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Aralia (or Fatsia Japonica): How to Cultivate and Protect it from Pests

Fatsia Japonica (or Aralia) is a highly appreciated evergreen plant cultivated both in gardens and apartments. Let's explore how to take care of it.

by BioGrow

The Fatsia Japonica, also known as Aralia, is an ornamental evergreen plant. It’s a highly appreciated and cultivated plant in both gardens and apartments. However, some specific care should be considered to ensure healthy and flourishing plants. Being quite hardy, it adapts well to cold winters, making it suitable for outdoor placement near houses. Additionally, there are various varieties, each with its own characteristics.

Let’s dive into the botanical properties of Fatsia Japonica and learn how to reproduce and cultivate it correctly. In this article, special attention will be given to its organic pest defense.

Botanical Identification and Characteristics of Aralia

Aralia fatsia japonica
Fatsia Japonica belongs to the Araliaceae family, just like ivy. It’s a species native to East Asia, widely found in the wild, especially in Japan and the Korean peninsula. The plant has a highly branched shrub that, in unrestricted growth, can reach heights of up to 5 meters. The stem tends to form clusters at the base, increasing the number of plant branches. Another notable characteristic of Aralia is its wide leaves, arranged alternately on the stem. These leaves, with a long petiole, have a lobed palmate shape and are divided into 7-11 lobes. In the classic variety, the leaves are dark green on the upper side and light on the lower side, reaching widths of up to 45 cm. The plant blooms in autumn, with typical umbrella-shaped inflorescences at the tips of the twigs. The flowers are white-cream in color.

Varieties of Fatsia Japonica

Apart from the typical variety described above, there are other varieties of Fatsia Japonica. These differ mainly in leaf size, shape, and color. Let’s explore these varieties.

  • Aurea: A plant with slower growth and variegated leaves.
  • Marginata: A variety with leaves having deep gray-green lobes and prominent white margins.
  • Variegata: Leaves with a broad margin, further enhanced by cream-white variegation.

Cultivation of Aralia

Environmental Requirements

Aralia
As mentioned earlier, Fatsia Japonica is a highly robust species. It’s grown both indoors and outdoors, in pots or directly in the ground. When placed outdoors, it withstands low winter temperatures well, as long as it doesn’t drop below 0 °C. However, it’s less tolerant of direct sunlight during the summer months. Intense heat and direct sun rays can lead to rapid leaf yellowing. For indoor cultivation, choose a room with good light but without artificial heating. Aralia doesn’t tolerate artificial heat well in winter, so be cautious about placing it away from radiators and heaters. You’ll easily notice when the plant suffers due to inadequate room temperature. The large leaves initially turn yellow, then wilt, and finally fall off. If you lack a cold room, it’s better to position the pot on the balcony.

Soil, Irrigation, and Fertilization

Aralia isn’t very demanding in terms of soil type. For potted plants, good quality garden soil mixed with 20% river sand to enhance drainage is sufficient. However, great attention must be paid to irrigation, which should never be neglected, especially during hot weather, whether in pots or in the ground. The soil should always be kept moist, with frequent watering in summer and reduced watering in winter. Be cautious not to overdo it; excessive water can wilt the leaves. Check the soil by touch; it should be moist but not waterlogged. For those cultivating Fatsia Japonica indoors, an effective tip is to occasionally spray the leaves with a spray bottle. This keeps them shiny and bright. Periodic fertilization benefits the plants, especially in spring-summer during the vegetative period. An excellent organic fertilizer for Aralia is earthworm humus, which you can find here.

Reproduction of Fatsia Japonica

Flowers of Aralia
Fatsia Japonica can be easily propagated from seeds. The best time to plant them is at the end of winter, with temperatures between 10 and 15 °C. The seeds should be germinated in small pots with a diameter of 10 cm. The seedlings, which should never be exposed to direct sunlight, need to be repotted between September and October. After spending winter in a cold balcony greenhouse (like this one), they will be transplanted into their permanent home at the beginning of spring, just over a year after sowing. Generally, early spring is the ideal time for repotting Aralia. Repot when the pot becomes too small to accommodate root growth and vegetation vigor. An inadequate-sized pot risks being unable to balance a voluminous plant. If you prefer to collect seeds from the plant, note that it blooms at the beginning of autumn. Therefore, seeds mature around late November to early December. Plants cultivated indoors rarely flower. Aralia can also be reproduced by taking basal shoots in March-April. These should be placed in a mix of 50% peat and sand.

Pruning Aralia

Pruning Fatsia Japonica is mainly for ornamental purposes and only to give the plant a more compact shape. The plant grows rapidly and reaches considerable sizes, so thin or elongated branches can be cut to make it appear denser. It’s essential to always make clean and precise cuts to avoid damaging frays. The pruning tool must be cleaned and disinfected, and the cut should be made above a new bud. Late winter is the best time for pruning Aralia.

Organic Pest Defense

Aralia can be attacked by various pests, affecting its appearance and even the lymphatic system. The most critical periods are spring and summer.

Cottony Cushion Scale

In spring, beware of the cottony cushion scale, which attacks stems and the underside of leaves, sucking sap. This pest causes the decline of the plant and the production of abundant honeydew and sooty mold. The insect can be eliminated using white mineral oil (found this oil here), a product allowed in organic farming, specific for scale insects. Other remedies for this pest include Marseille soap, excellent for cleaning plants from honeydew, and fern macerate.

Aphids

Other problematic insects for Fatsia Japonica are aphids, which appear in early spring. These insects particularly attack the leaves, making them sticky and sucking their sap. To prevent their presence, we recommend using natural macerates, such as garlic macerate and nettle macerate. If these are not sufficient and you find yourself facing an infestation, you can intervene with neem oil, specifically formulated for organic agriculture, available here.

Red Spider Mite

With the arrival of summer warmth, attention is also needed for the red spider mite, which attacks the leaves, causing them to first turn yellow and then die. This tiny creature proliferates in dry heat. A straightforward method to limit its proliferation and halt its development is thorough evening watering with cold water.

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