How to Grow and Care for False Aralia Plants

There are many beautiful houseplants to choose from, and if you prefer interesting foliage over flowers any day, the false Aralia is a good choice, as it brings a gorgeous look into any room, softening any design.

These striking plants have serrated but not sharp leaves, and they are steadily increasing in popularity for plants that aren’t demanding, but add something special to any room you put them in. 

They’re fairly easy to care for, and as they come from New Caledonia, they are well-suited to indoor conditions.

Not sure if the false Aralia is the right houseplant for you? Here’s what you need to know.

At A Glance: What You Should Know About False Aralia

False Aralia is an evergreen shrub. In its native climate, it’s a tree, reaching just shy of 50 feet tall by 7 feet wide.

You’ll be glad to know that it can’t reach these heights indoors! When it’s allowed enough room, it can reach 7 to 10 feet tall indoors. 

Typically, it will turn out to be smaller than this in most households, at around 4 to 6 feet tall, depending on the growing conditions you give this plant, and if you prune it.

You could also start off with a small false Aralia, and control its growth through the size of the pot, growing conditions, and pruning. 

This is a very manageable task, as this plant has a very slow growth rate, so it won’t reach jungle-heights without encouragement and a few years down the line.

This plant is also ideal for large spaces that need some greenery and interesting-shaped foliage, if you buy a bigger plant to start with. 

You might know this plant by other names, such as Schefflera elegantissima, Dizygotheca elegantissima, or Plerandra elegantissima. 

The last of the three is the formally accepted botanical name for this plant, the others being previous names. 

They are worth knowing, however, as some sellers do sell them under the previous names rather than the most recent.

Common names you might see this plant under include the spider Aralia, threadleaf Aralia, and the finger Aralia, referring to the shape of the leaves.

On young false Aralia plants, the foliage is nearly burgundy or bronze, maturing to a beautiful deep green, making for a fabulous display. 

False Aralia Varieties To Try

There are quite a few false Aralia varieties to try, and it can be difficult to choose, so here are a few to get you started on your journey.

Plerandra elegantissima ‘Galaxy’

Producing deep green foliage with a gorgeous sheen, this variety is perfect for people who prefer larger leaves, as this variety produces bigger foliage than others.

What it lacks in color it makes up for in its form, producing bolder leaves, better-suited for people who prefer their houseplants with more foliage than anything else.

Plerandra elegantissima ‘Gold Crest’

A very popular variety, ‘Gold Crest’ has variegated leaves. The foliage has a feathery look, and takes on a hint of gold at the edges.

Plerandra elegantissima ‘Olympia’

If solid green leaves aren’t really for you, Plerandra elegantissima ‘Olympia’ features hints of red and purple on the deep green leaves, making a beautiful display. 

False Aralia Alternatives

If high humidity is a deal-breaker, or you just want something different, here are a couple of alternative houseplants to consider.

Schefflera arboricola ‘Hawaiian Umbrella Tree’

For gorgeous fan-shaped foliage, Schefflera arboricola is a great alternative. You can even grow it as a bonsai tree if you prefer.

It’s easy to look after, and as long as you don’t let the soil completely dry out, and give it indirect light, it will thrive. 

It’s worth noting that this plant can reach 5 feet tall if you don’t prune it, so it’s worthwhile for a larger space as well. 

Originally, the false Aralia plant was classified under the same genus, Schefflera.

Schefflera taiwaniana ‘Taiwanese Umbrella Plant’

The Taiwanese umbrella plant is a striking houseplant option, featuring leaves that form a parasol-like silhouette. 

Each deep green leaf can feature up to 11 leaflets on red stalks, usually draping towards the floor. 

You may also know it as the hardy umbrella plant, as it can also be grown outside, (one of the few scheffleras that can). 

It’s hardy down to 15°F, so it’s also a good option for attractive foliage outdoors, too. It can be trained as a single, small tree, or a shrub with more than one stem.

It needs damp soil that drains well, otherwise, this plant will tolerate any kind of soil.

It is capable of flowering, producing brown flowers, followed by dark purple fruit, but this is unlikely indoors, as it needs a bright position for this.

Starting Off: Propagating False Aralia

You can grow false Aralia plants from seed, but this is the difficult way of doing it, and they don’t always turn out the way you imagine.

The better way of propagating the false Aralia is to use cuttings from an existing plant. Not only is this faster, but it also guarantees that the new plants will be copies of the original plant.

Take soft-wood cuttings during the summer, taking more than one to boost the success rate. Choose young, healthy shoots, taking them from the base of the original plant.

Make sure you set aside a container of damp potting soil to start with, planting the cuttings as soon as possible, so they don’t lose too much moisture. 

Cover the container with a propagation lid, or a clear plastic bag to lock in the humidity. Once you see new growth, the cuttings have grown roots, and when they get big enough, you can transfer them into individual containers.

How To Grow False Aralia

False Aralia is not a complicated plant to grow, but there are a few things worth keeping in mind to get the best out of it.

Sunlight And Position

False Aralia plants need bright, indirect sunlight in order to thrive. They don’t do well with direct sunlight for long, so if it isn’t possible to put these plants in indirect sunlight, make sure they only get morning sunlight, which is much less fierce.

If you have a bathroom window which is frosted, or you have sheer curtains, this is perfect for filtered light, making sure that the light cannot get too strong to scorch the leaves. 

