The fatsia japonica (aka paperplant) care guide

The fatsia japonica or glossy-leaf paperplant is one of my favorite houseplants to enjoy watching on my mornings while having breakfast. Best known for its leaves, since they have a special print that’s not easy to find in other species. Moreover, they are a well-known plant for beginners. So, if you are getting started into the plant’s world, the fatsia is easy to care for and won’t give you too much trouble if you make some newbie mistakes.

To take care of a Fatsia Japonica indoors just follow these recommendations:

  • Keep it under partial or full-shade. Limit its sunlight exposure to a maximum of 2 hours per day.
  • Use a slightly acidic soil that has good drainage properties is vital to keep it healthy.
  • Only water it when you notice that the soil is dry.
  • You can apply a mild liquid fertilizer to feed your plant throughout the year except during winter.

These simple caring tips will cover the basics when growing a fatsia japonica, however, there are certain details that will make your paperplant truly stand out in your garden. We covered everything you’ll need in this guide, including everything about the fatsia japonica’s blooming period.

How do you care for a Fatsia Japonica?

Native to Europe and not Japan as I thought before, the fatsia japonica is a hard species to find. That’s why we had to go the extra mile to find the best advice to care for our plant.

In order to have everything down, we’ve grouped all of the caring recommendations in the following categories:

  • Light
  • Watering and Humidity
  • Soil
  • Temperature
  • Fertilizing

Light Caring Guidelines

Unlike other tropical plants, the fatsia japonica will thrive with relatively low bright light or sunlight exposure. You can keep it healthy under deep shade or partial shade, whatever works best for you. Nevertheless, if you grow your fatsia japonica under indirect light exposure, this won’t harm it. 

fatsia japonica indoors
fatsias can be grown indoor or outdoors

Does the fatsia japonica like the sun?

Not too much. Make sure your fatsia doesn’t get more than 2 hours of direct sunlight. Too much exposure to sunlight can burn its leaves and make them turn brown and ruin its famous glossy appearance.

Most fatsia owners keep this plant in living rooms, kitchens or bedrooms. I personally place it on top of this armoire in my living room.

fatsia and orchid

Image – my fatsia and my orchid look good together right?

Next, we have watering and humidity…

Watering and Humidity Caring Guidelines

The fatsia japonica stands out from other similar plants due to its drought tolerance. This is definitely good news for plant newbies like me. This type of plant will forgive you if you forget to water it for one or two days. On the flip side, regular watering will encourage its healthy growth and will promote the full development of its foliage and glossy leaves. 

As mentioned before, always check the soil dryness before watering. Remember, fatsias like its soil moist but not soggy. After checking it, then proceed to pour a couple of cups of water evenly through the soil top layer.

Repeat this routine throughout the week, it’s important to check your plant every day to notice and make any changes, if needed, on its watering cycle.

fatsia view from above

Remember to always consider that fatsias are native from tropical areas, that is why they show a strong preference for high humidity levels (above 60 percent). Be mindful of this condition especially during winter, when indoor air can become very dry, especially if you have indoor heating or vents. Fortunately, you can easily increase the humidity around it by following one of these recommendations:

  • Place your fatsia next to a humidifier, make sure there is space enough so the foliage gets moist, but doesn’t get wet.
  • Mist your fatsia’s leaves with water at least 2 times per day.
  • Place it on top of a humidity tray with pebbles or perlite. 

Fatsias prefer well-drained soil mixtures

This type of plant will grow faster and healthier if potted in soil that drains well, which ideally should be slightly acidic. Nevertheless, some fatsias owners have reported growing it in sandy and clay terrains, and it being fine, however,good drainage is always the case.

This takes us to the following topic, which is temperature.

Fatsias need both warm and cool temperatures

You should keep your fatsia in temperatures between 55° and 75° Fahrenheit during its growing season. However, keep in mind that this plant requires cooler temperatures (between 45° and 55° Fahrenheit) during winter, so it can successfully go through its natural dormancy period.

In regards to fertilization, you can use a half-diluted mild liquid fertilizer every two weeks during the spring and summer months. Why spring and summer? It’s best to apply fertilizer during its natural growth cycles of the year. 

Advanced Caring Guidelines for the Fatsia Japonica

We have compiled the following advanced categories if you want to learn how to give your fatsia some extra care:

  • Pruning
  • Repotting
  • Propagation

Pruning: Can I cut back my fatsia japonica? 

Yes. In fact, fatsia pruning is commonly done by many owners to keep the plant small or with a desired shape and overall, control its growth. If you choose to do so, it’s recommended to do the  pruning during the end of spring to minimize any harm to your plant. Needless to say, do not prune it during winter or while there is frost, as fatsias will enter in a dormancy period so they won’t be able to recover their leaf growth effectively.

