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Botanical name: Polyscias scutellaria
Common names: Shield Aralia, Plum Aralia
Polyscias scutellaria commonly called Shield Aralia or Plum Aralia is an easy care evergreen tree-like plant which can grow to a height of about 6M and bears attractive round leaves.
Shield Aralia leaves are alternate or spirally arranged on the stems and they are usually clustered at the tips of the branches.
The leaves and roots have been used as an antiseptic and deodorant. The shredded shield Aralia has aromatic properties that can be mixed with meat or fish to conceal the odor.
Polyscias scutellaria is native to the Southwest Pacific islands where it is found growing as an understory plant.
Other Polyscias that can be grown indoors include Polyscias fruticosa, commonly called Ming Aralia and Polyscias balfouriana, commonly called Aralia balfouriana.
Photo Credit: BioLib
Shield Aralia (Polyscias scutellaria) thrives in bright light away from direct sunlight, warm and humid conditions and moderately moist, fertile, well-drained soils coupled with monthly feeding during the growing season.
Polyscias scutellaria requires regular pruning to keep it neat, promote a bushy, compact growth and rejuvenate growth. Repotting is needed every 2 years when it has outgrown its pot as it grows best when pot-bound. Keep reading for more on these growing conditions and how to achieve them.
Shield Aralia grows best in bright light but away from direct sunlight. However,it will adapt to light shade but will grow much slower.
Regularly rotate the pot to ensure the plant receives light on all sides for uniform growth to prevent lopsided growth.
Polyscias scutellaria can also grow under a grow light where natural light is inadequate.
Water Shield Aralia liberally during the growing season and allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings to keep it moderately moist.
Lessen watering during the cold period as growth is minimal at this time but never allow the soil to dry out completely as it may cause the Plum Aralia to drop all its leaves.
Ensure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy soil as Polyscias scutellaria does not like to sit in soggy soil as it is prone to root-rot disease.
The best temperature for Shield Aralia is warm to average warmth with a minimum of 160C. Keep it away from cold draughts as it doesn't like cold temperature at all. Cold temperature may result in reduced growth.
Shield Aralia requires high humidity to thrive. Raise humidity by setting the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier.
Regularly clean the leaves by damp wiping them with a soft cloth to get rid of dust and reduce pest infestations.
Feed Shield Aralia monthly with a balanced, liquid fertilizer during the growing season. Stop feeding in the cold season as growth is minimal at this time.
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 the process several times.
Repot Shield Aralia every 2 years only when they have outgrown the current pot. It grows best when root-bound.
Use a pot size larger than the current one and one that has a drainage hole to avoid getting soggy soil as it can lead to root-rot disease and eventual death of the plant.
The best soil for Shield Aralia should be rich in organic matter and free-draining to prevent it from getting soggy while providing the required nutrients.
Most multi-purpose potting mixes are ideal. Buy quality Potting Mix for Plum Aralia from Etsy.
Pruning Shield Aralia requires pinching-back of the growing tips to encourage a bushy and compact growth.
Remove yellow and dead leaves to keep the plant neat and minimize pests and diseases. Cut-back the overgrown plant to rejuvenate growth.
Shield Aralia (Polyscias scutellaria) propagation can be done from stem-tip cuttings or from hard-wood stem cuttings.
Take top 4-6 in. of the stem-tip cutting from a healthy Shield Aralia. You can also take about 6 in. hard-wood stem cutting.
Strip off most of the leaves from the bottom of the stem cutting. Retain at least 2-4 leaves on the cutting.
Dip the cut end in a rooting hormone to hasten rooting. Insert each cutting into a pot of moist sandy soil.
Cover the pots with clear plastic bag to create a humid atmosphere which enhances root development.
Place the set up in a warm, well-lit spot away from direct sunlight.
Note that Shield Aralia 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 4-6 weeks. You will know the cutting has rooted when you see new growth.
Once rooting has taken place, gradually phase out the plastic bag covers.
Do not transplant the new plants as Polyscias scutellaria does not like to be disturbed. It is advisable to start the cuttings in pots with adequate room for the young plants.
Photo Credit: Nova Photo Graphik
Shield Aralia (Polyscias scutellaria) problems indoors include leaf spots, plant death, leaf drop, wilting, yellowing, pests and diseases among others. Keep reading for more on these problems, their remedies and solutions.
Some leaf drop in Shield Aralia is normal. However, a sudden change in lighting will cause excessive leaf drop.
Avoid sudden changes in the growing conditions for Polyscias scutellaria. Acclimatize it gradually over a period of time before changing its position.
Soggy soil for Shield Aralia will result in death of the plant due to root-rot disease which is brought about by soggy soil.
Make sure that the soil is free-draining and the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy.
Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings during the growing season to keep the soil moderately moist.
Cut down on watering in the cold season and maintain the soil slightly moist but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.
Yellowing and wilting leaves in Shield Aralia is an indication of root-rot disease which is promoted by soggy soil.
To save the plant, take it out 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 Polyscias scutellaria in fresh soil.
Keep it dry for a few days before beginning the regular watering.
Ensure that the soil is free-draining and the pot has a drainage hole to avoid getting soggy soil in the future.
Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Never allow the plant to sit in soggy soil. Read more on how to treat root-rot disease in houseplants.
Lack of nutrients is the cause of yellowish-green young leaves in Shield Aralia. Feed the plant monthly with a balanced, liquid fertilizer during the growing season but do not feed during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time.
Flush out of accumulated fertilizer deposits from the soil regularly by running a stream of water through the soil for some time and repeating the process several times.
The common pests in Shield Aralia are spider mites especially where air humidity is low or there is inadequate watering.
Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to other houseplants and treat with an insecticidal solution.
Raise humidity to discourage future pest infestation; set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier.
Maintain the soil moderately moist and never allow the soil to dry out completely to discourage pest infestation. Read more on how to get rid of spider mites in houseplants.
Brown leaf spots in Shield Aralia are caused by underwatering as it thrives in moderately moist soil during the growing season and slightly moist in the cold season. Never allow the soil-ball to dry out completely at any time.
Shield Aralia (Polyscias scutellaria) is toxic to pets as outlined by ASPCA. The plant contains saponins which if ingested will cause swelling and burning in the mouth and throat, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pains.