An immensely popular houseplant, false aralia has beautifully textured foliage, with deeply serrated leaflets that start out a copper or burgundy shade and eventually deepened to a rich green. The juvenile plants tend to have more textured foliage, while the adult leaves are more deeply-lobed. Though the plant can reach heights of up to 6 feet when fully mature, it is a slow-growing varietal, so plan on enjoying it petite for at least a few years.
Native to the South Pacific and able to be planted year-round, false aralia can be grown outside in USDA zones 10 through 12, but are overwhelmingly preferred as houseplants, where they will thrive with the proper care. As far as their performance goes, they are easy to grow. They need at least moderate humidity to do their best and prefer a narrow range of moisture—if they're too dry, they tend to drop leaves.
|Botanical Name||Schefflera elegantissima|
|Common Name||False aralia, spider aralia, threadleaf aralia, finger aralia|
|Mature Size||4–6 ft. tall, 1–2 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Bloom Time||Fall, winter|
|Flower Color||Yellow, green, gold|
|Hardiness Zones||10–12 (USDA)|
|Native Area||South Pacific|
False Aralia Care
False aralia is a pretty indoor plant, beloved for its interesting leaf shape and slim, sprawling height, both of which give it a feather-like appearance. They can handle a range of temperatures—the main problem with colder environments, however, is the lack of humidity, so expect plants in these conditions to lose leaves unless you can raise the humidity sufficiently. They aren't picky as to their fertilizer, but they dislike too much water or being allowed to dry out excessively.
False aralia like bright, but not direct, sunlight. The leaf color is affected by overall light levels—the more light that it gets, the darker the mature leaves will appear. However, be mindful of exposing the plant to any direct rays of sunlight. They can damage the thin, delicate leaves and cause them to brown.
False aralia does not do well in "sponge-like" potting mediums, so opt for a peat-based mix instead. Make sure your chosen blend has plenty of coarse material—you want something that retains moisture but drains quickly and does not become water-logged. To help with drainage even further, plant your false aralia in a pot that has a sufficient number of holes at its base.
False aralia prefer a steady supply of adequate moisture and are somewhat picky about it. Good drainage is essential to growing the best plant possible, but take care not to overwater the plant (you'll know if it's getting too much hydration if the leaves begin to wilt). A good rule of thumb is to wait until the top one to two inches of soil have dried out before you water again.
Temperature and Humidity
Take note: False aralia hates to be cold! The ideal temperature range for the false aralia to thrive is somewhere between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, though it can handle brief dips in temperature to about 45 degrees. However, prolonged cold temperatures below 60 degrees will cause the plant to drop leaves and eventually die.
Additionally, false aralia loves humidity and will need humidity levels of at least 50 percent most times in order to thrive. Give the plant regular spritzings in order to keep it moist, or house it in a typically-humid area of your home, like the bathroom or kitchen. You can also set the pot on a tray layered with wet pebbles to increase the humidity levels surrounding the plant.
Generally, false aralia doesn't have any heavy fertilizer requirements. However, you can feed it with a weak liquid fertilizer at half-strength every other week or so during its growing season (spring and summer), stopping coming winter. If you notice any yellowing leaves, that may indicate a shortage of magnesium; adding a bit of Epsom salt to your soil can help with that issue.
Propagating False Aralia
False aralia can be planted by seed or propagated in the spring using stem cuttings. To take cuttings, use a rooting hormone for best results and keep the stem cuttings in a warm, humid place for a few weeks until new growth emerges. For best results, place several cuttings in every pot; professional growers often bunch false aralia together to achieve a fuller, more bush-like appearance.
Potting and Repotting False Aralia
False aralia is not especially fast-growing and has relatively low nutritional requirements, so will likely only need to be repotted every other year. It also prefers to be a bit root-bound and cozy in a smaller-than-average pot, so don't go too oversized when initially planting (and don't rush to size up if you notice the plant looking a bit snug). The best argument for regular repotting is to preserve the drainage qualities of your original potting media. When repotting, resist the urge to separate clumped plants—it will only damage the root ball.
False aralia is susceptible to several pests that plague other houseplants, including spider mites, scale, mealybugs, and aphids, and can, unfortunately, be killed by an overwhelming infestation.
Routinely check the tops and undersides of the leaves for signs of infestation. Spider mites will appear as small yellow or brown dots on a leaf and leave behind a characteristic web-like residue on the plant. Mealybugs will also leave clues behind if they're present on your plant, this time in the form of cotton-like puffs on the stems and leaves of your false aralia (which are actually either the egg sac of the mealybugs or the bugs themselves).
Infestations can often be treated with insecticidal soap or neem oil if caught in time. However, if you don't notice an improvement in a week or two, or the infestation gets worse or starts to spread to nearby plants, it's probably best to get rid of your infected false aralia.