How To Grow and Care For Aralia Fabian

Aralia Fabiana (uh-RAY-lee-uh fab-ee-AY-nuh) is also known as Polyscias scutellaria (pol-ISS-see-as skew-teh-LARE-ee). This small, versatile, perennial branching tree makes an excellent houseplant. 

The name, Polyscias scutellaria comes from the Greek and means “many shade”. It is so-called because the plant produces large, thick, luxuriant leaves which cast a great deal of shade.

Mature Aralia Fabian - Polyscias ScutellariPin
Mature Fabian Aralia | emilia-Adobe

Aralia Fabian grows as a small tree thick, with woody trunks and large, round leaves growing along the entire branch. In fact, the leaves are so large and round and flat that this plant is often commonly called Dinner Plate Aralia. 

Other common names include:

  • Balfour Aralia
  • Shield Aralia
  • Plum Aralia
  • Milkwort

Shield Aralia hails from New Guinea and other islands in the Pacific ocean. It can also be found in some parts of Africa, India, and Central America.

This attractive, evergreen perennial is a member of the ginseng or Araliaceae  family.

More on Aralia plant care

Aralia Fabian Care

Size & Growth 

In their native setting of a warm and sunny location, mature plants can grow to be 10’ feet high. As a houseplant, they usually top out at 5’ feet high and have a spread of approximately 2’ feet. Once established, these are slow-growing, compact trees.

Shield Aralia grows as a small tree or upright evergreen shrub. Its dark green leaves are large, flat, rounded, or oval. They are glossy, deep green, and quite aromatic. The leaves are purple on the underside and sport deep, attractive veins.

Flowering & Fragrance

In the wild, Milkwort will flower in the springtime producing clusters of delicate white flowers. Over the summer, the flowers will transition into a purplish black fruit. It is very unusual for these small trees to flower in a domestic setting.

Light & Temperature

These plants do best in a setting that provides an ample amount of bright, indirect light. They can adapt to a low-light setting. Direct sunlight should be avoided.

If you’re keeping your plant in a greenhouse setting, bright filtered sun is desirable. If your plant is outdoors, an Eastern or Western exposure that provides partial shade is best.

Always protect your plant against extremes in temperature. These tropical plants like a warm setting ranging between 65° and 80° degrees Fahrenheit. The warmer the better. Sure not to allow the temperature to fall below 60° degrees Fahrenheit.

These plants are winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 11 through 12.

Read Aralia Varieties for Interiors

Watering & Feeding

Aralia likes moderate watering, and you should establish a watering schedule that allows you to water thoroughly when the top few inches of soil become dry.

Soft water is preferred, and rainwater is best. If you have hard water, you can soften it by boiling it and then allowing it to cool completely before watering. Never use water that has been put through a water softener because it will contain too much salt.

Tap water you use should always be left to stand in an open container for twenty-four hours before you water. This will help remove chemicals and other impurities.

Be sure to avoid overwatering. Excess water leads to root rot and leaf drop.

Remember that this tropical island plant likes high humidity. If humidity levels are too low, leaves may drop. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep your plant in a bathroom or kitchen where humidity levels are naturally higher. You can also use a pebble tray, a humidifier and/or a mister to increase humidity levels.

During warmer months of the year, feed monthly with a balanced fertilizer.

Soil & Transplanting

Shield Aralia likes moist, well-draining, loamy soil with a neutral pH level. When keeping it in a greenhouse setting, grow in loam-based compost.

In an outdoor setting, grow in humus-rich, fertile, moist, well-draining soil.

When grown in a container, you will not need to repot frequently. These plants grow quite slowly, so repotting every couple of years should be adequate.

Transplant early in the springtime using a standard houseplant potting mix or container mix. Be sure to water your plant well the day before you repot.

Grooming & Maintenance

Regular pruning will help maintain the shape of the plant and will encourage thicker trunk development. Pinch the leaves to encourage more branching.

In cold weather, lower leaves may drop, but this is not a cause for alarm. When the lower leaves drop, the attractive trunk will be more visible.

If you notice yellowing or dying leaves, you should remove them. Additionally, if you see small leaves growing from the main trunk, you should remove them. These are suckers and will cause ungainly and unattractive growth.

If you are keeping your Aralia in a greenhouse, you may need to prune a little more aggressively to prevent it from becoming too large.

Related: Growing Polyscias Fruticosa – Ming Aralia Care

How to Propagate Aralia

These plants may be grown from seed, from semi-ripe cuttings and from softwood cuttings.

Aralia Fabiana Pest or Disease Problems

When overwatered or otherwise stressed, these plants may be subject to infestation by mealybugs, red spider mites, and whiteflies.

Excess watering can also cause problems such as chlorosis, root rot, leaf curling, leaf loss, and more.

Is The Aralia Considered Toxic Or Poisonous To People, Kids, Pets?

All parts of this plant are toxic, but a pet, child or adult would have to eat quite a bit of the plant to suffer negative consequences. It’s best to simply remember that these are not edible plants and should be kept out of the reach of pets and children.

Is Fabian Aralia Plant Considered Invasive?

Aralia is generally not considered invasive, even in a tropical setting such as Florida.

Suggested Aralia Fabiana Uses

If you live in a tropical setting, you can grow Aralia Fabiana outdoors year-round. If you are keeping your Aralia Fabiana as a houseplant, some owners of Aralia plants recommend moving Fabian outdoors during the warmer, milder months of the year, and bringing it in when temperatures drop. We are not a fan other moving houseplants indoors and out.

In a tropical setting, Aralia Fabiana is a good choice as a border plant or bedding plant. It makes a nice specimen plant in a conservatory and a lovely container plant. An Aralia Fabian stump makes an attractive potted plant on a sheltered porch or patio.

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