Friday, March 6, 2009

Ficus pumila to the rescue

The dwarf creeping fig, Ficus pumila, is a close relative of Ficus benjamina, a lovely species known as a house plant in most of the country but commonly found as a street tree in Los Angeles. (Ficus benjamina, weeping fig, is now blacklisted by the Los Angeles Urban Forestry Division for the disruptive behavior of its invasive roots, which can destroy sidewalks and sewers. The removal of 54 venerable weeping figs from the streets of Santa Monica created a community ruckus a year ago, proving that practicality matters little when compared with beauty.)

Ficus pumila
photo coutesy of the Master Gardeners of the University of Arizona
Pima County Cooperative Extension

Quite different from its relative in appearance, Ficus pumila is a handsome, neat, and fast-growing climbing vine that can—and should—be used to cover terminally bland or downright offensive walls, including those on blight-ridden buildings such as the one below, a storage facility (still in business, alas) tucked under the Hollywood Freeway at Argyle Avenue.


after (proposed)

This rugged and adaptable vine, which needs no supports as it has clinging rootlets, has already been used successfully to beautify many locations in Los Angeles, including the entry portal of the Getty Center on Sepulveda Boulevard in Brentwood.

Available in most home garden centers, it creates a charming tracery pattern as it grows, and will cover an entire wall eventually. NOTE: Ficus pumila has been known to damage stucco when pulled off a stucco wall, but, really, why would you ever want to take it down?


  1. It's an invasive plant and destroys any structure it touches--that's why.

  2. Define "destroy"? Does it crack the wall or cause structure to collapse?

  3. it damages the surface if surface is hard. It will get into cracks in surfaces like bricks etc for holding itself. Not that much destructive power unless used on poor grade surfaces with larger cracks, in which case it can cause more damage.

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