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Ficus Elastica Tineke Vs Ruby (Differences and Similarities)

Both Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ficus Elastica Ruby are beautiful variegated varieties of Ficus Elastica or rubber trees.

They are both low-maintenance house plants with a dramatic, tropical look, and are sometimes confused for each other or mislabeled by sellers because of their similarities.

Whether you’re trying to decide which plant to buy or trying to work out which plant you’ve bought, there are a few differences between the two varieties, if you know where to look. 

In this article, I’m going to describe the main differences and similarities of Ficus Elastica Tineke Vs. Ficus Elastica Ruby.

The main difference between Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ficus Elastica Ruby is the color of the foliage. Tineke produces beautiful variegated leaves in green and cream, and the leaves of Ruby have a bright red flush. There are a few other differences between the two varieties, read on to find out more!

Differences between  Ficus Elastica Tineke Vs. Ficus Elastica Ruby

Foliage Color

The easiest way to tell the difference between Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ficus Elastica Ruby is by the color of the leaves.

The leaves of the Tineke variety are variegated dark and light green with cream, with pinkish veins. New growth has a pink tinge that fades over time.

Ficus Elastica Ruby has leaves with variegated green, cream, and a vibrant pink or red color. New growth is especially vivid and is the main attraction of this variety. 

Because of the pinkish color of the new growth of Ficus Elastica Tineke, it can sometimes be mistaken for Ficus Elastica Ruby. Remember that Ficus Elastica Ruby will have very bright red or pink sheaths and that the new growth of most Ficus Elastica varieties has a pinkish tinge.

When grown in lower light levels the color and variegated pattern of both varieties will fade and the leaves will become more solid green, becoming pale in very low light levels. 

If you notice this happening in your Ficus Elastica Tineke Ruby, move the plant to a brighter area as soon as possible! Another solution could be to install LED grow lights for the plants.

  • Ficus Elastica Tineke has variegated leaves in green and cream.
  • Ficus Elastica Ruby has variegated leaves in pink, cream, and green.
  • Both varieties lose variegation and color in inadequate lighting conditions.

Sheath

The sheaths of variegated Ficus Elastica varieties are often mistaken for flowers, but in fact, the sheath is the part of the plant which covers a new leaf as it develops.

On both species, the sheath grows straight out from the main stalk or secondary branches, in the same direction as the stalk or branch. 

The sheath of  Ficus Elastica Tineke is greenish, sometimes with a light pink flush. The sheath of Ficus Elastica Ruby is a deeper and more vibrant shade of pink or red and is what gives the variety its name.

  • Ficus Elastica Tineke produces a green sheath with a pink tinge.
  • Ficus Elastica Ruby produces bright red/pink sheaths.

Price and Availability

Both Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ficus Elastica Ruby are growing in popularity, and are quite widely available. Tineke has been around a bit longer as a variety and is slightly more common. 

Ruby is a newer variety and can be harder to find, and although prices of the two varieties are sometimes similar, Ruby is often slightly more expensive.

Expect to pay $20 – $40 for a small to midsize plant of either variety.

  • Tineke is more easily available than Ruby.
  • Ruby is often more expensive.

Similarities between  Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ficus Elastica Ruby

Growing Requirements

Heat

Both Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ficus Elastica Ruby appreciate an ambient temperature of 65°F to 80°F (18 – 27°C).

They can tolerate short periods down to 32°F (0°C) but will not withstand freezing temperatures, or any significant amount of time at temperatures below  50°F (10°C).

Ficus Elastica is sensitive to changes in temperature so it is important to keep the plant in a stable environment, away from drafts A/C units and heat sources such as radiators.

Light 

A damaging misconception about rubber plants of all kinds is that they are happy in low light levels. This isn’t true! While your Ficus Elastica plant might survive if kept in a dark corner, it definitely won’t be happy. 

In their natural habitat, the plants receive lots of light, and they grow best as houseplants when given the same treatment.

This is especially true of variegated varieties such as Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ficus Elastica Ruby.

