Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fatsia japonica...my favorite plant in the garden, this week...


Last weeks favorite plant, Callistemon ‘clemson,’ garnered a few comments from folks who find Callistemon rather common (a geographical thing). Well it doesn’t get much more common, at least here in western Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, than the Fatsia japonica

But anyone who dismisses this plant is missing out on so much…who doesn’t need a reliable easygoing evergreen in the landscape?

Plus when it’s blooming, as it is right now, this is the most popular plant in the garden with the birds. Every morning for the last couple of weeks the birds and the bees are my entertainment while I eat my breakfast. There is even a hummingbird that pays regular visits throughout the day...

This was one of the first plants I planted in my garden, 7 years ago. The tiny 1-gallon bought at Home Depot (yep, it doesn't get any more common than that) has performed, the stats:
  • Eventual size: size 6-10 ft tall and wide
  • Hardy in USDA Zones 8a - 11
  • It prefers shade but mine is planted where it gets full sun most of the day, this results in leaves that are a little less dark than some people like.

So I’m curious what plant, often dismissed as common (and you must tilt your head back and look slightly put out when you say that word “common”) is one of your garden favorites?

47 comments:

  1. Hooray for Fatsia Japonica!!!! I can't agree more. Yours is looking so very healthy! Don't their blooms kind of look extra terrestrial? I think my favourite thing about them is what you mentioned first ... reliable and easy going broad leaved evergreen!

    There are a lot of ordinary gems. Some that come to mind are black mondo grass, blue fescue, rosemary (LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!). I love rubbing up against the rosemary and having its aroma released into the air! It's simply the best!

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    1. Yes their blooms are the best! I love the (as Mulchmaid/Jane calls them) "sputnik" shape. Since I took those pictures many of them have opened completely up and it's looking very fuzzy now.

      I suppose you're right about rosemary being rather common but I never tire of that scent either...

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  2. Fatsia japoinca make an excellent reliable backbone plant in my opinion.

    I guess that with all of the attention yours is receiving that it will also produce berries?

    I don't have one in my current garden, but I used to grow it in my old garden.

    My grandfather also used to grow it and when he passed away my Mum took some of the leaves and flower spikes (plus other things from the garden) and made it into a wreath to put on his coffin. Sad, but nice memories, if you get my drift.

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    1. I hope there are berries in my future, the little black balls are fabulous!

      Thank you for sharing the wreath memory, I do get your drift and think that's wonderful.

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  3. Cool, a hummingbird feeding from your Fatsia! Such a reliable, well performing plant. Essential I would even say, especially for exotic and leafy style of gardening (and anything else in between).

    I would say Fatsia as well but to be different it would have to be Trachycarpus fortunei; evergreen, hardy, and reliable.

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    1. Actually the day I got that photo I lost count of the times that hummingbird and another (I'm no expert but there were two distinctly different colored birds) visited. I was working on a project at the table the window for about 4 hours and the visits were nonstop!

      Great response with the Trachycarpus fortunei, it does seem like the palm everyone loves to hate for it's ease.

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  4. I have grown this wonderful plant in Washington DC for 15 years. You are being overly cautious putting it with zone 8 plants based on my experience. It has also flourished for over 30 years at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington D.C.

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    1. Really? That's good news, I will make that note, I do see many people say zone 7.

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  5. I don't think there's anything wrong with liking a common plant. One of my mantras is that just because something is different or unusual, does not necessarily mean it is "better" ;-)

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    1. So true...even someone who loves the unusual as much as I do can be happy with some of the old standbys like this one, Pieris japonica, and heck even the good ol' Euphorbia!

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  6. Wow! Your Fatsia is so gorgeous! And I had no idea it as attractive to hummers. I love planting for the hummers. There's not a lot out there right now to keep them coming around. I love a lot of very ordinary plants -- hardy Geraniums, daylilies, etc.

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    1. I guess I should have added I don't necessarily have the brightest hummingbirds visiting my garden. Over the summer I watched one repeatedly trying to get something from the red thorns on my Wingthorn Rose.

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    2. LOL! I had one hover all around me this summer because I was wearing a red shirt.

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  7. You are so right about Fatsia Japonica. I have three in my garden in Hollywood (though they are in the shade) and I think they look downright exotic. I've paired them with Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Sheen' and it's a great contrast in foliage. But I'm shocked you haven't found a variety with spikes on them. ;-)

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    1. Fatsia japonica in Hollywood! Who would have guessed? That Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Sheen' is a plant I keep trying to find a spot for in my garden, love them and I bet that makes a great combination.

      I think the blooms are a little on the spiky side...not painful spikes but still...

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  8. I love my Fatsia japonica, especially in its "sputnik" bloom phase.

    A plant many here in the PNW think terribly common, but that I really like for some situations, is some forms of camellia. It all depends on the setting, the variety and its health - a healthy, happy, interesting camellia has so much to recommend it.

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    1. Camellia, definitely...I don't regret for a minute getting rid of mine but I do love seeing them in others gardens. Especially in the dead of winter when they're covered in blooms.

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  9. I'm with you on Fatsia Japonica! They're beautiful, exotic looking, tough and sometimes even pop up by themselves in different parts of my garden- I think it's a bird thing. I've seldom met a plant I didn't like so I've got lots of common plants in my garden. The two I feel most guilty about are impatiens glandulifera, of which I rip out thousands each year, and Phytolacca americana, which will be seriously reduced in number soon.

