Japanese Aralia – Fatsia japonica

Japanese Aralia leaves
Japanese Aralia leaves

 This evergreen plant is a great choice for shady gardens or planted in containers. The leaves have been described as ‘huge, indestructible, palmately lobed leaves, like vast outstretched, capable hands’. What an apt description. It is often used as an architectural statement in the garden, doing well behind other plants, setting off smaller, brighter plants.

This native of the coastal woodlands of Japan and Korea can grow as far north as zone 7 in protected, well mulched situations. But beware it hates freezing, so offer good protection…such as an area protected on 3 sides. It was first introduced to North America in the 19th century as an ornamental. To protect and ward off evil spirits, the people of Japan traditionally planted these on the north side of the house.

A suggested legend explaining part of the name is of Ara, a forest nymph, companion of Cynthia. Ara was sent to live among people, and she was to teach them the art of magic. She was called upon when a penalty was to be inflicted on a person!

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