Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila) is a climbing evergreen vine native to South China, Vietnam, Japan and to Malaysia. Its relatives include popular house plants such as Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina) and the Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica), and the familiar, edible fig (Ficus carica). The latin name, Ficus pumila, simply means "small fig". Though it produces a small, insignificant fruit, the plant is usually grown only for ornamental purposes.
Perhaps you have seen Creeping Fig covering garden walls in lovely cities of the Deep South. Clinging closely, it lends dark green softness to all kinds of structures. In colder climates it is used to carpet ground and cover walls in conservatories and greenhouses, or to cover topiary forms. The matting is usually about 2" deep, but can become deeper as the plant matures. Vines with no where to go may continue to grow, but hang away from the supporting structure.
Foliage of Creeping Fig is oval-shaped and ranges from 2" to 4" in length. Vines will climb anything up to 40' high, attaching themselves so tightly that if removed they take some of the structure with them. That shouldn't be a problem as long as the plant is intended to cover permanently. Surfaces that may require maintenance, such as wood requiring paint, should be kept free of Creeping Fig.
Creeping Fig is cold-hardy only in USDA climate zones 8 through 11. Temperatures in the lower teens will kill or severely damage it. Partial shade is recommended. Soil should be well-drained, slightly moist with pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.8. Mature plants are somewhat drought tolerant. It is deer-resistant.
Prepare the planting bed for Creeping Fig by cultivating at least 6" deep, removing all traces of weeds. Compacted soil should be cultivated to 12" deep. Add enough soil to raise the bed at least 2" above the surrounding ground level. This will help to promote good drainage, but prevent unnecessary run-off. Composted manure may be incorporated into the soil. Fertilizer may be used. If you choose to do so, incorporate 5-10-15 fertilizer at a rate of no more 2 lbs. per 100 square feet into the top 4" to 6" of soil. Avoid synthetic fertilizers contacting any part of your plants.
Plant Creeping Fig 12" to 18" apart. Dig planting holes into the cultivated soil a little less deep than the depth of the growing container. Place the plants into the holes and back-fill, watering as you go. Press soil around the root balls. Do not cover entirely the root balls with soil. The tops should be slightly exposed. Add a top-dressing of mulch around the plants, not on top of them, about 1" deep.
In addition to the species, Ficus pumila Variegata is also available. The white leaf margins are especially attractive.
Obviously, the primary purpose of Creeping Fig is to carpet ground and cover walls with a dense, green mat. But as mentioned before, it is wonderful for topiaries. Not only that, it is very attractive in hanging baskets as it drapes downward or climbs the basket supports.
The only negatives are that it can cover ground, as a good ground cover should, therefore it should be trimmed occasionally to keep it confined. The other negative is that, as noted before, it sticks tight to supporting structures and can be difficult to remove. So think ahead and don't put it where you won't want it later.
Ficus pumila is a fine plant that does it's job gracefully, producing a luxuriant, evergreen covering where it is needed.
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