    P.S. I'll be posting soon about a fabulous new variegated Fatsia japonica. Sigh, it's beautiful.

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    1. Pop-up Fatsia! Aren't you lucky. And I can't wait to see your variegated post. I tend not to care for them as I think they look rather sickly but maybe you've found one that will change my mind!

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  10. Fatsia used to be very common here too, but it's nearly vanished--seen only rarely now. I love 'Iceberg' roses, super-common here the past few years. It amazes me how they manage to look wonderful even in dreadful conditions (planted in tiny beds surrounded by concrete at gas stations on busy streets, for example).

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    1. So where did all the Fatsia go? Not climate suitable or just fell out of fashion?

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  11. My Fatsia sits right outside my bedroom slider and I love it. I don't know why people don't feel the same way. It wards off bad spirits, too!

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    1. Maybe if more people knew about the bad spirits thing?

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  12. What a beauty! what's not to love? I used to have one here as a house plant but it got pretty buggy in the winters so I had to let it go, Wish I could grow that outside here

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    1. I wish you could too, god I can't imagine ever moving backwards in zones! The things I would have to give up...

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    2. Lemon dish soap diluted in water takes care of mites, etc. on fatsia.

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  13. I grew up in LA Loree, and disdained the lowly Fatsia for many years. If I was going to do a tropical-esque border it would be in for sure.It's interesting how tastes have evolved, and many plants that were unusual a few years ago are now commonly used..especially grasses. I've decided this fall to plant a couple of 6 paks of Foxglove, a plant that used to be pretty common but one I don't see around much anymore.

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    1. Come to think of it I haven't even seen Foxgloves in my mothers garden the last few years and she used to always have them...

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  14. My guilty pleasure is Photinia, with its blazing red leaves in spring. We planted a lot of it for a quick screen to block some unsightly site lines. I fell in love with Fatsia long before taking up gardening. There was one in front of the old Contemporary Crafts building on Corbett and it seemed quite exotic to me at the time.

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    1. Oh Photinia...how I miss the huge jungle that used to completely obscure the house next door. Those red leaves...gorgeous. You definitely picked a good one for a screen.

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  15. It is a beautiful plant, but I've never felt a particularly strong urge to grow one -- they get huge here! -- until I saw the frosty variety 'Spiderweb' in your neck of the woods this year. Commoners I'm fond of are calla lilies, bougainvillea, scented pelargoniums, just for a start...

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    1. There are some huge ones here too, house height even. I have had many people try and get me interested in 'spiderweb' but to me it just looks like it has a disease.

      Oh Bougainvillea...how I wish it were hardy here!

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  16. I second photinia. It's one of the few survivors left from when I took over the garden from my mother. All i've done with it is lift the crown to give it a more unusual appearance and allow underplanting. It doesn't seem to mind.

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    1. And what have you under-planted it with?

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  17. Common can be beautiful. It just depends on how you use it! I love plain ol' Yucca filamentosa more every year--common AND despised by many. That's fine, I'll take that yucca you're throwing out...

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    1. Me too! I even moved some with me from Spokane. You can't kill the things and those blooms! Heaven. Glad to know you are of a similar mindset.

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  18. Wow - a humming bird. What a sight to see whilst enjoying breakfast. I get a humming around my fatsia at this time but that's the bees at work. There's nothing as exotic as a humming bird.

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    1. It is pretty wonderful, he was just here again a few minutes ago. Yesterday afternoon the plant was buzzing with life as it seemed there were at least three bees on each flower.

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  19. Fatsia Japonica - we had one that got inundated with spider mites. Disgusted, my mom tossed it on the compost heap. Winter came and went (zone five Michigan, very little snow cover, lots of freeze/thaw cycles) and the darn thing was thriving come spring. She potted it back up and it was with us for years.

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  20. Im trying to find out if my fatsia is poisonous to livestock I alsoI have neved had berries not yet anyway. Know if poisonous? ?? email me. Plainjanie02@yahoo.com thanks

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  21. AnonymousJune 09, 2015

    I live in north Texas and have read mixed reviews as to weather or not fatsia japonica will survive afternoon sun here. Will someone please advise? I love it and want to plant one outside my dining room window.

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  22. AnonymousJuly 31, 2015

    Since no expert has replied - no, I don't think so. I had to have my beloved 80' foot oak removed, and the western sun is killing my equally beloved 30 yr old two fatsia japonicas in the front flower bed. I'm researching if I can transplant it in the back, but the one link I found noted that established japonicas don't like to be moved. PS I live in Houston, and I don't know the temperature in your area. I read someone has one growing in the sun, but he/she lives in San Francisco.

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    1. Thank you for replying. BTW I moved another Fatsia (polycarpa - Needham's Lace) last year. It sulked, but lived and resprouted in multiple places along the trunk.

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  23. What does one feed fatsia in the pacific nw?

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    1. I've never fed it anything. I'm kind of a bad gardener in that regard.

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  24. I'm losing this wonderful plant in my garden (in the shade) and am curious if it can be aggressively pruned back to save it. Large leaves are turning black and falling off. We're in NC near the coast and it has been a hot summer so I'm guessing that is what is contributing to its demise. Thank you

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    1. It certainly is worth trying! I have no experience with what you're describing (or gardening in NC) but I have seen them rejuvenated by heavy pruning, why not give it a go!

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