11 Different Types Of Rubber Plants | Ficus Elastic

If you’re in the market for a low-maintenance houseplant, the rubber plant is one that tends to be overlooked. But this attractive, adaptable evergreen makes a great addition to almost any home.

As is the case with many popular houseplant species, there’s more than just one type of rubber plant to choose from. Some varieties are even rare enough to garner status as collectibles.

In this article, I’ll introduce you to 12 different types of rubber plants (including photos) and hopefully get you one step closer to adding one of these beauties to your own collection!

What Is A Rubber Plant?

‘Rubber plant’ and ‘rubber tree’ are common names for a variety of plants within the Ficus genus. Most of these plants belong to the species Ficus elastica.

Rubber plants are native to the tropical jungles of Southeast Asia. In their natural habitat, these trees can easily grow to 50 or even 100 feet tall. As houseplants, though, they usually grow less than 10 feet tall.

There are several different types of rubber plants available to grow at home. Most of them boast unique leaf colors and variegation patterns that set them apart from other Ficus plants.

Do Rubber Plants Produce Latex Rubber?

In the past, Ficus elastica plants were used to produce latex rubber. Today, however, this is extremely rare. Ficus trees are difficult to tap and simply don’t yield enough of the material to make harvesting their rubber commercially viable.

Nearly all natural rubber harvested today comes from the tree species Hevea brasiliensis. These trees are native to South America and have no significant relation to Ficus trees.

11 Rubber Plant Varieties You Can Grow

Most rubber plants are identified using leaf appearance. For proper identification, however, it’s also often necessary to look at traits like stem color, size, and growth habit.

Regardless, keep in mind that many types closely resemble each other and that it’s easy to mislabel one variety as another. Some even go by more than one name, adding to the confusion!

Unless you’re on the hunt for a specific, rare variety, I don’t think it’s worth stressing over the exact identity of a given rubber plant. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn more about what varieties are out there.

Robusta

1. Robusta

Ficus elastica ‘Robusta’

  • Ideal Position: Bright, direct or indirect light
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Mature Size: 6-12’

Robusta is often marketed as the ‘classic’ rubber plant but is still a unique variety. The key difference between this and a regular Ficus elastica is that Robusta leaves tend to be larger — up to 18 inches long — and very glossy.

These rubber plants are incredibly common in greenhouses, nurseries, and gift shops around the world. If you have a non-variegated rubber plant in your collection, there’s a very good chance that it is a Robusta.

Tricolor

2. Tricolor

Ficus elastica ‘Tricolor’

  • Ideal Position: Bright, indirect light
  • Leaf Color: Green, cream, pink
  • Mature Size: Up to 10’

Tricolor has variegated foliage that is predominantly sage green with patches of cream and muted pink. The degree of variegation can vary due to individual plant genetics and daily sun exposure.

The leaves of this rubber plant variety often have a deep red cast when they first emerge. As the leaves age, however, the red fades and gives way to tricolored variegation.

This variety may develop a multi-stemmed growth habit as it matures. If you prefer a tidier, upright appearance, routine pruning is recommended.

Burgundy

3. Burgundy

Ficus elastica ‘Burgundy’ syn. ‘Black Prince’

  • Ideal Position: Bright, direct or indirect light
  • Leaf Color: Dark reddish-green
  • Mature Size: 4-6’

Burgundy, also known as Black Prince, is aptly named for its dark, reddish-green foliage. With proper lighting, these rubber plants often appear completely black or reddish-brown.

The leaves are quite large and glossy when compared to variegated varieties. The midribs are often red or pink when viewed from either side of the leaf.

While the foliage is free of variegation, this plant still needs adequate light to reach its full potential.

Decora

4. Decora

Ficus elastica ‘Decora’

  • Ideal Position: Bright, indirect light
  • Leaf Color: Dark green
  • Mature Size: 6-10’

Decora stands out from other rubber plants thanks to its thick, leathery leaves. Compared to that of variegated varieties, Decora foliage is almost reminiscent of a succulent’s.

Most specimens are dark green but can also lean toward black or burgundy depending on light quality. The midribs are commonly cream or white from the top and may appear pink or red from the underside.

Tineke

5. Tineke

Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’

  • Ideal Position: Bright, indirect light
  • Leaf Color: Green, cream, yellow
  • Mature Size: Up to 10’

Tineke is both widely available and one of the most visually appealing rubber plant cultivars out there. It looks very similar to the Tricolor variety I mentioned above but without shades of pink or red.

Tineke leaves often bear a camouflage-like pattern surrounded by a thick margin of cream or yellow. While the midribs are usually cream, the petioles (leaf stems) may have a slight pink tinge.

Aside from Robusta, this is probably the most common rubber plant variety currently sold as a houseplant.

Abidjan

6. Abidjan

Ficus elastica ‘Abidjan’

  • Ideal Position: Bright, direct or indirect light
  • Leaf Color: Dark green
  • Mature Size: 6-8’

Abidjan is a dramatic variety of rubber plants with very dark green foliage that can appear black in some environments. 

The leaves have pinkish-red midribs that contrast nicely against the rest of the foliage. New leaves emerge from the top of the rubber plant covered in a bright red sheath. 

Some sources consider it to be synonymous with Burgundy and Black Prince. However, at least in my experience, Abidjan rubber plants tend to be greener than other dark-leaved varieties.

