Fatsia Japonica [FAT-see-uh, juh-PON-ih-kuh] is a flowering plant species belonging to the Araliaceae family (Aralia plant) and is native to Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.
Fatsi, one of the plant’s common names, comes from the Japanese word for eight and refers to the eight lobes of Japonica’s palmate leaves.
You may hear this evergreen shrub called by its common names including:
- Paper Plant
- Japanese Aralia
- Glossy-Leaf Paper Plant
- False Castor Oil Plant (more on the true Castor Oil Bean plant)
NOTE: Fatsia is one of the parents of the Fatshedera lizei plant. It is a cross between Fatsia and English ivy.
Growing Conditions and Caring For Fatsia Japonica
Size & Growth
Japanese Aralia is an evergreen shrub growing up to 3’ – 10’ feet in height and features sparsely branched, stout stems and large, spirally-arranged, deeply lobed leaves.
While the plant is also grown as an indoor plant, it is not likely to flower when grown in pots indoors.
However, this isn’t considered a big loss because the flowers of Fatsia aren’t showy and attractive.
Flowering and Fragrance
This plant type produces thick compound umbels of small, white flower color, non-showy flowers in terminal umbels during late autumn or early winter season followed by black berries or black fruit.
For those who do not know, umbel is the term for an inflorescence comprised of multiple short flower stalks originating from one point.
The flowering season is followed by the production of small, green-colored fruits in spring which turns black when they get mature.
The best foliage grows in deep shade with protection from the hot sun.
Light & Temperature
Fatsia Japonica grows best in warm temperate climates in a partially sheltered site where it receives no more than a few hours of east facing window exposure to the full sun.
While it can tolerate full shade, the plant leaves can bleach out if it is exposed to full and direct sunlight.
While it appreciates small spells of relatively cold and dry weather, the plant cannot tolerate very cold and dry climates.
United States hardiness zones 8 to 10 (USDA Zones).
Watering and Feeding
Maintaining an adequate level of moisture during the growing season is critical for the proper growth habit of the fatsia japonica plant.
So, water the plant regular when it is actively growing in summers; however, slightly reduce the watering during the late winter season.
Regularly feed the plant with a weak liquid fertilizer during spring and summer, but reduce it to about once or twice a month in winter months.
Soil & Transplanting
The Fatsia japonica plant isn’t very picky about soil conditions but performs best in a slightly acidic soil mix.
Although the plant prefers moisture, water-logged soil can cause damage to plant roots.
So, in addition to keeping the soil moist by regular watering, make sure it is well-draining.
Since Japanese Aralia can grow up to 10’ feet, it needs to be repotted to bigger pots, about once a year.
While it is best to repot the plant to bigger pots as it grows, it can survive in the same pot for many years.
It also grows well in large containers placed on shady patios or under trees.
Grooming and Maintenance
One of the reasons why fatsia is a popular choice for landscaping is because it is quite easy to grow and doesn’t require much maintenance.
All you have to do is to regularly trim the plant at the beginning of the spring as it promotes bushiness, which then further increases its aesthetic appeal.
Late spring is the best time for pruning.
How to Propagate Fatsia Plant
Propagation of F. japonica is done by seeds and semi-ripe stem tip cuttings.
Collect the seeds from ripe berries and sow them onto the surface of moist soil.
Since the seeds light to germinate, make sure to do not sow them deep into the soil.
While propagation through seeds is simple, it takes longer as seeds can take up to 40 days to germinate, so you have to be patient.
To propagate fatsia plants through stem cuttings, cut about 4” – 6” inch long pieces from the tips of semi-ripe, but firm stems.
Remove all the leaves from the cuttings except the uppermost clusters and treat them with rooting hormone.
According to experts, rooting powder helps fatsia japonica cuttings to root faster and form a strong root system.
Plant the cuttings about 2” inches deep into the pots.
Since aralia japonica prefers high humidity, it is suggested to cover the pots with plastic bags until the cuttings form roots.
Also, make sure to keep the soil consistently moist until roots are formed.
Fatsia Pest or Diseases
Mealybugs and scale insects are tiny sap-feeding insects weakening plants and making them susceptible to sooty mold growth by excreting a sticky substance on their foliage.
Thrips, on the other hand, are the plant pests causing mottling on both flowers and foliage of the affected plant.
Look out for these pests and treat the plant with the least toxic insecticide/pesticide (neem oil spray) during the early stages of infestation to avoid severe damage.
Japonica ‘variegata’ also gets affected by leaf spot.
The sticky and resinous sap of fatsia japonica can cause contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction causing inflammation of the skin, to people with sensitive skin.
Japanese Aralia Uses
Fatsia is especially well suited to shade gardens where a dramatic, tropical look is desired.
While the fatsia plant is mainly grown in gardens and parks due to its attractive foliage, it is also used as an herbal medicine in different parts of Japan and Taiwan for treating cough, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatism, tendinitis, and ankylosing spondylitis.
The plant is also believed to help in improving blood circulation.