The Ficus Tineke (Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’) is a member of the Rubber Tree species (Ficus elastica). As such, it looks very similar to the F. elastica except that it have beautiful cream-colored variegations.
Similarly, you may be familiar with some of its siblings the Ruby ficus (Ficus elastica ‘Ruby’) which has pink-colored variegations and the Burgundy rubber tree (Ficus elastica ‘Burgundy’) which has burgundy colored variegations.
Honestly, choosing between them is all about preference in color since they’re very similar in looks as well as care and behavior.
The Ficus Tineke is often grown as a houseplant. Although, it can get to as tall as 8 feet or so. You can limit is size by keeping it in a smaller container and pruning.
But, it is worth noting that if you want to grow it outdoors you’ll need quite a bit of space in your backyard. In its native habitat, it gets up to 100 feet high. Of course, it won’t be able to do so outside in North America. Nevertheless, it will still get sizable.
As you would expect, it I the beautiful cream patterns on its foliage that make it attractive. And, the good news is, it is fairly easy to care for as long as you know what it likes.
Ficus Tineke Plant Care
Ficus Tineke Light
Light plays an important role in keeping the Ficus Tineke’s beautiful cream-colored variegations. It needs plenty of bright light. But, it cannot tolerate direct sunlight.
As such, it produces the best colors under filtered, dappled or indirect light.
This means the best locations for the plant indoors is near windows. But, depending on the position of the window the exposure will vary.
- East facing window is ideal. It can tolerate some direct sunlight from the morning sun because the rays are not intense during this time. Also, the east receives a good deal of light during the day.
- West and South facing windows work as well. But, you need to keep the plant between 3 to 6 feet from the window opening. If not, provide some kind of shade cover for it. It cannot take intense direct afternoon sun.
- North facing windows are possible. But, it can only work if you live in the a sunny part of the country like Florida or Southern California. In cooler parts of the country, the plant may not get enough light depending of how your home is designed.
Too much or too little light both negatively affect the plants foliage.
- Insufficient light will cause its variegations to fade in color. But, they will recover once moved to a brighter spot. Dim areas will slow or stunt its growth. It will also produces both fewer and smaller leaves there.
- Too much light exposure, overly intense sun, or direct sunlight will result in sunburn spots on its leaves. These don’t go away. Thus, it takes longer to recover.
As such, when you see any of these symptoms, promptly move the plant to a better location.
Outdoors, the plant will be happy in bright light under partial shade. Since there is more light outside (because there are no ceilings and walls), you need to be more conscious about too much direct sun.
Ficus Tineke are easy to care for indoors because they are well-suited to climate conditions that humans like. As such, you don’t have to make drastic change the temperature or humidity of your home to accommodate the plant.
The Tineke does best when temperature is kept fairly consistent between 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Here, it will grow optimally and produce beautiful variegations.
Just as importantly, the plant does not like the cold. As such, keep it away from climates where temperatures drop under 55 degrees.
If you live areas of the country where it snows during winter, make sure to keep the plant cozy during between November and February.
Similarly, the plant does not appreciate temperature fluctuations especially downward. You also want to keep it away from cold drafts and breezes. This includes open windows, doors and air conditioning vents.
Similarly, your Ficus Tineke is fine with average household humidity. It will grow well as long as indoor or room humidity is kept at 40% or higher.
Most homes keep are able to achieve this kind of levels. But, winters and hot summers can be problematic because the air tends to get drier during these times (for different reasons).
Also, if you live in an area where relative humidity is low, you will need to take extra measures to increase moisture.
That’s because that plant’s ideal humidity is at least 60% to 70%. Given these humid conditions, you can expect it to grow at its best and produce more vibrant looking leaves.
As such, even if it is okay with regular indoor humidity, it may be worth the extra effort to boos air moisture around the plant.
The simplest way is to mist it 2 or 3 times a week. If you prefer a lower maintenance method, you can go with either grouping it with other plants or placing it on top of pebbles over a tray of water.
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Ficus Tineke Watering
In keeping with it being low maintenance and easy to care for, your Ficus Tineke also doesn’t need a lot of water.
While it does require more regular watering during the spring and summer because it is actively growing, you only need to do so when the topsoil gets dry to the touch.
In the winter, allow it to dry out a little bit more to avoid overwatering. That’s because the cold weather means it takes longer for moisture to dry up. And, since the plant is not actively growing then, it does not consume as much water.
You want to take these precautions because overwatering can be disastrous for the plant. It can tolerate a little too much water here and there.
But, allowing its roots to sit in water for long periods, dousing it with too much water each time or watering too frequently will eventually lead to root rot. If not detected early, this can destroy the plant’s root system. And, eventually the plant itself.
As such, you want to wait until the top 2 inches of soil is dry before watering again. The simplest way is to just stick your finger into the soil. If it feels wet at 2 inches deep, wait a couple of days before testing again.
If you find it difficult to feel dryness and moistness of soil, check your finger instead when you take it out of the soil.
Dry soil will not be muddy. Nor will any of it stick to your hand. Typically, it should easily fall off like grains of salt when you’re sprinkling it over food.
When you get that texture, it means the soil is dry. And, it is time to water.
You also don’t need to worry as much with allowing the plant to get dry a little more. That’s because it can tolerate lack of water every now and then.
Bottom line here is, stay on the more conservative side of things.
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Soil for Ficus Tineke
Since your Ficus Tineke dislikes too much water or standing in water, it needs well-draining soil. This is the number one feature to look for.
Well-draining soil will help prevent overwatering even if you happen to add too much water once in a while. That’s because it will allow the excess moisture to drain out.
In addition to this feature, light, well-aerated soil likewise allows it to grow at its best. This allows air and water to easily get to the plant’s roots.
