The Ruby ficus (Ficus elastica ‘Ruby’) gets its from its pink-colored variegations. As such, it called by many other similar names including:
- Rubber Plant ‘Ruby’
- Ruby Rubber Plant
- Ficus Ruby
- Variegated Rubber Tree
It Is native to the tropical regions in Southeast Asia, primarily India and Malaysia. As such, it enjoys warm, humid conditions. It is in this environment where you’ll see its lovely pink colored leaves shine the most.
It is likewise worth noting that the plant belongs to the Ficus elastica species. As such, it is a rubber tree or rubber plant, depending on who you’re asking.
It also has a few other siblings who look very similar to it. But, come with different colored variegations. They include:
- Ficus Tineke (Ficus elastica Tineke) – which has white/cream-colored variegations
- Burgundy Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica Burgundy) – which has burgundy colored variegations
There are likewise a few others as well.
In any case, it’s stunning leaves is what many owners love about this houseplant. And, as such, you’ll likely see it in some living rooms.
Ruby Ficus Plant Care
Ruby Ficus Light Requirements
Caring for your Ruby ficus is very much like that of its sibling the Ficus Tineke. You’ve probably noticed that the two are very similar even in looks, with the main difference being the color of their variegations.
As such, your Ruby ficus enjoys bright conditions. As long as it doesn’t sit under direct sunlight or too intense heat for long periods on a regular basis it will be happy.
For ideal results, indirect, dappled or filtered light is best.
Outdoors, it appreciates some shade to come with that light. This is especially true during the afternoons where the sun it at its peak intensity and during summertime.
As with other variegated foliage plants, it will need more light than its solid green leaved parent, the Ficus Elastica. That’s because it pink and whitish colored areas don’t contribute to photosynthesis.
This means that fewer sections of the leaves are able to produce food and energy for the plant. As such, to compensate for this, it needs more light.
What this means is that it won’t be able to tolerate low light conditions. Here, its variegations will fade as it tries to survive on less light. Similarly, you’ll see slower growth and foliage.
To help it grow evenly, rotate the plant routinely. This will give each side some time closer to the light source.
Ruby Ficus thrive when temperature is kept steady between 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is not a fan of huge climate fluctuations. So, avoid placing it in areas where the weather can change quickly. This is the case near open windows or doors. Similarly, locations near vents, fireplaces, heaters or air conditioners will produce the same results.
Because it is native to tropical regions, it cannot tolerate temperatures below 55 degrees. Although, it will survive down to about 40 degrees, it will already sustain some foliage damage by the time it gets there. So, avoid this at all means.
As such, it can grow outdoors all year long in areas that don’t experience freezing winter weather.
If you live in the northern part of the country, this means you can take the plant outdoors during summer. But, make sure to take it inside before the temperature drops to 55 degrees or first frost, whichever happens first.
On the other hand, your Ruby ficus will tolerate heat a little better. But, once temperature gets to between 90 to 95 degrees and stays there for a long time, you’ll see its leaves start to dry up faster.
Humidity is likewise not a problem indoors since the plant does well in normal room humidity. It’s ability to do well in regular household conditions (temperature and humidity) make it easy to care for.
As long as you keep humidity at 40% or higher, it will do fine. Most homes average between 30% to 50%, with the lower range happening during the hot summer or cold winters. The rest of the year, humidity stays on the mid to upper part of that range.
As such, you do need to see how low humidity goes in your area. If it drops under 40% consistently, you’ll need to either mist the plant or place it on a pebble tray with water to increase air moisture.
That said, ideal humidity for your Ruby Ficus is at least 60% or 70%. Here, it will grow at its best producing its most colorful foliage.
How Often to Water Ruby Ficus
Ruby Ficus does not need a lot of water. And, it can tolerate dry spells. Although, it is not a good idea to let the soil completely dry out. It is likewise unwise to allow the plant go dehydrated for long periods of time.
In short dry spells, it will quickly recover. As such, you can take 2 or 3 week vacations even if you don’t have anyone to water the plants. Ah, only if Alexa can do that for you too!
The one thing to avoid is overwatering your Ruby ficus.
This is a no-no, as too much water, short intervals or allowing its roots to sit in water will eventually harm the plant. If not modified, it will ultimately kill the plant sooner than later.
As such, it is a good idea to let the top soil dry before watering. This comes out to watering about once a week or so.
To measure this, wait until the top 2 inches of soil dry before watering again. As long as the soil is dry between 2 inches in depth to about a third of the soil (top 33% of soil), you’ll be fine. So, it is not an exact science.
And, you can wait a little more just to make sure. Again, overwatering is more dangerous than underwatering.
Thus, if you see yellow leaves or foliage dropping, it is time to reassess your watering. This often means you’re overwatering.
Do keep in mind that overwatering doesn’t necessarily mean you’re giving the plant too much water. Instead, it can mean any or a combination of the following:
- Watering too much each session
- Watering too often (i.e. not letting the soil dry enough between watering intervals)
- Using heavy soil or potting mix that retains too much water
- Not having a drainage hole at the bottom of the pot
- If outdoors, it can also mean watering when there is more than enough moisture from the rain
As you can see, there are many possible reasons why it can end up getting too much water.
Soil for Ruby Ficus
Since your Ruby Ficus can ultimately get damaged or destroyed by too much water, well-draining soil is a must.
Having the right soil will allow excess water to quickly drain out so the plant does not end up sitting in water. Just as importantly, it will compensate for the times you actually do overwater as it is able to remove the excess.
Thus, you have more leeway to make mistakes.
To achieve this, a simple potting mix recipe you ca use is 1 part peat moss combined with 1 part perlite or coarse sand and 1 part pine bank.
