The Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’ and Ficus elastica ‘Ruby’ are both varieties of the rubber tree, Ficus elastica. Due to their low-maintenance requirements and their beautifully colored leaves, they have become some of the most popular houseplants in recent years.
Because both plants are derived from the same parent tree, they share plenty of similarities and are often mistaken for each other.
The most glaring difference between these two plants is the colors of their leaves. The leaves of the ‘Tineke’ are a combination of white and green, while the ‘Ruby’ has a reddish blush on its leaves.
In this article, we will discuss both the differences and the similarities between these two Ficus plants. If you want to know more about either or both plants, then keep reading.
Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’ vs Ficus elastica ‘Ruby’
Both plants have a sheath that covers their new leaves. These sheaths shoot out from the plant’s central stalk and look like flowers at first glance, but in fact they are not.
The sheath of the ‘Tineke’ is green in color with a slight pinkish hue, while that of the ‘Ruby’ comes in shades of pink and red, true to the plant’s name.
Color of the leaves
As mentioned above, the most glaring difference between these two plants at first glance is the difference in color.
The leaves of the ‘Tineke’ are light to dark green, with pink and whitish veins. The pink tinge will fade over time, and mature leaves usually just have green and white as their primary colors.
The ‘Ruby’ also has white and green variegation, but the presence of pink and red on the leaves is much more prominent and vibrant. The red tinge is most noticeable on younger leaves.
When a ‘Tineke’ has a lot of young leaves, the pink tinge may be more apparent, which is one of the reasons it gets mistaken for a ‘Ruby’. Remember that, for the Ficus to be considered a ‘Ruby’, it really has to have vibrant red and pink hues on its leaves and sheaths.
Confusion is also possible when the ‘Ruby’ is kept in low-light conditions. When the ‘Ruby’ does not get enough light, the vibrant red and pink on its foliage will become paler and fade. You can easily correct this by moving the ‘Ruby’ to a spot where it gets more bright light. If there is little to no natural light during the winter, you can help the plant out by purchasing grow lights.
Both Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’ and Ficus elastica ‘Ruby’ plants have exploded in popularity in the past few years. This means you can now get your hands on either plant quite easily, the ‘Tineke’ more so than the ‘Ruby’ because this variety has been around much longer.
The ‘Ruby’ may be slightly more expensive than the ‘Tineke’, because it is a little rarer and also has a more striking and unique look.
Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’ and Ficus elastica ‘Ruby’: Similarities
Aside from the difference in the color, everything else is the same about these plants’ leaves. They have the same oval shape with a pointy end, and they have the same waxy texture when touched. The leaves can grow as long as a foot.
The sap in the plants’ leaves and stem is called latex, and this substance acts as first aid for the plant. It can plug up any holes or wounds in the event of damage by an insect or infection. Do not touch the latex, because it can be an irritant when it comes into contact with skin.
Ficus elastica plants come from countries in South Asia and are accustomed to growing under lots of sun and rain.
Both plants, in ideal conditions, can grow up to two feet in a single growing season. Rubber trees have been known to reach a hundred feet tall. Do not worry about your indoor ficus becoming a hundred feet tall, though. As long as it is planted in a pot, its growth should be much slower than in its natural habitat.
If you allow the plant to grow without pruning it, it should grow on a single stem. If you prune some leaves off, however, new branches might grow from the pruning site, which is how you can make the plant fill out and look more dense. If you prefer the single-stem look on your ficus, simply refrain from pruning it.
Both plants like their ambient temperature to be between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature can dip below 60 degrees, but not for extended periods of time. Because these plants are native to South Asia, they do not tolerate frost. Bring them indoors during the fall and winter to protect them from the cold.
If keeping it indoors, do not place the plant under an air conditioner or near a heater. The cold and warm air significantly affects the temperature around the plant and can also dry out its foliage.
Even though the ficus can survive in low light conditions, they will make the plant quite sad. Ficus elastica plants get plenty of light in their natural habitat, so it is best to try to simulate these conditions at home. The colors on the leaves will become even more vibrant and deep if the plant gets the right amount and type of light.
Place the plant in a spot where it gets bright, indirect light. The longer the plant is kept in dark conditions, the more the variegation will fade and the leaves will become entirely green.
Six hours each day in bright, indirect light should do the trick; also make sure you rotate the pot every three weeks so that all sides of the plant get their time under the sun.
These plants like their soil damp but not soggy. To achieve this, use a well-draining potting mix so that any excess water in the soil will simply drain away.
The frequency of watering will depend on several factors such as the weather, the season and the humidity where you live. Someone who lives in a dry, arid place with little to no rain will have to water their ficus more often than someone who lives in a place with cold winters and plenty of rainfall.
Make sure you take these factors into consideration, because you do not want to overwater your plant. Overwatering can lead to root rot and a host of other problems. Root rot is a condition that arises when the soil around the plant’s roots is always soggy, causing the roots to drown. The dead roots become susceptible to opportunistic pathogens that make the rot spread faster to the rest of the plant, until the entire plant is affected and dies.
The best way to know whether your plant needs to be watered is by touching the top two inches of the soil. If the soil is dry to the touch, water the plant, but if the soil is damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.
Repotting the plant
A potted Ficus elastica is slow-growing and will only need to be repotted every two to three years. These plants are fine with being a little rootbound.
When repotting your plant, change the soil and replace the pot with one that is just one size bigger. Use a terracotta or clay pot as opposed to a plastic or steel pot. Terracotta and clay pots allow better flow of water and air. Also make sure the pot has drainage holes at the bottom.
Fertilize the plant once a month during its growing season in the spring and summer. Refrain from fertilizing in the fall and winter, because the plant’s growth will slow at this time and it will not be able to consume all the nutrients provided by the fertilizer. If the unused nutrients stay in the soil for long periods, this can lead to soil toxicity.
Ficus elastica ‘Tineke’ and Ficus elastica ‘Ruby’ are both derived from the Ficus elastica, or rubber tree. The most obvious difference between the two varieties is the color of their leaves. While both plants have green and white leaves, the ‘Tineke’ only has slight pinkish tinges on its leaves and sheaths, while the ‘Ruby’ has more vibrant pink and red hues.
The ‘Tineke’ is a little easier to procure and a bit cheaper than the ‘Ruby’, but they are both popular enough that you should be able to get hold of either plant relatively easily.
When it comes to the general care and growth of the two plants, they are virtually identical.
Whichever variety you end up choosing, you can never go wrong, as either will brighten up any room.
Image: istockphoto.com / Olga Gubskaya