How to Grow and Care For Aralia
Native to the tropics of India and Polynesia, Ming aralia is an interesting and exotic houseplant that is technically an evergreen shrub. While it is a bit more temperamental to grow than your average plant, it's well worth the effort for its fluffy, bright green foliage.
Its ferny, feathery leaves droop from graceful narrow branches that grow straight up, forming a many-layered, complex plant. Ming aralia grows slowly but can eventually reach over 6 feet in height with the proper care. While it can be considered an outdoor ornamental shrub in USDA hardiness zones 11 and 12, it's most commonly cared for indoors, where it can be planted and grown year-round.
If you're seasoned at taking care of a variety of houseplants, you should have no problem caring for Ming aralia. While the shrub has picked up a reputation for being picky over the years, it really is no fussier than any other bit of greenery you've cared for.
The key to keeping Ming aralia happy lies in mimicking its native tropical environment. Direct sunlight is not super important to the plant, but the proper temperature and humidity levels are—mess up either of those, and you can bet that your Ming aralia won't thrive. Additionally, well-draining soil is essential to keep the plant's fine roots from rotting.
Not only does Ming aralia make for a beautiful houseplant, but it boasts some perks of its own, too. It can be grown as a bonsai and used to symbolize peace, harmony, and balance. It also acts as a great air purifier in your home and has the ability to remove dangerous VOCs from your indoor environment.
Ming aralia likes bright, indirect light and can handle light shade. Allowing the plant to get morning sun is good, but it should never be kept in direct sunlight during the harsher afternoon hours, as the rays can scorch its fragile foliage. Aim for about six to 8 hours of filtered light a day; it's said Ming aralia do especially well in North-facing light.
Ming aralia prefers a rich but well-drained soil mixture to help balance its need for moisture with its fragile, rot-prone roots. While the specific blend of soil can vary (from sandy to peat moss to loamy), drainage should be the priority. Choose a pot made of clay or terracotta to help wick extra moisture from the soil and act as an added defense against root rot.
It's important to keep your Ming aralia consistently moist but never saturated. Water the soil deeply and allow it to almost dry out before you water it again—a weekly session should do the trick. Additionally, you can decrease your watering cadence in the winter, watering your plant every other week instead.
Temperature and Humidity
Both temperature and humidity are very important to Ming aralia's overall growth and success. In order for your plant to thrive, you will want to ensure temperatures in your home maintain a balmy baseline. Ming aralia can happily handle warmer temperatures (it does beside between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit), but anything below 60 degrees will cause your plant to fail and shed its foliage. The biggest challenge with a Ming aralia is keeping it fully clothed in leaves throughout the cold, dry winter months. If the plant is subject to cold air, it will begin to drop leaf stems and quickly be completely denuded. Prevent this by supplying it with steady warmth, aided by a bottom heater if necessary.
Unless you like your home to mimic the tropics, you'll likely have to up the humidity in your space for the Ming aralia, too. When planting indoors, place your container or pot on a tray filled with wet pebbles to increase humidity levels. You can also mist the foliage of the plant periodically to mimic the humid, wet conditions of the tropics.
Feed your Ming aralia with a liquid fertilizer monthly throughout its growing period (spring through fall). If you notice falling leaves or those that are yellowish-green in appearance, that's a good indication that your plant isn't getting enough nutrients and could benefit from a bit of fertilizer.