By: Heather Rhoades
Why the Ming Aralia (Polyscias fruticosa) ever fell out of favor as a houseplant is beyond me. This plant is one of the easiest and loveliest houseplants available. With a little care and know how, Ming Aralia can bring green to your indoors.
How to Care for Ming Aralia Houseplants
Like most houseplants, Ming Aralia is a tropical plant, meaning it cannot survive temps below 50 F. (10 C.). In warmer climates, Ming Aralia makes an excellent outdoor shrub.
One important thing to keep in mind when growing Ming Aralia indoors is that it must be kept constantly moist. Even in the winter, when most houseplants need a reduction in the amount of water they receive, this plant’s soil should still be kept consistently moist (but not wet). Other than that one small detail, your Ming Aralia should require little upkeep.
Ming Aralia can grow to be 6 to 7 feet (1.8-2 m.) tall if properly cared for in an indoor environment, and is prone to grow up rather than out. For this reason, you may want to occasionally prune this plant. If possible, prune your Ming Aralia in the cooler months, as this is when the plant’s growth is reduced and the pruning will cause less damage to the plant. Controlled pruning of this plant can actually produce some pretty stunning results. Due to the naturally crooked growth of this plant, the lower stems can be trained into some interesting showpieces.
These plants also make nice bonsai specimens, but even when not used in this fashion they can add a certain Asian flair to a room.
Ming Aralia needs medium, indirect light in an indoor environment. Make sure that the plant gets enough sunlight from a north- or east-facing window or a plant lamp.
If you wish to propagate this plant, all you need to do is take a cutting and place it in some damp soil. Keep the soil damp and the cutting should root in just a few weeks. For added chance of rooting success, place the pot and cutting in a plastic bag.
Ming Aralia is certainly a plant that will make a splash in your house. The fine cut leaves and the interesting trunks make this a great addition to any indoor garden.
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How to Plant Ming Aralia Stems
Ming aralia (Polyscias fruticosa) enhances indoor and outdoor plantings with its feathery, dark green foliage and a treelike growth habit. Although it is best suited to growing indoors, ming aralia also thrives outdoors in temperate, frost-free environments within Sunset's Climate Zones 17 through 26. The species grows well from stem cuttings and puts down roots in one to two months however, the cuttings must be taken from the base of the stem and kept under very warm, moderately moist conditions to successfully root.
Fill a 4-inch plastic pot with a mixture of half perlite and half sterile seedling compost. Pour water into the pot to settle the growing mixture. Add more growing mixture if it settles too much after watering. Fill the pot to within 1/2 inch of the top edge.
Soak the blade of a utility knife for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water to sanitize it. Rinse the knife after soaking it to remove any excess bleach. Wipe the blade dry with a paper towel.
Gather a 4- to 6-inch-long cutting from the base of a healthy, mature ming aralia. Select one with a soft, pliant stem and plenty of leaves at the tip. Dig around the base of the selected cutting with your fingertip to expose the underground portion of the stem, which is pale green or whitish.
Slice through the pale portion of the ming aralia cutting using the sanitized utility knife. Make the cut at a slight angle to expose the inner flesh, which contains a high concentration of growth-producing meristematic cells.
Coat the severed end of the ming aralia cutting with 0.1% indolebutyric acid rooting hormone to hasten the rooting process. Press the cut end onto the IBA hormone powder. Do not coat the rest of the stem.
Insert the hormone-treated end of the ming aralia cutting into the rooting pot created earlier. Press it in until half the stem is buried. Firm the growing mixture against the stem to hold the cutting upright.
Place the potted cutting on a warming mat inside a partially shaded greenhouse or near a large window with very bright, indirect light. Set the temperature on the warming mat to between 70 and 75 F. Maintain temperatures within that range during the rooting process.
Insert two wooden skewers into the soil on opposite sides of the pot. Place them as close to the edge of the pot as possible. Make sure they stand at least 1 inch taller than the cutting. Place a 2-gallon plastic bag over the pot so that it rests on the wooden skewers.
Check the moisture level of the growing mixture every day. Add water only when it feels dry just below the surface. Drizzle water around the base of the ming aralia cutting until the growing mixture feels moderately moist in the top inch.
Test for roots 30 days after potting the ming aralia stem. Hold the base of the stem gently between your thumb and forefinger. Tug lightly to feel whether the stem is anchored to the growing mixture by roots. Check again every 15 days until the cutting is firmly attached to the growing mixture.
