How to Grow Japanese Aralia (Fatsia Japonica)

Fatsia japonica

With big, bold leaves, put fatsia on your wish list if you’re looking for a pet-friendly houseplant or one that will tolerate low light levels.

Take one look at its emerald green leaves and you’ll want to move it to the top of the list!

A horizontal close up of several dark green, shiny, Fatsia Japonica leaves.

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Perhaps you’ve already taken the plunge and brought a Fatsia japonica plant home.

Or maybe fatsia is on your wish list and you’re here to decide if it will tolerate the growing conditions you’re able to provide.

In this article we’ll cover all of this houseplant’s growing needs so whether you’re troubleshooting a problem or preparing to bring a specimen home, you will be ready to proceed with confidence!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Japanese Aralia?

Fatsia japonica – also known simply as fatsia – is an evergreen shrub that has a rounded, open, spreading growth habit.

Though it can reach up to 16 feet tall when grown outdoors it usually grows to around six feet tall and wide as a houseplant.

A horizontal photo of a large Japanese aralia leaf that is lit from behind.
Fatsia (F. japonica) leaf.

Fatsia has glossy, emerald to dark green palmate leaves that are deeply lobed, grow to be eight inches wide or larger, and are held on long petioles.

These leaves have an odd number of lobes – usually seven, nine, or 11 lobes per leaf – though younger specimens typically have fewer and shallower lobes.

A horizontal close up of a young leaf on a Japanese aralia plant.
Leaf on a juvenile fatsia specimen. Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin.

When new fatsia leaves unfurl, they are covered with small, orange-tinted hairs, so if you notice some fuzz on your houseplant’s foliage, don’t panic.

Though Japanese aralias grown as houseplants don’t often bloom, when cultivated outdoors these plants produce fragrant white blooms in fall, which attract pollinators such as wasps.

A horizontal close up of the dark blue berries on a Japanese Aralia plant.
Berries on fatsia.

Flowering is followed by attractive clusters of dark blue berries, which enclose seeds that can be used to propagate new specimens.

Cultivation and History

F. japonica is native to the Korean peninsula and Japan, and is a member of the ivy family, Araliaceae, related to other stars of the houseplant world such as false aralia and umbrella tree.

A horizontal photo of a Japanese aralia shrub in the forest.
Fatsias (also known as Japanese aralias) growing outdoors.

Also called fatsi, Japanese aralia, paperplant, big leaf paperplant, glossy leaf paperplant, Formosa rice tree, figleaf palm, and false castor oil plant, this species was categorized taxonomically in 1854.

However, thanks to their cold tolerance, fatsias are grown outdoors as ornamental shrubs just as frequently as they are enjoyed as houseplants.

A horizontal photo from above of a fatsia seedling in a ceramic pot.
Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin.

In Korea and Japan, these plants aren’t just admired for their beauty – fatsia sprouts are eaten as a delicacy.

Japanese aralias can be grown outdoors year round in USDA Hardiness Zones 7b to 10b.

Japanese Aralia Propagation 

Japanese aralia houseplants can be propagated from seeds, cuttings, and transplants.

If you’re hoping to propagate a cultivar, you’ll need to do so via cuttings, since the seeds of cultivated varieties won’t grow true.

And if you’re new to propagating, you might want to read our guide to houseplant propagation for beginners first!

From Seed

Growing new paperplants from seed is an easy and cheap option.

You’ll need to start by procuring some fatsia seeds.

Houseplants are unlikely to flower or produce seeds, but you may be able to collect seeds from a plant growing outdoors if there are any in your area – be sure to ask first!

These shrubs produce flowers in fall followed by berries in winter. The seeds inside are mature and ready to harvest when the berries are dark blue. Remove the fleshy pulp from around the seed before sowing.

And when propagating seeds, start more than you need in case germination rates are low.

Packs of 10 Fatsia Japonica Seeds

You can purchase packs of 10 Japanese aralia seeds from Seedville via Amazon.

Once you have acquired your Japanese aralia seeds, there are three ways to start this houseplant from seed – germinating in moist paper towels, using propagation bags, or sowing directly into growing medium in nursery pots.

In all cases, the seeds need to stay warm and moist to germinate.

We discuss these methods in detail here.

From Cuttings

While starting Japanese aralia from seeds is easier, if you’d like to propagate a cultivar, you’ll have to do so by taking cuttings.

Use semi-ripe Japanese aralia cuttings – the base of the cutting should be woody, while the tip should be green. Late summer to mid-autumn is the best time to take cuttings in their semi-ripe stage.

Use sterilized garden snips to take cuttings to avoid spreading diseases, and take more cuttings than you need, since they may not all survive.

