8 Aralia Varieties and Species You Should Know About

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Who wouldn’t be enticed by Aralia plants and their unique beauty? Its attention-grabbing leaves and flowers are enough to make heads turn. Under this genera, there are around 70 species that might fit your preferences. If you are planning to get one but would want some variations, here are some of the notable Aralia plant varieties you definitely should know about. 

California Spikenard

The California spikenard or the elk clover is also known as Aralia californica and it is one of the most abundant types of Aralia. It thrives in USDA zones 3 through 8 and is native to California. 

Some of its notable characteristics include its height, which extends from 4 to 10 feet. Also, one of the main characteristics that make it stand out is its beautiful white flowers. Moreover, its leaves change color to a gorgeous golden yellow during fall. Because of its height and color, this species can easily be grouped with other plants as a foundation plant or be a stand-alone specimen inside your home. In terms of growing and caring for this plant, there are no special things to be done.

Devil’s Walking Stick

Aralia spinosa is the scientific name of the devil’s walking stick. It grows in USDA zones 4 to 8 but loves to flower during warm seasons.

This deciduous Aralia species bears white flowers for a long period when planted in the tropics. This characteristic is more evident during summer, wherein the plant is in bloom for the whole season. Aside from its blossoms, another characteristic that growers love about this plant is its height. It can reach up to 20 feet high, which makes it a good shade plant if not utilized as a houseplant

Despite its beauty, there should be some caution taken because of its berries. When someone ingests the said berries, there may be some digestive problems due to their mild toxicity. Knowing this, it is advisable to place it far away from areas where children and pets can have access to its fruits. Also, putting up a warning sign about its toxicity may be beneficial for the users of the space where this plant is present.

Chinese Angelica Tree

The Chinese angelica tree or the Aralia chinensis is believed to be a medicinal plant. In some areas, the roots are harvested to be used to treat dysmenorrhoea and diabetes. Although, there are not enough studies supporting this claim. Also, be extra careful when you are around this plant as the bark is slightly poisonous. 

It is a native of Asian countries such as Vietnam, China, and Malaysia. Although, the plant thrives in USDA zones 7 to 10. It was naturalized in some areas and propagated mainly through the division of its suckers. 

Some of this Chinese angelica tree’s notable characteristics are its height, flower, and fruits. In terms of height, this plant can reach up to 30 feet but is normally grown for about 12 to 15 feet. For its blooms, pale white small flowers are clustered in groups of 20 to 50 in each terminal panicle. During fall, blooms are more evident and its leaves start to change their color to a deep yellow. After the blooming season, berry-like fruits start to form. They are succulent, juicy, round, and dark violet.

Precaution is needed when in contact with its bark and roots. These plant parts are mildly toxic and can cause dermal irritation.

Angelica Tree

Although this might be confused with the Chinese angelica tree, this species is different. Its scientific name is Aralia elata and it is also commonly known as the Japanese angelica tree or Korean angelica tree. These common names are related to where this plant originated, which is in the southeast Asian countries. Moreover, it thrives in USDA zones 3 through 8.

This species is known for its height, leaf size, and edible fruit. It reaches up to 35 feet but is mostly grown shorter than that to fit inside the house. Aside from the whole plant growing tall, its leaves can steal the spotlight too. Each leaf can expand for up to 3 feet, which makes it a good screen. In addition, its blooms are either pink or white, which adds to the plant’s aesthetic value.

As a houseplant, flowering and fruiting may be a bit of a struggle because the plant will need a certain amount of light exposure for it to produce good fruits. Some people plant it outside and harvest the fruits for traditional dishes. The shoots are also edible and people in Japan eat them.

Japanese Spikenard

Aralia cordata or the Japanese spikenard, udo, or mountain asparagus is often utilized as an ornamental plant but is believed to have some medicinal value. Koreans used to harvest this plant’s roots and dry it as a part of their traditional medicine. Also, some people harvest their young shoots and use them as an ingredient for different dishes. According to them, the young shoots give off a uniquely aromatic and pungent taste. 

This species has some interesting characteristics that make it stand out. In a span of one growing season, this plant can grow for 3 to 6 feet already. Its vast growth habit greatly contributes to its shading abilities, especially in the forests. Also, the Japanese spikenard does not have thorns and hahas rhizomes. Moreover, its blooms are white and evident during the end of summer and the beginning of fall. 

In terms of propagation, division is the best method for this species. Also, there are no special grow and care activities for it. 

