How to Trim Creeping Fig
Every 4 or 5 months, whether we like it or not, at our house it is time to spend an hour or so on a Saturday morning trimming the creeping fig along the side of our house. Creeping fig, aka Creeping ficus, or Ficus pumilla, is a creeping vine that crawls along structures or walls and is a favorite Florida plant for disguising or softening fences or buildings. It needs no support and will send out little “sucker” roots to hold on to just about anything. Read on to learn more about how to trim creeping fig to keep it looking great (and controlled!).
At our house we have this growing on the outside of our chimney. Yes, it is bad for the mortar that holds the bricks together but we don’t actually use the chimney– and I like how it looks! When it is trimmed nicely it is a beautiful deep green and looks nice and tidy. But when its getting a little shaggy that is another story…
When creeping fig is small and it is growing on a wall it has small leaves, less than an inch in diameter and the stems are very thin and easy to trim. As the vines age, or as they start to stretch out, the leaves get larger and the stem gets thicker. The branch can reach several inches in diameter and will actually set a “fig” type of fruit. This isn’t edible but it is a sign that your ficus is growing out of control!
We’ve made the executive decision to keep our creeping ficus just to the height we can comfortably reach from the top rung of the ladder. When we wait too long to trim we have to delicately pull these new runners down and try to reign things back in. We also keep it several inches from the siding of the house because once these new shoots attach to the paint there is no way to get them off without damaging the siding.
So, as I mentioned earlier, every four or five months Mike takes on this task. It is one of the few yard things that is “his” to maintain and he is so good at it that I don’t see this arrangement ending anytime soon! The tools required for this are simply a steady ladder and a pair of hedge shears. Because we have our creeping ficus fairly well trained we do not have to cut any large stems anymore but only the runners that are going out of bounds. If you inherit some out of control creeping fig you may need to use pruners or even loppers to get rid of the large stems so that the new growth is nice and tight to your wall or structure. The new growth is what you want for a tidy look: it is tight to the wall or fence while the older growth gives a more “shaggy” look and sticks out quite a bit.
The difference is quick to see. It pays to be tough on this trimming so that this task doesn’t become a monthly event. Remember, this vine is pretty much indestructible so don’t be shy when you are pruning! Clip vines as close as you can to the base so that they don’t shoot out and it will also encourage new growth to stay tight to the wall. The results are immediately pleasing and well worth the hour or so that it requires.
Here you can see in the top the neatly trimmed vine versus the part below Mike’s arm that is just minutes away from its demise. The runners going toward the siding are pulled off and cut and the new shoots growing outward are easily trimmed with the hedge shears. Ta-da!