Polyscias leaves

Polyscias: Easy-to-Grow houseplant that’s Perfect for Beginners

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Polyscias, AKA Aralia plants – Fashion a tree indoors or have great shrubs outdoors with beautiful foliage

Polyscias or Aralia is a striking tree-like shrub that can be fashioned to suit any space you want. Some varieties are popular with Bonsai enthusiasts. The plants grow well in the shade and indoors and thus have become a popular houseplant. In the garden, the plant will grow freely in a close upward direction with beautiful dark green, light green, variegated, or white foliage. The leaves come in all shapes and sizes depending on the specific cultivar.

Botanical name: Polyscias spp
Origin: Tropical Africa and Pacific Regions
Dimension: Height: 6 – 8 ft. Width: 2 – 3 ft.
Family: Araliaceae
Lifecycle: Woody
Flower Color: Gold/Yellow
Plant Type: Houseplant
Light Requirement: Full sun (Minimum 6 hours)
Soil Texture: Loam/Sand
Soil Drainage: Good Drainage
USDA Hardiness Zone:11a-b/12a-b

Polyscias, commonly known as the Aralia plants, belongs to the Araliaceae family. Polyscias varieties are native to countries around the Pacific. The plant can be found in abundance in all tropical climates worldwide. The plant does well in the shade; in Greek, Polyscias means ‘lots of shade.’

Aralia (Polyscias balfouriana)

All Polyscias are unique in their appearance. The plant’s compact vertical growth is combined with round, heart-shaped, or divided leaves, growing from the bottom of the stem to the top in an alternate pinnately pattern. Leaf growth along the stems or branches allows for creatively pruning it for any shape and style you want. It helps to purify the air when planted indoors.

Tips for the care of Polyscias or Aralia plants and their propagation

Polyscias or Aralia plant varieties are some of the easiest to maintain indoors or outdoors, provided a suitable climate exists. The plants grow in any soil as long as there is no water retention. Warm temperatures, humidity, and indirect sunlight are essential for a plant that thrives in tropical climates. The drought-tolerant Polyscias can survive for long periods without water but does not like the cold and grows well in the USDA hardiness zones. Our plant guide will help you to grow all types of Plants. 

The ideal temperature and levels of humidity for Polyscias

Temperature and humidity are essential factors for Polyscias or Aralia plants. The temperature should not be less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower temperatures and cold draughts will make the plant shed its leaves. Indoor plants can benefit from a heated environment during the winter months. Keeping the warm temperature steady will ensure the plants thrive and retain their foliage.

Humidity issues can be addressed by placing the plant on a pebble tray to increase humidity levels. In addition, you can also mist the foliage to match its native tropical habitat. High humidity is not a problem for this tropical plant.

Polyscias Showcases

Light requirements for Polyscias, aka Aralia

Aralia or Polyscias plants need bright indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight falling on the leaves, as it can scorch them. These plants do well in the shade, and outdoor plants should be placed accordingly. Polyscias can also be seen to adapt to more direct and harsh sunlight in certain tropical climates. Indoor plants will need 6-8 hours of filtered light per day.

Watering schedule of Polyscias plants

Polyscias or Aralia plants love moist soil conditions. They can even withstand dry conditions for prolonged periods. Plants will not thrive with too much water as the delicate root system will be compromised. Insufficient watering will result in the plant shedding leaves. Watering once or twice a week is acceptable for indoor plants. Watering frequency can be reduced during the winter. Test the moisture levels by checking the top two inches of soil, and if it is dry to the touch, then water the plant. Allow the soil to dry between waterings, and do not let the plant sit in soggy soil, as it may cause root rot to set in. 

Soil mix for Polyscias plants

The Aralia plant is not very particular about the kind of potting soil mix if it drains well. the trees grow in a variety of soils. Anything from sandy to loamy soil will help healthy growth. Blended soil mixes are available commercially. Make sure that excess water drains well and helps root growth. Using terracotta pots is the best as extra moisture will be quickly wicked. These plants can be seen growing in all types of soil in tropical climates worldwide.

