How to grow and care for Creeping Fig Indoors

Houseplant, Creeping Fig, Ficus pumila

Botanical name: Ficus pumila
Synonym: Ficus repens
Family: Moraceae

Creeping Fig is a lowly houseplant which is useful as a trailer or climber. It produces a dense green carpet and is one of the best indoor ground covers. It is native to East Asia (China, Japan and Vietnam). The Latin name "pumila" comes from the word "pumilus" meaning dwarf and refers to the very small leaves. The stems will cling to any damp surface, making it an excellent climber up to a height of 4 m. Its aerial roots produce a translucent latex that hardens on drying, allowing the plant to adhere to their support. It is also suitable for a terrarium, hanging basket, table top plant or on a shelf. It can become invasive, covering structures and landscape features if not maintained and its growth contained. As it climbs on buildings and wooden structures, the woody tendrils can cling or root in and damage structures and or their surfaces.

The Creeping Fig comes in many varieties like minima which has smaller leaves, variegata has white-spotted foliage, Rikki and the cream-edged Sunny among others.

How to Grow Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila)

Light

Creeping Fig prefers partial shade. Protect it from direct sunlight as it can burn the leaves causing dry shrivelled leaves. Learn more on how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

Water

Keep soil moist at all times for Creeping Fig but significantly reduce watering in the cold months. Avoid overwatering as it may lead to root-rot. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

Temperature

Average warmth with a minumum of 120C is ideal for Creeping Fig. Protect it from draughts. Find out more on temperature for houseplants.

Humidity

Average room humidity is ideal for Creeping Fig. Mist the leaves occasionally and clean them by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to get rid of dust. If the air is too dry especially where temperature is high raise humidity by more frequent misting or set the pot on a wet pebble tray. Creeping Fig can also be grown in a terrarium as a high humidity can be maintained in a terrarium.

Feeding

Feed Creeping Fig monthly during the growing period with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer. Withhold feeding in the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time can lead to fertilizer burn. Find out more on feeding houseplants.

Repotting

Repot Creeping Fig at the beginning of the growing season when roots begin to grow through the drainage holes; the plant prefers to be slightly root-bound. Use a pot 1 size larger and one that has drainage holes. The soil should be free-draining and rich in organic matter. Never allow the roots to sit in waterlogged soil as it may lead to root-rot.

How to Prune Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila)

Pruning Creeping Fig involves removal of dead and yellow leaves to maintain the plant neat and tidy. To encourage a compact and bushy growth pinch off the growing tips regularly. If the plant becomes unruly, cut back to rejuvenate growth. The foliage emanating from the pruning, can be used to propagate new plants. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.

How to Propagate Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila)

Creeping Fig can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season from stem-tip cuttings. Take 4-5 in. long stem-tip cuttings, strip most of the lower leaves and leave at least 2 sets of leaves. Stick the lower cut end of the cuttings in moist free-draining soil. Place the set up in a warm shaded place. Maintain the soil moist through out until new growth emerges. Allow the plants to be well established before transplanting.

Common Problems in Growing Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila)

  • Sudden loss of leaves
  • Waterlogging Creeping Fig will cause the sudden loss of the leaves. Other causes are low temperature, too little light, overfeeding and cold draughts.

  • Loss of the lowest leaves
  • This is a normal occurence in Creeping Fig. As the plant matures, a degree of legginess will be observed after a few years. Cut back the stems to rejuvenate growth. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.

  • Yellowing of leaf edges
  • Underfeeding Creeping Fig is the reason for this. Monthly feeding with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer through out the growing period is recommended.

  • Dry, shrivelled leaves
  • There are three causes for this in Creeping Fig. One is exposure to direct sunlight; the plant needs to be protected from direct sunlight or moved away from direct sunlight. Two is low humidity; raise humidity by more frequent misting or set the pot on a wet pebble tray. Creeping Fig can also be grown in a terrarium as a high humidity can be maintained in a terrarium. Three is allowing the soil to dry out; maintain the soil moist at all times and never allow the soil to dry out completely.

  • Pests
  • Common pest in Creeping Fig are Aphids, Mealy Bugs, Scale Insects and Spider Mites. Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to other plants. Keep the plant properly pruned at all times to reduce the hiding places for these pests.

  • Plant death
  • Creeping Fig is prone to root-rot which is promoted by waterlogging. Ensure there is free drainage of both the soil and the pot and also reduce watering in the cold season.

Toxicity

The sap of Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila) may cause a skin inflammation in sensitive skin. Always wear gloves when handling this plant.

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