Because non-green parts of their leaves can’t photosynthesize, these plants don’t make food as easily as their non-variegated cousins. 

Variegated varieties need lots of bright, indirect light to be able to make enough food.

When kept in insufficient light the leaves of Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ficus Elastica Ruby will lose their variegated pattern, becoming greener. 

The red of Ruby will disappear and the growth of both varieties will slow down or even stop. If you notice this happening in your Ficus Elastica Tineke or Ruby, move the plant to a brighter area as soon as possible! 

At least six hours per day of bright, indirect light will keep a variegated Ficus Elastica happy. Another solution could be to install LED grow lights for the plants. 

Remember that sunlight can burn plants, especially when filtered through glass (your window!) so be careful to avoid prolonged periods where the sun’s rays hit the leaves of the plant.

Water

Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ruby both like a bright, warm, humid environment with their potting medium consistently moist, but well-draining and never wet. 

Water requirements vary depending on plant and pot size, the surrounding air temperature, and location.

For a small plant in a pot of six inches or less, in an environment of around 70°F, a deep watering every seven to ten days should suffice. 

Bigger plants in larger pots will require more water as they grow, but less often as large pots tend to retain water.

Remember that water evaporates more quickly from smaller pots, and can hang around in the bottom of large pots so it is important to check your plants regularly, rather than simply relying on a watering schedule.  

As with most houseplants, overwatering is a bigger danger to Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ruby than underwatering. Overwatering can lead to problems such as root rot and eventually cause the death of the plant. 

Avoid overwatering your Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ruby by checking the first couple of inches of the potting medium before watering. You can use your fingers for this or a wooden cocktail stick. 

If the top two inches of compost is completely dry, you can water. In very large pots you should check an inch or two deeper.

Another easy way to check whether your plant needs some water, at least when it is small to medium-sized, is by picking up the pot and weighing it by hand. If it feels light, the plant probably needs watering. 

If you do this regularly you will quickly become familiar with how heavy or light the pot is during various times of your watering cycle.

Potting and Feeding

All varieties of Ficus Elastica like a rich, well-draining potting medium that is kept moist but not wet. Adequate drainage is very important to prevent root rot. 

Compared to many houseplants, Ficus Elastica is quite happy being slightly pot-bound. Unless you want to encourage your plant to grow faster, you only need to re-pot your Ficus Elastica every 2 – 3 years. 

Don’t increase the pot size by more than an inch or two each time, as fungal infections such as those responsible for root rot can develop in the unused potting medium.

Ficus Elastica plants of all kinds need feeding with a general-purpose 20-20-20 houseplant fertilizer once a month during the growing season. Taper off feeding when temperatures drop and stop feeding altogether in winter.

To Summarise
  • Keep both Tineke and Ruby at 65°F to 80°F  (18 – 27°C).
  • Both need at least 6 hours of bright, indirect light per day.
  • Use a well-draining potting medium and keep it moist, never wet.
  • Feed with 20-20-20 houseplant fertilizer monthly during the growing season.
  • Re-pot every 2 – 3 years.

Growth Habit

Ficus Elastica is native to India, Sumatra, Java, and Malaysia and enjoys a warm, moist environment with lots of sunlight. 

In these areas, both Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ficus Elastica Ruby can grow very quickly – adding up to 24 inches to their height in one growing season.  It forms tall, multi-stemmed trees which can grow up to  100 ft high. 

Elsewhere, especially when kept inside in pots, these plants are quite slow-growing. Growth speeds up with warmer temperatures and more light.

When kept as a houseplant, Ficus Elastica tends to have an upright, single-stemmed growth habit unless pruned, when it will form new branches from the pruning site, and possibly from the base of the plant. 

Pruning is the best way to encourage the plant to fill out, although many people appreciate the ‘beanstalk’ effect of a single-stemmed Ficus Elastica.

  • Grows up to 2 ft per year in natural habitat.
  • Grows more slowly as a houseplant.
  • Upright, single-stemmed habit.
  • Prune to encourage branching.

