False aralia: flowers, care & propagation of Dizygotheca elegantissima


I study landscape ecology and through my studies have discovered a love for plants. Plants are not only beautiful, but also have countless fascinating survival strategies. To bring a bit of nature into my home as well, I nurture my houseplants and herbs on every possible windowsill.

Favourite fruit: rhubarb and all kinds of berries
Favourite vegetables: onions and garlic

Whether you think the false aralia is elegant or not, there is no denying its beauty. When it comes to houseplants, the false aralia is truly unique due to its interesting leaf design.

green foliage of false aralia plant
These slender leaves are characteristic of the false aralia [Photo: Sharaf Maksumov/ Shutterstock.com]

Warmth and high humidity are essential if you want to keep your false aralia happy. Find out what else you need to bear in mind when caring for this plant and why it sometimes sheds its leaves.

False aralia: origin, flowering and properties

Native to New Caledonia, the false aralia (Plerandra elegantissima syn. Dizygotheca elegantissima syn. Schefflera elegantissima), also known as spider aralia or threadleaf aralia, belongs to the Araliaceae family and is a very popular houseplant. It grows up to 2 metres tall and has a slender, upright shape and an overall elegant appearance. The plants have narrow leaves with toothed edges that are arranged in the shape of a hand, emerging from the centre like rays from its long stems. They are leathery to the touch and dark green in colour. There are also some varieties with differently coloured leaves. Schefflera elegantissima ‘Bianca’, for instance, has a creamy white leaf edge. False aralia plants can bloom if properly cared for, but the blossoms are quite inconspicuous.

light leaf edges false aralia
The light leaf edge is characteristic of the variety ‘Bianca’ [Photo: Khairil Azhar Junos/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: When the leaves first emerge, they are copper-red in colour before turning dark green.

Growing false aralia: location, soil and co.

The false aralia feels most at home in a location with morning or evening sun. Place yours in a bright spot, but ideally somewhere that will not be directly exposed to the midday sun. In summer, this plant thrives in temperatures of around 19 to 25 °C, whereas in winter, it prefers a cooler spot with a minimum temperature of 15 °C. The ideal temperature is around 18 °C, which is why, in winter, the bedroom is an excellent location for your plant. False aralias also like high humidity, so it is a good idea to use a shallow bowl filled with expanded clay and water as a saucer for the plant.

To plant the houseplant, first prepare the pot. Like most plants, false aralia does not tolerate waterlogging, so create a drainage layer at the bottom of the pot using clay shards, pebbles, or expanded clay. Follow this with a layer of soil. Our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost, for example, is suitable for false aralia as it both retains water well and its loose structure, allowing air to get to the roots. It is also peat-free and consists of natural ingredients. To further increase the permeability of this soil, mix in about a third of sand. Finally, place the plant in the pot and fill with the soil mixture.

Misting false aralia
Regular misting is important to keep your false aralia happy and healthy [Photo: Kristyk.photo/ Shutterstock.com]

Plant care

Like most houseplants, the false aralia requires a little tender loving care. Especially when it comes to watering, this plant can be a little particular.

Water your plant once the top layer of soil is dry – touch the soil with your finger to check this. Ideally, use lime-free water and pour off any excess water that is still in the saucer after 15 minutes to prevent waterlogging. In winter, water less, but never let the soil dry out completely.

Closer view of false aralia leaves
The slightly serrated leaf edge is a typical marker of the false aralia [Photo: Sirilak S/ Shutterstock.com]

As false aralia plants like high humidity, regularly misting it with rainwater or stale tap water will help keep the plant happy and healthy.

Fertilise every fortnight from spring to autumn. For leafy ornamental plants, we recommend using a liquid fertiliser like our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food. Simply pour some of our liquid fertiliser into the watering can. This way, the nutrients are quickly available to the plant. The special composition of the nutrients, especially the high potassium content, supports the growth of strong, healthy leaves and robust roots. It is not necessary to fertilise your plant during the winter, when the plant is dormant.

Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
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  • Perfect for a wide variety of houseplants & foliage plants
  • Liquid fertiliser for robust plants & healthy growth
  • Quick & easy application - child & pet friendly

The houseplant can be cut back and will sprout again after pruning. This is best done in spring when the growing season begins again. Especially in the case of bare specimens that have lost many leaves, it is worth generously pruning the plant. To do this, shorten the shoots to about 10 cm. Always use clean, sharp secateurs when pruning false aralia.

What do I do if my false aralia is dropping leaves?

Leaf drop is usually due to incorrect care or an unsuitable location. Here are some possible causes and how to fix them:

  • Cold: The plants like to be kept warm all year round. Temperatures below 15 °C are too cool, even in winter, and may result in leaf drop. In this case, place your false aralia in a warmer spot.
  • Waterlogging: If the false aralia leaves are turning yellow and falling off, waterlogging may be the culprit. In this case, immediately repot and water less. Creating a drainage layer in the bottom of the pot is a good idea.
  • Dry air: The air in your home can be very dry, especially during winter when the heating is on a lot. Make sure to regularly mist your plant or place water bowls on the radiator in winter to up the humidity.

How to propagate

Unfortunately, propagating false aralias is not easy to do by yourself. While it is possible to take cuttings or grow your own plant from seed year round, there is no guarantee this will work.

false aralia display
As propagating false aralia is difficult, it is often easier to simply purchase a plant from a shop [Photo: Olga Korica/ Shutterstock.com]

False aralia cuttings rarely root indoors. To increase the chance that yours will root, we recommend using rooting hormones on the cutting and placing it somewhere with greenhouse conditions. When taking cuttings, opt for half-ripe shoots that are no longer green, but not yet woody. Cut off about 10 cm long pieces of shoots diagonally. Then remove the lower leaves and put the cuttings into growing soil. For this, you can use our Plantura Organic Herb & Seeding Compost, which is ideal for sowing and propagating false aralia cuttings. The low nutrient content promotes healthy root formation, and the loose structure ensures enough air can get to the young roots. Warm temperatures and high humidity are essential for the cutting to root successfully.

It is likewise necessary to keep things warm when trying to grow false aralia plants from seed. Temperatures of at least 24 °C are ideal. It is also important to use fresh seeds. To increase the chances of germination, we recommend using a mini greenhouse.

false aralia and cat
Just like its close relative the umbrella tree, keep false aralias out of reach of cats [Photo: Africa Studio/ Shutterstock.com]

Is false aralia poisonous?

The plant is poisonous, so always handle with care. As a precaution, wear gloves when cutting and repotting. Do not ingest the plant, as this can cause gastrointestinal issues. Anyone with children or pets should think twice about buying this plant as the false aralia is also poisonous to cats.

A somewhat more robust relative of the false aralia is the dwarf umbrella tree (Schefflera arboricola). Find out how to plant and care for it in our in-depth article.