Monday, July 20, 2009

Luxuriant, Evergreen Creeping Fig

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.

Return to Creeping Fig at goGardenNow.com.

15 comments:

sepiacharm said...

does it have to be planted in a bed? I have a patio with a large stucco wall, but the ground is flagstone.

John Marshall said...

A narrow strip of soil next to the wall will do, or you could put them in planters against the wall which would allow them to climb.

Dayna Caddell said...

I've tried to attach my creeping fig to a cinder block wall with tape (my only resource), but it won't adhere. I was told if I left it to grow naturally, it would eventually find it's way up the wall. Is that true?

John Marshall said...

That's true, Dayna. It will eventually find its way up.

Dayna Caddell said...

Thanks! I was losing hope. 😕

Unknown said...

How about chain link fence - will it cover well/fill-in?

John Marshall said...

It will eventually cover a chain link fence.

Dayna Caddell said...

Update... My creeping fig is doing GREAT!! Thanks again for this post.

Adrian Lai said...

Hi John, would a 6 inch wide and 6 inch deep continuous planter be sufficient for it to climb up 3 metres or more of an adjacent wall? I was hoping to do so with a total depth of 6 inches of mulch and lava stone (on top of drainage mats, etc).

Adrian Lai said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Marshall said...

Adrian, I believe it's deep enough, but it should be wider.

Christen Dromgoole said...

John, I live in Zone 8. I have blackland soil which is rich, but is a swelling and cracking black clay. We built a small maze (small in maze terms - 45 sq ft ) using steel poles cemented 3 ft into the grown and fenced with farm fencing, 8 feet tall. I would like to plant creeping Fig to cover the fencing and create a living maze. Will this plant meet those needs? Also, it would get full sun. :-/
Thanks!

John Marshall said...

Christen, I'm not so sure it would climb your farm fencing.

Christen Dromgoole said...

Thank you for the reply. :)
So, if I take the time and coax the vines and weave them through the fencing, would that help? I was under the impression that creeping Fig would cover chain link fences (even though this isn't chain link, it's similar - generally speaking).
Thanks again

John Marshall said...

Yes. Weaving would help.