Burgundy Rubber Plant
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The Burgundy Rubber Plant, or Ficus elastica, originates from tropical Southeast Asia, but can also be found wild in parts of the South American rainforests.
They are often referred to as a tree; understandably as in their natural habitat, they can grow impressively large. Their trunks can become around 80 inches (2m) thick, and they can reportedly reach heights of up to 100 ft tall, or 30m.
Don't worry though, your indoor Burgundy Rubber Plant won't end up massively dwarfing your home in this way. As a houseplant, they don't tend to exceed heights of around 6ft 5 (or roughly 2m), which in itself is admittedly still very tall!
They also grow relatively slowly, so if you start off with a young plant it will be a long time before it reaches any significant height. Additionally, if you really want to restrict its growth, you can keep it in a smaller pot.
Burgundy Rubber Plants like to be kept in part sun, part shade. If the sunlight is too strong in your home, try adding a sheer curtain to your window to help filter the light.
Want it to branch? Cut off the top with a clean and sharp pair of scissors / garden shears. The best time to do this is during summer.
Despite their rainforest home, these plants don't like to sit in water: make sure they're planted in a well-draining soil, and allow the topmost layer to dry out between waterings.
As Burgundy Rubber Plant leaves can grow quite large, they can gather dust quite easily over time. Therefore, it's a good idea to clean them every few months or so. Just take a warm, damp cloth and gently wipe both sides of the leaves from time to time. This will help your plant to photosynthesize effectively, as too much dust buildup can prevent sufficient light uptake.
The Burgundy Rubber Plant gets its name from its rich, dark coloring, as well as from the latex sap that mature plants (over 6 years old) produce. This sap is an important part of the process of rubber manufacturing all over the world.
In fact, the natural rubber produced by these plants has been used as long ago as the Aztec era, where they used this plant to make shoes, as well as to help waterproof their clothing and to create balls to be used in sport / games.
Although it has its many uses, this latex unfortunately makes Burgundy Rubber Plants unsafe for cats and dogs, and should additionally be avoided by people with latex allergies.
Burgundy Rubber Plants will continue to produce this sap throughout their entire lives, although productivity can potentially decrease with age. Harvesting the latex can be done by tapping a tree (we don't recommend you try this yourself!) and does not cause any harm to the plant.