Take cuttings that are four to six inches long, cutting right below a node, which is the swollen place along the stem where leaves emerge.

Cuttings can be propagated either in water or in growing medium.

To propagate in water, place the cuttings in a jar of water, and situate them in a warm location with bright, indirect light. Change the water every few days. Roots should develop from these cuttings within a month.

You can pot up water-rooted cuttings when the roots are at least an inch long, following the instructions in the transplanting section below.

To root your cuttings in growing medium, take the cuttings and trim off all the leaves on each stem except the top one.

Dip the ends of the cuttings in rooting hormone, such as Olivia’s Cloning Gel, available in an assortment of sizes via Arbico Organics.

A horizontal product photo of three jars of Olivia's Cloning Gel.

Olivia’s Cloning Gel

Place each cutting in individual four-inch nursery pots, filled to within an inch of the rim with moist growing medium.

Place the pot in a warm location with indirect, bright light, keep the growing medium moist, and expect the cutting to root within a month.

The rooted cutting should be grown in the same pot until it starts drying out too quickly, indicating it needs repotting.

Learn more about propagating houseplants from stem cuttings with our guide.

From Transplants

When you bring a new specimen home, you might wonder if it will need to be transplanted into a new pot right away.

The answer is – it depends!

If the plant is drying out too quickly between waterings or is tipping over because the container is too small to support the mass of the plant’s growth, then yes, go ahead and transplant the specimen into a larger container.

Otherwise, leave it in the same nursery pot, or transplant it to a decorative container of the same size.

When repotting paperplant specimens that have outgrown their current containers, choose a new one that is just one size larger, and make sure it has drainage holes.

In addition to a pot, you’ll also need some growing medium. I like to use Rosy Soil for this purpose.

It’s peat-free, and contains compost, pine fines, and biochar for aeration, as well as beneficial mycorrhizal fungi.

Rosy Soil 4-Quart Bag

You can pick up a four-quart bag of Rosy Soil from the Rosy Soil Store via Amazon.

Once you have your new pot and growing medium, place an inch or so of growing medium in the bottom of the new pot.

Next, unpot the Japanese aralia from its current container, then loosen up the edges of the root ball before inserting it into the new pot.

Check the top of the root ball – it should be around an inch below the rim of the new pot. If it’s too high, remove some of the soil beneath the plant – if it’s too low, add a little more.

When the plant is situated at the right level, fill in along the sides of the root ball with growing medium, making sure not to cover the crown of the plant, then water, and return the plant to its normal location.

How to Grow Japanese Aralia

Ready to learn more about the light, water, soil, and climatic needs of these gorgeous green houseplants?

When you bring a fatsia home, first check it for pests and diseases. You’ll learn more about what to look for later in the article, so keep reading!

Even if the plant looks healthy, if you have other houseplants, it’s best to quarantine a new specimen for two to four weeks in case there are any critters hiding in the soil.

As I mentioned earlier, Japanese aralias can adjust to a variety of indoor light conditions, as long as they aren’t exposed to too much direct sunlight.

Indirect bright or medium light levels are optimum for Japanese aralias, but they also put up with low light, and many houseplant enthusiasts choose these plants for their tolerance of darker conditions.

But let me tell you from experience – what seems like “low light” to the human eye may actually be too dark for Japanese aralias grown indoors.

To be sure you’re taking good care of your houseplants, there are a wide array of light meters that can help you make sure your cherished plants get the luminosity they need – and these glossy beauties need at least 75 to 200 foot candles.

Read our guide to learn how using a light meter can help you provide your houseplants with optimum light conditions.

A vertical photo of a Japanese fatsia plant in a wicker planter in the home.
Fatsias prefer indirect light. Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin.

When growing paperplants outdoors year-round or just during the summer months, place them in shade or dappled shade.

Once you have located a spot with the perfect light conditions for your Japanese aralia, you’ll want to make sure you get the watering right too.

Keep the plant’s soil moist but not soggy, and bear in mind that they really don’t like to dry out!

In fact, fatsias will let you know when you have gone too long between waterings by wilting quite dramatically.

A horizontal photo of a wilting fatsia houseplant on a wooden table near a window.
A thirsty fatsia, having gone too long between waterings. Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin.

As you get to know your fatsia houseplant, keep in mind that this is a common reaction when these plants need water – and try to time your visits with the watering can so that you avoid such pitiful displays.

A horizontal photo of a fatsia houseplant in a wicker pot on a table with sunlight streaming through the window.
The same plant, on the following day, after being watered. Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin.

Water Japanese aralias when the top of the growing medium is dry to the touch, and use a houseplant watering can with a narrow spout to make sure you water the soil evenly.

