Texture is tops with this evergreen shrub. Its glossy, dark-green, hand-shape leaves add a bold tropical feel to the landscape. Hardy in Zones 8 through 10, Japanese aralia tolerates a light frost and is an excellent shrub for understory color beneath trees or large shrubs. Add it to a foundation planting and enjoy its year-round presence. It is particularly striking when illuminated with landscape lighting at night. Japanese aralia grows well in containers so if you live in an area where it is not hardy, you can grow it as a houseplant, bringing it outside during summer months.
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Planting Japanese Aralia
Japanese aralia, also called glossy-leaved paper plant, grows in full shade where many other plants languish. Pair it with other low-light-loving plants to create a garden that is brimming with color and interest. Great planting companions include elephant ear (Colocasia), sweet box (Sarcococca), flowering maple (Abutilon), cast-iron plant (Aspidistra), and bush lily (Clivia). When planted in a container and used as a houseplant and patio plant, Japanese aralia will create a striking display on its own thanks to its bold texture.
Caring for Japanese Aralia
Japanese aralia grows well in part or full shade. Avoid planting it in areas that receive afternoon sun as its leaves will scorch in prolonged direct sun. Plant it in rich, moist soil that is well-drained. Plants growing in containers will thrive in a high quality, humus-rich potting mix. Water plants deeply and regularly during the first growing season to encourage plants to establish a strong root system. Continue watering plants beyond the first growing season as needed during extended dry spells.
Japanese aralia blooms in late fall or winter. It sends up a flower stalk decorated with creamy flowers. Black berries follow the flowers. Plants grown indoors rarely flower. Japanese aralia does not usually require pruning. Remove old, faded foliage to maintain a tidy appearance. Prune plants, if needed, in spring.
Transition container-grown plants outside in spring as soon as the temperatures are regularly above 55ºF at night. Place the plant in a location that receives shade all day or a location that receives a few hours of morning sun. Water plants regularly and fertilize with an all-purpose fertilizer monthly during spring and summer. Bring plants indoors in autumn when temperatures fall below 50ºF.