Japanese Aralia

This plant was previously known as Aralia japonica but is now called Fatsia japonica. IT also goes by multiple common names such as fig leaf palm, big leaf paper plant, Japanese fatsia, paper plant, Formosa rice tree, and glossy-leaved paper plant. This species is evergreen and has leaves that are palmate with lobes. Each leaf bears 7 to 11 toothed lobes. Aside from its leaf structure, its glossy or leathery texture makes it unique too.

This Aralia species grows up to 19 and a half feet in height and 6 feet in width. Although, they are commonly grown in 6 feet high and 4 feet width for more compact and manageable dimensions. A more compact height is favorable when this plant is grown as a houseplant.

The Japanese Aralia also blooms beautiful cream-colored flowers attached to a white stalk. However, these blooms are only seen when planted outside during the last weeks of autumn. When placed indoors, flowering is highly unlikely. If they flower and proceed to the fruiting season, it produces berry or drupe fruits that are black and small. Since they flower during late fall, fruits are observed during winter.

Another thing that makes this different from the other Aralias is its light requirement. Unlike other Aralias that love to be exposed under the sun, this one prefers to be under shade. The Japanese Aralia grows best when under full or partial shade. It also thrives in USDA plant hardiness zones 7b to 10a. Moreover, it is resistant to salt, drought, and pollution. If you live in a place where light barely comes through or if your backyard barely experiences full sunlight, this Aralia is perfect for you.

Rice-Paper Tree

The rice-paper tree, tetrapanax, or Chinese rice-paper plant is a native plant of Taiwan and South China. It has multiple scientific names such as Aralia papyrifera, Tetrapanax papyriferus, Fatsia papyrifer, and Tetrapanax papyrifer. This species is often grown for its ornamental purposes but it got its name because it is the source of rice paper. In China, the stems are utilized to produce rice paper.

The Rice-paper tree can steal the spotlight in a landscape with its huge leaves that can extend for up to 3 feet long. Also, the foliage is arranged at the top of the main stem with its long branches. Each leaf has a smooth green upper side and a rough textured underside. This rough texture is caused by the white tiny hairs that can cause skin and eye irritation. During winter, you can see its majestic white blooms that are densely packed and form large groups. 

To ensure the optimal growth of this species, the soil should be moist. Also, plant it in areas with more shade and humidity. As a forest plant, it is best to provide an environment that resembles its natural habitat. As another plus for this plant, it is tolerant to salt which allows it to grow near seas and salt-water. 

Ming Aralia

This plant may not be under the same genera but it is under the Araliaceae family. The ming aralia or Polyscias fruticosa deserves a special mention in this article because it is a landscape favorite. It thrives in USDA plant hardiness zones 11 to 12 and is a seasonal bloomer.

The Polyscias fruticosa is often planted in pots. What makes it perfect as a potted plant is its height which extends from 3 to 8 feet. Also, it has a spread of 2 to 3 feet only, meaning it would take up more vertical space than horizontal. It is also low-maintenance but is highly aesthetic. Some of the characteristics that contribute to its aesthetic value are its leaves and flowers. This species bears leaves that are delicately segmented and pronounced toothed margins. On the other hand, its blooms come in pale yellow or white colors during summer. In outdoor landscapes, this beauty is grown to be a specimen or hedge. 

Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Aralia

The first thing you need to know is where you are going to place your Aralia plant. This would save you time and effort trying to stage or fit in plants that are not as high as you expected. Knowing where you will put the Aralia will allow you to narrow down your options based on height. Also, this will help you choose the perfect Aralia that is suitable for the temperature, light, and humidity of the area you chose.

Another thing to consider is the landscape users. Who would visit the space often? Will they come up close to the plant? This is important because most Aralia species have toxic qualities wherein contact or ingestion of some plant parts will cause problems. To avoid accidental irritations and poisoning, it is best to put Aralias in non-active areas or far from areas wherein human traffic is high.

Then, know the USDA plant hardiness zone your location is under. Different species of Aralia thrive in different USDA zones. To avoid wasting money and effort on a plant that will not survive in your area, it is best to do some research and the USDA zone you are under. In doing so, it will help you not only choose the best Aralia type but also other plants fitted for your care.

Lastly, determine the amount of time you are willing to spend taking care of your plant. Some species may require more care than others. Remember that every plant is different and listening to them will yield better performance. If you do not have much time, choose a slow grower. In doing so, you will lessen the time needed for maintenance activities such as pruning and repotting. On the other hand, if you are willing to spend as much time needed for your plants, feel free to choose anything that interests you.

See more: American Spikenard

*image by Akchamczuk/depositphotos

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