If we wish to know what the natural habitat of the species is like then we must go to southeast Asia, say to the Cue Phuong National Park in Vietnam, where it grows in relative abundance. Arising from the thick layer of humus in the undergrowth are the towering trunks of giant trees. Very little light filters down to the forest floor through these and the only plants that manage to grow here are huge ferns, such as Tectaria decurrens, reaching heights of several metres (yards) and often climbing to the tree tops to get to the light, and the huge lianas Rhaphidophora and Piper, the commonest climbers here. However, in the darkest part of the forest, where one would expect to find only selaginellas and shade-loving ferns, we suddenly come across Ficus villosa climbing up the trunk of a tree, its leaves firmly pressed to the bark. Shade, apparently, does not bother it, quite the contrary – it seems to shy away from spots touched by sunlight, even occasionally.
Ficus villosa (syn. F. barbata) is probably the most shade-loving climbing ficus. This is shown by the surface of the dark green leaves, which have a sheen typical of many shade-loving plants — an unusual velvety-blue glint when viewed from a certain angle.
Because of this peculiarity and the fact that it remains unchanged when grown in warm, centrally-heated homes, F. villosa is very good, for instance, in a dish arrangement that includes a trunk for epiphytes up which it can climb on the shaded side. However, it is also attractive if it is allowed to climb up the wall of a room.
Another commonly-known self-clinging fig, F. pumila, on the other hand, requires ample diffused light at the very least, and is thus the recommended choice for a room with plenty of light.
Ficus villosa is quite readily propagated by means of cuttings, which bleed ‘milk’, however, and should be soaked in lukewarm water for some time before insertion in the rooting medium in a warm and, what is most important, moist propagator. The rooting medium should be a mixture of peat and sand (this may also be used as a permanent growing medium). The cuttings will form roots within 5 to 6 weeks, but not until they have formed 2 to 3 leaves should they be potted up.