You can learn more about watering houseplants in our guide.

These plants will adapt to a variety of soil types as long as it’s rich in organic matter and well-draining, but they do prefer slightly acidic growing mediums with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.0.

As for temperature, a range of 60 to 80°F during summer is best, but in winter Japanese aralias prefer cooler temperatures in a range of 45 to 55°F, but shouldn’t be exposed to temperatures below 10°F.

You might find a good spot for a fatsia houseplant on the north side of your home – for those in the Northern Hemisphere – where the sun’s rays don’t warm the home as much.

When it comes to humidity, a level of 60 percent or higher is best.

If you’re trying to grow this houseplant in a climate that has low humidity, you can set a humidifier near the plant which can raise humidity levels in a small room from 40 percent to 60 percent in a few hours.

Growing Tips

  • Grow in indirect bright, medium, or low light.
  • Keep soil moist but not soggy.
  • Provide 60% relative humidity or higher.

Pruning and Maintenance

Once you have a Japanese aralia plant that outgrows its pot – either one purchased from a nursery, or propagated from seeds or cuttings – eventually you’ll need to repot it to a larger container.

It’s time to repot if the Japanese aralia specimen is drying out too quickly between waterings, roots are emerging from the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot or from the surface of the growing medium, or the plant has grown so top heavy that it’s tipping over.

A vertical photo of several Japanese aralia plants growing in pots in a greenhouse.

As noted earlier in the article, when repotting Japanese aralias, choose a pot that is just one size larger than the current container and only repot when the plant has outgrown its current container.

Make sure your chosen pot has drainage holes.

If your fatsia becomes leggy or you wish to reshape it, you can prune back one third of the plant at a time. Removing more than one third of the leaves will make it hard for the plant to recover.

When pruning, be sure to sterilize scissors or garden snips with hydrogen peroxide in between different specimens to reduce the risk of disease spread.

As for fertilizer, you can offer your fatsia worm compost from your vermicompost bin, or provide a gentle, balanced fertilizer once a week during the growing season, such as Dr. Earth’s Pump and Grow Indoor Houseplant Food.

A vertical product photo of a container of Dr. Earth' House Plant Pump&Grow fertilizer.

Dr. Earth Pump and Grow Indoor Houseplant Food

You’ll find Dr. Earth’s Pump and Grow Indoor Houseplant Food in 16-ounce bottles available from Arbico Organics.

Hybrids and Cultivars to Select

When choosing a fatsia for a houseplant, there are several options including a variety of cultivars as well as the straight species. 

The straight species, F. japonica, is a beauty in its own right.

With glossy, emerald green leaves, it’s easy to find a place in the home for such a classic foliage plant.

Fatsia Japonica in 1-Gallon Pot

Ready to welcome one of these into your home? You’ll find two-foot tall specimens in one-gallon pots available from 9EzTropical via Amazon.

Here are some common cultivars you may find at your local nursery or online:


‘Annelise’ has impressionistic, marbled patterns that might remind you of the prayer plant cultivar ‘Fusion White.’

The foliage of this cultivar displays inner variegation – the center of the leaf is light green, and then darkens towards the leaf margins.


‘Annemieke’ (x Fatshedera lizei ) is an intergeneric hybrid – a cross between F. japonica ‘Moseri’ and Hedera helix, better known as English ivy.

A horizontal close up of two green Japanese Aralia leaves with white veining down the center.
x Fatshedera lizei ‘Annemieke’
This hybrid, also called “tree ivy” or “bush ivy,” has five-lobed leaves with the beautiful veining of ivy.

The cultivar ‘Annemieke’ has beautiful yellow variegation on the leaves, and can be cultivated as either a vine or a shrub, with regular pruning to encourage bushier growth.

Of note for those interested in fatsia as a nontoxic houseplant – this intergeneric hybrid likely loses that property, since English ivy is toxic to humans and pets.

Spider’s Web

‘Spider’s Web’ is an F. japonica cultivar that has speckled white variegation at the margins of the leaves, which transitions to green at the centers. Some leaves may be entirely white.

A square product photo of a Spider Web fatsia in a black nursery pot.

‘Spider’s Web’ Fatsia

If you’d like to buy one for a houseplant, you can find a ‘Spider’s Web’ fatsia in a 10-inch grower’s pot from the National Plant Network via Walmart.

Managing Pests and Disease

Fatsia is prone to the same pests and diseases which commonly plague houseplants.

As mentioned above, you’ll definitely want to check any new specimen you bring into your home and quarantine it from other houseplants for two to four weeks, if possible.

