Something is charming about the look of vines growing up the side of a home. But this beauty is deceiving because certain vines can be extremely destructive if left unchecked.
Species like Creeping Fig (also known as fig ivy or creeping ficus) can grow very quickly in a short period of time. As a climbing vine, it has aerial roots that help it attach to structures like walls and fences.
This “live wall” look can be very trendy. But some homeowners might wonder: will Creeping Fig damage brick walls and siding?
Creeping Fig has sticky aerial roots that latch on and can damage walls by widening cracks and trapping moisture inside, causing wood structures like fences and siding to rot.
Let’s look at the risks associated with this beautiful but tricky plant and how to avoid them if you want to grow Creeping Fig.
Does Fig Ivy Ruin Brick?
Very few surfaces are safe from the negative effects of Creeping Fig.
The aerial roots of Creeping Fig have what is referred to as ‘adhesive pads,’ which are essentially clusters of roots. These adhesive pads ooze a sticky substance that helps the roots stick to surfaces. This substance leaves a stubborn residue on surfaces like painted walls and wood when you try to remove it.
But Creeping Fig is especially damaging for brick walls because brick is naturally full of cracks and crevices. The bumpy texture of brick is the perfect surface for Creeping Fig to cling onto. Over time, the roots will bury themselves into the mortar, make existing cracks bigger, and let moisture in. This can cause some serious damage to the structure over time.
Does Creeping Fig Damage Wood?
Like brick, wood makes a great climbing surface for Creeping Fig because of all the cracks and grooves.
You should avoid planting Creeping Fig near buildings with wooden siding or wooden fences. The aerial roots like to bury into the crevices and will pry apart the wood. The sticky adhesive pads will cause even more damage if you attempt to rip the vine off.
Creeping Fig also creates a thicket of leaves that will block airflow and trap moisture against the wood. This will eventually cause the wood to rot.
If you do enjoy the look of climbing vines, try planting Creeping Fig near ornamental statues or other non-essential structures. You never want to mess with the structural integrity of your home.
Is Creeping Fig Invasive?
Newly planted Creeping Fig can be deceivingly slow to grow. In its first year, Creeping Fig often doesn’t grow much, if at all. It’s in the second and third growing season that Creeping Fig explodes in growth.
Although Creeping Fig is not necessarily classified as an invasive species in North America, its growing habits are considered aggressive. Its ability to smother other plants has led it to be classified as an invasive species in Cuba and potentially invasive in New Zealand.
How To Get Rid of Creeping Fig
If Creeping Fig is taking over your walls or fences, there are a couple of tricks to help remove it for good.
You want to be careful when removing Creeping Fig. If you simply rip it out, the adhesive pads might also rip out chunks of your wall.
To start, use a strong pair of pruning shears and cut the stems of the Creeping Fig from the bottom. Don’t rip away the vines right away. Instead, allow them to dry for up to a week.
You can spray herbicide at the base of the stems where you cut them. This will help kill the roots and prevent the vines from growing back.
After one week, you can begin to pull the vine away from the structure. You may need a putty knife or other tool to remove the adhesive pads. You should scrub the leftover sticky marks with a stiff bristle brush and soapy water to remove them.
How Do You Plant Creeping Fig Against a Wall?
With ongoing maintenance, Creeping Fig can grow on walls without causing damage. Before introducing Creeping Fig to your walls, seal any cracks so the aerial roots cannot bury themselves inside.
Keep this vine away from any openings in the wall (such as your dryer vent) where it might try to climb inside. And, of course, do not plant Creeping Fig against a wood wall, or it may cause the wood to rot.
Due to the adhesive pads on its aerial roots, Creeping Fig doesn’t need much training to climb a wall. If you want it to grow a certain way, you can attach eye hooks to the wall to help the stems stay upward. Usually, in the first year, Creeping Fig won’t grow much. After year two, it should need very little help staying attached to the wall.
As long as you are committed to trimming back the Creeping Fig when it gets unruly, it can be a beautiful addition to your home.
Can Creeping Fig Be Used as Ground Cover?
Creeping Fig makes an excellent ground cover for your outdoor spaces. Use it to fill the gaps between stepping stones or empty spots under trees. Creeping Fig prefers partial shade and partial sun so they will thrive on the ground.
Just keep in mind that this plant is a voracious climber too, and will climb trees and walls if you let it. Make sure you trim back any new growth to keep the Creeping Fig on the ground.
Is Creeping Fig Poisonous to Dogs?
Creeping Fig is part of the genus Ficus, which consists of about 850 species. Ficus plant leaves contain a sap that is extremely irritating to dogs and cats. The sap contains ficin and ficusin, which can cause skin blisters and gastrointestinal upset.
Although this sap is rarely lethal, you should avoid Creeping Fig if you have pets prone to chewing on everything and anything.
Are There Different Types of Creeping Fig?
Despite its reputation, Creeping Fig is a pretty popular houseplant. When potted, Creeping Fig is much easier to control and won’t put your wall or fences at risk.
There are several different varieties of Creeping Fig that are enjoyed as houseplants. They include:
- Arina Creeping Fig: This species has small green leaves and grows quickly.
- Curly Creeping Fig: The leaves of this species have a wavy texture and a lemon-lime color.
- Sunny Creeping Fig: This unique variegated variety has leaves with a stark white border around the edges.
How Do You Look After Creeping Figs?
Potted Creeping Figs have a lifespan of about 2-3 years, whereas outdoor Creeping Figs can live almost indefinitely as long as the growing conditions are right.
This plant likes bright light, but not direct sunlight, as it will scorch the leaves. It can handle low light conditions, but it will grow more slowly.
During the growing season, Creeping Figs need to be watered about once a week. They like moist soil but do not like it when their roots sit in water, so good drainage is essential. If you notice brown leaves, this is likely due to overwatering.
Creeping Figs are tropical plants, so they like humidity. They will die if temperatures reach lower than 55°F (12°C). Unlike cold hardy vines such as English Ivy that grow throughout winter, Creeping Fig will die in the cold. If you live in a cooler climate, you will have better luck growing Creeping Fig as an indoor plant.
While it’s not impossible to enjoy Creeping Fig in your outdoor gardens, some precautions must be taken. Creeping Fig has sticky aerial roots that latch onto surfaces by burying in cracks and crevices, which can damage walls by widening cracks and trapping moisture inside, causing wood structures like fences and siding to rot.
Creeping Fig easily clings to textured surfaces like a brick with its aerial roots. These aerial roots also tend to bury themselves into the mortar, widening cracks and allowing moisture in.
If you have wooden siding or fences, beware of letting Creeping Fig take over. Its thickets of leaves trap moisture against the wood, causing it to rot. If you plant Creeping Fig outdoors, prune the growth regularly to prevent it from damaging structures. If you find this too much work, you can enjoy Creeping Fig as a potted houseplant!