Unconventional Fatsia

By Bonnie Grant | June 12, 2021
Image by pcturner71
by Bonnie Grant
June 12, 2021

I love flowers and my edible plants, but I am also in love with big, glossy leaves. They add such a lush feeling to the indoor or outdoor garden. The tropical tones of a Fatsia are perfectly suited to a Japanese garden theme. Mine grew like a champ, didn’t like to be babied, and covered an old chimney with a remarkable ability to climb with assistance.

Starting a new landscape is always a joy, especially when it is a blank canvas. I usually look for low maintenance plants, because I am a lazy gardener. When I needed a partial sun specimen to cover some unsightly area of my home, I went hunting. At the nursery, one in particular stuck out due to its attractively cut leaves and glossy foliage. Foliage plants are underrated because they don’t provide flowers or food. Many gardeners want much showier selections, but this little dude was perfect for my use. 

Fatsia Foliage

Fatsia is apparently hardy to USDA zone 7, but mine did fine in 6b, snuggled up to the house. It didn’t drop all its leaves in winter and was a reliable source of greenery year round. These plants are usually large shrubs, but for some reason, mine wanted to climb. So I built it a trellis and it rose up in all its magnificence. It got taller than me, but that is where it seemed to want to stop. 

Fatsia japonica can get leaves that span 16 inches (40 cm.). The plants can grow 10 feet (3.1 m.) in height with a similar spread but mine was about 6 feet (1.8 m.). While it dropped a lot of leaves in the cold season, it produced replacements so quickly you didn’t notice any bare spots. When first purchased it was a little baby, but it soon soared to nearly its mature size in just a year. 

Variegated Beauty

Mine was a Variegata variety, which means it had white variegation on the leaves. In the low light situation the bright stripes added a beautiful contrast to the shiny green leaves. It developed odd flowers that looked a bit like drumsticks in creamy white on thick stalks. These didn’t seem particularly appealing to the daytime pollinators, but in the evening, the moths would flock to the blooms. 

Propagate Fatsia Cuttings

These foliage plants are also easy to propagate so you can give a gardener friend a start. Since they are low maintenance plants, I didn’t have to feel badly about giving a problem child away. To propagate Fatsia, take cuttings in spring and dip them in rooting hormone. Pot them up in peat and keep it moderately moist. Usually, the cutting will root in a month or so. In just a few years there will be an adult sized plant with all its glorious foliage. 

I’ve had some really funky plants in my time. But most of these I had to really baby, or even move them inside for winter. Fatsia is one of those classic performers, with an uncomplaining nature and fabulous leaves. I would recommend it to anyone in the right zone, as an accent in low light areas or even as a houseplant.

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