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Creeping Fig Houseplant (Ficus pumila): Home

Ficus pumilla houseplant photo courtesy of Flickr cc/ Forest and Kim Starr
Ficus pumilla (creeping fig) houseplant; photo courtesy of Flickr cc/ Forest and Kim Starr

Creeping fig (Ficus pumila)

A member of the mulberry family (Moraceae), Ficus pumila is native to China, Japan, Korea and southeast Asia where it grows largely in the subtropical biome. It is related to other fig houseplants like fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata), weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) and rubber tree (Ficus elastica), but is a smaller, creeping plant with delicate, puckered leaves.

In its natural habitat, creeping fig is a climbing, woody vine that uses aerial roots to climb trees and rocks. When introduced outside its natural home, it can spread aggressively and has become invasive in some areas. In the New York City area, winter temperatures do not allow the plant to survive outdoors year-round. As a houseplant, it is usually grown with trailing stems or as a ground cover in a mixed container, but it can also be used to climb up a mossy pole or to cover a topiary form. 

The plants that we grow in our home are immature and in their place of origin would be growing under the natural protection of a leafy, tropical canopy of mature trees.  Their in-home care relates directly to that moist, leafy environment. They need good light but protection from the sun's direct rays. A consistent and stable environment, attentive watering and reliable humidity are the other components of success, marking them as more demanding than most fig houseplants. Variegated forms of the plant need more sunlight or they will lose their attractive leaf markings.


Your creeping fig will be happy in a bright room in your home but far enough from the window that the sun's direct rays do not touch it. An east- or south-facing window is best. Strong, afternoon western light is too much exposure for the plant. Variegated plants need slightly more light.

Water and Humidity:

Creeping fig likes more even moisture than the tree-like Ficus houseplants and strong humidity will help you to keep the soil moisture from fluctuating too rapidly. Water thoroughly, allowing the water to run from the bottom of the pot and check back after 15 minutes to remove any water sitting in the plant's run-off dish. Wait until just the top 1/2 inch of the soil dries before watering again. Never let the root area dry out completely or leaves will brown. Like other figs, Ficus pumila is susceptible to root rot if the soil is kept wet or the pot does not drain well. Striking just the right balance is a challenge and humidity helps a great deal.

In the low-light conditions of winter (October through February), your plant may take up water more slowly than during the active growing season. Look out for this change and adjust your watering routine to suit the conditions but continue to keep the soil evenly moist.

Your plant needs humidity year-round which can be complicated by the challenges of drying winter indoor heat and summer air conditioning. If you can keep the humidity above 50%, that will be enough to help provide the stable, moist growing conditions that favor this plant. Use a humidifier or stand the plant on a tray of wet pebbles during months of home dryness. If you would like to check whether you are providing enough humidity, you can buy a simple hygrometer (water vapor meter) to keep near your plant.


Steady, average, household room temperatures, in the range of 65 to 75ºF., with good air circulation are best. In winter, temperatures can be lowered slightly, if desired, but make the change gradually. Protect it from all drafts; shifts in its environment from air conditioning vents, open windows, open doors and heat vents can lead to leaf drop.


Re-pot in spring, when the plant will recover from the stress most quickly, every two years if needed.  The pot should be just one size larger as tight pot conditions are preferred. A conventional, soil-based potting mixture with some added perlite for good drainage is best.  Your pot must have a draining hole at its bottom.

Many fig problems start with keeping the plant in a decorative container without a drain hole. You can insert a plastic pot with a drain hole inside of a decorative, non-draining container as long as you remove the interior pot when you water and allow the soil to drain completely before replacing your ficus in the decorative container.

Healthy aerial roots are natural so do not remove them. As the plant grows into a vine, you can allow it to trail from the pot or encourage some of the aerial roots into a moss-covered support for your plant. The mossy surface of the pole will also help to hold humidity in the plant's environment. (You can make your own supporting pole for a creeping fig by filling a tube of rolled plastic netting with sphagnum moss and embedding the end deep in the soil of the pot.)


Feed in spring and summer only, with a balanced organic fertilizer, used every other week, at half strength. Over-feeding can cause leaves to drop.


You can shape your creeping fig by pruning at any time of the year, but if you'd like to stimulate new growth spring and summer pruning are best. Use sterile cutting tools to protect the health of your plant and gloves to avoid irritation from the latex that will seep from the cuts. Protect furniture and clothing from the white latex which can stain. A spray of cold water on the freshly cut stems will reduces latex drip.


Take six-inch tip cuttings just below a node in spring. The cutting will root easily in a small pot filled with rooting soil mixture, covered entirely by a clear plastic bag for humidity and kept in filtered sunlight. Once new growth appears, uncover the plant and begin to water as you would an adult plant for consistent moisture. By late-summer, your plant should be ready to move to a slightly larger pot with standard potting soil.

What to Watch for:

Dry, withered leaves are an indicator of stress. Your plant may have too much direct sun exposure, too little humidity, or uneven soil moisture. Never let the root ball dry out completely or leaves will dry up and fall. Creeping fig is far fussier than other fig houseplants about soil and air moisture.

White sticky droplets on the plant are latex, a naturally exuded sap. If the plant is nicked or abraded this sap will be apparent and will help the wound heal. Avoid touching the latex which can be irritating and can stain clothing and surfaces.

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