Polyscias Blooming

Fertilizer options for Polyscias plants

Polyscias plants will thrive even if no fertilizer is added. Adding a liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing period from summer to fall. Yellowing foliage and falling leaves indicate low nutrient levels in the soil. When this happens, a liquid fertilizer at half-strength will help the plant to grow and improve the color and shine of the foliage. Feeding the plant once a month is sufficient. Suitable artificial fertilizers or chemicals can be used for this evergreen shrub

Propagating Polyscias

All cultivars of Polyscias or Aralia are easy to propagate. Propagation can be done by planting stem cuttings or dividing an existing well-grown plant. Planting stem cuttings or divisions is done in the spring to take advantage of the growing season. Use clean, sharp tools to cut the stems to required cuttings of at least 5-6 inches in length. Remove most of the foliage from the stems, leaving two or three leaves. Place the cuttings in moist soil. A rooting hormone can help to establish the cutting quickly. Place the new plants in a shady area that is warm and humid. Roots will start to grow within a few weeks.

Propagating by dividing an existing plant is another easy method. The plant divisions have a better chance of survival as the root system is already in place. Take the mother plant from the pot and carefully divide it into smaller plants. Shake out the soil to expose the roots of the divided plants. Clean out any dead or rotting roots and trim straggly ends. Place in moist soil and a shady area that is warm and humid. These new plants can be grown indoors or outdoors in the shade with filtered sun. 

New plants need moderate to high humidity and well-drained, moist but not wet soil to start establishing new roots. Consider placing a humidifier in the areas around the new plants if the air is dry. Terracotta pots with drainage holes are the best containers for new plants as extra water is wicked away.

Polyscias potted

Cultivars of Polyscias, commonly referred to as Aralia

There are more than 180 varieties of plants found all over the tropical belt of the globe, according to a 2022 report of the Plants of the World Online. A few of these varieties have become very popular due to their aesthetic beauty of foliage and tree-like trunks. Polyscias can be fashioned into many styles. Some plants will brighten up a room or office, and others will look good in a corner space with the beautiful lines of the stems and the attractive leaves. Below are a few popular Polyscias cultivars that enhance indoor and outdoor garden spaces.

Polyscias fruiticosa or Ming aralia

This perennial plant is an evergreen plant or dwarf tree that originated from India. It is often used in landscaping, trimming its abundant foliage into desired shapes and sizes. The divided leaves are dark green, have a glossy surface, and are tripinnate. A dwarf variety is also famous as an indoor plant or a garden shrub.  

Polyscias balfouriana or Aralia balfouriana

Polyscias balfouriana is a deciduous plant with upward growth with dense dark green foliage. It can be a houseplant, a shrub, or a small tree in the garden. The green stems are dotted with gray spots. This plant will bring out the best in smaller spaces of your home

Polyscias scutellaria or Aralia Fabian

This striking Polyscias is a much-loved houseplant due to its thick woody tree-like stems set off by dark green round leaves with a shiny exterior. It can grow to 6-8 feet indoors and is an excellent look for any room. This elegant plant is known to have air-purifying qualities. Provides a jungle feel with its lush foliage.

Polyscias guilfoylei or Geranium Aralia or Wild Coffee

A native of Southeast Asia, this is a common houseplant with green leaves or green and yellow variegated leaves. Bonsai artists love to work with Geranium Aralia plants

Black Aralia Polyscias

This Polyscias variety is a rare houseplant. The dark green leaves are almost black, giving it a rich look. The leaves are crinkled, shiny, highly textured, and a joy. In contrast, the stems are long and beige-colored, perfectly matching the leaves. Careful pruning and constant maintenance ensure this plant’s long life.

Pruning and repotting of Polyscias

Pruning Polyscias has many advantages. It is the best way to ensure bushy growth, thicker stems, or stumps. It also helps to minimize pests and diseases. Cutting unnecessary growth keeps the plants in shape and rejuvenated. Cutting stems to allow branching out or other desired effects for the plant’s shape. The plants are cleaned of yellow or dead leaves, adding to their visual appeal.

