Japanese aralia spread exotic flair in every garden. Not only do they fit into Asian gardens, but they do well in general. They impress with their flowers, their unusual foliage, the berries, the bizarre growth (bush shape) and the prickly trunk. The wood offers an attractive eye-catcher all year round. The Japanese Aralia works best in atrium gardens and as a solitary plant. The shrubs are easy to care for and quite robust. We have put together for you how to care for and plant them. Continue reading!


  • Also called devil’s cane or Japanese angelica tree
  • Family name of Araliengewächse
  • Approx. 80 to a good 100 species of aralia
  • Originally from Japan, Korea, East Siberia and Manchuria (China)
  • Deciduous large shrub or small tree
  • Grows up to 10 m high in its homeland, but only 4 to 5 m in Europe
  • Few but thick branches with strong spines
  • Leaves up to 80 cm long, pinnate to three times pinnate
  • The underside is prickly
  • Whitish hermaphrodite flowers, large cymes, heavily branched
  • Flowering period August and September
  • Insect meadow
  • Berry-like drupes in deep blue to black
  • Birds like the berry
  • Young leaves are often eaten as a vegetable in Asia, often fried in tempura
  • With us, the Japanese aralia is considered slightly poisonous


  • Aralia elata ‘Variegata’ – leaves with variegated white edges, rather slow-growing, up to 3 m high and 2 m wide, initially upright, later loosely growing in an umbrella shape, white flowers, ideal for small gardens
  • Aralia elata ‘Aureovariegata’ – yellow-edged leaves, up to 4 m high and 2 m wide, good for containers, otherwise as a solitaire, very striking leaf markings, quite rare
  • Aralie elata ‘Silver Umbrella’ – white edged leaves, 5m tall and 3m wide, very showy leaves, quite rare

The care of the Japanese Aralia

Japanese aralia are considered easy to care for if the location and plant substrate are right. There are quite conflicting reports about their annual growth. On average, it can be expected that there will be 20 to 30 cm of height growth and 15 to 20 of width growth. The plants are considered easy to cultivate. However, there is a problem, they are sprouting stolons. Sometimes they are very keen to spread and also difficult to contain. Care should be taken when removing unwanted shoots. Root damage often leads to increased sprouting.

Otherwise the plants are easy to handle. They need a warm, sunny and wind-protected location and a well-drained, humus-rich substrate. They don’t make too many demands on the floor. A root barrier is useful when planting. It should be watered regularly, one fertilizer application per year is sufficient. Cutting is not a problem if a few things are taken care of. The cutting date is important and that not too much is cut away at once. Aralia elata is actually sufficiently hardy, at least in a good location. However, it can happen that late frost causes young shoots to die off. As a rule, however, the wood drives out again well afterwards. Propagation is easy. Diseases and pests are rare.


It is important for the location that it is warm and sheltered from the wind. Japanese aralia are endangered by late frost, so the space has to be right. In addition, the location must not be too dry, but not too humid either. The Aralie likes the sun, but also gets along very well with partial shade. It just can’t be too shady.

  • Sun to semi-shade
  • Shade is unfavorable, there are hardly any flowers
  • Warm and sheltered from the wind
  • Not too dry

plant substrate

Japanese aralia are quite frugal and do not require much soil. The substrate must be neither too dry nor too moist. Nutrients are also needed for healthy growth. Otherwise, the soil may be slightly acidic and slightly calcareous, but it does not necessarily have to be.

  • Permeable and humic, with a high proportion of compost
  • Slightly sour
  • Loamy to gravelly
  • Preferably nutritious
  • May be slightly calcareous
  • Not too dry!
Note: On clay soil, the Japanese Aralia is at risk of frost because of the delayed maturation of the shoots. Clay soils should therefore definitely be prepared.


If you don’t like foothills in the garden, you should plant the Japanese Aralia with a root barrier. It’s only a one-time job, removing the runners can be a hassle. Often there are only a few runners, which are not noticeable with a shrub-like growth. Once you start clipping, the numbers keep increasing.

