Botanical Name: Schefflera elegantissima (Dizygotheca elegantissima)
Origin: New Caledonia, South Pacific
Height: Indoor False Aralia may eventually reach heights of approximately 1.8 m (6 ft).
Soil: Schefflera elegantissima can be planted in any all-purpose, high quality potting mix.
Light: This house plant needs plenty of bright light, although it must be kept out of direct sunlight.
Humidity: Humidity levels need to be moderate to high for the False Aralia.
Temperatures: The False Aralia likes to be kept warm and needs temperatures between 18 and 29 degrees C (65 to 85 degrees F) to be comfortable. It should never be exposed to temperatures below 16 degrees C (60 degrees F), as this will cause the leaves to drop off.
Water: Though thorough watering is necessary on a regular basis, the top of the potting mix (2.5 cm, or 1 in) should be allowed to dry between watering sessions. Over-watering will result in wilting leaves.
Fertiliser: Throughout spring and summer, feed every two weeks with a diluted (50:50) liquid balanced (10-10-10) fertiliser. Reduce feeding to once per month during autumn and winter.
Propagation: Schefflera elegantissima can be propagated via stem tip cuttings or seeds. Best taken in spring, cuttings dipped into hormone rooting powder (cut end) before being placed into moistened potting mix will provide the best results if kept warm, out of direct sunlight and covered to retain moisture (a plastic bag will work well).
Description and Care Tips
The slender, serrated leaflets of the False Aralia give it an almost lacy, graceful appearance. Growing in circles around the top of the plant's stem, these leaflets look almost like fingers, or the legs of a spider, which gave rise to two of this house plant's common names, Finger Aralia or Spider Aralia.
Coppery brown to begin with, the foliage of this lovely plant turns into a deep, blackish-green colour as the False Aralia matures.
Schefflera elegantissima does not like to be moved around too much, and may respond to being moved into a new position by dropping its leaves. Low levels of humidity will also cause the leaves to drop. Standing the pot on a wet pebble tray or misting the plant daily (preferably in the morning) will prevent this problem. Misting will also assist in the prevention of spider mites, a pest prone to infest this house plant.
As the False Aralia is fairly slow-growing, it usually does not need pruning, unless the aim is to control its height. More mature plants will drop their lower leaves to reveal a tree-like trunk. Pruning the plant yearly (best done in spring) will keep it short and bushy. It is quite safe to cut the plant as far back as approximately 15 cm (6 in) from the top of the soil for this purpose, as this encourages the growth of new offsets from the plant's base.
Growing best with its root confined, the False Aralia typically only needs repotting (in spring) every three years or so. Using a well-draining pot no more than twice the size of the root-ball will help to prevent the plant developing health problems. For tall plants, a heavy container is recommended to prevent toppling.
False Aralias make a striking accent, and can be grouped with other humidity loving plants - such as Heart-leaf Philodendron or Nerve Plants - to make a gorgeous display. Smaller plants can also be used to add a palm-like, upright form to dish gardens, and seedlings placed under the fluorescent light of a terrarium will thrive wonderfully.