In today’s interiorscape marketplace it is common for the designer, specifier or sales person to become frustrated at the prospect of using and reusing the “same old” Dracaena marginata plant, – mass cane, Janet Craig, Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily), indoor Bamboo palms, etc.
There is a certain group of plants receiving more attention during recent years and is being more widely recognized for its successful application in high-quality interior plantings.
An article by Derek Burch and T K Broschat provides one of the very few scholarly insights into the group of plants commonly known as ‘aralias’.
In this piece, the authors make a memorable reference to the use of these plants by interiorscapers referring to the recognition by interiorscapers of the value of this ugly duckling for dark, hot locations, which few other plants will tolerate.
The thinking regarding these plants has come a long way in the last 30 years, and I know of few interiorscape designers who would think of a fully flushed ming aralia (Polyscias fruiticosa) or a towering, heavily cane, branched and foliated chicken gizzard aralia (Polyscias crispata ) as “ugly ducklings”. (No pun here).
Aralia Plants Excellent Indoors
Most interiorscapers experienced with Aralia plants would agree that many of the cultivars and species are truly superior interiorscape plants with phenomenal “staying power” on the job. Even when used in those hot, dark places referred to in the article.
Over the years, aralias have fallen on and off the favored plant list with growers and plants buyers alike.
For many years International Botanicals as a former interiorscaper recognized the value of “Aralia trees” and endeavored to grow wonderful specimen pieces from multiple canes and specimens recovered from the landscape.
They sought to expand the variety of aralias grown, in pot sizes and forms in which these plants are offered.
Aralias grow in a wide variety of leaf forms and coloration. Common leaf forms are the familiar elegant, lacy leaves of the Ming aralia (aralia ming stump), the rounded leaflets of the chicken gizzard plants, those of the large, aptly named ‘dinner plate’ aralia and the tightly crinkled leaves of the black or ‘spinach leaf’ aralia.
Variegations run from gold, cream or white, to solid green, and range from dark green, tending to almost black with some being nearly burgundy- colored in their leaves and petioles.
The really attractive aspects, however, are the massive woody trunks and sweeping, curving branches and heavy, dense and somewhat shaggy foliage of the specimen plants.
Aralias Not Right for Every Application
Naturally, not every application suitable for using aralias lends itself to the use of the specimen plants. Most aralias lend themselves to use as smaller plants as well.
In 6″ and 8″ pots, and grown as “bonsai” plants they are superior table top and reception counter accents, interesting in their shape and color.
In some varieties, 10″ plants will achieve heights of 4 foot tall or so. In 14″ pots, many varieties are grown in forms which will result in plants of approximately 3 to 4 feet in height (stump or bush) or plants in the range of 5 to 6 (cane or specimen pieces).
The specimens, which make such stunning centerpieces, are typically in pot sizes of 17″ and 21″ or more and range in heights of 7 to 12 feet.
Successful Use of Aralias in the Interiorscape Environment
Successful use of aralias in the interiorscape environment depends to a large degree on the care the plants receive in the nursery where they are grown. Aralias must be grown in a light, well-drained soil like this.
Adequate watering is of course, essential, but over-watering is above all the greatest cause of the demise of virtually all Aralias, with their delicate roots rotting away.
The frequency and amount of watering and fertilization will be determined by the light level available to the plant at its location in the interiorscape. It is generally thought that plants will thrive by not keeping moist soil as is usually the recommendation but kept on the dry side.
Some reports from the field call for watering only every three weeks in low light situations. Controlled watering devices (aka sub-irrigation) may be called for in many applications.
Long time users of aralias in interiorscapes have frequently shared of plants being “on the job” in interiors for 10 years or more.
Assuming proper conditions and care this is really not an unreasonable expectation. An added bonus in these long-term circumstances is the fact that, unlike any varieties of interiorscape plants which are growing robustly in their environment, aralias may be selectively pruned on the job and will regenerate new foliage at the cut end.
Given appropriate site selection and proper care, the potential for truly long on-the-job life should provide a large measure of balance to the perceived high up-front cost of some aralias.
Aralia “Chicken Gizzard”
Celeryleaf Aralia got its common name, Chicken Gizzard Aralia, from the shape of its leaves that closely resemble that of a chicken gizzard. This branched plant has leaves with 3 rounded leaflets.
The leaflets are divided into 2 or more lobes. Terminal leaflets have 2 major lobes, as well, with smaller lobes in between these major lobes. As seen from the photo at the left, Chicken Gizzard Aralia is an upright columnar plant.
Chicken Gizzard Aralia is grown for its unique growth stature plus its uniquely-shaped leaves.
Because of the length of time needed to produce a Chicken Gizzard Aralia, the plant along with other Aralias are generally priced higher than any other house plants. Their special production needs make them worth their pricey price.
Aralia Fabian Stump
For those into feng shui, one plant known to bring the flow of love energy and calmness is Fabian Aralia stump plant or the Plum Aralia. This shrubby tree plant has leaves with maroon to almost purplish undersides.
Each shiny green leaf is medium to large in size. A closer look at each round leaf will show deep veination throughout the foliage. Fabian Aralia stumps produce flowers when grown in the wild but it rarely blooms when cultivated.
Grown as an upright columnar plant making a great houseplant. It looks great as a container plant and will make a great housewarming gift.
Are you looking for a floor plant which work as a potted plant; be it indoors or outdoors? Check out the Aralia Balfouriana.
Some Balfour Aralia plants like the Polyscias balfouriana have deeply-veined crinkled-like leaves while there are those with large, glossy, and dark-green leaves just like Plain Balfour plants as in the photo at the left. Each leaf is lobed and waxy in structure.
Plain Balfour Aralia shows an upright growth habit. It is perfect as a container plant because it does not generally grow wider than its container.
Troubleshooting Aralia Problems
Aralia Leaf Drop – What Causes it?
Leaf drop on Aralias indoors usually comes from a humidity problem of the air being too dry. Many of the problems Aralias face start with humidity issues.
Brown Edges on Leaves?
Brown edges on Aralias again come back to a lack of humidity or a fertilizer burn. Aralias can also get brown leaves by exposure to air movement drying the leaves.
Wilting from Water
Aralias are much life Ficus in the watering department, they are sensitive to overwatering and drop leaves when the plant stays too wet. Dropping leaves can also result from temperature changes – too hot or too cool.
Over-grown or Weak Limbs
Aralias love light. When plants do not get enough light they can produce stretched growth but weak growth. Pruning back in the spring should help the plant fill in any bare spots.
Insect problems on Aralias
Aralias can at times face battles with aphids, spider mites or scale. Look for natural pest control solutions first.