Polyscias leaves closeup

Pruning is usually done in springtime to take advantage of the growing season. The stems and branches that are not damaged can be used to propagate new plants. Polyscias do not like to be disturbed, so it is best to plant the stems in a large pot that will hold the plant for 2-3 years.

Repotting Polyscias or Aralia is recommended only when the plant outgrows the current container or pot. Polyscias plants thrive best when they are root bound. Repot into a pot one size larger than the last and ensure drainage and aeration of the soil. Polyscias do not like soggy soil.

Common problems when growing Polyscias (Aralia)

There are a few common problems when growing Polyscias or Aralias. Leaf drop, wilting, brown spots on leaves, yellowing of leaves, and plant death are to be avoided at all costs. Read on to find out how to remedy these problems.

Polyscias balfouriana

Leaf drop 

Leaf dropping can occur due to a sudden change in the climate or lighting conditions. Any changes to the growing conditions of the plant have to be gradual.

Brown spots appearing on leaves 

These appear when the plant is underwatered. The soil must be kept moist and not damp through the growing season. During the winter, watering must be reduced.

Leaves turning yellow 

This Yellow leaves are a sign of the lack of nutrients in the soil. Adding a liquid fertilizer during the growing season can quickly remedy the situation. Feeding is optional during the cold season as growth slows down. Regular flushing out of fertilizer deposits accumulated in the soil is recommended by running a stream of water through the soil for a few minutes.

Plant survival 

Plants die when the conditions around them are not suitable. Changes in temperature and humidity often create problems that can prove fatal if not resolved quickly. For instance, Polyscias like warm climates and, when faced with cold weather, will die if not moved to a warm place. Another factor that causes plants to die is root rot. This situation can be easily remedied by ensuring soil drainage.

White spots on the leaves 

White spots appear on the leaves when the water contains too much calcium. To remedy this situation, use rainwater or water that is low in calcium.

Yellowing and wilting leaves 

Yellow leaves a sign that root rot has set in. A plant in this situation can survive if the problem is resolved early. Remove the plant from the pot and run the roots under running water. Now, inspect the roots and cut off any mushy unhealthy-looking parts of the root system. Use a fungicide to treat the rest of the roots. Repotting the plant in a new pot with fresh, well-draining soil will solve the problem. Do not water immediately; allow the soil to dry before watering again.

Pests that harm Polyscias plants

Pest infestations occur when humidity levels are low. Common garden pests, including spider mites, scale insects, and aphids, attack the plant when the surroundings are dry. Spraying the plants with water can prevent them from settling on the plant. A homemade organic pesticide or a chemical pesticide can stop these pests.

Giant Scale Insect

Frequently Asked Questions. FAQ

Are Polyscias plants toxic to pets and humans?

No, the plants are not toxic. Polyscias fruticose, commonly known as Ming aralia, is used in salads and cuisine in Thailand. However, certain varieties with sap can cause mild irritation. 

How much sunlight does a Polyscias plant need?

Polyscias are known to thrive in the shade with indirect sunlight. Direct bright sunlight is not recommended.

Does Polyscias flower?

Polyscias belong to a genus of flowering plants of the family Araliaceae. The small, white, or yellow flowers grow in clusters during the blooming season. Flowering is rare outside of the tropical climate of its native habitat.

How tall do Polyscias grow?

Height depends on the plants variety. Apart from the dwarf plants, the usual height of a mature Polyscias can reach up to 1 to 2 meters.

What type of soil is best for Polyscias?

A soil mix that drains well is the best option for Polyscias. Potting mixes can be tailored to the plant’s needs by adding perlite pellets. Perlite pellets are made of natural volcanic material, holding water and nutrients and making them available for plant roots. Polyscias generally require a soil-based potting mix.

Can you revive a dead or dying Polyscias plant?

The plant can be revived, provided the roots are still alive or show signs of new green growth. Clean the plant of debris and repot and treat it as a new plant

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