Height and Structure

Ficus Elastica plants of all varieties are capable of growing very large, fast -reaching around 50 – 100 ft in around 13 years in their natural environment.

Varieties grown as houseplants tend to be a bit smaller, and keeping the plants in pots restricts the growth to more manageable levels. 

Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ficus Elastica Ruby kept indoors will grow to around 9 ft in height and 2 – 3 ft in width over 15 years or so, depending on the conditions. In warmer areas growth could be a lot faster!

All varieties have a robust, architectural appearance which is very dramatic, especially as the plant grows larger.

  • Can grow up to 100 ft in natural habitat.
  • Grow up to around 9 ft when kept as houseplants.

Leaf Shape and Texture

The leaves of Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ficus Elastica Ruby are very similar, apart from the color. They are large, oval, coming to a point at the end, thick and waxy to the touch.

The leaves develop inside a protective sheath – emerging singly and unfurling as shiny new growth.

The leaves of both varieties can grow up to 12 inches long and are the plant’s main attraction, along with the colorful sheath. Inside the leaves and stems of the plant, a substance called latex is produced.

This is separate from the plant’s sap, and in Ficus species is understood to be mainly used for quickly healing any injuries that the plant experiences. (Source: University of Oxford

When the plant sustains an injury to a leaf or stem, whether due to feeding insects, nibbling mammals or strong winds, latex fills the wound soon after, hardening quickly to prevent further injury, infection and moisture loss.

  • Large, waxy, oval leaves up to 12 inches long.
  • Leaves grow inside a colorful sheath.
  • Leaves produce latex which is toxic and irritating to the skin.

Flower

Most species in the genus Ficus rely on specialized species of fig wasps for pollination, and so do not produce showy or fragrant flowers. 

In their natural environment, Ficus Elastica produces small green fruits, which need to be pollinated by wasps to mature. The flowers are inside the fruits and never become visible.

Plants kept indoors and in cooler climates rarely flower or produce fruits, although it is possible in warmer climates.

Ficus Elastica is not grown for its flowers. The main attractions of all varieties of Ficus Elastica are the beautiful leaves and sheaths. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the colorful sheaths covering new growth on your Ficus Elastica are flowers, no matter how beautiful they are! 

  • Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ruby do not produce typical flowers, especially as houseplants.
  • The colorful sheath covering new growth is often mistaken for a flower.

Taxonomy 

Let’s break down the names of  Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ruby. The ‘Ficus’ part is the genus – these plants are in the same genus as commercially produced figs, the popular houseplant Ficus Lyrata, or fiddle-leaf fig, and over 800 other species.

Ficus Elastica is also known as the Rubber Tree or Rubber Bush. Why? Because it produces a substance called latex, which was used in the past to make rubber commercially. 

This is where the common name Rubber Tree comes from, as well as the ‘Elastica’ part of the Latin name.

Plant varieties can be named after anything, but often are given human names or names which describe their characteristics. 

This is the case with Ficus Elastica Tineke and Ruby – ‘Tineke’ is a fairly rare girl’s name, most often seen in Holland and Belgium. ‘Ruby’ of course refers to the plant’s bright red foliage.

  • Members of the genus ‘Ficus’
  • ‘Elastica’ refers to the latex produced by the plant, as does the common name Rubber Tree.
  • ‘Tineke’ is a European female name.
  • ‘Ruby’ refers to the variety’s bright red sheath and foliage.

Takeaway

The differences and similarities of Ficus Elastica Tineke vs. Ficus Elastica Ruby are summarised below:

Differences Similarities
Foliage color: Tinke – greens, cream. Ruby – green, red, pink.Growing requirements.
Sheath color: Tineke – green, pinkishRuby – bright pink, red.Growth habit.
Ruby is harder to find and often more expensive.Foliage shape and texture.
No flowers

I hope you now feel better equipped to tell the difference between these two varieties of Ficus Elastica. Share your experience with these beautiful plants in the comments!