Japanese aralia combines with monkey grass and needle palm in the shade of a live oak to create an ultra-low maintenance shade garden.
Imagine an ivy plant on hormones! Fatsia has huge, up to 12 in (30 cm) wide leaves that are deeply lobed and slightly serrated. Petioles, or leaf stems, are quite long, and hold the leaves up and out with the plant growing to heights of about 8 ft (2.4 m) and about half as wide. The upright stems are covered with prominent leaf scars and mostly unbranched. The weight of the leaves tends to make the plant list to one side or another. Flowering season is fall, but plants must be mature to bloom. Flowers are white, held on a white stalk in small terminal clusters and followed by small, fleshy black fruit. Neither adds much to landscape appearance, and may be almost overlooked. This plant is mainly grown for its outstandingly attractive foliage.
The Japanese aralia is not surprisingly a native of Japan but is now enjoyed all over the world in landscapes and as a container plant indoors and out.
Fatsia flowers are arranged in spherical clusters that appear in late fall. Download a large version (800x600) of this image.
By late winter the fruits are ripening, slowly changing from bright green to almost black before falling to the ground. Download a large version (800x600) of this image.
Likes slightly acid, compost-rich soil which should not dry out. Stems that become leggy or top-heavy may be cut back to encourage branching, or staked for support. Does best in a protected area, or with a northern exposure. Plant responds well to fertilizer which helps it look its best. Light: Shade to partial shade. Moisture: Moist, well drained soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8-10. Zone 7 as well if planted in a protected area with well mulched roots to protect from freezes. Propagation: By cuttings from semi-ripe wood.
Fatsia is a good courtyard or patio plant. Because of its extraordinary bold landscape effect, it might require a little imagination to figure out how to get the most effect from this plant! The effect is easily diminished by placement too close to other plants that could compete for attention. Fatsia is used in Japanese gardens. It can be striking against a light colored background with a fountain or statuary piece in front, especially at night with illumination.
When properly situated the Japanese aralia is a low-maintenance plant seldom bothered by pests or disease. It resembles a shorter, more compact version of the rice paper plant (Tetrapanax papyiferus) but unlike that species is not an aggressive colony former and is invasive.