Grow the rooted ming aralia cutting under warm, moist, greenhouselike conditions. Feed it with standard houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength three months after rooting. Transplant it into a permanent container or into the garden once it puts on significant growth.
Ming aralia's unusual form and feathery texture make it a stunner in a South Florida shade garden.
This exquisite shrub (or dwarf tree) should be used more often, since its natural bonsai look works very well with tropical landscaping - or any other style, for that matter.
Ming grows upright with multiple side branches that create a layered appearance. The occasional exposure of bare branches only adds to the plant's beauty.
Each one is unique. The delicate, lacy leaves cover branches that grow in odd formations like "heads" of foliage.
This plant contains toxins that can cause skin irritations - wear gloves when handling, if you have sensitive skin. Keep away from munching pets who can develop minor illness if they ingest stems or leaves.
This shrub is a moderate grower that needs full to partial shade (morning sun only).
It prefers Zone 10 temps but has been known to grow in Zone 9B, even coming back after a winter dieback. Plant in an area protected from wind.
These plants can grow to about 15 feet but usually top out (or can be trimmed) around 8 feet.
Add a combination of top soil and composted cow manure to the hole when you plant.
Trimming isn't necessary but you can cut tips of branches in spring to encourage new "heads" of foliage.
Sometimes branches get heavy and floppy, especially when wet during rainy season. You can stake them up or trim the plant so the branches don't droop too far down.
Water on a regular basis, and fertilize in spring, summer and autumn.
Plant 3 to 4 feet apart. Don't plant too close to another large shrub (such as variegated ginger) that may overwhelm it in size and impact.
Come out from the house 2-1/2 to 3 feet, and away from walks and drives 3 to 4 feet to allow for future growth.
This aralia is an excellent container plant, often grown indoors in colder climates. If you do grow it indoors, be sure to mist it regularly to make up for lack of humidity.
How to Grow Ming Aralia With Artificial Light
The Ming aralia (Polyscias fruticosa) is a small tree that comes from the warm, tropical climate of Polynesia. While it can be grown outdoors in areas where the climate is warm and humid, most often the Ming aralia stays indoors in a window or other bright area. If you don’t have a spot with enough light, adding some artificial light can make this plant feel right at home.
Buy a fluorescent grow light set into a reflective hood that allows you to direct the light to the plant choose either a floor or table model lamp.
Select a location for your Ming aralia plant where there is room for the plant lamp. If the plant is set on the floor, place the light on a table or shelf above it so that it shines down on the plant, providing even lighting all the way around.
Place the bulb in the lamp and set the lamp close to the plant, anywhere in the range of 6 to 18 inches away from the plant. The strength of the light decreases rapidly with the bulb’s distance from the plant.
Set the timer to run 14 hours per day if your light is close to your plant. Increase the time as the distance between the light and the plant increases, up to a maximum of about 18 hours per day. The longer operating time makes up for the lower light levels caused by the increased distance between the plant and the light. Don’t have the light on constantly, since plants typically need some dark time, and the Ming aralia will do best if it has a break every day.
Ming Aralia and Other Aralias
The beautiful, graceful Ming Aralia (Polyscias fruticosa) is a tropical shrub native to the Pacific Islands. Familiar relatives of the Ming include English ivy and the Schefflera.
Arguably one of the most beautiful of indoor plants, the Ming Aralia is prized for both its form and its foliage. Feathery, lacy green leaves grace willowy arching branches on dark stems that are mottled with white spots. Ming aralias make wonderful specimen plants, and their growth habit makes them desirable as indoor bonsai subjects.
Bright indirect light to direct morning sun. Avoid hot, mid-day sun.
Good drainage is necessary to prevent root rot, and Mings prefer a light, well-draining potting mix. Water thoroughly, and then remove any excess water in the drainage saucer. Allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings.
Ming Aralias need warm conditions (65°F or better) year round. If exposed to cold or to cool drafts, they will shed their foliage.
The Ming prefers higher humidity, but will tolerate normal home humidity.
Use a flowering plant formula every three weeks from October into March.
Prune the Ming as needed for shape or size. Mist foliage frequently early in the day to discourage mites. Watch for aphids on new growth.
Other Aralias to try include:
- Black Aralia (Polyscias guilfoylei ‘Crispa’): dark green, crinkled leaves, upright habit.
