Many people who live in USDA climate zones 8-9 (consisting of the Coastal Plain towards the ocean, throughout the southeast from Virginia to Texas and predominantly the west coast of the US) are familiar with Creeping Fig, Ficus pumila L. Another name for it is Fig Ivy. It also escaped cultivation in the tropical regions of Caribbean. It is native to Asia.
It is quite a versatile plant as it can be used both outdoors and indoors in plantings. It makes an excellent “green cover” to be used on buildings with little to no damage to mortar or the structure, unlike English Ivy Hedera helix L. Consistent pruning will keep the growth in a juvenile state, the leaves small, and under control. Lack of pruning allows the growth to mature and evidential fruiting will occur. Unlike fruit Figs we eat Ficus carica L, it has a pulpy hollow squarish fruit, not edible and reported to be poisonous to mammals (Wiersema and Leon, 1999; USDA-ARS, 2014). The largest plant I have seen is growing on the Cumberland St and Concord St parking garage in downtown Charleston, SC. It is huge covering the southwest corner of the four story garage. Parts of it occasionally fall off the garage and peel back leaving a viney hanging mat.
You see it growing under steps or on pillar columns, grown into topiaries, up the sides of building either formally kept or not. It is very common place for when someone wants to “soften” a rigid area, be it a small garden surrounded by fences, walls, or structure that they plant this. It could be also planted on a fence to eventually grow as dense mat giving some extra privacy protection in the future.
So what do you do if you have a fence covered in it and you want to get the fence back? What do you do when you know when you neighbor planted along the fence for whatever the reason maybe?
We were recently posed that question by one of our clients. So here is what our plan to address the “Fighting the Fig” problem.
We spoke with our client to make sure they spoke with their neighbor. Let all the parties know what our goals are and how we would come about addressing them. We want to do it in a way, where we were not just killing all of the Creeping Fig but knock it down/back to a manageable state at least on our client’s side. It is one thing for the fig to creep through the fence and cover it, it is another when it roots down on the client’s side.
First step was to cut away lower foliage to get to the lower stem/branches that were coming out of the ground. We would then make a cut of the stem as close as we can to the ground.
After traveling down the fence removing foliage and cutting stems, I made an application of herbicide to help stunt or kill and residue structures left behind.
This approach allows whatever that will be affected from the stems rooted on my client’s side to take hold, with minimizing damage to the neighbor’s side. If you are thinking,”Why didn’t you just prune it back all the way down?” The answer is simple, because of all the intertwining and not know what is what, I didn’t want to randomly kill the neighbor’s side.
So the next step is to systematically remove the dead parts from the rest of the fence. Then prune the fig to a manageable state. Which once under control, it is not hard to maintain.
I will post some updates in the future. The most important points I can express is to plan properly, take time to do things right, and do it in a series of order that doesn’t conflict with your goals. Part of our mission in business is to satisfy the needs of our customer at the lowest cost possible, this is just another example of how we Grow Forward.