Tuesday, July 21, 2009

the apartment plant

I have a friend who calls the Fatsia japonica the Apartment Plant. She hates them, equating their use to boring uncared for plantings near similarly described apartment buildings. I don’t agree! I see their big glossy palmate leaves and think they are almost (dare I say) tropical looking. Maybe it’s the old “familiarity breeds contempt” reaction? She’s grown up in Portland and seen them all her life, whereas I moved here from a cooler climate and fell in love with them. I planted this one the fist summer in our home; it has now been in the ground 4 years. The picture below was taken shortly after planting…and yes that is bark mulch. I needed to put down something and since the previous owner had just spread fresh bark mulch I matched it, knowing that we would be laying down gravel the following year.
I believe I paid $7.99 for a 1-gallon size pot and I remember the tag saying something about it resembling a papaya tree if the bottom leaves were trimmed. What’s not to love about that! Sounds tropical! I had no idea then what a papaya tree looks like but after a little time in the internet I was excited at the idea. The photo below is a picture of a Papaya tree in Panama (from http://www.photoatlas.com/ - photo by Urs Hauenstein). I didn’t trim up the bottom leaves for any other reason than they started to look ragged, but I love the Papaya-ish look. I now know that this plant needs a bit of shade to thrive, but the tag said sun, so that is what I gave it. Others that I see around town in the shade look shrubbier, with their bottom leaves in place. Another thing to love about this plant is the unique white spherical flowers it gets in late summer/early fall followed by the most amazing black seeds which the birds love. I’ll share pictures of the blooms when they happen. I love my apartment plant!


  1. I love your apartment plant, too! And it goes perfectly with my 50's ranch.

    Yours looks so happy and healthy in the sun, but mine already have some sun damage from the hot morning sun we've had recently. I wonder why yours thrives in sun and mine cook even with afternoon shade? Hmmm.

    I'm looking forward to the flowers and berries!

  2. My grandparents had one growing outside their front door, in the shade. It was huge! I'm not sure why I don't love this plant, maybe the leaves look a little plastic-y or something? Anyway, who cares what other people think - if you like a plant and it likes you, it's a match made in heaven. :) It looks great in your garden and easy-care plants are popular for a reason - no fuss, no muss, happy plant, happy people.

  3. AnonymousJuly 21, 2009

    Hi DG~~ My introduction to Fatsia japonica happened quite by chance during a family trek through the Portland Zoo. This was ten years ago I think. I asked a friend of mine the name of the plant. She said Aralia, the common name. This was a bit confusing but I made it my mission to find it and buy it.

    I think they really do look better in the shade. The leaves stay dark and shiny green. In full or even part sun, the leaves turn what I think is a ghastly pea soup green. I routinely remove the older leaves and now three stalks rise to about seven feet.

    Years ago I spent four years in Hawaii and saw the papaya tree first hand and the Fatsia has always reminds me of it.

    Like most plants it has its fans and its foes. I'm a fan.

  4. Jane, this is the first year that it seems to have decided to thrive in the sun, in the past I've had some sun damage. It looked horrible during our arctic event last winter, the leaves were pointed straight down and a lot of leaves turned black. How was yours?

    Karen, I can see that, the plastic-y leaves. And I agree, who cares what other people think!

    Grace, 7 feet...how wonderful! I see what you mean about the pea soup color...luckily for me I'm a fan of that too!

  5. Ours were somewhat damaged by the winter but both are in somewhat protected locations. I think that helped avoid the worst of the cold effects although the tips suffered and we waited awhile for them to regenerate this spring.

  6. I think you will love 'Eva'. Last year I planted one about the size of yours and it is now about six ft. and weaving through other plants to great effect. The golden one, on the other hand, is just sitting there biding its time...could be because we just put up deer protection.
    Fatsia seems a perfect example of how we disdain anything that is too easy. I fell for its spacy blooms long before getting into gardening, but had quite forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. I love Fatsia! I posted about it (January 21) and called it one of my favorite plants. I have three of them. Two got damaged by the last wet and snowy winter, but they came back!Your plant looks very healthy!


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