This month we have a stunner for you. The beautiful, stylish and tough Ficus Elastica Tineke! You may be familiar with its more popular siblings Ficus Elastica Ruby, which has some pink in the variegation, and Ficus Elastica Burgundy which is a deep burgundy colour. The lovely Tineke can hold its own amongst its siblings, though. It's simple green and cream splashed leaves can add a subtle pop of colour to modern styled homes.
The collaboration for this month at Botanic Box is something really special as well. From Makers Keepers, a Brisbane-based ceramicist, we are proud to present our subscribers with a beautiful versatile hand-made ceramic dish. There are so many uses for a dish like this, such as a jewellery holder or air plant dish.
For our subscribers, once you have received your plant, place your Tineke in bright indirect light for a couple of days to give it some time to recover. It will spring back from the stress of being in transit in no time.
How do I Keep it Alive?
Ficus Elastica, or Rubber Plants as they are more commonly called, can reach tree size (3m or higher) in their natural habitat. The Tineke variety, however, only grows to 1m high and wide making it the perfect size for indoors. Here is how to keep one alive and happy inside your home.
For the light requirements, Ficus Tineke will need bright indirect light. Place it near a window indoors so it receives enough light. Usually a metre or two from the window is ideal, but not in the path of the sun's rays. They are tough plants so they can survive in a harsh position for a while. But if you start seeing symptoms such as leaf drop (not enough light) or sunburn patches (too much light) then I would move it accordingly. If you want to place it outside, a part shade position is perfect.
As an indoor plant, the Tineke will need a water probably once a week and even less if it's in a dark spot with no air circulation. However a good rule of thumb is that each time before you water check if the soil is moist first. To get a good indication, insert a finger into the soil up to the second knuckle. If it's still moist leave it for a couple of days and then try again.The Ficus Tineke can take a moderate amount of water, but the worst thing you can do is overwater it. Ficus don’t mind drying out for a short period of time every once in a while but can’t recover once the roots have rotted from being too wet. They love free-draining, aerated potting mix. You can open up your existing potting mix by adding fine composted bark chips (such as the bark chips used for orchid mixes) or adding perlite.
Most plants we buy from the nursery come with a slow release fertiliser mixed into the soil, and these Tineke are no different. A couple months down the track your Ficus will need a little boost. There are two options when it comes to fertiliser.
The first option, which I like to use, is a slow release granular fertiliser. One easy application can last anywhere from 6 to 12 months. The second option is a water soluble fertiliser, which may be applied every couple of weeks. Although it has to be applied more often, it is fast acting and shows results quicker.
‘How do I deal with pests?’
The main pests you will see on the Ficus Tineke are sap-sucking bugs such as scale and mealybug. They like to hide and can be hard to spot, so keep a close eye on your Ficus. Grab some pest oil/white oil from your local nursery and this will be your new best friend! It doubles as a pest-killer (it works by suffocating the bugs with oil, so won’t fill your home with nasty chemicals) and also as a leaf shine (to keep the leaves clean and glossy). Spraying with white oil and wiping down the leaves every now and then can be a good way to prevent the build up of dust on the leaves and also keep those pesky pests at bay.
‘It’s getting too big!’
Ficus can be quick growers if they’re happy, so if your plant has outgrown its pot, you’re doing a good job. Pot it up into a larger pot with free-draining good quality potting mix. On the other hand, if you’d like to keep it small don’t be afraid of giving it a trim instead of repotting it. Use secateurs to trim any long branches. You can take them back by a third and the ficus will regrow from below the cut to form a thicker, bushier plant.
‘The leaves are dropping!’
This could be due to one of two things. Either the soil is too wet and the roots have rotted or it’s not getting enough sunlight. Put a finger down into the soil to check whether it's wet or not, this will give you an indication as to which problem you have. To solve root rot, take the plant out of its pot and wash the roots gently with water. Remove any brown, rotten, or mushy roots with a pair of secateurs or your hands. Then repot the plant in new free-draining media. Make sure the pot you plant into has drainage. This is key!
I hope this care guide came in handy for some of you, and I wish you all the best of luck! If you have any questions or plant problems, feel free to let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!