Ruby Ficus Fertilizer
In all likelihood, you’ll be growing your Ruby ficus in a container. This makes it size more manageable since in the ground it can grow up to 100 feet.
Of course, that is in its natural habitat.
Nevertheless, unless you have a huge backyard with lots of extra room, it does not make sense to grow such a big tree.
The thing is, potting mix which is used in container plants is very different from garden soil. The biggest distinction being that the former is often soil-less. This means you need to provide the plant with nutrients yourself.
This brings us to fertilizer.
Here, you want to be sure. That’s because like water, too much fertilizer will damage your plant. That’s because it contains chemicals. As a result, there is salt residue that’s left in the soil afterward.
As these salts accumulate, it can burn your plant’s roots and leaves.
The more fertilizer you use, the higher the chance of causing fertilizer burn.
What does this all mean?
It means know how much plant food to give your Ruby Ficus. And, when not to feed it.
- If you get your plant from the nursery, always ask if there’s fertilizer mixed in the soil. Odds are there is. The next question is what kind and how long will it last. This lets you know when you’ll need to start feeding it. Before that time, don’t feed it or you’ll “double up” on the dose.
- If you use compost and regularly add a new layer every spring, you likely won’t need to use fertilizer.
Otherwise, feed the plant once a month during spring and summer with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer. Don’t fertilize during winter as the plant is not actively growing.
Alternatively, you can use slow release fertilizer. Here, you only need to apply twice a year since the fertilizer pellets will release their doses at different times.
The latter is safer in terms of avoiding overfeeding. But, the former, which takes more work, produces faster results.
Ruby Ficus does not need plenty of pruning. However, it can still grow big indoors.
A lot of this will depend on the size of the container it is in, how much light and fertilizer you feed it.
Since it can reach about 8 feet or so indoors, you may need to trim it from the top to limit its growth. Similarly, pruning will help you shape the plant to what you want it to look like.
The best time to prune is during spring and summer. This applies if you’re going to do extensive trimming. For smaller jobs, you can do it any time of the year.
But, try not to prune more than a third of the plant in one session.
Instead, break the job apart to sessions with some time in between.
In addition to shaping and controlling size, also remove any dead or unhealthy leaves.
Ruby Ficus Propagation
Ruby Ficus are a little tricky to propagate via stem cutting. However, it is probably the easiest way to go about it. Rooting in water also gives you a better chance of success.
Here’s how to propagate Pink Rubber Tree at home.
- Take a small branch cutting. You want to get one that is about 4 to 6 inches long with a least a few leaves on it.
- Place it in water with the cut side down. Remove any leaves that will get submerged into the water.
- Keep the jar in bright, indirect light.
- After 3 weeks, you should see roots developing. The advantage of propagating in water is that you can see its progress.
- Once the tiny white roots get to about half an inch to an inch long, transfer the cutting into soil. Use fresh, well-draining soil and a small pot (about 6×6 inches)
- Keep the soil moist but not wet or soggy.
How to Repot Ruby Ficus
Ruby Ficus are relatively fast growers. But, they don’t grow quite as quickly indoors as they do in their natural habitats. As such, speed can vary depending on their living conditions including light, fertilizer, water, soil and other factors.
That said, you’ll likely need to repot a mature plant once every 2 or 3 years. If you purchased a young plant, it will grow faster which means yearly repotting.
When you repot, make sure to refresh the potting soil as well.
The best time to repot is during the spring or summer.
Do note that the plant does not like being moved. So, once you find a spot where it grows well, just leave it alone. As such, it also does not like being moved from it current home. So, don’t repot unless needed.
Whatever you do, expect it to negatively react when you do move it to a new home. After repotting, it usually takes 2 to 4 weeks for it to get over the shock of the process.
So, be patient and let it be. After that, it will begin growing again.
This also means only repot once you see roots starting to peek out from holes under in the container. Not any sooner than that.
Keep your Ruby Ficus away from curious hands and mouths. This includes kids, dogs and cats to whom they can be mildly toxic.
The plant’s sap can irritate skin. So, while the plant itself is not poisonous to touch, breaking the external layer by chewing or ingesting will cause mouth, throat and gastrointestinal reactions.
Mealybugs and scale are among the common pests that will attack your Ruby ficus. As such, be on the lookout for them. They often hide so regular inspection is key.
If you clean your plants’ leaves often, it is easier to spot these critters. Plus, removing dust helps increase photosynthesis. So the extra effort is well worth it.
When it comes to diseases, root rot is the biggest problem you want to avoid. That’s because it can be deadly. And, it can be very difficult, sometimes impossible to remedy if too much of the root system is already damaged.
The one good thing here is that is it completely preventable.
Overwatering is the #1 cause of root rot. And, by keeping the plant on the drier side you cam totally avoid all the headaches that come with it.
That said, if root rot does happen, the best thing to do is treat it as soon as possible. But, this is easier said than done because the roots are hidden by the soil. So, you’ll likely take your cue from the stems and leaves.
By the time this happens, the rot has passed it initial stages.
Here’s what you should do next.
- Take the plant out of the container.
- Brush off as much soil as you can. This will likely be wet or soggy. So, you want to get it way if possible. You can wash the roots as well.
- Trim off any dead or damaged roots. Healthy roots are white or whitish in color and firm to touch. Mushy, soft, black or brown roots are rotted ones. Take all those out.
- Repot to fresh, well-draining potting mix.
- Don’t water for the next few days to help the plant “dry off” a bit.
Depending on how extensive the damage is, your plant may or may not recover. If it does, it will take while before this happens. As such, it is best to avoid the situation or catch it very early.