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A creeping fig is a clinging evergreen vine native to East Asia. It is a popular decorative plant, grown in hanging baskets or covering large surfaces. Landscapers might use the creeping fig to conceal unattractive walls or to decorate other vertical surfaces such as tree trunks or trellises. A creeping fig also can be used for ground cover, but the plant is invasive, and if it left untended, it will take over the area.
Commonly known as the climbing fig or creeper, the creeping fig is a member of the ficus family. Like other varieties of ficus, it is widely used as a potted houseplant. Parents of small children and pet owners should be aware that although ficus plants thrive indoors, they are poisonous if ingested and should be kept away from anyone who might try a bite.
Creeping fig is a fast-growing vine with a dense covering of heart-shaped leaves. It can completely cover large surfaces, such as multistory walls, with its dense foliage. Its stems are initially thin and wiry but become woody with maturity. The vines adhere to vertical surfaces by aerial roots growing from the stem and can reach 60 feet (18 m) high or more.
One of the most common uses of the vine is for concealment and decoration of walls. Brick and concrete become picturesque under a blanket of green, and within only a few years, the vine can completely cover the building’s side. If grown along a wall with windows, regular pruning will be required, or the window will quickly become concealed as well.
Another decorative application of the plant is topiary. Some theme parks use the vine extensively for landscaping. By growing the plant over a framework, landscapers can construct elaborate shapes. The creepers fill in the framework completely to make living sculpture.
The plant’s rapid growth does not slow after it has covered the intended area, though. Creeping fig will continue to grow at the same rate, and regular pruning is required to keep the vine in its intended area. Left on its own, the plant will sprawl across all nearby vertical and horizontal surfaces. After the plant is in place, it can be hard to completely remove it.
As the roots work into brick and concrete, they can create tiny cracks and fissures. Over time, this might cause damage to the structure. The damage might not be apparent, however, until the vines are removed. Wood is especially vulnerable to damage, and it is not recommended that the vine be permitted to grow on wood surfaces.
Dense coverage and aggressive growth make creeping fig a danger to other plants as well. Vines grown as ground cover can spread over grass and other low-lying plants, blocking out sunlight and competing for water and nutrients. Shrubs and hedges can be choked by the clinging vine as well. Pruning is the best defense against this damage.