Check out this guide that takes you through everything you need to know when it comes to caring for your Ficus pumila, the common problems associated with the houseplant, as well as few related questions that might cross your mind when growing those bright green vines.
Ficus pumila Care Basics
Ficus pumila is amazingly easy to grow and care for. Although it calls for keeping it at a size that suits the place of installment around the house, getting it all done seems effortless when you ensure the below ideal growth conditions for the plant.
The plant is very versatile when it comes to the soil used for its growth. Although, most aerated potting soil blends work just perfect for creeping fig, going for an organic peat-based potting soil works wonders for the same. Also, make sure you choose a mix that drains quickly.
Ficus pumila is not very demanding when it comes to lighting, and it can grow in almost all lighting conditions. Although it can grow well when placed in the shade or when exposed to indirect sunlight, the plant can’t survive in plenty of direct sunlight as well as complete darkness. A favorable factor is that you can grow creeping figs even under artificial light if it comes from a strong enough source.
Water a young Ficus pumila frequently to allow the plant to develop roots. Once matured, the plant doesn’t require watering as often as it draws more water from the soil. Make sure that there’s good drainage in the soil, while also removing excess water from the tray after watering the plant if you are growing it in a pot.
Water your creeping figs less frequently in the colder months, but make sure that the soil doesn’t entirely dry out.
Mid climates work perfectly when it comes to growing Ficus pumila outside. The plant thrives greatly in a favorable temperature range of 55 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This range makes it difficult for the plant to thrive in cold winter months, but you can always grow the plant inside during those months.
This also makes it a great option for sprucing up the look of the exterior as well as the interior of your home with some fresh, bright green foliage.
Creeping fig requires a humid surrounding, so you may need to provide the plant artificial sources of humidity if you live in a dry climate region. If your climbing figs grow vertically on a wall or fence, simply keep water-filled trays next to the base of the plant.
The gradual evaporation of water creates a more suitable condition for your creeping fig. For indoor creeping figs, Humidity is an equally essential element for indoor creeping figs as for the outdoor vines.
Apart from placing trays for the potted plants, you also need to make sure that the creeping fig doesn’t sit on a dry window sill for long hours. Using an artificial air humidifier or spraying the plant with water results in optimal living conditions for your Ficus pumila.
Using the right fertilizers will help your fig ivy to grow faster. Prefer going for a general-purpose liquid fertilizer, while feeding the plant once a month during the summer, spring, and early fall months.
Once the climate gets colder, feed the plant every other month to ensure optimal growth. However, if you are looking for slower growth and don’t want the creeping fig vines from spreading uncontrollably, you can skip fertilizing the soil altogether.
The plant will still grow remarkably quick, but won’t require pruning too often.
To cover as much wall or fence as you want with those bright vines, you really don’t need to buy more Ficus pumila. In fact, you can use the existing plant specimen around the house to generate more plants, that too in just a matter of a few weeks.
However, you need to wait until spring arrives before actually beginning the process of propagation. Doing that after the growing season passes will not let the new plants develop roots, eventually killing them.
Leaves in young Ficus pumila plants are small, specifically about an inch long and three-fourth inch wide. The closely-spaced leaves extend from thin stems which hug the growing surface. It will take a few months for a new plant to start sending out new shoots rapidly.
Juvenile growth of creeping figs has got aerial roots that produce a natural adhesive that glues the vines to different surfaces, including tile, glass, masonry, and concrete.
Vines keep growing until they reach the height of their support system, further developing horizontal branches that exhibit mature leaves.
Mature plants look shrubbier and don’t feature adhesive-producing roots. Ficus pumila can grow up to a height of 30 feet and more if not trimmed regularly.
If you choose to grow your creeping fig vines outside, you surely don’t need to repot the plant. But repotting every year becomes essential for it if you have placed your Ficus pumila inside and go for regular trimming of the leaves.
Annual repotting keeps the spread of the vines in control, thereby keeping the plant relatively compact.
You might need to go for biannual repotting of the plant if you have got bigger potted Ficus pumila such as the ones used in topiaries.
The larger the plant, the more care needs to be taken when you are repotting your creeping fig so that it doesn’t damage the structure of the plant. However, things might get easier when dealing with mature plants, as they don’t necessarily call for repotting.
Instead, you can simply remove 1-2 top inches of the old soil, further replacing it with a new fresh mix. This will make your Ficus pumila grow without a hassle for at least another year.
Trimming and Pruning your Ficus pumila
The most prominent thing to note about creeping fig is that it grows very aggressively and quickly. If it finds a surface that it can cling to, the plant spreads out vertically, otherwise, it spreads horizontally. If you want to let it grow randomly, simply fertilizer and water your Ficus pumila.
On the other hand, if you want the vines to stay compact while also featuring fresh and young leaves, you need to prune your Ficus pumila from time to time. As you gain more and more experience with the process of trimming, you might even be able to prune the vines into interesting shapes.
If you don’t want the vines to keep undergoing a vertical growth, you can trim the roots. Whenever you prune the creeping fig, make sure you don’t remove too much greenery at once in order to let the plant adapt to the change.
Propagation of Ficus pumila
Propagating Ficus pumila works best with the stem-cutting method. Find a healthy plant and grab a branch that has fresh leaves growing on it. Once you have the stem, follow the below steps to get it done.
Cut a 6-8 inch piece off the branch with the help of gardening shears or a pair of scissors. Make sure you don’t break the stem with your hands to avoid creating a jagged wound that’s difficult for the plant to heal.
Remove the leaves from the bottom 3 inches of the creeping fig stem that you have cut.