- Balfour Aralia (Polyscias balfouriana): attractive rounded foliage, green or variegated varieties, grow very large.
- Chicken Gizzard (Polyscias crispatum): quilted and irregularly indented leaves.
- Fabian Aralia (Polyscias scutellaria ‘Fabian’): large-leaved aralia, new growth shiny light green above and burgundy beneath.
- False Aralia (Schefflera dizygotheca elegantissima): dark mottled stems and narrow palmate leaves (thicker with maturity), fast-growing to 10’ or better several new cultivars include a compact, broader-leaved ‘Olympia’ and a brightly colored ‘Variegated Galaxy’.
If you want an unkillable houseplant, go with snake plant (Sansevieria spp.). Sanseveria ‘Silver Queen’ has the same growth habit as pictured, but with a silvery cast to the leaves' striations.
Foliage: Silvery green leaves are stiff, slightly twisted, and lightly mottled.
Plant: A standout among snake plants, it reaches 4 to 5 feet tall and thrives on neglect.
Light: Moderate to bright.
Ming Aralia Care Guidelines
The evergreen trifoliate leaves and unique branching pattern are notable features of the ming aralia plant. Branches are developed at regular intervals in the upright stem, giving it a symmetrical canopy shape. Depending upon the cultivar, the leaf shape is either obovate or lanceolate. Small inconspicuous flowers are developed in summer. As for caring for the plant, it is an outstanding decorative houseplant that requires minimal maintenance.
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For planting the ming aralia, you can use a general potting mixture. It can be planted in different types of soil, as long as the soil is loose, well-drained, and rich in nutrients. As this houseplant cannot tolerate either waterlogged or dry soil, it is essential to add peat moss, loam, and sand in the potting mixture. For preparing the soil mixture on your own, add one part each of garden soil, humus, and perlite (or coarse sand). You can use a small amount of lime dust to avoid soil acidity.
The ming aralia plant thrives well in partial sunlight. When maintained indoors, it performs best in bright, indirect sunlight. Hence, for better growth, you can place this evergreen houseplant in an area facing a window, which receives sunlight. In case, you are living in a cold climatic region, use artificial light occasionally, particularly during the winter months.
The favorable temperature range for ming aralia is 60 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This houseplant cannot tolerate extreme cold conditions. Extreme cold (below 60 degrees Fahrenheit) for a prolonged period can cause the leaves to discolor and drop. Hence, make sure you maintain the temperature above the minimum tolerable level.
A medium to high humidity level is ideal for maintaining ming aralia as a houseplant. Exposure to prolonged low humidity condition can lead to yellowing and falling of leaves. In an extremely dry environment, this plant may lose all its leaves. So, to avoid this, you can use a room humidifier and maintain the preferable humidity level for the plant.
Watering the ming aralia tree should be done in such a way that the top portion of the soil remains moist. Regular irrigation is advisable during warm and active growing seasons. To be precise, keep the soil moist between two watering sessions. You can cut down irrigation frequency in winter, when the plant is in its inactive phase. Over-watering causes waterlogging and damage to the root system.
You can use balanced liquid fertilizers that are rich in essential plant nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) and trace nutrients in the growing period. Fertilizing this houseplant thrice during the growing season is sufficient for proper growth. During winter, i.e., when the plant is in an inactive state, you can supplement it with adequate amounts of farmyard compost.
Repotting Ming Aralia
Repotting the ming aralia can be performed at any time throughout the summer months. While transplanting, special care should be taken so that the delicate roots are not damaged. Loosen soil around the main stem and take out the plant along with adhering soil. As the roots are not so extensive, you can replant them in another pot of the same size as the current one.
Common Plant Problems
Leaf staining is a common problem with this plant, caused as a result of dry soil and extreme cold climate. Destructive pests that infest ming aralia plants include spider mites, aphids, mealy bugs, and very rarely, scales. In order to keep these pests under control, you can use pesticides in an appropriate concentration. If you are not sure about the pest type, get it checked by a horticulturist and then apply the suggested pesticide.
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Apart from growing this evergreen shrub as a regular houseplant, you can opt for its bonsai as well. When trained in the bonsai form, the vertical growing stem of this plant gives a unique appearance. Care for the ming aralia bonsai is same as that of regular sized plants, except that you should not over water and overfeed the plant. As it is slow-growing, occasional pruning and trimming in Spring are important to give the plant a desired shape.