After that, check for pests underneath the leaves whenever you water your Japanese aralia, and give it a thorough inspection before bringing your plant indoors after it has spent the summer outside.

Keep an eye out for aphids, mealybugs, and scale, all of which are sap-sucking insects that will suck nutrients from these plants, weakening them to the point of death if left unchecked.

Personally, I’ve had the biggest issue with scale on newly arrived Japanese aralia specimens.

Check under leaves, along leaf veins, and on stems for these well-camouflaged insects – they sometimes look like little bumps or imperfections and may be black, gray, brown, green, or white.

A horizontal close up of the underside of a fatsia houseplant with scale on the veins of the leaf.
Scale insects on underside of fatsia leaf. Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin.

If scale is an issue for your Japanese aralia plant, you may notice leaves that appear deformed, or showing discolored spots.

These insects may leave oily looking liquid on the houseplant’s foliage – this is known as honeydew, and its presence can encourage fungal growth, giving you a two-for-one plant catastrophe!

Luckily, it is possible to rid these houseplants of scale, aphid, or mealybug infestations. My treatment of choice is neem oil, which is nontoxic to humans, dogs, and cats.

A vertical product photo of a jug of Monterey Neem Oil.

Monterey Neem Oil

Monterey Neem Oil comes in an assortment of sizes and is available from Arbico Organics.

Apply the product once a week for three to four weeks, making sure to coat the plant well, and spray the surface of the soil too.

For further guidance on handling scale infestations, be sure to read our article.

When it comes to diseases, the problem you are most likely to experience with this plant is root rot – a malady which can be avoided with proper plant care.

If your plant is wilting, yet its growing medium is damp, it’s highly likely that root rot is the problem.

When it comes to root rot, prevention is key!

Make sure your Japanese aralia is planted in a well-draining growing medium, a pot with drainage holes, and keep the growing medium moist but not soggy.

Learn more about controlling root rot in houseplants in our guide.

Best Uses for Japanese Aralia

In addition to serving as a large green foliage plant in your home, Japanese aralia is excellent for interiorscaping thanks to its tolerance for low light conditions.

A horizontal photo of decorative green leaves of Fatsia Japonica after they have been watered.

Paperplants are also safe for households with pets or small children.

But based on my experience, this is certainly not one of those houseplants your cat will leave alone.

My cats are particularly drawn to my Japanese aralias and are intent on mauling them, so if you have felines, you too might need to keep these out of their reach by placing them in hanging planters or wall planters.

I’m assuming my cats love to chew on this plant so much because of its tasty foliage.

While I haven’t tried sampling it myself, as mentioned above, fatsia is edible and the young sprouts are considered a delicacy in Japan and Korea.

A horizontal close up photo of cooked fatsia on a white plate.
Fatsia shoots prepared as Korean style pickles.

And as a reminder for those of you in warmer zones, fatsias can be planted outdoors in shady areas in USDA Hardiness Zones 7b to 10b.

Quick Reference Growing Guide

Plant Type:Evergreen shrubFlower/Foliage Color:White/emerald green, variegated green and white, variegated green and yellow
Native to:Japan, KoreaWater Needs:Moderate
Hardiness (USDA Zone):7b-10bMaintenance:Low
Bloom Time/Season:FallTolerance:Cool conditions, humidity, low light
Exposure:Bright, medium, or low indirect light (indoors), dappled shade to full shade (outdoors)Soil Type:All-purpose houseplant growing medium
Time to Maturity:3-5 yearsSoil pH:5.5-6.0
Planting Depth:1/8-1/4 inch (seeds), top of root ball (transplants)Soil Drainage:Well-draining
Height:6-16 feetUsesFoliage houseplant, shade plant
Spread:6-16 feetFamily:Araliaceae
Growth Rate:Moderate to fastGenus:Fatsia
Common Pests and Diseases:Aphids, mealybugs, scale, spider mites; leaf spot, root rotSpecies:Japonica

A Bold and Beautiful Foliage Choice

Big and bold, fatsia won’t fade into the background and hide – and now you are equipped with the care knowledge you need to keep your Japanese aralia looking beautiful in the foreground.

Now it’s your turn to show off photos of your own Japanese aralias – just use the comments section below! And if you still have any unanswered questions about caring for fatsias, feel free to drop them there as well.

Looking for more indoor foliage options for your home or office space? Keep reading right here:

Photo of author
Kristina Hicks-Hamblin lives on a dryland permaculture homestead in the high desert of Utah. She is a Certified Permaculture Designer, holds a Certificate in Native Plant Studies from the University of North Carolina Botanical Gardens, a Landscape for Life certificate through the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Kristina strives towards creating gardens where there are as many birds and bees as there are edibles.

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