How to Prune a Fatsia Japonica

You can keep in mind the following tips:

  • Plan your cuts according to the desired shape you want to give it. Also, look for yellow or brown leaves that could be draining energy from your plant.
  • Use a sharp knife or gardening shears. Don’t forget to sanitize your tools before making any cut, you want to play it safe and minimize the risk of infection.
  • Some owners recommend fertilizing your fatsia after you are done with pruning, this with the aim of boosting the healing process.

Can you hard prune fatsia japonica?

You can prune up to about one third of your plant’s stems. Focus on removing the oldest stems near to the ground first.

Repotting a Fatsia Japonica – When and How?

If growing in a container, it is recommended to keep your fatsia in a pot that is about 23 inches wide and 23 inches tall (60 centimeters). Once you notice that the plant becomes root-bound, then you should consider repotting. 

You can see if the plant is indeed root-bound either by digging in between the pot wall and the soil, looking for roots that have circled up. If you keep your fatsia in a plastic pot, this will be obvious as the container will start losing its original shape due to the pressure for the root expansion.

To repot your fatsia can follow these steps:

  • Fill the up to one-third of the new pot with well-drained soil. 
  • Grab your fatsia by its root body mass and take it out from its old container.
  • Place it on the new container as using more soil to keep it firm on its new soil.
  • Pour some water to moisten the soil and let it settle. 
  • Clearly, the new pot should have drainage holes to keep the root system healthy and avoid root rot.

How to propagate a Fatsia Japonica?

There are two methods you can use to propagate your fatsia japonica: stem-tip cuttings and seed.

Stem-tip cutting propagation:

During spring, perform a cutting of about 4 inches (10 centimeters) and plant it in a sterile potting mix or place it in moist perlite. If you choose the soil, keep it moist until the roots form. You can improve your odds of propagation by increasing humidity around the cutting. To achieve this, check the humidity section above.

Seed propagation:

This method is less common as fatsia flowering is very rare. However, if you are lucky, you can harvest the fatsia black berries and remove the pulp from its seeds. Allow a couple of days so they get dry. Then place the seeds in the soil and do not bury them as they require light to germinate. Water the soil with the seeds twice per day with spray to avoid any sogginess to accumulate. Be patient as the seeds germination period can extend up to 40 days. 

Companion Plants

The Fatsia Japonica is a beautiful specimen plant that looks great on its own, but also works well as an accent in mixed planting. The leaves are narrow, oval-shaped, glossy green foliage with white undersides which stand out against the darker bark of trees or walls for an eye-catching effect. They also work as excellent foreground plants to create interesting contrasts when paired with Choisya Ternata ‘Sundance’.

Frequently Asked Questions – Fatsia Japonica Care

Can a fatsia japonica be grown indoors and outdoors?

Yes. You can grow it indoors or outdoors without any hassle if you keep the right combination of light, water and humidity (see more details above). If kept outdoors, please keep in mind that excess in sunlight, frost or a strong wind can produce damage on the fatsia’s leaves.

Why is my fatsia japonica drooping?

The main reason for your fatsia to droop its leaves is overwatering. Allow the soil to get dry before watering your plant again. Consider repotting your fatsia to a new pot with soil that has high drainage properties if you’re having a hard time finding the right balance.

Why do Fatsia leaves go yellow?

This could be a sign of too much water or too much direct sunlight. Adjust your watering routine to discard an overwatering issue. If this doesn’t work, then consider moving your plant to a place with more shade or simply limit its sunlight exposure to less than 2 hours per day if you are growing it indoors.

Does Fatsia Japonica have deep roots?

Unfortunately, the fatsia does not have deep roots – but it has strong, shallow roots. So you can plant the fatsia as follows:

If given a pot and a saucer for drainage, plant one-third of the root ball into the soil at any desired height, then balance out with a potting mix to fill in and cover all exposed roots.

When planting outside: dig a good-sized hole and plant from about 1/2 to 2/3 of the rootball and then fill up with homemade potting mix until just below soil level or by using fresh backfill such as coarse sand if planting near rough ground supported with bollards or stakes.

Is Fatsia Japonica poisonous to humans?

The fatsia is not poisonous to humans. This plant is sometimes used in herbal medicine for thinning blood, fighting bacterial growth and cancer, but there is no human evidence that it’s effective for any of these purposes. It contains a toxic substance called cytisine which helps fend off insect pests on the plant by killing small animals who eat its leaves (though this can also kill mammals). Cytisine does not appear to be harmful to humans, but we should avoid ingesting the plant or flowers directly just in case.

Well, that’s it! You now know most of what there is to know about taking care of a Fatsia Japonica. Remember these tips so you can keep your plant happy and healthy for years to come. But don’t forget the most important step, share this article with friends who like gardening or house plants!

Martin Duran

Hey y'all! My name is Martin Duran and I am from Cali, Colombia. Since 2018 I have been learning about plants and how to take care of them. Here's is my journey... “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir

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