Red Sheath On Ficus: Does Rubber Plant Flower?
The term “rubber plant” refers to any of several species of plants with leaves or flowers resembling those of the rubber tree (Ficus benjamina). They are native to South America, but have been introduced into many countries around the world. Some species grow only in tropical areas; others thrive in temperate climates.
Rubber plant flowers are not true flowers because they do not produce seeds. Instead, the male and female parts of the plant develop separately from each other.
When one part dies, so does the whole plant. The leaves and stems of these plants are used in various ways including food, medicine, decoration and as ornamental shrubs or trees.
What Is A Rubber Tree?
A rubber tree is a member of the family Fabaceae, which includes such familiar members as palms, coffee trees and fig trees. These plants are all members of the genus Ficus. The name “rubber” comes from the fact that when they dry out, their sap becomes sticky and rubbery. The word “ficus,” derived from Latin meaning “strawberry,” refers to the distinctive shape of the “fruit” of these plants.
Ficus trees have a long history of use by humans. Native populations of Brazil, for example, have had a long tradition of using the rubber sap from the ficus tree as a type of adhesive.
Indigenous people throughout Central and South America used other parts of these plants for food, medicine and ritual.
The first “rubber industry” in the modern sense was started by the Para Rubber Company in 1876, tapping the sap of wild Brazilian rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis). The Para Rubber Company eventually collapsed because it was unable to produce consistent quantities of high-quality rubber.
The next major effort to manufacture rubber came from the Englishman Henry Wickham, who smuggled 70,000 Hevea seeds from Brazil to London’s Kew Gardens. He successfully grew the plants in British colonies in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and by 1900, the English held a monopoly on the rubber trade.
While the English had a monopoly on growing Hevea, they lacked a monopoly on growing Ficus trees. For example, the United States had its own wild population of rubber trees (Castilla elastica) that were similar to Hevea brasiliensis.
In addition, many Ficus species were already in cultivation in the U.S. and had been used as ornamental shrubs since the 1800s.
How To Grow A Rubber Tree From Seed?
Rubber tree plants are available from specialty nurseries and sometimes big-box stores. Many exotic plant nurseries carry dozens of different types, including popular varieties such as the Harlequin and the Rainbow. If you are going to grow your rubber tree from seed, it is best to start with a plant rather than seeds because some of the seeds are slow to germinate and grow.
Plant your rubber tree in an 8- or 10-inch clay pot that has several drainage holes in the bottom. Put a few inches of small stones such as gravel at the bottom of the pot for drainage.
Fill the pot with a well-draining cactus and succulent blend and plant your rubber tree so that the top of the root ball is even with the surface of the soil.
Put your newly potted rubber tree in a place that receives bright, indirect light. Rubber trees prefer bright sun to very dark corners, but they should not be subjected to long periods in extremely hot or cold locations.
Water your rubber tree plant whenever the soil is dry to the touch. It can tolerate a little bit of underwatering, but too much will kill it.
Fertilize your rubber tree once every two weeks during the spring and summer with a cactus and succulent food. Follow the directions on the package for proper dosage.
How To Take Care Of A House Plant?
Most house plants, including rubber trees, need three things to thrive: bright light, water and fertilizer. Without one or more of these elements, your plant will not survive for very long.
Light: Most house plants need a great deal of light, so if you are keeping your plant in a dark area of the house, such as a hallway, bathroom or closet, it may never thrive. If this is the case, try to move it to a brighter area of your home.
(But don’t expose it to direct sunlight. Sunlight is too intense for most indoor plants.)
Water: Rubber trees like their soil to be moist but not soggy. Check the soil every few days and water whenever it feels dry to the touch.
Do not let the plant stand in water, as this will damage its roots.
Feed: Fertilize your rubber tree at least once a month using a water-soluble fertilizer designed for houseplants.
Repot: Rubber trees should be repotted every couple years. Repot your rubber tree in the early spring, when it is beginning to grow.
Select a pot that will allow the plant to grow for another year or two, but not so large that the roots are exposed or lying on the soil surface. Repot your plant into fresh potting soil and water thoroughly.
Propagate: Rubber trees may be propagated by seed or by the removal and transplantation of suckers into their own pots. Suckers are the smaller offshoots that grow from the bottom of your plant.
Carefully remove these suckers and transplant them into individual pots filled with potting soil. Be sure to allow them to form their own roots before removing them from the parent plant. Once the roots are formed, expose the new plants to sunlight for a few hours a day to strengthen the new roots.
Grooming: Most types of rubber trees have very smooth and polished leaves, so they will not readily collect dust. Dust them once every two weeks to keep them neat and glossy.
Common Diseases: Overwatering is probably the biggest disease that affects rubber trees.
Where To Buy Rubber Trees: You should be able to find rubber trees at most garden stores and plant nurseries.
1) Place your rubber tree in a spot that receives a lot of bright, but indirect sunlight.
2) Place several inches of small, smooth gravel at the bottom of your pot for good drainage.
3) Water your tree when the soil feels dry to the touch (about once every week).
4) Fertilize monthly with a liquid fertilizer for houseplants diluted by half.
5) Keep the area around your tree clean to discourage pests and diseases.
6) Check your tree regularly for signs of insects or disease, and address any problems as soon as possible.
1) Overwatering can cause root rot and mold or fungus on the leaves.
2) Underwatering causes the leaves to turn yellow or brown and drop off.
3) Cold drafts or cold air can cause the leaves to turn yellow and fall off.
4) Insects such as mealy bugs, mites and scale can all infect your tree.
5) Fungus such as gray mold or root rot can also infect your tree.
Rubber Trees are tropical plants that need warm temperatures, indirect sunlight and plenty of water to thrive. They are easy to grow if you can provide for these needs.
WHICH RUBBER TREE IS RIGHT FOR ME?
There are several types of rubber trees available for purchase. Certain species grow larger than others. The type of rubber tree you select will ultimately be determined by the amount of space you have available.
Hevea Braziliensis: Also known as the Para rubber tree, this species originates in Brazil, and reaches a mature height of 20 to 30 feet. It has dark green, glossy leaves and produces latex similar to that of the Ficus Elastica.
These trees are relatively easy to grow if they are provided with the proper warmth and sunlight.
Hevea Brasiliensis: This is the most commonly grown rubber tree, and is the type of plant that is tapped for its latex. Reaching a height of 20 to 30 feet, this species originates in Brazil.
The latex produced by this tree is similar to that of the Ficus elastica or India rubber plants. This species is relatively easy to grow if it is provided with the proper warmth and sunlight.
Ficus Religiosa: Also known as the India rubber plant, this Southeast Asian tree can reach a height of 40 to 50 feet. It has shiny green leaves and produces a white latex that is used in much the same way as the Ficus elastica.
This tree is not commonly grown in the United States.
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