Fill a container or glass with filtered water, further putting the cutting into the same while keeping the wound side down. Although it works well without a rooting hormone, if you want to speed up the process, simply dip the wound into a quality rooting hormone before placing it into the water.
Every week, change the water while draining the previous one. Check the wound end of the stem cutting every time you change the water in order to track the development of the roots. When the roots seem to get 2 inches long, your stem cutting is all set to be placed in soil.
Load a small pot with a nice potting mix and saturate the soil with water. Allow any excess water to drain out.
Use your finger to make a hole in the center of the potting soil mix, further placing the creeping fig stem cutting into the hole. Make sure you fill the hole with some more soil.
Follow a regular watering regime for your plant, making sure that the top inch of soil looks dry.
Once your Ficus pumila starts exhibiting growth and has got well-established roots, it’s time to transplant it to another spot. You can either plant it outdoors in the ground, or simply repot it into a bigger planter with the right soil, further taking care of the same as a young Ficus pumila.
Troubleshooting Common Problems Associated with Ficus pumila
Apart from creating the right growing conditions for your plant, it’s essential to have a quick insight into the common problems associated with creeping figs, as well as the right measures to solve them.
What to do when the leaves of your Ficus pumila look pale and exhausted?
Exposure to too much sunlight makes the leaves of your plant lose the bright green touch. Creeping fig does well in controlled amounts of direct sunlight, but it surely can’t handle it for prolonged hours.
Move the plant to a shadier spot or replant the outdoor fig vines to allow them to recover from unwanted exposure to light. This will gradually make the plant regain its bright green leaves.
Why are the leaves shriveled up and falling off?
The leaves of creeping fig can shrivel up due to several reasons, but the most common reason behind this is overwatering. If the soil around your plant is soggy and not well-drained for long, the plant is exposed to an excess of water, thereby causing the leaves to shrivel up.
In case, the leaves are falling off with the slightest of winds, your plant is undergoing excessive watering or poor drainage. As soon as possible, repot the plant to ensure optimal drainage, further practicing a less-frequent watering regime.
What to do if creeping fig shows undesired growth?
If your creeping fig vine has spread too fast and now covers up some surfaces that you didn’t want it to cover, the need of the hour is to remove the extra growth as quickly as you can. Creeping fig can bind to different surfaces very well, and it will get more difficult to clear up the area with time.
If you are removing a large amount of plant growth, prefer going for a dedicated gardening tool. While pulling the leaves away, make sure you don’t damage the covered wall or fence that the plant is clinging to.
Once the required area is freed up, go for regular pruning, while not watering or fertilizing a mature plant for a while. Creeping fig is great at thriving in various conditions, and not adding any more water will prevent unwanted growth.
What to do when the leaves of your Ficus pumila turn dark and unattractive?
Usually, creeping fig features heart-shaped small leaves with a bright green color. When those young leaves get mature, they turn into dark-hued, thicker ones that seem to quite lose their appeal. If your plant exhibits too many dark leaves, it’s a sign that it needs pruning.
The best time to prune creeping fig is the spring and summer season. Pruning the plant during the growing season prevents it from having a large bunch of dark leaves in winter and fall.
Why is your creeping fig vine not producing flowers?
Unless growing outside, creeping figs don’t get flowers. So, if you have potted the plant indoors, it’s not an issue to worry about if it doesn’t produce flowers. And even if your vines grow outside and don’t produce flowers soon, you still don’t need to be disappointed as climbing fig is mainly known for its leaves.
Is Ficus pumila poisonous?
Creeping fig vines are not exactly poisonous, but coming in contact with the milky sap of the plant’s stems may lead to a skin condition called phytophotodermatitis. It’s a hard-to-cure skin inflammation, and that’s why creeping fig is included in the list of poisonous plants issued by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Is Ficus pumila toxic to cats?
Eating or touching the Ficus pumila plant can prove to be toxic for cats, but it isn’t actually fatal. The cat may suffer from rashes or skin irritation when coming in contact with ficus plants, while consuming the leaves may cause vomiting and excessive drooling.
Cats are likely to stay away from strong smells, so sprinkle some ginger, orange peels, pepper or mothballs to prevent your pet from chewing the plant. You can also go for a commercial cat repellent.
What pests or diseases does Ficus pumila encounter?
The plant doesn’t encounter any serious diseases but can catch aphids, mealybugs, scale, and centipedes. Mealybugs are white cotton-like sucking insects that may crawl to the surface of the soil after watering the plants.
While mealybugs are seen at spots where the main stem meets the branches, scales are small white or black bumps on the stem of the plant. Both the pests can be treated by spraying a fine horticultural oil on the plant, further adding a systemic chemical into the soil.
Lastly, go for a soap and water solution to treat the plant to eliminate the pests completely. In case, the plant is infested by centipedes, it means that the soil wasn’t sterilized rightly before planting Ficus pumila. The solution is to dump the soil out, further re-planting it in fresh sterilized soil.
Can you grow creeping fig in a pot?
You can adorn your space with the lovely green leaves of creeping fig even if you live in very cold climates that would freeze the plant – simply plant it in a pot and place it inside.
However, the fact that Ficus pumila grows very rapidly makes it important to go for regular maintenance when planting it in a pot. This is essential to prevent the plant from growing on the surfaces that shouldn’t be covered.
A point to note here is that the plant will last in the pot for only a few years, eventually witnessing aggressive and spreading growth of the root structures.
Are creeping figs edible?
Creeping figs are not edible, instead, their fruits serve an ornamental purpose only. These creeping vines are surely a majestic houseplant, but Ficus pumila is species that doesn’t come with edible components.