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An "excellent plant for beginners" '– that's how the Clemson University Extension describes the Rubber Tree plant (Ficus elastica). Caring for houseplants is a way to be a year-round gardener even when the weather is too hot or too cold to work outside. But if your efforts to grow houseplants have been less than successful, you may be hesitant to try your hand at other indoor plants. That's why horticulturists recommend the Rubber Tree plant '– it's a plant for the rest of us who aren't horticultural professionals! Big and Bold Leaves When you see a Rubber Tree plant, you'll be struck by its beautiful foliage. The thick leaves have a lustrous sheen that makes them look perpetually polished! But you'll only have to polish the furniture in your home because the Rubber Tree plant foliage is naturally glossy. And each leaf is substantial, growing to 12 inches long and 5 inches wide. If you'd like to add a touch of the outdoors with a dramatic houseplant that needs little maintenance, the Rubber Tree plant is a definite must-have. Grow a Tree in Your Home? Sure! You'll see container-grown trees as accents in all the fashionable interior-design magazines. They're desired by upscale designers because of their silhouettes, softness, and sometimes dramatic looks. The Rubber Tree plant is no shrinking violet. You will love its thick, glossy leaves and tree-like form. In fact, across its native habitat in Southeast Asia and India, it's an imposing tree that can reach heights up to 100 feet! But don't let that discourage you from growing Rubber Tree as a houseplant. In a container, its growth is limited and it typically grows only 6 to 10 feet tall. It's a perfect addition to a room with vaulted ceilings, where smaller houseplants become lost in the design scale. Even if you have standard-height ceilings, the Rubber Tree plant will add a stunning vertical focal point. Caring for Your Rubber Plant Pest and Disease Resistance You don't want houseplants that harbor diseases or attract insect pests, so you'll be pleased to find out that the Rubber Tree plant is naturally resistant to pests and disease. You can put away the chemical sprays because this plant is rugged! It Likes to Stay Put Once you have the perfect spot for your Rubber Tree plant, let it get settled in without moving it from place to place. It prefers to stay put in one location, and it may drop its leaves if you move it around. Rubber Tree likes consistent temperatures without wide fluctuations '– 60 to 65 degrees F at night and 75 to 80 degrees during the day '– and it doesn't grow well in cold, drafty spots. In the Landscape Rubber Tree has a very limited perennial range in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 10 and 11. If you live in these climates, you can grow Rubber Tree outside year-round, where its rate of growth is typically 24 or more inches each year. To protect it from too much direct sun, a northern or eastern location is best, preferably when it's planted as a foundation tree that's 25 to 30 feet away from the walls of a multi-story building. Watering Guidelines Here's a heads-up for you. Even though the Rubber Tree plant is naturally disease-resistant, you can inadvertently contribute to its susceptibility to a common fungal disease '– root rot. You don't want to give this plant so much water that the soil stays wet. If you do, the plant's root system can develop root rot. So when you water your plant, water it thoroughly until the excess drains from the bottom of the pot. Then wait until the soil is somewhat dry (not completely dry) before you water it again. It needs more watering during its active growing season than during the colder months. Overwatering can also cause the leaves to drop or to turn yellow. Although it's natural for the older bottom leaves to turn yellow and fall, if your plant has excessive leaf drop you may be watering it too much. Watering Tip 1: Use a commercially packaged soil-less potting mix that drains well so the plant's roots don't stay wet. Watering Tip 2: Use room-temperature or lukewarm water so the roots don't have a cold shock at watering time. How to Fertilize Your Plant When your Rubber Tree plant is actively producing new leaves, it's in a growth period. This is typically during the warm months of spring and summer. At this time, fertilize it every two weeks with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer that you dilute to half-strength. But when your plant isn't producing new leaves, which typically is in autumn and winter, withhold fertilizing it until the following spring when you see new leaves forming. In very warm and brightly lit locations inside some homes, Rubber Tree plants may continue to produce new leaves year-round. If this is the case with your plant, keep it fertilized. Fluorescent lighting in some offices may also stimulate nearly constant growth, so be ready to keep your plant well-fertilized! Tip: If you plant your Rubber Tree plant in a commercially packaged potting mix, it may already contain slow-release fertilizer. If it does (and you can find this information on the label), you won't need to apply additional fertilizer until the fertilizer in the potting mix is spent. The label will indicate how long the fertilizer lasts. Ideal Interiorscape Plant "Interiorscaping" is the counterpart to "landscaping" '– it includes the cultivation and design of plants in indoor environments instead of outside in the landscape. You can grow Rubber Tree with confidence because of its longstanding track record as an adaptable tropical plant that excels as a houseplant. And we can't say that about all houseplants. Growing some houseplants can sometimes be a little tricky, as evidence by so many discarded plants that just couldn't survive the typical growing conditions that are found indoors. A Lovely Addition to Your Office A well-placed Rubber Tree plant in your place of business eliminates the expense of filling a wall space or corner with pricey furniture. It's perfect for your company's lobby, reception area, or atrium. And because this plant doesn't need much maintenance, it will easily survive weekends when the office is closed and nobody is there to tend it. As long as the office's temperature is climate-controlled and the Rubber Tree plant stays in a heated space during winter, it will fare well. It grows best in bright-light areas, so as long as you place it where the light from a window or skylight illuminates it when the lights are off on weekends, it'll be perfectly happy! What about the Indoor Humidity Level for this Tropical Plant? Many houseplants need humid conditions to prosper because this kind of environment mimics their native tropical environments, and the Rubber Tree plant is no exception. But the difference between this plant and other high-humidity houseplants is that the Rubber Tree plant is more tolerant of the drier air found in homes and offices than many other tropical houseplants. You wouldn't want to place it directly beside a heating vent that could dry its leaves, but the Rubber Tree plant doesn't have to live in a sauna to perform beautifully! That said, if you can increase the humidity around it by using a humidifier or grouping it with other plants, it will truly flourish! Plant Family Relatives The Rubber Tree is actually a type of fig tree in the Mulberry plant family. Although it's related to the edible fig tree (Ficus carica), you won't be able to harvest fruit from your Rubber Tree.