Most commonly used varieties: Polyscias fruiticosa and Polyscias crispata
Aralias are part of the Araliaceae family and native to Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Once a popular floor plants during the Victorian era, aralias are now grown in varying sizes ranging from small terrarium and coffee table sizes to large specimen floor plants. Though differing in color, shape and leaf texture, all aralias have similar characteristics. The leaves compound with saw-toothed edged leaflets. Under the right environmental conditions, aralias readily produce lateral branches and suckering growth, and can be pruned into interesting sculpted forms. Sensitive to environmental changes, aralias will drop leaves if subjected to sudden cold temperatures, air pollution, water stress, excess soluble salts or low light or low humidity levels. Defoliated aralias however, will quickly recover if given the correct water and light levels.
Aralias prefer light levels between 250fc – 500fc, but can be acclimated to light levels as low as 100fc. In lower light however, aralias cannot maintain the same volume of foliage and will shed leaves from the canopy center and near the bottom of the container. The resulting plant resembles a stalk of celery with thin, bare stems crowned with tufts of foliage on the top.
Water usage varies according to the plant’s age, general health, seasonal and environmental fluctuations, and available light levels. Newly installed plants are underrooted, though plants grown in lava/peat mixes have more developed roots. Aralias are very sensitive to under- and overwatering, and will drop foliage if the correct moisture level is not maintained. This makes aralias prime candidates for sub-irrigation systems. If top watering, water new plants thoroughly. In 250fc and above, allow plant to dry down 1/4 to 1/3 of the pot; allow plants in lower light to dry down to 1/2 of the container. Monitor the media closely for changes in water usage.
Aralias are sensitive plants and will drop foliage due to water stress, air pollution (ethylene gas), low humidity, sudden temperature changes or cold temperatures. Leaves develop brown tips due to low humidity. Remove foliage by gently raking fingers through foliage clumps each week. Spray foliage to keep clean and pest free. Pinch and prune branches to shape and refoliate plant.
Aralias are susceptible to a number of pests including spider mites, scale, mealybug and nematodes. Examine plants regularly with a hand lens to detect developing infestations. Spider mites will develop on newly emerging leaves; mealybug and scale are attracted to terminal growth tips and succulent new growth. Look for additional signs of infestation such as honeydew, sooty mold and webbing. Keep your plants pest-free by providing the correct environmental condition for optimum growth, keeping the foliage clean, monitoring the plant for signs of pests, and testing the media periodically or soluble salt build-up.
Aralias are susceptible to leaf spot, stem and root rot infections. Keep disease pathogens from developing on aralias by applying correct moisture levels for current light/temperature conditions, by not applying water to leaves that will not dry off quickly, and by sterilizing tools to prevent the spread of diseases.