How to grow Fatsia japonica

How to grow fatsia japonica

Japanese aralia or paper plant, Fatsia japonica, is a fantastic foliage plant, native to Japan. A medium sized shrub, Fatsia japonica bears glossy evergreen leaves and spherical, ivy-like flowers, followed by black berries. It’s a great choice for a shady spot in the garden, and it can also be grown as a house plant.

Fatsia japonica is guaranteed to add an exotic touch to the garden, especially in winter. It looks good teamed with softer grasses and bamboos, but also works in contrast with smaller leafed shrubs, or bold plants such as canna lilies.

How to grow Fatsia japonica

Fatsia japonica is versatile and can be grown in a variety of locations, from shady garden spots to hot sunny patios. It also works well as a house plant, preferably in a cool, well-ventilated room with no central heating (a conservatory is ideal). Plant in spring into moist but well-drained, fertile soil, with added well-rotted compost or manure. Keep well watered initially while the plant settles in, and then water in dry conditions only. Propagate from semi-ripe cuttings in late summer.

More on growing Fatsia japonica:


Where to grow Fatsia japonica

How to grow Fatsia japonica - where to grow Fatsia japonica
How to grow Fatsia japonica – where to grow Fatsia japonica

Fatsia japonica is versatile and can be grown in a variety of locations. It’s a good choice for a tricky shady spot, but is just as suited to a hot, sunny, location such as a patio or urban courtyard. Salt and wind tolerant, Fatsia japonica is also suitable for coastal gardens.

As a house plant, Fatsia japonica is best grown in a cool, airy room. For best results, ensure the room remains cool in winter and is not centrally heated – move it for winter, if necessary. An unheated conservatory makes the perfect setting for an indoor fatsia.

Bear in mind that Fatsia japonica is quite slow-growing, so choose a large specimen if you want to fill a space quickly.


How to plant Fatsia japonica

Plant Fatsia japonica in spring so it can establish over the warmer months. Dig a generous hole, adding a couple of handfuls of well-rotted compost or manure and a sprinkling of mycorrhizal funghi to help the plant settle in. Plant at the same depth it was in the pot, replace soil around the root ball and firm in gently. Water well, and continue to water for the next couple of weeks, after which you should only need to water in dry periods.


How to grow and care for Fatsia japonica

How to grow Fatsia japonica - where to care for Fatsia japonica
How to grow Fatsia japonica – where to care for Fatsia japonica

Fatsias need little care over the growing year. Remove dead and dying leaves of indoor-grown fatsias as and when you need to, and prune lightly in mid- to late-spring, to maintain a pleasing shape.

Light pruning also benefits outdoor-grown fatsias. Then, in autumn, apply a thick mulch around the base of the plant, which should protect the roots from cold conditions. Severe frost can damage fatsia leaves, and may therefore need protection. When prolonged bouts of frost are forecast, cover your fatsia with protective fleece.


How to propagate Fatsia japonica

Propagate Fatsia japonica by taking semi-ripe cuttings in late summer.


Growing Fatsia japonica: problem solving

Fatsias are generally pretty tough, but can be prone to attack from scale insects, thrips and mealybugs (indoor-grown plants are particularly susceptible). Also, keep a look out for leaf spot and remove affected leaves.

Yellowing fatsia leaves can suggest problems with your soil, but not always. Emma Crawforth, BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, explains how to deal with yellowing fatsia leaves, in our Quick Tips video:

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Advice on buying fatsias

  • Whether you’re buying a fatsia as a house plant or garden shrub, make sure you have the right growing conditions before you buy
  • Buy only the healthiest plants – check the plant over for signs of pests and damage before planting

Where to buy fatsias online

Fatsia japonicas to grow

Fatsia japonica 'Spider's Web'
How to grow Fatsia japonica – Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’
  • Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata’ – a slightly less hardy and less common variegated form of Fatsia japonica, with leaves edged in cream. Usually sold as an indoor plant
  • Fatsia x Fatshedera lizei – is an intergeneric hybrid that combines the large, glossy palmate foliage and unusual flowers of Fatsia japonica with the climbing habit of ivy, hence it’s known as tree ivy
  • Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ – slightly slower growing than the species, ‘Spider’s Web’ has variegated, speckled leaves giving them a webbed appearance

Frequently asked questions

Can I propagate Fatsia japonica from cuttings? 

Fatsia japonica can be propagated from cuttings taken in late summer. Take semi-ripe cuttings (youngish stems that are starting to thicken at the base), about 20cm long. Remove the bottom few leaves, dip in rooting hormone powder and push into a pot of moist, peat-free, free-draining cuttings compost. Cover and keep at a constant temperature of 15-20ºC.

It may be easier to sow Fatsia japonica seed, however. Collect the ripe, black seed in spring and sow in peat-free seed compost and cover with vermiculite to enable light to reach the seeds. Keep in a heated propagator at 15-20ºC, with plenty of light. Pot seedlings into individual pots and plant out into the garden when they are around three years old.  

Help! My Fatsia japonica leaves are drooping!

Fatsia japonica plants can sag or develop droopy leaves, which usually means something is wrong. Typically this indicates over- or under-watering. Push your finger into the compost or soil – it should feel moist but not wet. If it’s wet then the fatsia is drowning – if it’s growing in a pot, ensure the pot isn’t sitting in water and then stop watering until the compost feels dry. If the plant is growing outside in the soil you may need to improve drainage as other plants will be suffering too. 

If it’s dry, then water your fatsia. This should instantly perk it up.

Can I move an established fatsia?

It is possible to move established fatsias, although the larger the plant, the less well it will transplant. Wait until mid-spring to do this, and prepare the new planting hole beforehand so you can plant your fatsia in its new home straight away. Water your fatsia thoroughly the day before digging it up and then dig as much of the rootball out of the ground as possible. Pruning the leaves back will reduce evaporation from the leaves before the plant establishes again, and daily watering is essential to help it settle into its new spot. You can resume your usual care regime when you spot signs of new growth – usually after a few weeks. 

Help! My Fatsia japonica is brown and curling

For fatsias growing as house plants, dry air and too much sunlight can be a problem. Dry air saps moisture from the leaves and can leave them feeling crinkly to touch. Too much light can lead to burning of the leaves, which leads to brown patches and leaf curling. If you can, move your fatsia to a shadier spot, ideally in a humid room such as a bathroom. You can increase humidity in a dry room by misting daily or placing your fatsia on a tray of pebbles, adding water to the tray so it sits just beneath the pebbles. This will encourage water to evaporate into the air around the plant, increasing humidity.

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