There are more than 850 members of the Ficus genus, many of which have become popular houseplants for many decades—and for good reason. Not only are they attractive and easy to grow, but they're also excellent and relatively hardy houseplants that can withstand a variety of different settings and even a certain degree of benign neglect.
Among the most popular picks is ficus pumila, otherwise known as creeping fig. Unlike its larger, woody-stemmed cousins, which want to grow into towering trees, creeping fig is a mostly well-behaved vining plant. Native to Asia, it can be grown in terrariums or used as a ground cover in larger pots, where it will prettily cascade over the sides of the pot.
Creeping fig is an eager climber and can withstand aggressive trimming much more than finicky varietals like English ivy. It's best planted in fall and will grow slowly at first, picking up pace as it matures. It can eventually reach lengths of up to 15 feet in length.
|Botanical Name||Ficus pumila|
|Common Name||Creeping fig, climbing fig|
|Mature Size||10–15 ft. tall, 3–6 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Partial shade|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Bloom Time||Rarely blooms|
|Hardiness Zones||9-11 (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Toxic to dogs and cats|
Creeping Fig Care
The key to a healthy creeping fig plant is to provide as much warm, humid air as possible, plenty of even moisture, and bright (but not direct) sunlight. However, it's worth noting that even very healthy and well-cared-for plants will likely only last a few years in their pots; ultimately their root structures are designed for aggressive and spreading growth, and it's highly unlikely your indoor plant will ever bloom or yield fruit.
If you want to keep your creeping fig plant around for longer than its natural indoor life, propagate the plant every other year or so. That way, when one plant declines, a new one will be waiting to take its spot.
Keep in mind, if growing your creeping fig outdoors, it can become invasive quickly. If you choose to plant it in your garden, know that you will have to prune creeping fig consistently to ensure it doesn't take over nearby plants.
Creeping fig plants prefer a bright spot in your home but do not like direct sunlight. In general, you should aim to give your plant six to eight hours of diffused, indirect light each day. They can also survive in low-light conditions for a bit of time, but will definitely grow more slowly and potentially drop some of their leaves.
Creeping fig plants can grow in myriad soil types, so long as they're well-draining. Typically, you can opt for any store-bought, soil-based potting mix. To aid in drainage and prevent root rot, opt to plant your creeping fig in a pot that boasts ample drainage holes at its base.
Keep your plant steadily moist, but don't allow it to sit in water. The soil should be allowed to dry out before watering again. Generally, you should water your creeping fig regularly (about once a week) during its growing season, but tapper off your cadence come fall and winter. If you notice the plant's leaves browning or dropping from the plant, it's probably getting too much water.
Temperature and Humidity
True to its tropical roots, creeping fig prefers a warm, moist environment. Temperatures indoors should be kept around 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and never allowed to dip below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The plant prefers above-average humidity levels as well, so consider keeping it in an already-humid part of your home (like a kitchen or bathroom), or invest in a space humidifier.
While creeping fig doesn't need to be fertilized in order to thrive, you can feed it to help with its growth rate. If you choose to feed your plant, opt for a weak liquid fertilizer and feed once a month throughout the spring, summer, and fall, decreasing to every other month in the winter.
Is Creeping Fig Toxic?
Though they are popular houseplants, many members of the Ficus family—including creeping fig plants—are considered toxic to animals like dogs and cats. The culprit lies in the plant's sap, which contains toxins that can be irritating to animals that ingest the plant. Though rarely fatal, care should still be taken to ensure your pets don't eat your creeping fig plants. If you notice your pet exhibiting any of the below symptoms, contact your vet immediately.
Symptoms of Poisoning
- Excessive drooling
- Irritation around the mouth
- Pawing at face or mouth
- Abdominal pain
- Mouth pain
- Watery eyes
Creeping Fig Varieties
Because of creeping fig's hardiness and vigor, growers have experimented with different varieties, seeking more attractive and interesting leaf shapes. Look for cultivars with variegated, almost ivy-like leaves such as 'Snowflake' or cultivars with interesting leaf texture. The basic plant has green leaves that are reddish or bronze when they first emerge.
Propagating Creeping Fig
Creeping fig is easy to propagate through stem cuttings. To do so, remove cuttings in early spring when the plant begins to start growing again. Pot them cut-side down in a small pot filled with sterile potting mix. Keep the container warm with high ambient humidity in a bright (but not sunny) location. When new growth begins to emerge, you can relocate to a more permanent container.
Creeping fig is vulnerable to a variety of pests common to the indoors, including aphids, mealybug, scale, and whitefly. If possible, identify the infestation as early as possible and treat the plant immediately with a horticultural oil like neem oil. It'd also be wise to move the plant away from your other houseplants as a precaution until all signs of infection are gone.