Ficus Repens (Creeping Fig) Plant Care – Growing Ficus Pumila

Ficus Repens

The Ficus repens is commonly known as the creeping fig. It is also called the Ficus pumila.

Unlike many ficus species, it does not look like a tree. Instead, it is an evergreen climbing plant that you may have seen covering walls or other vertical structures.

The plant is likewise versatile enough to grow in containers as well as hanging baskets. If left unpruned, it can grow to as long as 13 feet. This makes its small, oval-shaped foliage look amazing them trailing down a basket or climbing up vertically.

As a native of East and Southeast Asia, it is used to warm and humid conditions. Thus, it is often kept indoors in colder parts of the country.

Ficus Repens(Creeping Fig) Plant Care

Ficus Repens Light Requirements

Once you see the Ficus repens you can easily tell that it is different from other ficus varieties. However, it maintains many similar features. One is its lighting preference.

The plant does best when placed in a location with bright, indirect light. It can likewise tolerate low light for extended periods of time.

But, with low light, you want to observe how the plant responds. Past a certain light threshold, its growth will start to slow. So, while it will survive in somewhat dim conditions, it won’t be able to grow its normal pace or size.

However, the most important thing to remember is to keep it away from direct sunlight and too much intense light. Both locations will burn the plant’s leaves causing ugly brown patches to occur.

This makes an east facing window an ideal spot for it. An eastern exposure gives it enough natural light to grow optimally. And, the morning sunlight is gentle enough that it won’t harm the plant’s foliage.

 

Creeping Fig Temperature

Your Ficus repens is healthiest when kept in warm, humid conditions. It hails from East Asia, more specifically in the tropical areas there. This is also why in the U.S., it has become naturalized in the south central and southeastern regions.

Just as importantly, the plant cannot tolerate frost. So, if you live in a locale were it snows from November to February, make sure to bring the plant indoors or to a warmer location before the temperature drops under 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

This does make it a little more cold hardy that other ficus. Nevertheless, it does best in moderate to warm weather, specifically between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

As such, you’ll often find it in growing indoors in large containers. But, that’s not the only way you can grow it.

In fact, is habit makes it more versatile than many other ficus which come in tree form.

That’s because in addition to pots, you can keep them hanging baskets or use them as ground cover. Its creeping nature also allows them to grow up walls and other vertical structures to cover blank spaces.

In case you’re a fan of varying colors other than green, you’ll be happy to know some of the newer Ficus repens cultivars are variegated as well.

 

Ficus Pumila Humidity

As with others in its genus, the Ficus repens does well in regular household humidity. But, to produce the optimum growth and its most vibrant colors, it needs higher humidity (at least 60%).

That said, the minimum indoor humidity you want to maintain is 40%. This may or may not be a problem for your home depending on how moist or dry it is where you live.

The average household humidity here in the U.S. runs from 30% to 50%. This means some areas will have enough humidity to keep the plant happy. Unfortunately, others need a bit of help.

If that’s the case, you can do one of the following:

  • Mist it with room temperature water 2 or 3 times a week.
  • Keep it in a container on top of stones in a water tray.
  • Grow it alongside other plants.
  • Keep it in the kitchen or bathroom, provided there is enough natural light
  • Use a humidifier.

 

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How Often to Water Ficus Repens

 

Ficus repens enjoys soil that is kept slightly moist consistently. But, avoid allowing the soil to get soggy or stay wet for long periods of time.

The plant’s roots cannot sit in water. Otherwise, they will eventually experience rotting.

To avoid this from happening, it is a good idea to allow the soil to slightly dry between waterings. But, don’t let it completely dry out.

The most effective way to do this is to stick your finger into the soil about 2 inches down. If the soil feels dry at 2 to 4 inches deep, it means it is time to water. Otherwise, wait a few more days before testing the soil again.

You also don’t have to be too precise with this. While you don’t want to water before the top 2 inches dry, you can wait a little longer as the plant can tolerate more dryness.

You can water anytime between the 2 inch depth all the way until the soil is about 50% dry. This means the bottom half (where most of the roots are), is still moist. So, the plant hasn’t completely dried out.

When watering, pour until the root ball is saturated. You’ll be able to tell since liquid will start dripping from the bottom of the container (via the drainage holes).

Once this happens, stop and allow all excess moisture to completely drain. Then, throw the water that pools in the saucer under your pot.

Both the first and last parts are crucial. Saturating the soil ensures that water reaches the roots. And, allowing the excess moisture to drain prevents root rot.

ficus repens

source: wikimedia commons

 

Soil for Ficus Repens

As with many of its other preferences above, the Ficus repens is not fussy about soil. The most important thing to remember here is to use well-draining soil.

Once you have that, it is not too picky about the kind of soil you used. As such, any good quality potting mix works. Although, it will help if you can use light, well-aerated soil.

But again, it won’t mind too much if you don’t.

