Botanical Name — Plerandra elegantissima
Common Name — False aralia, Aralia elegantissima
Plant Family — Araliaceae
Plerandra elegantissima is a flowering plant with distinct dark, finger-like leaves that is native to New Caledonia, a French territory off the coast of Australia. In the wild, this plant can become a full blown tree up to 50 feet tall. As a popular houseplant for color contrast, its slender toothed leaves remind one of a darker marijuana plant. For better or worse, there is very little relation. Keep an eye out for clusters of pale green flowers come fall, followed by inedible black fruit.
- False aralia thrive in 3-4 hours of direct sunlight, with bright indirect light or partial shade at peak hours of the day. Outdoors, it does well in light shade. Indoors, an east or west-facing window would be ideal.
- These plants need warm temperatures and high humidity. Between 60 and 85 ºF is ideal. To improve humidity mist your false aralia daily or consider placing your plant near a humidifier.
- Let the soil of this plant dry out between waterings. When it’s dry two inches down, water the plant thoroughly.
- In the winter, reduce the frequency of watering to about half. Because the growth of these plants slows during wintertime, they can tolerate a bit more dryness in the soil. Excessive watering can lead to root rot, so it is best to err on the side of underwatering.
- False aralia prefer a nutrient rich, well-draining potting mix, that retains moisture well. A high-quality potting soil would work great. Pumice or perlite are great amendments for improving drainage and aeration, and can be added up to 25%. Coco coir is another amendment, great for improving soil texture and moisture-retention, and should be added up to 25%.
- False aralia produces small pale green flowers in the fall, though it rarely flowers indoors or in cultivation outside of tropical climates.
- False aralia do not require much fertilization. To give old soil a boost of nutrients during the growing season, feed these plants with a balanced fertilizer diluted at half strength, once every other month. Feed during the spring and summer only; cease fertilization during winter.
- False aralias propagate reliably from cuttings. Using a clean, sharp blade cut a section of the stem at least 4” long. Cut lower leaves off and place the cutting in soil. Make sure not to bury any leaves as this could lead to rot. While the cutting is rooting, keep soil lightly moist but never damp. Cuttings may take several weeks to root.
- False aralia plants are not especially susceptible to pests or diseases. Root rot is one of the most common issues and is caused by overwatering. Check your plant regularly for common houseplant pests such as mealybugs, aphids and spider mites.
Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
- False aralias do not require much maintenance. They can be pruned to maintain a specific shape or encourage fullness. Prune at the start of the growing season to encourage new growth elsewhere.
- They will need to be repotted once every one to two years. Select a pot that is two to three inches larger in diameter to give this plant plenty of room to grow.
- False aralia is non-toxic to pets and humans.