This very attractive plant is native to the southern Japanese islands, where it grows in truly subtropical conditions. It does best with warm, humid summers alternating with a relatively cooler, drier period. However, it will die in very cold, drafty, dry conditions.
The Fatsia boasts large, deeply lobed leaves that can measure a full foot across. These leaves are held on stiff branches, and the plant grows low to the ground naturally.
Overall, these are not particularly difficult plants to grow, but if you want to keep it attractive over the long-term, make sure to trim it in the beginning of each growing season to encourage bushiness.
Growing Conditions for Fatsia Japonica
Fatsia Japonica is pretty easy to grow indoors if you follow these guidelines:
- Light: This is a marginal plant, meaning it grows best in partial shade or even full shade. The plant will bleach out in full sunlight, so a few hours of morning sun in an eastern exposure are best.
- Water: During the growing season, regular moisture is essential. During the winter, cut back water slightly. They are sensitive to sitting in water, so good drainage is important.
- Soil: It's not actually that picky with regard to soil, but will often do best in a slightly acidic soil mix.
- Fertilizer: Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season. Cut fertilizer back to once a month or so in the winter.
Fatsia can be propagated both by seed and stem-tip cutting. It's unlikely your plant will flower indoors, which is no great loss because the flowers are unremarkable. To propagate from a stem tip cutting, taking the cutting early in the growing season and use a rooting hormone for best success.
Keep cuttings in a warm, humid place until new growth emerges.
A full-grown fatsia is a mounding shrub of about 10 feet tall, with large leaves. Your young plants can be repotted annually, moving up one pot size each year. Take cuttings to propagate when you repot, and cut the plant back carefully to encourage bushy, low growth. Once the plant reaches the maximum height, repot every other year and prune more aggressively. Older plants might need to be root pruned to keep them vigorous and healthy.
Varieties of Fatsia Japonica
There are three species of fatsia in the wild, but only the Fatsia japonica is grown in cultivation. This plant has established itself as an invasive species in some subtropical areas so may be restricted, depending on where you live.
Fatsia is not actually a difficult plant to grow, providing you give it plenty of light and moisture during the growing season, then a period of relative cold. In this case, relative cold means temperatures down to about 50˚F at night, or even slightly lower. Plants that are exposed to brief freezing temperatures will often resprout from the ground when the weather warms back up, but a hard freeze will certainly kill it.
Their large and deeply lobed leaves form a beautiful backdrop to other shade-loving, subtropical plants, including and especially ferns. Because of their fleshy leaves, the plants are vulnerable to pests including aphids, mealy bugs, scale, and white fly. If possible, identify the infestation as early as possible and treat with the leave toxic option.