It is worth knowing that the color of the leaves can transform depending on the light levels. If you give the plant too much direct sunlight, it will scorch, turning brown in places.

Give this plant bright but indirect light, and this plant will take on a gorgeous deep green as it matures.

They don’t particularly do well in drafty areas, and sources of heat can make them suffer.

They tend to do better in rooms that are more humid, such as a kitchen or a bathroom. 

They need humidity levels that are around 50%, which tends to be above average in most homes, which is why kitchens or bathrooms are an ideal place for false Aralia plants.

Otherwise, you can increase the humidity by putting a tray of pebbles with water underneath the container, and as the water evaporates, this increases the humidity.

You could also increase the humidity by using a humidifier, but this isn’t necessary unless you have a very dry home.

If you live in a warm enough climate, you can grow the false Aralia outside. Temperatures need to be between 65°F and 85°F, as stable as possible. 

This is why many people grow false Aralia plants indoors, as most of the time, the temperature stays relatively constant.

While it’s worth mentioning that some types of false Aralia are more hardy than others, keeping temperatures above 65°F helps to keep these plants happy.

Soil Needs

When growing false Aralia, avoid using spongy potting mediums such as sphagnum moss, as these plants prefer more solid potting mixes.

While they like peat-based compost, this is not exactly environmentally friendly, so a general houseplant potting mix will do. 

You want soil that will retain some water, without waterlogging or pooling around the roots for too long, as false Aralia plants with wet feet will soon get root rot.

Should You Prune False Aralia?

While false Aralia plants can get quite large, they grow very slowly, which means they won’t outgrow their space for a long while, and you won’t have to prune them very often, either.

However, it’s a good idea to remove any diseased or dying leaves. Only prune your false Aralia when you need to chop it back to keep it suitable for the space you’re growing it in.

Make sure to trim it back before its growing season in spring, but don’t cut it back too hard, as this can shock the plant.

How To Repot False Aralia

Exactly when you need to repot false Aralia depends on the growing conditions and the age of the plant.

It’s worth noting that these plants tend to do better when they are slightly pot-bound, just like chili plants do. When the roots grow all the way around the pot, it’s well past time to repot your false Aralia.

Only repot one size upwards each time.

Care And Maintenance

False Aralia plants do not need a lot of attention, but there are several things you can do to make sure that your false Aralia shrubs thrive.

If you can get the growing conditions right from the get-go, this will go a long way in keeping a false Aralia plant healthy and happy. 

When To Water False Aralia

It’s worth noting that false Aralia can be difficult when it comes to watering. There’s a tricky balance to maintain, between keeping the soil hydrated, without overwatering.

Exactly how often you will need to water a false Aralia depends on the surrounding temperature, the type of soil, the size of the plant, and how much sunlight it gets.

You might have to water it more than once a week, or every other week. Allow the soil to partially dry out between watering, and give the plant a good drink when the top two inches have dried out.

One mistake that houseplant owners can make is assuming that the false Aralia needs water if the foliage starts to wilt. 

Frustratingly, while this can be a sign of underwatering, it can also mean that the plant has got too much water, and watering it in this case can do more harm.

Always check the moisture in the soil before you water, so this reduces the risk of root rot as  much as possible. 

Should You Feed A False Aralia?

These gorgeous plants are very low-maintenance, and don’t really need fertilizer on a regular schedule, unlike orchids, for example.

But as they are slow-growing plants, you might get a little impatient and want to give the plants a boost. 

In which case, you can use a balanced houseplant fertilizer during spring and summer (every fourth water or so), at half the recommended dose. 

Make sure you don’t feed this plant in fall or winter, as it needs to rest during this period.

Problems To Watch Out For

Unfortunately, there are a few things to watch out for when growing false Aralia plants. They are susceptible to most problems that houseplants can fall victim to, so it’s worth being aware of them.

The quicker you catch infestations or other problems, the healthier your false Aralia will remain.

As a general rule, the false Aralia will be at its most resilient when it is at its healthiest, so growing them in optimal conditions goes a long way in keeping your false Aralia happy.

When you do start to see your false Aralia suffering for no apparent reason, it’s important to check for pests. 

False Aralia plants can be affected by spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, and scale insects. The quicker you spot them, the easier they will be to deal with.

Mealybugs and spider mites tend to be easier to spot, as they leave tell-tale signs. Mealybugs are present when a substance similar to cotton appears on the foliage, and you can see spider mites by a web-like texture on the leaves.

You can use rubbing alcohol, applied topically to treat these problems. As a last resort, you can use neem oil or insecticidal soap, but these can harm the beneficial microorganisms in the soil, affecting the plant’s health. 

If you do spot any problems, quarantine your plant away from any other houseplants to stop any pests from spreading from one plant to another, and treat the plant as soon as possible. 

Final Thoughts

False Aralia plants are stunning, grown for their bold foliage, and aren’t complicated to care for. 

If you prefer architectural leaves to flowers in a houseplant, false Aralia plants are a great option.

You may have to trim this plant back to keep it more manageable in a smaller space, but as it grows very slowly, this is unlikely to be a problem for a while. 

It is worth knowing that this plant can be toxic if eaten, so keep it away from children and pets, to avoid any accidents.

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