The other aspect of soil is potting.

Unlike most ficus varieties you’re familiar with the Repens looks less like a tree.

Instead, it has a creeping habit that makes it perfect for covering walls. As such, you can allow it to cover a side of a wall in your home if you wish.

Some growers also keep it in containers where it grows like a small shrub. Yet, others grow them in hanging baskets allowing them to trail downwards.

 

Creeping Fig Fertilizer

In keeping with its low maintenance feature, your Ficus repens doesn’t need a lot of fertilizer.

But, it will help it grow its best. Since it is a fast grower, it will need some added sustenance during its growing season (spring and summer).

During this time, it is a good idea to apply water soluble houseplant fertilizer diluted to 50% of its recommended strength. All it needs is once a month feeding.

You don’t need to fertilize your creeping fig during the fall and winter.

 

Pruning Ficus Pumila

Because it is a vigorous grower, pruning is one aspect of the plant where you’ll need to do a little bit more work. But, how much work will depend on where you’re growing it.

Its vining nature means that unlike its more woody cousins that grow into trees, you’ll need to trim some of it every so often.

For example, in a fairly blank wall or vertical structure that you’re trying fill, you can let it alone to climb and eventually cover before starting to trim.

However, in a container it can quickly become overly bushy. So, pruning will need to be more regular.

On the other hand, hanging baskets give you a bit more leeway depending on how long you want its training stems to go down.

That said, pruning is important to keep the plant looking good. That’s because it can get messy and tangled looking without some grooming.

The good news is it can take quite a bit of trimming. So, don’t be afraid to cut it back about a third of the way.

 

Ficus Repens Propagation

Ficus repens are easy to propagate. And, the easiest way to do so is via stem cuttings.

Here’s how to propagate creeping fig from stem cuttings.

  • Begin but taking stem tip cuttings. Spring is the best time. But, you can also do so during early summer.
  • Choose stems that are around 6 or so inches long with at least a few leaves on it.
  • Next, prepare a container and fill it with fresh, well-draining potting mix.
  • Insert the stem cuttings, with the cut end down, into the soil.
  • Water the soil regularly to keep it slightly moist. But avoid, overwatering.
  • Also, keep it in warm, humid place with good, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight.
  • In about 3 or so weeks roots will start to develop. Unfortunately, unless you take the plant out of its container, you won’t be able to tell for sure.
  • The easiest way to test is to gently tug on the plant. If it resists, then you know roots are being built.

 

How to Repot Creeping Fig

Your Ficus repens will likely need to be repotted once every 2 years or so. But, whether you move it to larger container or not is up to you.

Why?

It depends if you want it to grow any bigger.

In most cases, you want the plant to grow bigger. This is specially the case with fig trees which look prettier indoors as they become mini-trees.

But, with climbing vines, it may get to the point where you just say, “that’s enough, I’m happy with how much it covers”.

If that’s the case, you’ll still likely need to take it out of its pot and refresh the soil. But, instead of moving to a larger container, you’ll trim back its roots. Then, place it back into tis existing pot.

Pruning its roots will allow it to fit into its current container again. And, by maintaining its root system at that size, you don’t encourage the plant to keep growing bigger.

On the other hand, if you still want it to get bigger, then repotting to a larger container makes sense. You only want to go up 2 inches in diameter. This will avoid overwatering which is a risk with overly large containers.

In both cases, use good quality potting mix. Also, the best time to repot is during spring or early summer.

As always, make sure that the new pot you use has a drainage hole at the bottom.

 

Ficus Pumila Toxicity

Be careful of Ficus repens because once you cut it or break its stems, it will produce milky sap that is toxic to people, dogs and cats. As such, you probably want to wear gloves when pruning or even repotting.

Just as importantly, keep it away from young children and pets who may get curious, play or even eat parts of the plant.

Ironically, the Ficus repens does produces edible fruits. So, part of the plant can be eaten. But, avoid the milky sap.

 

Ficus Pumila Pests

Creeping fig are susceptible to pests. The most common invaders include mealybugs, aphids and scale. All of these are problematic as over time they will damage the plant by taking its nutrients.

And, if left untreated, they not only grow in number but tend to infect other nearby plants as well.

This means regular inspect is necessary in order to spot them early.

And, once you see any of these critters or the damage they inflict, you want to immediately take action.

The first of which is to separate it from any other plants you have. This prevents spreading.

Next, is treatment. I like to use insecticidal soap spray or dishwashing soap solution. Neem oil also works.

 

Ficus Pumila Diseases

Diseases are another bothersome issue no grower likes dealing with. Unfortunately, you need do.

Again here, prevention is better than treatment or cure.

One of the most common problems ficus plants have is root rot. That’s because they’re susceptible to overwatering. Thus, it is important to use well-draining soil and to always test before watering the soil.

Similarly, you don’t want to wet the leaves extensively when watering the plant. This increases their risk of developing fungal problems.

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