves due to unwanted changes. This is especially true when you suddenly change light, temperature, or humidity conditions.
How to fix: Give your ficus tineke ideal conditions. For example, remove from low or too much light.
Ficus Elastica Tineke Leaves Curling
Curling results from cold drafts, pests, poor watering habits, low humidity, or too much light.
How to fix: identify the causative issue and make appropriate changes to your care
Ficus tineke produces a milky sap that’s mildly toxic to humans, cats, dogs, and other pets. It’ll cause mouth and gastrointestinal irritation that may lead to vomiting.
Ficus Elastica Tineke Care Tips
- Your ficus tineke will thrive in a warm, humid indoor spot that receives bright, indirect light
- Irrigate your Rubber plant using warm water when the top one or two inches of the soil has dried out
- Ensure humidity stays in the 40-50% range
- Inspect regularly for spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, and scale insects
- Avoid overwatering to prevent root rot
- Apply half-strength liquid standard fertilizer every 4-6 weeks in spring and summer