How to grow and care for Aralia (Polyscias) Indoors

Houseplant, Polyscias, Aralia

Botanical name: Polyscias spp
Family: Araliaceae
Sufamily: Aralioideae

The attractive foliage makes Aralia Plants popular houseplants. They need good light, even moisture at the roots and frequent misting of leaves in dry weather. Polyscias are distinctly unhappy where the atmosphere is dry. The plants are not easy to grow under room conditions and they readily drop leaves if the environment is wrong. Polyscias can grow to a height of 8 ft in the tropical outdoors but for the container grown Polyscias, height is controlled through regular pruning of the branch tips which also encourages bushiness. In the tropical wild Polyscias will produce a 6 inch long inflorescences but indoors flowering is unlikely.

The numerous (there are over 100) varieties of Polyscias are oriental trees with attractive foliage and are grown with twisted stems. The leaves are usually ferny. Polyscias balfouriana, commonly called Dinner Plate Aralia bears large, dark-green, rounded leaflets which are speckled with grey or pale-green. Polyscias balfouriana marginata, has white-bordered foliage. Polyscias fruticosa, commonly called Ming Aralia bears longer leaves which are divided into irregular and saw-edged leaflets.

How to Grow Polyscias (Aralia)

Light

Polyscias prefer bright light but away from direct sunlight. However, they will adapt to light shade. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

Water

Water Polyscias moderately during the growing season and allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Reduce watering during the cold months as growth is minimal. Avoid waterlogging of the soil as Aralias do not like to sit in soggy soil as they are prone to rot-rot. Never allow the soil to dry out completely as the plant may drop all the leaves. Learn more on how to water your plants in this guide.

Temperature

Warm to average warmth with a minimum of 100C is ideal for Polyscias. Protect it from cold draughts as it doesn't like cold temperatures at all; it responds by slow growth.

Humidity

Polyscias require high humidity. To raise humidity, mist the leaves frequently and set the pot on a wet pebble tray. Clean the leaves of wide-leaved Polyscias by damp wiping them with a soft cloth to get rid of dust.

Feeding

Feed Polyscias monthly with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer or a balanced liquid fertilizer during the growing season. Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is minimal. Flush out accumulated salts arising from fertilizers every 2-3 months by running a stream of water through the soil until the water comes out through the drainage holes. Let the stream of water run for a few minutes and repeat several times.

Repotting

Repot Aralias every two years only when they have outgrown the current pot. They grow best when they are root-bound. Use free-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes to prevent waterlogging which can lead to root-rot and eventual death of the plant.

Pruning

Pruning Polyscias requires pinching-back of the growing tips to encourage a bushy and compact growth, removal of yellow and dead leaves to keep the plant neat and tidy and cutting-back the overgrown plant to rejuvenate growth. Learn more on how to prune your plant in this guide.

How to Propagate Polyscias (Aralia)

Polyscias are propagated from stem-tip cuttings or from hard-wood stem cuttings. Take top 10 in. of the stem-tip cutting, strip off most of the leaves from the bottom of the stem but leave at least 2-4 leaves on the cutting or take about 10 in. hard-wood stem cutting and strip off all the leaves.

Dip the cut end in a rooting hormone. Stick each cutting into a pot of moist sandy soil. Cover with clear plastic bag to create a humid atmosphere which enhances root development. Place in a warm, well-lit spot away from direct sunlight.

Stem cuttings and newly propagated plants rot easily at the base and in the roots therefore do not mist the leaves and maintain the soil moist but not wet. The cuttings will begin to root after a few weeks. Once rooting has taken place, gradually phase out the plastic bag covers. Do not transplant the new plants; Polyscias do not like to be disturbed. It is advisable to start the cuttings in pots with adequate room for the young plants.

Common Problems in Polyscias (Aralia)

  • Leaf drop
  • Some leaf drop inPolyscias is normal. However, a sudden change in lighting will cause excessive leaf drop. Learn more on light in this guide to ensure your plant is receiving the correct of light.

  • Brown leaf spots
  • These are caused by underwatering. Never allow the soil-ball to dry out; maintain the soil moderately dry.

  • Plant death
  • Waterlogging a Polyscias will result in death of the plant due to root-rot disease. Ensure that the soil is free-draining and the pot has a drainage hole. Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Learn how to correctly water your plant in this guide.

  • Yellowish-green young leaves
  • Lack of nutrients is the cause. Polyscias require to be fed monthly on a balanced plant fertilizer and the soil needs to be regularly flushed out of accumulated fertilizer deposits. Learn how to feed your plant in this guide.

  • Yellowing and wilting leaves
  • This is an indication of root-rot disease. Polyscias are prone to root-rot disease which is promoted by waterlogging. To save the plant, remove it plant from its pot, clean off the soil from the roots and inspect the roots. Cut away brown-black mushy roots and treat the remaining roots with a fungicidal solution. Clean and disinfect the pot with the fungicidal solution and repot the plant in fresh soil. Keep the plant dry for a few days before beginning the regular watering. Ensure that the soil is free-draining and the pot has a drainage hole. Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Never allow the plant to sit in soggy soil. Learn more on how to control Root-rot Disease.

  • Pests
  • Common pests in Polyscias are Spider Mites especially where air humidity is low or there is inadequate watering. Isolate the affected plant and treat with an insecticidal solution. Raise the humidity to discourage future infestation. Maintain the soil moderately moist and never allow it to dry out completely.

Toxicity

Polyscias (Aralias) are mildy toxic to pets. They contain saponins which if ingested will cause swelling and burning in the mouth and throat, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pains.

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