Creeping fig (Ficus pumila) is a sprawling vine that may grow upwards of 15 feet, showcasing thick, shiny leaves and pear-shaped figs that are yellowish green when young and deep purple when mature. Creeping fig's fast and dense growth habit lends itself well to a variety of landscaping projects, helping to make it one of the more fascinating members of the Fig genus.
Creeping fig boasts strong aerial rootlets that adhere like glue to a wall or structure. No trellis or wire is necessary to train the vigorous vine up a fence. In Orlando, Fla., the vine is used to cover concrete freeway supports. This helps to improve the appearance of an otherwise drab structure while also helping to suppress traffic noise, according to Floridata. If it can't find a structure to climb, the vine will form a green ground cover that is only 1 or 2 inches thick.
Creeping fig works well as a topiary plant, providing dense, fast coverage. Theme parks construct wire frames in the shape of cartoon characters and animals and fill them with spaghum moss and potting soil, creating a base for creeping fig to cover with young, heart-shaped leaves, notes Floridata. The vine may even be trained on indoor topiaries or trellises, though care must be taken to prune the plant back before it escapes its container and attaches to furniture.
Creeping fig's fruits are not generally considered edible, although, according to Eat the Weeds, people in some Asian countries commonly consume a gelatinous substance derived from the fruits. The nearly ripe fruits of the variety Ficus pumila var. awkeotsan are turned inside out, dried for a few days and scraped of their seeds. The seeds are moved to a porous bag, put in water and rubbed gently for a few minutes until they release a gel. Once the gel has set in a cool location, it can be used as a flavoring agent.
Creeping fig tolerates a remarkable range of growing conditions. The vine will grow in just about any soil type, including salty, coastal soils, so long as the soil drains well. The plant tolerates shade and partial shade, although it will suffer if grown in direct afternoon sun. Young plants benefit from regular garden watering, but once mature the vine is quite drought-tolerant. The Missouri Botanical Garden recommends creeping fig for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11, while the University of Florida Extension Service claims the vine may also be grown in USDA zone 8b.