What is fatsia japonica?

Updated April 17, 2017

Gardeners love fatsia japonica, or Japanese aralia, for its bold and attractive foliage. The plant is a broad leaf evergreen native to Japan, where it grows up to 16 feet tall. Fatsia japonica features large, glossy green leaves that add a tropical look to gardens. It is ideal for borders, but it can also grow in containers.


Fatsia japonica has large, hand-shaped leaves that can grow up to 12 inches wide. The leaf stems, or petioles, are long, giving the plant a shrublike effect. Outside its native Japan, fatsia japonica usually reaches about 6 feet in height and spread. The plant produces creamy white flowers on 15- to 20-inch stalks in the fall.The flowers produce small, round, black fruits that are inedible.


Gardeners use fatsia japonica as a hedge or border plant. If you are using fatsia in mass plantings, it is a good idea to place the plants at least 3 feet apart. Fatsia japonica also makes a good container plant for patio or garden accents. It grows well as a houseplant in a bright location, although it probably will not flower indoors. Use cuttings or seeds to propagate new plants.


In the United States, fatsia japonica is winter hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones eight to 10, which includes the West Coast and the far South. It will grow in zone seven as long as you plant it in a protected area and provide mulch cover on the roots to combat freezing.


Fatsia japonica is a hardy, low-maintenance plant. It is resistant to most pests and diseases, although it can be affected by scale, aphids, mealybugs and spider mites. Fatsia japonica also tolerates air pollution and saltwater spray.


Fatsia japonica thrives in full or partial shade. The soil should be rich in organic matter and kept moist and well-drained. You can also grow fatsia japonica in containers in good quality potting soil. The plant benefits from liquid fertiliser in summer and needs protection from frost in winter.


Fatsia japonica also is known as the glossy leaved paper plant, false castor oil plant or fig leaf palm.


Fatsia japonica can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, but too much watering can cause root rot. The leaves will turn brown if the plant is exposed to too much sun or wind.

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About the Author

Cameron Delaney is a freelance writer for trade journals and websites and an editor of nonfiction books. As a journalist, Delaney worked for wire services, newspapers and magazines for more than 20 years. Delaney's degrees include a bachelor's degree in journalism from Pennsylvania State and a master's degree in liberal arts from University of Denver.