The evergreen Ficus Pumila is commonly known as the climbing fig, the fig ivy, the creeping Ficus, or the Creeping Fig. It belongs to the mulberry family, and as the name suggests, it is indeed related to the fig, but it is technically a ficus.
In fact, it is one of the smallest ficus plants. It is native to East Asia, and in areas with a similar climate and it can make for a great addition to any garden. It is quite popular in certain areas of the United States, more specifically in the southern states.
Despite its climbing nature, it can also make for a great houseplant, with its luscious green vines hanging wildly over the pot. Some people even go as far as to use Creeping Figs as indoor wall decorations, giving their homes an exotic appearance. If you love boho/jungalow interior design style then this is the perfect plant for you.
About the Creeping Fig
- In Latin, Pumila means dwarf. This epithet does not refer to the plant’s overall size, since it can reach outstanding vertical heights. The name refers to the plant’s very small leaves, which differ greatly from the leaves of most Ficus plants.
- The most interesting thing about the Ficus Pumila is that it is the only member of the fig family that climbs vertically or crawls on the ground. It grows very fast, so if you plan on covering a pergola, you can expect that to happen in a maximum of two years.
- The plant requires partial shade or bright, but indirect light and it is happiest in relatively moist soil. As it is not pretentious in terms of light, it grows well under artificial light as well. It is best to choose a light color that encourages the growth of the foliage, as the plant rarely flowers.
- Even though it rarely blooms, the Creeping Fig can sometimes flower and some varieties can even bear fruit. A gel from inside their fruits is edible, and it is used in the Taiwanese and the Chinese cuisine. To extract the gel, one must turn the fruit inside out, allow it to dry, and then scrape off its seeds. Once the seeds are scraped off the fruit, the gel is extracted. It is later mixed with water to form a jelly known as ice jelly.
- The Ficus Pumila has an element of toxicity which can be dangerous not only to cats and dogs but also to humans. It is the plant’s milky sap which is toxic. It can cause mild irritations but even serious conditions such as phytophotodermatitis.
- Despite the toxicity of its milky sap, this evergreen is packed with nutrients, so it comes as no surprise that it is used for medicinal purposes. In alternative medicine, the leaves are used as an analgesic, and fruit decoction is used for joint ailments. In some countries, the plant is also used as a remedy for fever or vomiting.
Creeping Fig Features: An Overview
- If it is provided a vertical space, the Ficus Pumila will grow vertically for 6 or 12 meters, after which it will start spreading horizontally.
- The plant can crawl on the ground and it can climb on most vertical spaces. It can easily cover a pergola, a wall, or a fence.
- The Creeping Fig’s leaves are very luscious and silky when the plant is young. As the plant matures, the vines get woody and the leaves get thicker and leathery. The leaves also change their shape with time. When the plant is young, the leaves are heart-shaped and as the plant matures, they become oval. Regular pruning will maintain the plant young, keeping its leaves and vines soft and flexible.
- The Creeping Fig comes in many varieties, with different leaf colors, textures, or curlier vines. The Belus and the Sunny varieties are very popular due to their white-edged leaves.
- Indoors, the plant is grown in hanging baskets and terrariums. For potted plants, you can allow the vines to flow over the pot, or you can add a garden stake to the pot so that the plant can expand vertically. If you want a more unique design, you can use a topiary form of your choice, which the plant will cover with its luscious green leaves.
Growing the Creeping Fig
As it comes from a tropical environment, the plant prefers above average humidity levels. You can achieve this indoors with the help of a humidifier. If you don’t satisfy its humidity needs, the leaves will get crispy and brown around the edges.
Airflow is another matter to consider with indoor Creeping Figs. The plant needs to be kept in an environment with a constant temperature. Sudden temperature changes caused by drafts will damage the leaves.
To ensure a faster growth fertilize the Ficus Pumila once a month, but only during spring and summer. For the best results, use special fertilizer for indoor plants and opt for either a soluble fertilizer or for time-release granules.
If you want to plant the Creeping fig in a mixed pot or a terrarium, you can mix it with a purple waffle plant, a nerve plant, or a Dracaena plant. They all grow well in tropical environments, and their foliage complements each other quite well.
The plant can sometimes have an aggressive spread. It is not recommended to allow it to climb trees as it can hinder their growth. It can also damage some of the surfaces that it covers, so keep it away from fragile wood surfaces. Keep in mind that this crawling plant attaches itself to surfaces through a powerful adhesive, and it can sometimes be impossible to remove. It is best to keep an eye on it and prevent it from growing on unwanted surfaces.
Pruning does not require any special skills and it can be performed in any season. Simply cut off the leaves or the vines that seem too old or that disrupt the overall aesthetic of the plant.
Watering the Creeping Fig
As we already mentioned, the Creeping Fig is happiest in moist soil with good draining properties. For the best results, allow the top two cm of the soil to dry before watering the plant. The fig’s root ball should remain moist between watering sessions. If it dries, it will start dropping leaves. The plant needs to be watered more often during hot weather.
Outdoors, the Ficus Pumila needs to be watered regularly when it is young. Once it reaches maturity, you can leave it to fend for itself. It will survive well outdoors, even in drought conditions.
Propagating the Creeping Fig
In its natural habitat, this plant is only pollinated by the fig wasp. However, you can easily propagate the Creeping Fig through stem cuttings. Since the plant has a very fast growth rate, the cuttings catch roots fast and can be transplanted in individual pots in only a few months.
For the best results, propagate the plant in early spring. Make sure to water the plant well the day before propagation to ensure that the cuttings are well hydrated. The best soil for propagation should contain 2 parts of sand, 1-part compost, and 2 parts perlite. Saturate the mixture well and make sure that the new pot has good drainage.
The cuttings should be about 10 cm long and they should be cut just below a set of leaves. Cut the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting completely. For the best results, dip the end of the cutting into rooting hormone powder. Stick half of the cutting into the soil, allowing the leaves on the upper half of the clipping to rest above the surface. Press the soil around the cutting to ground it well.
Since the creeping fig loves humidity, you will need to create a humidity chamber with the help of a plastic bag. Place the pot in a bag and close the bag around the cutting. Make a one-cm cut into the bag to allow slight air circulation and to allow excess moisture to evaporate.
If the outdoor temperature allows it, you can place the plant outside, preferably in a shaded spot. Indoors, place the pot in front of a window that faces east, or give it indirect exposure from a growing lamp. Water and mist the new cutting regularly to keep it hydrated.
The new plant should grow roots in about six weeks, at which point you should remove the plastic bag. Allow the plant a few months before transplanting it to a bigger pot. If you plan to transplant it outdoors, autumn is the best season to do this.
The Creeping Fig is a very versatile plant. It is very low maintenance outdoors if the environment resembles its natural habitat but it can be quite a handful indoors. Since it needs to be watered regularly and it has high humidity needs, it is not recommended for a beginner gardener.
Nonetheless, if you commit to caring for it, this lovely evergreen will reward you with luscious green foliage which will give your home a sophisticated tropical vibe.