Melany

7. Melany

Ficus elastica ‘Melany’

  • Ideal Position: Bright, indirect light
  • Leaf Color: Dark green
  • Mature Size: 4-10’

Melany is a less-common variety with glossy, dark green leaves. The foliage is quite small in comparison to most other varieties, especially its fellow dark-leaved ones. It is also much more compact than the average rubber plant.

The most notable characteristic of this rubber plant is its tendency toward a multi-branched growth habit. With time, Melany will form a miniature tree shape. Alternatively, you can prune this variety to keep it small.

Yellow Gem

8. Yellow Gem

Ficus altissima ‘Yellow Gem’

  • Ideal Position: Bright, indirect light
  • Leaf Color: Green, yellow
  • Mature Size: Up to 8’

Yellow Gem is a type of colloquial rubber plant that belongs to a different ficus species entirely. However, it is closely related to Ficus elastica and is sometimes mislabeled as such.

This cultivar of Ficus altissimo is relatively new but quickly gaining in popularity. It stands out with large, bright green leaves that boast lime or yellow margins.

Yellow Gem’s variegation becomes more dramatic when it receives the perfect amount of sunlight. Insufficient light exposure will cause the yellow sections to fade or even disappear entirely.

Ruby

9. Ruby

Ficus elastica ‘Ruby’

  • Ideal Position: Bright, indirect light
  • Leaf Color: Green, pink, red
  • Mature Size: 6-8’

Ruby is a popular variety whose youngest leaves appear to be stained red when they first emerge. This coloring naturally fades as the leaves mature but can be maintained to some degree with adequate sunlight.

Without its distinctive red hue, the foliage is predominantly green with cream variegation along the margins. The undersides are often predominantly or entirely cream as well.

Genetics and light exposure play major roles in the appearance of Ruby rubber plants. While some specimens are just naturally less pigmented than others, I can’t stress the importance of high-quality light exposure enough!

Moonshine

10. Moonshine

Ficus elastica ‘Shivereana’

  • Ideal Position: Bright, indirect light
  • Leaf Color: Green, cream, white
  • Mature Size: 6-8’

Moonshine is a somewhat rare variety with mottled or freckled variegation across its leaves. The foliage is a mix of dark green, lime green, cream, and white depending on the plant and its growing conditions.

There’s a bit of mystery surrounding this rubber plant and its heritage. Many sources classify it as a cultivar of Ficus elastica. However, I’ve also come across information suggesting that it is a hybrid between this and another — potentially unknown — species.

The good news is that you don’t need to know Moonshine’s precise parentage to give it excellent care! Maintain it the same as you would any other rubber plant, being sure to provide adequate sunlight for the best variegation.

Baby Rubber Plant

11. Baby Rubber Plant

Peperomia obtusifolia

  • Ideal Position: Bright, indirect light
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Mature Size: Up to 1’

The baby rubber plant is a bit different from the others I’ve covered above. Why? Because it isn’t a focus. 

Despite the common name, this houseplant is completely unrelated to other rubber plants. Other members of the Peperomia genus are commonly known as radiator plants.

Baby rubber plants are incredibly small and compact, rarely growing taller than 1 foot in a container. They have round, cupped, glossy leaves that grow in an upright habit. Otherwise, their needs are very similar to those of Ficus elastica and the two species can easily be grown alongside each other.

Rubber Plant (Ficus Elastica) Care

Rubber plants are famously adaptable and easy to care for. Even a novice can grow this houseplant with relative ease.

Though it’s true that rubber plants don’t need much to survive, proper care does play a part in leaf coloring and variegation. So, if you want your rubber plant to look its best, follow the basic maintenance tips below.

Light

Rubber plants traditionally require bright, indirect light. With that said, a surprising number of indoor plants receive less light than they need. Inadequate sun exposure can impact healthy growth and fade leaf color and variegation.

The best place for your rubber plant is likely a south-facing window or similarly bright location. Remember that modern glass windows block a significant amount of sunlight, so any plant kept indoors is unlikely to experience sun scorch.

Water Requirements

These plants prefer consistently moist but never soggy soil. Water when the top couple of inches of potting soil is dry to the touch. Rubber plants are not drought-tolerant, so avoid letting the soil dry out completely.

Temperature & Humidity

Rubber plants enjoy average household temperatures between 60 and 75°F. Unlike other tropical houseplants, humidity is not a major concern (but humidity around 40 to 50% is ideal).

Soil

Plant in any all-purpose, well-draining potting soil. According to The Spruce, cactus and succulent soil can also be used.

Fertilizer

You can fertilize rubber plants throughout the active growing season using a diluted liquid houseplant fertilizer. According to Clemson University, this is ideally done every 2 weeks. 

Note that plants growing in low-light conditions generally require less fertilizer. Feeding too often for the amount of sunlight received will encourage leggy growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Black Prince And Burgundy Rubber Plants The Same?

Yes, ‘Black Prince’ and ‘Burgundy’ are two names given to the same variety of rubber plants or Ficus elastica. These plants have dark, glossy leaves that may appear red or black in the right conditions. 

Are Rubber Plants A Type Of Ficus Tree?

The rubber plants commonly kept as houseplants (Ficus elastica) are a type of Ficus tree. They are closely related to other popular Ficus species like the weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) and fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata).

Citations

Image Credits

fc0f28385ebd56da36c2bbe134f43736?s=150&d=mp&r=g
 | Website

Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.