The plant: Fatsia japonica - sometimes 'Ornamental Fig' - is basically a large evergreen hardy shrub, which can also be grown indoors as a spectacular houseplant. It has large, palmate leaves with upwards of seven lobes – or fingers. Quite spectacular if well grown with individual leaves growing to 6 or 8 inches (15-20cm) across. The overall leaf has a slightly toothed margin.
To be seen at its best it will need a large pot rather than the small pot in which it has been grown and sold! The size of the pot will be the deciding factor as to its ultimate size.
Outdoors in a shrub area or as a stand-alone specimen, Fatsia japonica will grow to a large spreading shrub with height and spread of 4 feet (1.2m) or more. Indoors it will rarely reach those dimensions – if ever. However it will still be cherished for its light green glossy foliage, and ability to grow in more or less any place that will give it the space it needs.
It rarely flowers as an indoors plant, but if you are lucky, then it will have unusual clusters of flowers held aloft of the foliage during early Autumn. If you do manage to get it into flower indoors, you will probably see the small black berries that follow the flowers.
Its needs: The Japanese Fatsia requires strong light even some direct sun. The potting mix should be rich and fertile, well-draining but kept moist. Warmth and normal humidity preferred.
Keep the potting mix moist all year round, but do not allow the Fatsia to become waterlogged. On the other hand, if allowed to dry out too much, the leaves will warn you with their sad drooping appearance. Watering will soon rectify this.
In hot dry summers use a mist-spray on the foliage. Prune Fatsia to shape in spring, and pinch out leggy growth through the year. If left un-pruned the Japanese Fatsia will become a very large shrub. Can tolerate low temperatures but prefers normal range.
Good for: An easy, attractive evergreen plant that simply needs a little bit of space, which will be rewarded by giving you cooling elegance in a reasonably well lit corner.
Fatsias are normally bought as young plants – from either the outdoor section of the garden centre or the floristry department. However, seed is available and they are quite easy to propagate by sowing of seed in a cool place.