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Tropical houseplants

Burgundy rubber plant has place indoors and out

As fall turns into winter, we begin to spend more time indoors. I can’t imagine my indoor winter environment without all my amazing houseplants. Tropical plants are often referred to as houseplants when grown indoors, and they’re becoming more popular. The burgundy rubber plant, Ficus elastica, is a tropical plant that I used in one of my outdoor containers this summer. As Halloween neared, I brought it indoors, turning it into a houseplant. It performed flawlessly for me outdoors, and it turns out, it is a great houseplant.

While it prefers sun outside, it tolerates medium light indoors. Throughout the winter months, water it sparingly, ensuring that the top half of soil is dry before watering again. Overwatering can cause lower leaves to yellow and fall off. Avoid locations indoors that receive no natural light, have a cold draft (such as near a door) or constant air movement near a heating vent. Do not fertilize during the winter months, but resume normal fertilization in April or May.

Most tropical ficus are cold tolerant, even capable of tolerating a light frost. To preserve their beauty as a houseplant, it is best to transition them inside prior to Halloween or before a killing frost. Most ficus, when grown in containers, prefer to be a little rootbound. Re-potting is not recommended until roots are coming out of the bottom of the pot or you are having difficulty watering it. If re-potting is necessary, wait until spring and then grow it outside for the summer when possible.

The leaves of burgundy rubber plants are large and glossy, so regular dusting or sponging off while inside helps to keep them looking naturally shiny. The burgundy-leaf ficus is easy to care for and can grow in a variety of environments. If you have never tried it before, maybe this winter is the time to give this natural beauty a chance.

SHELLY NOLD is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207

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