Don't turn your back on this creeping fig
Published: Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 11:21 a.m.
Q: I am thinking about covering my privacy wall with creeping fig. It is just a blank block wall, and I would like to cover it with green. Is this a good idea?
A: I have seen walls covered with the creeping fig (Ficus pumila), and it does give a lovely ivy-covered wall affect. This vigorous vine will completely coat your wall with small evergreen leaves within two or three years. A native to Asia, it has adapted well to all parts of Florida. If we have a very strong freeze, the leaves will die off, but if the vine is established, the plant just re-foliates and continues to cover most vertical surfaces. As the plant matures, the leaves can change in size going from a small leaf of about 1 inch long to a wide leaf of about 3 inches long. Mature vines also may produce an inedible green fig-like fruit that is about the size of an egg.
This fig relative climbs with strong aerial roots that adhere to surfaces made of stone, brick, block or wood. If you were to remove it from the wall, you find that the roots will pull off paint and that they may have entered into the mortar of the wall. Because of this, it is really hard for me to recommend that you put creeping fig on any residential structure. Using it on a privacy wall is fine, but if you share this wall with a neighbor, you may want to see if it is OK with them as well.
I wouldn't turn my back on this vigorous vine for a minute for fear that it might eat my potting shed or my poodle. You will need to plan on regular maintenance with clippers or a weed eater to keep the nice ivy-covered wall look.
Q: My peaches and Japanese magnolias think it's spring; they are blooming to beat the band. I know we are going to get another freeze. What should I do?
A: Unless you have a direct line to Mother Nature, there really isn't much we can do. The plants are confused by the mild temperatures that we have had and are blooming a few weeks ahead of time. This really isn't all that uncommon for North Central Florida. If we do get a freeze when the flowers are still in bud form, they can be quite frost tolerant. Peaches, plums, saucer magnolias, azaleas and even camellia flower buds go through near freezing without too much damage to the flowers. If they are all the way open though, then there really isn't anything you can do beyond covering the plant with frost cloth. In some cases this is not practical, like when your tree is 20 feet tall. Often times, all the blooms are not destroyed, and you will still have some flowers. Or in the case of fruit trees, they will bloom again, albeit a significantly lighter flower load and therefore less fruit in the warmer part of the spring.
Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.