Around here, we’re huge fans of the variegated fiddle leaf fig, or ficus lyrata variegata. However, these trees are extremely rare, expensive, and difficult to care for. If you love the look of the variegated fiddle but have been unable to get your hands on one (or just aren’t confident that you can care for one), the variegated rubber tree might be a great alternative!
The variegated rubber tree, or ficus elastica variegata, looks fairly similar to the variegated fiddle, with wide oblong leaves decorated with blocks of dark green and cream. The variegated rubber tree can even have pink, red, and purple hues! This tree is also much easier to find than a variegated fiddle, and as a result is much less expensive. Many plant owners also find them easier to care for thanks to their sturdy leaves and greater tolerance for environmental variation.
This might be a great option if you want practice caring for variegated trees or just don’t want to go through the trouble and expense of acquiring a variegated fiddle.
Where to Buy a Variegated Rubber Tree
Variegated rubber trees sometimes pop up in home-improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s, and sometimes in your local nurseries.
But our favorite place to find them is Etsy. Just search “variegated rubber tree,” “variegated rubber plant,” or “ficus elastica variegata” into the search field and you’ll probably find at least a few listings!
Tips for Buying on Etsy
- Read seller reviews. Make sure the seller you’re considering is highly rated and has a good track record of sending healthy specimens!
- Try choosing a seller that’s close to home so your variegated rubber tree will have less distance to travel. That improves its chances of arriving in good condition!
- Check the seller’s refund and return policy in case your plant is harmed during shipping or dies soon after arrival.
You might be able to find variegated rubber plants on eBay, your local Craigslist, or online sellers. Just Google “variegated rubber plant” and see what comes up! Be sure to read ratings, reviews, and policies to ensure that the seller has a good reputation.
How to Care for a Variegated Rubber Plant
Soil and Potting
Variegated rubber trees prefer a light, fast-draining soil and a pot with drainage that’s about 2-3 inches larger than the root ball. We recommend Fiddle Leaf Fig Soil (ficus elastica loves it too!) or a nice light cactus soil.
Variegated rubber trees need plenty of bright indirect sunlight to maintain their coloring. Select a spot with lots of bright sunlight where your rubber tree won’t be directly in the sun’s rays, as direct sunlight can scorch the leaves. Filtered sunlight can also work. If your home doesn’t have enough natural light, you might want to supplement with a grow light.
Light is especially important for variegated plants because it doesn’t just promote maximum variegation, but improves the overall health of the plant. Variegated leaves contain less chlorophyll, the substance that gives plants their green coloring and is primarily responsible for converting sunlight into energy. So the green parts of the rubber plant have to work extra hard to supply nutrients to the white, cream, or pink parts of the leaves.
Don’t skimp on light!
Variegated rubber trees like slightly damp soil. Water when the top two inches or so are dry, or when a moisture meter reads 3-4. When you do water, add water to the soil until it just starts to drain out the bottom of the pot, then empty the drainage tray immediately.
Your variegated rubber tree will probably need weekly waterings during the summer, and might only need to be watered every 10-14 days during the winter. Always check your soil before you water!
Temperature and Humidity
Rubber trees are tropical plants, so they prefer warm, fairly humid conditions, though they tolerate most indoor temperatures and humidity levels well. Typical room temperatures work well for rubber trees, and be sure to keep your variegated rubber tree away from vents, furnaces, etc.
If you live in an especially dry area, you might want to set up a humidifier near your variegated rubber plant or place the pot on a shallow tray filled with water and some pebbles to create a little extra humidity as the water evaporates.
Like fiddle leaf figs, variegated rubber plants do best with a 3-1-2 liquid fertilizer like Fiddle Leaf Fig Food. Just mix a little into your watering can each time you water your variegated rubber tree, especially during the spring and summer. You can taper off during the winter, but Fiddle Leaf Fig Food is gentle enough to use year-round.
A Great Alternative to the Variegated Fiddle Leaf Fig
A rubber tree can be a much more accessible alternative to the variegated fiddle, and it’s a wonderful practice if you’re new to variegated trees in general. And if you ever do manage to procure a variegated fiddle, you’ll be well prepared to care for it.
Join Our Plant Community!
The Fiddle Leaf Fig Resource Center is here to help you learn the best fiddle leaf fig plant care and provide you with the tools you need to keep your fiddle healthy and strong. Explore our other articles, visit our online shop, and connect with other fiddle leaf fig lovers in our Facebook group to learn everything you need to know about fiddle leaf figs!