A simple potting mix recipe that gives you all these features includes:
- 1 part peat
- 1 part perlite or coarse sand
- 1 part pine bark
The latter two improve aeriation and drainage, while preventing the soil from compacting. Do watch out for the latter with sand as it tends to happen after a while. Thus, refreshing the soil once in a while helps prevent this.
Peat on the hand helps with water retention. It likewise allows for drainage but not as much as perlite or sand.
Since this mix is soil-less, you will not get any nutrients from it. As such, fertilizer or compost are needed to keep the plant healthy.
Ficus Tineke Fertilizer
As mentioned, your Ficus Tineke is low maintenance. And, this is likewise true when it comes to feeding.
All it needs is liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength once a month. And, only do so during spring and summer. It will not need plant food during the colder months.
Alternatively, you can likewise use slow release fertilizer. This reduces the risk of overfeeding, which like water, can be a problem.
Many beginner often give their plants too much fertilizer believing it will help them grow faster and bigger. And, while that may work in the immediate term, thins quickly turn south as too much plant food causes fertilizer burn.
Slow release fertilizer reduces the risk of this as the dose is distribute over time. Although, you only need to apply this once or twice a year to your Ficus Tineke.
The pellet will “break” at different times to release varying doses throughout the following months.
That said, while both water-soluble and slow-release fertilizer work (albeit it in different ways), the former (which requires more work) actually products results faster.
Pruning your Ficus Tineke has a lot to do with 3 things:
Part of trimming the plant is because of its size. Indoors, it won’t grow as big it normally does outdoors or in its natural habitat. That’s a good thing because the Tineke Rubber Plant will get as big as 100 feet high.
Nevertheless, indoors, it can still reach as tall as 8 feet. This means you’ll need to prune it from the top to keep its size in check.
Similarly, as it gets taller it will also cover more space from side to side. This can be an issue depending on where you place it.
Appearance is another thing to consider. Yellow, brown, dry or dead leaves never look good. And, some stems can get leggy.
Pruning helps remove or fix these. It also helps the plant look fuller and bushier over time as new branches and growth come out from the trimmed areas.
Finally, there’s health.
Leaving dead, dying or diseased parts can slow down the plant. These parts will still nutrients and use energy, even if they’re not productive parts. As such, pruning them will allow your Ficus Tineke to focus its energy and resources on the healthy parts and new growth.
Spring and summer are the best times to do most of your trimming. But, you can do small clean up jobs at any time of the year.
And, you don’t need to be afraid of pruning the plant because it can take it. It is fairly robust not like other houseplants that are very delicate. That said, only trim up to 33% each time.
Lastly, be aware that the plant’s milky sap can irritate skin. While this does not affect everyone, you may want to consider wearing gloves just in case.
Ficus Tineke Propagation
Unfortunately, your Ficus Tineke is not easy to propagate via stem cuttings. But, you can still give it a try.
To do so:
- Take a stem cutting that’s about 4 to 7 inches long.
- Give it a little time to allow the sap to dry up. This can be an hour or more depending on how big the wound is and how thick the cutting is.
- Once the sap has dried, dip the cut end into rooting hormone. You can cut that end in a 45 degree angle to increase the surface area where the powder or liquid can stick to.
- Then, plant the cutting into a small container filled with fresh, well-draining potting mix.
- Keep it in a warm, humid place to encourage growth.
Ficus Tineke Transplanting & Repotting
Ficus Tineke are fast growers, especially if you give them ideal living conditions. However, this also means you’ll need to repot more often.
Do expect to move it to larger pots more frequently when it is young as it will outgrow its container fairly quickly. Unfortunately, you only want to move up in pot size incrementally.
As such, this adds to the work.
But, once it matures, you won’t need to repot as often.
A healthy Tineke Rubber Plant will likely need repotting once every 2 or so years. During this time, take the opportunity to refresh the potting soil as well.
The best time to repot is during spring to early summer.
The Ficus Tineke is mildly toxic. Thus, it is a good idea to keep it out of reach of curious kids and pets. Young kids, dogs and cats will experience unpleasant stomach and gastrointestinal issues if they happen to ingest parts of the plant.
Again, this is due to the milky sap.
So, while the plant itself is not poisonous, breaking any stems or shoots will release the sap causing toxicity.
Mealybugs and scale are among the most common pests that will bug your Ficus Tineke. These harm your plant by sucking its sap, which happens to deliver nutrients and water to different parts of the plant.
As such, over time, this will cause lackluster growth. And, if not corrected will cause the plant to weaken significantly.
When dealing with these pests, the simplest solutions are using insecticidal soap or pest oil. You can make your own or get some from your local nursery.
Root rot is a common issue that can happen to ficus if you happen to overwater them often. This is a dangerous disease because it destroys the roots. As a result, the plant is not able to absorb nutrients and moisture via its roots.
Over time, it will eventually die.
This is why it is important to avoid overwatering.
And, if you happen to spot any rotting roots, you want to deal with it immediately.
To fix root rot, you need to:
- Take the plant out of its container.
- Brush away the excess dirt. You can also wash the roots. But, do this very carefully as they can be delicate.
- Look for black, brown, mushy or soft roots. Ideally, roots are white, off white or light brown in color and firm. To help you visualize, remember the leeks or green onions you see in the grocery with he small brownish ends. Those are how roots should look like but lively and not dry. The ones in the market have been taken out so they’ve dried up for a while.
- Remove all affected roots using sterile shears, scissors or your hands.
- Repot the plant in fresh, well-draining potting soil. Make sure there is a drainage hole at the bottom of the pot.
- Don’t water for a little bit to allow the roots to recover.