How to grow Fatsia Japonica
Japanese aralia is a tropical plant that makes a bold statement in the garden, in outdoor containers or as a houseplant. Find out about fatsia growing conditions and care requirements in this article.
Fatsia Plant Info
The common names Japanese aralia plant and Japanese fatsia refer to the same broadleaf evergreen, known botanically as Aralia japonica or Fatsia japonica. The plant features huge, deeply lobed leaves that grow to about a foot in width atop long leaf stems that reach up and outward. The plant often leans to one side because of the weight of the leaves, and it can reach a height of 8 to 10 feet. Older plants may grow to a height of 15 feet.
The bloom time depends on the climate. In the U.S., fatsia usually blooms in fall. Some people think the flowers and the shiny black berries that follow them aren’t much to look at, but the terminal clusters of bright white flowers offer relief from shades of green in deep shade where aralia likes to grow. Birds love the berries and visit the garden often until they are gone. Despite the name, fatsia is not native to Japan. It is grown around the world as a cultivated plant, and it originally came to the U.S. from Europe.
How to Grow Fatsia
Japanese aralia care is easy if you give the plant a good location. It likes medium to full shade and slightly acidic, compost-rich soil. It also grows well in large containers placed on shady patios or under trees. Excessive sunlight and strong winds damage the leaves. It is a tropical plant that needs the warm temperatures found in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11. Water the plant often enough to keep the soil moist at all times. Check plants growing in containers often as they can dry out quickly.
Fertilize plants growing in the ground in spring after the danger of frost has passed. Use a tree and shrub fertilizer with an analysis of 12-6-6 or similar every year. Fertilize potted plants with a fertilizer designed for plants growing in containers. Follow the package instructions, withholding fertilizer in fall and winter.
Fatsia needs annual pruning to maintain a bushy growth habit and healthy, glossy leaves. Renewal pruning is best. You can cut the entire plant to the ground in late winter just before new growth begins, or you can remove one-third of the oldest stems each year for three years. In addition, remove leaf stems that reach too far beyond the plant to improve the appearance.
Layering is a method of rooting a stem before cutting it away from the parent plant. As long as the stem is attached, it continues to receive nourishment and moisture from the parent plant, increasing the chances of rooting successfully. Pull a fatsia stem down to the ground and make a wound where you want roots to form.
Bury the wounded part of the stem in the soil, keeping the tip end of the stem above ground. Tie the tip to a stake to encourage it to grow straight up. If the underground portion of the stem doesn’t want to stay underground, place a stone on top of it. Cut the new plant away once roots form.
Take 4- to 6-inch semi-ripe tip cuttings in summer when the stems are firm. Remove all but the uppermost cluster of leaves. Cuttings root faster and form stronger roots if the cut ends are treated with rooting hormone. Stick the lower end of the cutting about 2 inches into a pot filled with potting soil and keep the soil moist until roots form. Keeping the humidity around the plant high improves your chances of success. You can do this by covering the cutting with a plastic bag or a clear plastic soda bottle with the bottom cut out. Remove the covering once roots form.
Harvest the berries when they are fully ripe and remove the flesh from the seeds. The seeds need light to germinate, so don’t bury them. Press the fresh seeds onto the surface of moist potting soil and keep the soil moist at all times. The seeds can take up to 40 days to germinate, so don’t give up on them too soon.
Nurturing Cuttings and Seedlings
Set rooted cuttings and young seedlings in an area near a north- or west-facing window. Keep the soil moist but not wet or soggy. Two weeks after the cuttings root or the seedlings germinate, begin feeding the shrubs with liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength.
Continue the feedings every two to three weeks. Fatsias make lovely houseplants, or you can transplant them outdoors in spring or fall. Introduce the plants to the outdoors by placing them outside for gradually increasing hours over a period of two weeks before planting them in the garden.
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