How to Grow and Care for Ficus Tineke

Variegated ficus elastica varieties variegata, or robusta tineke. Plant with tricolor leaves.

Lina Moiseienko / Getty Images

As far as tropical houseplants go, one of the most popular and easy-to-grow species is the rubber plant (Ficus elastica). Their oversized, glossy green oval leaves make a statement in any bright, warm room. If you want to make even more of an impression, opt for the easy-to-find cultivar ficus tineke (Ficus elastica 'Tineke'). The variegated rubber plant, as it's sometimes known, often features striking reddish-pink tones on the outside of the green and cream foliage, and the sheath at the top of the stem is also a deep burgundy-red color.

Although it's usually grown as a colorful houseplant, if you live in a region that remains warm and humid throughout the year, you might want to grow this ornamental plant in your yard. However, be mindful of where you plant it. Although it's not listed as invasive in the U.S., because it grows so rapidly in the right conditions outdoors, it's sometimes referred to as a bit of a weedy thug with fast-spreading roots.

Keep your ficus tineke away from curious pups and kitties. Like many plants in the genus, it's toxic to pets.

Common Name Ficus Tineke, Variegated rubber tree
 Botanical Name Ficus elastica 'Tineke'
 Family Moraceae
 Plant Type Tree, Perennial
 Mature Size 30 feet tall outdoors, 2–10 feet tall indoors
 Sun Exposure Partial sun
 Soil Type Well-drained
 Soil pH Acidic, Neutral
 Bloom Time Rarely blooms indoor
 Flower Color N/a
 Hardiness Zones 10-12 (USDA)
 Native Area Asia
Toxicity Toxic to pets

Ficus Tineke Care

Providing you can offer your ficus tineke the right light, these plants are a relatively low-maintenance option—ideal if you're a beginner houseplant enthusiast.

Dusting the leaves down and rotating the pot every few weeks helps the plant maintain its impressive variegation.

Light

Ficus elastica likes the type of bright, indirect light that mimics that found in its natural tropical forest habitat. Getting the balance right to maintain the unique variegation of the tineke cultivar is the biggest challenge for this plant. Too much direct light can scorch the foliage, but overly low-light conditions will see the pink hues on the leaves fade, there will be less new leaf growth, and your plant could become unattractively leggy.

Sitting your plant in an east-facing window usually works well, or setting it back from a south- or west-facing window. Your ficus tineke might appreciate a few hours of soft morning sunlight, but avoid direct harsh afternoon rays.

Soil

Ficus Tineke isn't fussy when it comes to potting mix. Providing it's loose and well-drained, you shouldn't have any problems. They often thrive in slightly acidic cactus mixes.

Water

You're won't have a high maintenance watering schedule with your ficus tineke. These plants appreciate it if you let the top couple of inches of potting mix dry out to the touch in between waterings. So watering once every one to two weeks during the growing season is usually enough, depending on the light and humidity in your home.

Although they like consistent light moisture (excessive dryness is a problem), leaving them in standing water leads to root rot, so slight underwatering is better than overwatering. A deep watering works well, but don't drip on the leaves as it can cause staining.

Temperature and Humidity

As you would expect of a tropical species, ficus tineke appreciates warm temperatures and moderate humidity. Ideal temperatures range from around 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You'll want to avoid this plant if your home regularly has temperatures lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit, experiences sudden temperature drops, or you can't position it away from draughts or dry heat or AC units.

Fertilizer

To see healthy growth on those large, glossy leaves, feed with weak, liquid houseplant fertilizer every few weeks through the growing season. Don't opt for anything too strong as this can cause straggly growth, and your plant can become rootbound fast. You won't need to feed your ficus tineke during the winter months.

Pruning

These fast-growing plants benefit from occasional tidying up to keep a neat shape, minimize leggy growth, and encourage the development of new, healthy foliage. Trim off straggly stems and unhealthy looking leaves. Any healthy stems you remove to create a more even shape can be used to propagate a new plant.

Propagating Ficus Tineke

It's possible to create a new ficus tineke by air layering, but this is an intricate propagation method and needs some skill to get it right. However, rooting new variegated rubber plants is fairly easy by propagating from stem cuttings. Propagation in the spring, as the growing season starts, sees the best results. Below are some tips for this straightforward method.

  1. Select a cutting of around 6 inches from a healthy-looking stem with at least four leaf nodes. Use a clean, sharp blade to make the cutting.
  2. Remove the leaves at the bottom of the cutting, leaving one leaf at the top. That way energy will be directed to the new root growth rather than existing foliage.
  3. Plant the cutting in a loose, well-drained soilless potting mix, ensuring you expose the top node above the mix. Dipping the cutting in rooting hormone before planting can help increase the chances of successful propagation.
  4. Creating a high humidity environment helps encourage rooting, so put an almost fully sealed plastic zip-top bag over the potted cutting. Don't allow the bag to touch the cutting (a chopstick works well for this purpose).
  5. Keep the potted cutting in a warm position with bright, indirect light and ensure it doesn't dry out.
  6. It normally takes around a month before the roots begin to fully establish. You'll know if it's been successful if there is resistance when you pull on the cutting.

Potting and Repotting Ficus Tineke

It's easy to tell when your ficus tineke needs repotting because you'll see the roots starting to grow out of the drainage holes. These plants are relatively fast growers, so repotting once every year or two is normal. Pick a pot that's only a few inches larger in diameter than the original one—opting for something too big can cause problems with excessive moisture retention that leads to soggy roots, and these plants like being slightly potbound. Fill the pot with new, well-draining potting mix, leaving a couple of inches at the top of the pot free to allow watering.

Common Problems with Ficus Tineke

While these plants have relatively easy-going natures, problems can still develop if they suffer from neglect or inappropriate conditions. Below are some things to watch out for.

Leaves Turning Yellow

One of the first signs that you might be giving your ficus tineke too much water is the leaves turning yellow. It can also be a sign your plant is in a position that is too draughty.

Always check the soil before rewatering. If the top couple of inches of soil still feels moist, wait a few days and check again.

Plant Leaves Falling Off

Underwatering can result in premature leaf drop. Although some leaf loss is natural (as your plant grows, foliage lower on the plant will drop off to focus energy on newer growth), letting your plant get too dry can kill off your plant. Premature leaf drop is a sign that you might need to up your watering schedule. Don't let the potting mix dry out completely in between waterings.

Brown Tips

Leaves that turn crispy and develop brown tips may be sitting in overly direct sun. Move your plant to a position where the sunlight is more dappled to prevent this from happening.

FAQ
  • How fast does the ficus teneke grow?

    Variegated rubber plants are relatively fast growers, and you can expect them to grow up to 24 inches annually. They can reach heights of up to 10 feet when grown indoors, but with the right conditions outside, they grow even faster and reach much taller heights.

  • How long can my ficus tineke live?


    Look after your plant well and it could live at least a couple of decades. These long-lived plants have been known to survive 100 years in ideal outdoor environments.

  • Why is the variegation fading on my ficus tineke?

    The biggest reason the pink hues disappear on these plants is because they aren't getting enough light. Although they don't thrive in spots with prolonged exposure to intense, direct sunlight, a position with access to bright, filtered light is important to retain the striking variegation.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. ‘Rubber Tree Plant’. Pet Poison Helpline, https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/rubber-tree-plant/.

  2. ‘Rubber Tree Plant’. Pet Poison Helpline, https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/rubber-tree-plant/.