Fatsia japonica: care, overwintering & propagation of Japanese aralias

Mareike
Mareike
Mareike
Mareike

It was through my love of plants that I came to study plant biotechnology. In everyday life, I deal with plants in all of my surroundings - be it in the garden, in my home or for my master thesis. They are a constant source of joy for me!

Favorite fruit: Currants
Favorite vegetable: Broccoli

Thanks to their large, exotic-looking leaves, Japanese aralias are beautiful, low-maintenance evergreen houseplants that add jungle vibes to your home. Find out how to overwinter and propagate them and discover our top Fatsia japonica care tips.

Close up of aralia leaves
The Fatsia japonica is a low-maintenance, attractive potted plant [Photo: simona pavan/ Shutterstock.com]

The Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica) is a decorative, evergreen houseplant that is especially suitable for cooler rooms. Its lush growth and the fact that it is not very demanding in terms of care make it quite a popular houseplant. Read on to learn all about caring for and overwintering Fatsia japonica, as well as tips on how to propagate it.

Fatsia japonica: origin and properties

Fatsia japonica is a member of the Araliaceae family and is native to Japan and South Korea. Japanese aralias are characterised by their tall, bushy growth. In our part of the world, they can reach up to two metres high when kept as an indoor plant. The leathery, slightly glossy, evergreen leaves are palmate and deeply lobed with seven to nine lobes, resembling large hands, and can grow up to 40 cm large.

Large aralia leaf
It is the lobes that make these leaves special and lovely [Photo: riet bloemen/ Shutterstock.com]

When does Fatsia japonica flower?
Japanese aralias rarely flower as indoor plants, at least in the UK. The ornamental value of the plant comes first and foremost from the leaves. Fatsia japonica grown outdoors in regions that experience mild winters, on the other hand, can bloom. More mature specimens especially may produce small white flowers, which form several spherical umbels, from September to October.

TipFatsia japonica has no relatives and there is only one cultivar, namely Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata’, also known as Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s web’. The lobes of this variegated Fatsia japonica have some white variegation on the outer edges of the leaf. To maintain this variegation, keep the plant somewhere with plenty of light. That said, the plant may also revert and turn green again if it gets too much light.

Aralia leaves with white patterns
The younger leaves are usually more variegated [Photo: Wiert nieuman/ Shutterstock.com]

Planting and growing Fatsia japonica: where and how

As an indoor plant, Japanese aralias should be grown in bright but partially shady locations. Avoid direct sunlight at all costs, otherwise the leaves will get burnt. They should ideally be kept somewhere bright in partial shade and at a temperature of about 18 °C, so stairwells and open corridors are great places to put them.

Japanese aralias are hardy down to about -10 °C, so can be planted in containers on balconies, terraces and in the garden, as long as they are not exposed to direct midday sun. This is especially possible in areas with mild winters, where you can leave the plant outside from at least March to October.

While Japanese aralias have no special requirements regarding humidity, occasionally misting the leaves with water that is low in lime can be very beneficial to the plant.

Fatsia leaf with water droplets
Misting your plant ensures good humidity, especially in winter [Photo: CoinUp/ Shutterstock.com]

Plant Japanese aralias in loose, nutrient-rich and well-draining soil, such as our peat-free Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost that is made from 100% natural ingredients and contains compost which promotes plant growth. As Japanese aralias do not tolerate waterlogging, make sure the pot has a drainage hole and create a drainage layer at the bottom of it using coarse materials, such as clay shards, for good measure.

Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder
star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating
(4.8/5)
  • Perfect for all your house, garden & balcony plants
  • For strong & healthy plants as well as an active soil life
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition
£16.99

Care: pruning, watering, and fertilising

When it comes to Fatsia japonica care, two of the most important things to bear in mind are to avoid waterlogging at all costs and fertilise on a weekly basis.

While you should always remove old or dry shoots, generally speaking Fatsia japonica does not require pruning. That said, selectively pruning can encourage your plant to grow bushier, as Japanese aralias will sprout again just below where they have been cut.

Japanese aralias only need a moderate amount of water. To prevent root rot, avoid waterlogging. Only water Japanese aralias once the top layer of soil is dry. As with many plants, it is advisable to water less during the winter months from October to March.

Tip: Using a damp cloth, wipe the dust off the large leaves from time to time to ensure that the plant continues to photosynthesise efficiently and grow well.

Freshly-dusted, shiny aralia leaves
After removing the dust, the leaves can shine beautifully again [Photo: PRILL/ Shutterstock.com]

It is essential to provide your Japanese aralia houseplant with plenty of nutrients, especially during the active growth phase from March to October. To do this, simply dilute a high-quality liquid fertiliser into the water you use for watering. Our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food has a nutrient ratio that is geared to the plant’s nutrient requirements and helps to promote growth. It also contains live bacteria cultures which help to encourage healthy root formation.

Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder
star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating
(5/5)
  • Perfect for a wide variety of houseplants & foliage plants
  • Liquid fertiliser for robust plants & healthy growth
  • Quick & easy application - child & pet friendly
£10.99

Due to its rapid growth, you should repot your Japanese aralia into a larger pot once a year. Strictly speaking, you can repot your plants all year round, but the best time to do so is in March, just before the start of the active growing period. It is also a good idea to repot the plants into larger pots as soon as you bring them home from the shops to give the roots enough space to grow. When doing this, loosen the old soil from the root ball and remove any dried-up roots before planting into fresh soil.

Tip: Adding a layer of mulch to the surface of the soil prevents the root area from becoming too wet. Mulching can also help keep fungus gnats away. If you already have these pesky flies in your plants, you can try home remedies to combat fungus gnats.

Fatsia japonica care in a nutshell

  • Pruning Fatsia japonica is not necessary, but it does promote branching
  • Avoid waterlogging at all costs and ensure good drainage in the pot
  • Feeding the plant with fertiliser is essential during the growing season from March to October
  • Repotting is necessary immediately after purchase and we recommend repotting the plants annually after that
  • Remove dust from the leaves regularly

Fatsia japonica problems

Does your Fatsia japonica have yellow leaves? Or are its leaves drooping or even falling off? Here are a few possible causes and ways to remedy the situation:

  • Lack of water: Check the root ball. If it has dried out, it needs to be thoroughly watered. Two short, two-minute water baths at intervals of one to two hours will help.
  • Waterlogging: If the root ball is so wet that water is dripping from the pot, your Japanese aralia is probably suffering from root rot. It may seem illogical, but if the plant is given too much water, its roots lose the ability to absorb that water. This means that no water reaches the leaves, causing them to droop. If this is the case, remove any soft and rotten roots and repot your Fatsia japonica into a new pot with drainage holes and a drainage layer. To prevent root rot from recurring, reduce the amount of water you give the plant going forward.
Japanese aralia leaves with white edges
The white leaf edges are normal in the Fatsia spider-web [Photo: David Jalda/ Shutterstock.com]

Other factors that can lead to poor growth or yellow leaves include:

  • Light: It may be too dark for the Japanese aralia. Try moving it to a brighter spot.
  • Pests: Check the underside of the leaves for infestation. Thrips and spider mites are common pests of Fatsia japonica. Act fast to prevent permanent damage.
  • Lack of nutrients: If the leaves are slowly turning yellow and falling off, this is usually due to a lack of nutrients. In this case, start using fertiliser to feed the plant.
Yellow, drooping Japanese aralia leaf
Nutrient deficiency is a common problem and can easily be remedied by fertilising [Photo: mdbildes/ Shutterstock.com]

Is Fatsia japonica hardy?

Fatsia japonica is not completely winter hardy. If the plant has been on the balcony or terrace from March to October, it is best to overwinter it indoors or in a conservatory at cooler temperatures of 10 to 18 °C. In regions with warmer winters, however, Fatsia japonica can be left outdoors at temperatures as low as -10 °C.

Fatsia japonica in winter with frost
If overwintering in the garden, the leaves can be protected with fleece as a precaution [Photo: Peter Turner Photography/ Shutterstock.com]

Propagating Fatsia japonica

It is possible to propagate Fatsia japonica using the seeds. However, as it is extremely rare for Fatsia japonica to flower as a houseplant, it is unlikely that yours will ever bear any fruit or seeds for you to harvest. Seeds that you can buy in stores usually germinate very well in very humid, warm conditions (around 22 °C) in loose, slightly acidic soil.

You can also propagate Fatsia japonica from cuttings. To do this, take a sharp knife or pair of secateurs and take a stem cutting. The cutting should be semi-ripe, meaning it should be taken from a piece of the plant that has grown this year, but which has not yet fully hardened. To ensure the propagation is successful, remove the lower leaves to reduce transpiration. Pot up your Japanese aralia cuttings individually in a soil-sand mixture (1:1) at 15 to 20 °C. Keep the humidity levels high by placing the cuttings in an indoor greenhouse, for instance. Once they have taken root, transfer the cuttings to nutrient-poor soil, such as our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, for example. This compost consists of 100 % natural raw materials and is great for propagating.

Potted Fatsia japonica plant with new growth
New shoots on a potted large cutting of the Japanese aralia [Photo: Amelia Martin/ Shutterstock.com]

Is Fatsia japonica poisonous?

Japanese aralias are not known to be poisonous, so there is no need to be cautious about letting children or pets around them. Nevertheless, seeing as Fatsia japonica is an ornamental plant, it is not suitable for consumption.

With its decorative leaves, the velvet cardboard anthurium (Anthurium clarinervium) is another houseplant that would be an excellent addition to your indoor jungle. Find out how to care for and propagate anthuriums in the linked article.

Subscribe to the Plantura newsletter