Enjoy the luxuriant foliage of Polyscias
by PU Chien. Posted on July 1, 2012, Sunday
POLY means many and Polyscias refers to several species and varieties of aralia such as Ming aralia (Polyscias fruticosa), geranium leaf aralia (Polyscias guilfoylei), shield aralia or plum aralia (Polyscias scutellaria).
The genus Polyscias actually comprises six species and 80 varieties from Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Ming aralias actually belong to the family Araliaceae. There are also other popular house plants from this family such as the herb ginseng and English ivy.
These ornamental plants are valued for their luxuriant foliage. Their stalks carry compound leaves with as many as seven opposite leaflets. Some leaves are deeply serrated or lobed with several variegated forms even on the same plant.
Thanks to a new generation of plant enthusiasts, we can enjoy these native Asian shrubs both indoors and outdoors. They are versatile decorative plants that are easy to maintain.
Ming aralia is beautiful because it grows vertically and its looks can be improved by trimming and training the side branches. Trimming the tips encourages more branches and thicker foliage to achieve a dense canopy. The zigzag stems can be complex candelabra.
The aged leaves have beautiful ashen tan or corky surface stems. The complex leaves and unusual stems are the main point of interest when trained as bonsai.
Plants are generally dark green but the variegated varieties are far more popular than the original species. Polyscias balfouriana marginata’s leaves are bordered in creamy white, while pale yellow green marks can be found along the main vein area for the Pennockii variety. The fern tree variety has leaves cut into narrow lobes and are bright green with a purplish midrib.
Bonsai can be created through long-term training and trimming to keep the plant small or else it would grow up to several feet tall. The parsley aralia can also be used for bonsai creation. This shrub can be trimmed so it would not exceed 12 inches in 10 years. Roots can become exposed and much of the interesting stems enlarged to give the characteristics of aged bonsai with sculptural elements.
Gardeners also enjoy nurturing plants to a magnificent eight feet in height with flame-like leaves for decorative purposes. This plant can first be grown in the open with enough light, water and nutrients and then shaded to train it for indoor growing.
Buy active growers as stock plants. Choose pots that are large enough to contain fully-grown shrubs in a year or two. Choose long-lasting earthenware pots or light plastic containers.
Use a soil-based potting mixture. Once the maximum size is achieved, top dress the plants with a fresh fertiliser mixture for better growth. A slow release fertiliser would save you time.
This hard shrub is easy to maintain and almost any soil will do for propagation by cuttings. The character difference in new plants can be due to both parentage and method of cultivation.
Propagate from top cuttings of about 10 centimetres in length. Trim the leaves till just a few top ones remain before tipping in rooting hormone to speed up the process. Insert in propagation beds or a mixture of coarse sand and peat moss. Soil alone can also establish new growth but will be a bit slower.
Light – Grow these plants in bright light but not direct sunlight as our tropical sun will scorch the leaves. When indoors, 60 per cent light is good for the plants.
Watering – Watering is needed once in three days normally if you water the pot thoroughly each time.
Feeding – Apply a standard liquid fertiliser once in three weeks or add in organic manure in the nursery. Pellet fertiliser can be used sometimes to boost the growth and general health.
Polyscias are popular for short-term indoor displays, unless artificial lighting is available most of the time for the plants to maintain photosynthesis and good health. For indoor displays, a fortnight change would help revive the plants for a fresh look all the time.