Identification and Care of My Houseplant

Hi Judy,
Meet Murphy. He is a plant I recently inherited from my dear friend that just passed, he seems to need some TLC. It’s really important to me to keep him alive. I would really appreciate any help you can give me!

Hi Mj,

Murphy looks like a variegated Rubber Tree, but pictures can be deceiving sometimes. Just to be sure, could you tell me how large the leaves are and if they are thick or thin.

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Here are some care tips for a Rubber Tree plant.

Light: Rubber Tree houseplants do best in medium to bright indirect lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light.. The variegated varieties need more bright lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of light..

Water: Rubber Tree houseplants are a little difficult to water. Always allow the top 25-30% of the soil of a Rubber Tree Plant to dry out before watering. Keep the soil even drier when your Rubber tree Plant is in lower light or the room temperature is cooler. The leaves of Rubber Tree housePlants turn yellow from under-water and over-water. Perfectly fine green, burgundy, or variegated leaves may fall off from over- water.

fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small.: Rubber Tree houseplants do not need much fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small.. Feed a Rubber tree plant every other month when it is actively growing.

Temperature: Rubber Tree houseplants do well in warm temperatures between 70-80 degrees with a night time temperature around 65 degrees. Keep a Rubber Tree Plant away from cold drafts, air conditioners, heaters, and fireplaces.

Humidity: Basic household humidity is fine for Rubber Tree houseplants.

Pests: whiteflyWhiteflies are small gnat-like insects, covered in a powdery white wax; they feed on the sap of plants. This causes leaf-drop and weakens the plant in general. Whiteflies secrete a sticky substance called honeydew while they feed. The flying adults lay eggs on the tops of leaves, but it is the immature nymph stage, feeding unnoticed on the underside of the leaves, that does the real damage. Yellow sticky cards are a good way to trap the flying adults and prevent new eggs. Spray the Green Solution to get rid of the feeding nymphs on the underside of the leaves., scaleSoft Brown Scale is the most common scale that attacks indoor houseplants especially ficus, ivy, spider plants, ferns, aralia, and schefflera. It appears as small bumpy brown spots that appear to move. As the scale sucks on the sap of the plant it secretes a sticky substance called honeydew. The honeydew attracts black mildew. Because of the shell-like exterior, sprays are only partially effective against scale. Wipe off the lines of brown oval bumps with your finger, a cloth, or a child’s toothbrush then spray the plant with Neem Oil. Use the Green Solution to clean off the black mildew., and Mealy BugsSee a picture, learn to identify and treat Mealy Bugs, a houseplant pest that leaves sticky,white, cottony residue on houseplants. are houseplant pest that can infest Rubber Tree houseplants.

Diseases: If plant diseases such as sooty moldSooty Mold is a form of fungus that grows on the sugary honeydew secreted by aphids, scales, the whitefly, and other insects that suck the sap from plants. Sooty Mold is an unsightly black powder that can quickly coat the leaves of a plant in just a few weeks. The fungus itself doesn't really harm the plant; it just ruins the plant's appearance. Sooty Mold can be prevented by getting rid of the insects that secret the honeydew that attracts the Sooty Mold. appear spray all part of your Rubber Tree plant with the green solutionIf you don't want to use a commercial chemical product to treat plant pest problems try the “Green Solution.” This is a mixture of water, alcohol, biodegradable liquid soap, and mineral oil. Always test any spray on one or two leaves to be sure it won’t damage the plant. Depending upon how severe the infestation is, you can use these ingredients in varying proportions. If there are only a few pests, dip a Q-tip in alcohol and gently swab them off. For a more widespread problem, start by using a spray of warm water mixed with a few tablespoons of biodegradable soap. If that doesn’t cure the problem, make a solution using 8oz. water & 8oz. alcohol, add two tablespoons of biodegradable soap and two tablespoons of mineral oil. Spray all areas of the plant. Use this solution on leathery leafed plants (except palms), never on fuzzy leafed plants like African Violets or Begonias. For palms, omit the alcohol from the Green Solution. Never spray a plant that’s sitting in the sun or one with very dry soil.     diluted to 1/2 the usual strength.

Soil: Use a good well aerated houseplant soil that retains moisture but still drains well.

Pot Size:Rubber trees like to be root-bound in small pots.

Pruning: Cutting of the growing tip of a main stem encourages the plant to send out new shoots and become bushier. These plants are relatively pest free; but not dust free. It’s important to keep the dust off of the broad leaves, both for aesthetics and for the health of the plant. Two commercial products I find helpful are Pokon and Foliglo. Never use milk or mayonnaise to clean the leaves of your houseplants.; this attracts bugs and clogs the pores in the leaves.

propagationRead how to propagate houseplants by Plant Division at HousePlant411.com: Stem cuttings and air layeringLearn how to use Air Layering to propagate houseplants. are the best ways to propagate a Rubber plant.

These plants are considered poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants [Paperback]is an excellent reference to keep around if you have young children and pets. and should be kept away from pets and children. Read more about common houseplants that are poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants [Paperback]is an excellent reference to keep around if you have young children and pets. in Don’t Feed Me To Your Cat! A Guide to poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants [Paperback]is an excellent reference to keep around if you have young children and pets.