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Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
JAPANESE ARALIA, JAPANESE FATSIA
syn. Aralia japonica, Aralia sieboldii
Pronounced: FAT-see-ah jah-PON-ih-kah
South Korea, Japan.
Sunset zones: 4-9, 14-24, H1, H2.
USDA zones: 8-10.
Heat Zone: 10-8.
Height: 5-12 feet (1.5-4 m).
Width: 5-12 feet (1.5-4 m).
Umbels are filled with ¼-inch creamy-white flowers. Black fruit follows the flowers and ripens in late winter.
Large, deeply lobed (7-11 lobes), glossy green leaves up 16 inches wide.
Full sun (in the PNW) to light, dappled shade.
Humus rich, acidic, moist, fertile soil is optimum; however, this shrub will grow in nearly all kinds of soil, as long as it is well-drained.
During growing season, provide a monthly feeding of a complete organic fertilizer. If leaves keep turning yellow, provide iron.
Sow seed in spring or fall at 60-70°F (16-21°C).
Take semi-ripe cuttings in early summer.
Dig up suckers.
Prune to give more branch structure if wanted. When necessary, cut to the ground to rejuvenate shrub in spring. Shovel prune any suckers not wanted.
Pests and Diseases:
Slugs, snails and deer may be a problem.
Rainy Side Notes
Originally introduced to Europe in 1838, Fatsia offers a bold tropical look to the Northwest garden. In 2003, the species was chosen as a Great Plant Pick for the Pacific Northwest.
In Japan, this evergreen bush was traditionally planted on the north side of a home to help ward off bad spirits. In my garden, my favorite place is in light shade on the east side of my home, with ferns and Northwest native inside-out flower—Vancouveria hexandra at its feet. I can testify that there are no bad spirits hanging out around our home. The bold foliage of Fatsia surrounded by delicate ferns and ground covers makes a pleasant folia combination.
When you plant this shrub by a pool or near a deck, its tropical looking foliage can give your garden an exotic appeal.
If you desire the appearance of a tall, single trunk specimen, select one that has not been pruned. When the shrub suckers, take a shovel and remove them. If you prefer a bushier result, cut the plant back hard to encourage additional branching. There are frequent cautions about damage from slugs and snails. However, I have never observed mollusk vandalism on my Fatsia; the slimy creatures prefer to abuse the Hostas instead.
Two popular cultivars of this species are Fatsia 'Variegata' (below right) and F. 'Spider's Web' (below left). I prefer 'Variegata' with its big splashes of white across the foliage. With 'Spider's Web' I can't help but think it looks like it has a horrible virus. My personal bias aside, it appears to be a popular variety with many gardeners. Perhaps I will eventually grow to like the plant.
Top image photographed in Michell and Christopher Epping's garden in Newcastle, Washington. Middle image photographed in author's garden. Bottom left photo at Terra Nova Nursery in Canby, Oregon. Bottom right photo photographed on Sauvie Island, Oregon.