  • Polyethylene root barriers are a good choice (available by the metre)
  • They must be 2mm thick.
  • The thick foil is inserted as a ring around the plant and closed with a locking rail.
  • The film must protrude a few centimeters from the ground at the top.
  • This ring must be large enough for the macaw to develop well.
  • It is practical to use the foil first and then plant the wood in the ring.
  • shallow roots
  • Neighboring plants should be deep-rooted and drought-tolerant.

Since an older Japanese Aralia has a dense network of roots, the area around the trunk is difficult to underplant. You would damage the roots. Therefore, it makes sense to take precautions when planting.

Tip: plant thick bottomless plastic containers (simply cut off) a short time after planting. In this way, these gaps remain free to either plant something there permanently or to use annually changing annual flowering plants.

In this way, the root of the Aralia can grow in peace and still be underplanted. It is important that the containers are open at the bottom so that the roots of the plants in them can develop.

watering and fertilizing

The soil around the root shouldn’t dry out, although more importantly it shouldn’t be too wet. The plants like neither dry nor wet, but get along better with short-term dry soil than with wet. However, neither is ideal and makes the trees susceptible to diseases.

  • Greater need for water
  • Avoid drying out the soil
  • Shallow-rooted – cannot draw water from greater depths
  • On the surface, the soil dries up and out quickly
  • In the spring some compost for fertilizer
  • Alternatively organic fertilizer

To cut

The Aralia should be pruned according to the growth character of the plant, at least in the case of the shrub form with several thick shoots. It’s different when it comes to tree training. The Aralia branches little. When you cut back, only one new shoot is formed. So you can’t achieve strong branching without changing the growth habit a lot.

  • cutting in winter
  • The soft wood of the plant rots easily. The danger is lowest in winter.
  • The shrub can be grown into a tree by removing the side shoots
  • The Aralia can be encouraged to form a beautiful crown, but this can take up to 10 years
  • When pruning, always cut just above a bud
  • Rejuvenation pruning – within 3 to 5 years from the inside out, pruning about a third or a quarter of the thickest shoots down to about half a meter annually. Continue cutting in this way over the next few years until all the shoots are the same length again.
  • root sprouts
  • Cut as deeply as possible from March to September.
Note: Cutting away root suckers will cause new shoots. These must then be removed again. Unfortunately, this cannot be prevented and is the best solution for everyone who does not like these foothills.


Japanese aralia are said to be hardy to -25°C. Winter protection is therefore not necessary. Still, I wouldn’t plant them in areas with very cold and very long winters, and if they do, then only if they’re well sheltered. In normal winters and temperate climates, winters should not be a problem. Only too much moisture must be kept from the ground.

  • It is good to leave the foliage as a shelter in winter, but only if it is healthy
  • Alternatively, other leaves or brushwood can be used.
  • Young shoots can freeze back in severe frost or late frost. These can be carefully removed later during the growing season.
  • Protection against too much moisture in winter, definitely not waterlogging


Propagation is easy. Rather, the unwanted spread through root suckers is a problem. Sowing by seeds is not complicated. Propagation via root cuttings in winter is even faster.

  • Drives offshoots
  • root cuttings in winter
  • Sowing in autumn

diseases and pests

Diseases are rare, but when they do occur, fungal diseases are often fatal. After many years without any problems, individual shoots die off. It is then usually too late to save and the entire plant dies within a few years. But that rarely happens. Characteristic pests are not known.

Wilt diseases ( e.g. Verticilium , Phytophtera, Fusarium, Phytium) – caused by fungi in the soil, which are taken up by the roots with the water. They clog the pathways. The fungi are very difficult to fight, mostly not at all, because nothing can be achieved from the outside. The only alternative is to add a fungicide to the irrigation water, but it is usually too late by the time the disease is noticed and the macaw dies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Japanese Aralia also suitable for keeping in containers?
Basically yes, but there are a few things to consider. First, the vessel must be large enough. They are shallow roots, the root must be able to spread. In addition, the supply of water and nutrients must be guaranteed. Drying out doesn’t get the woody plants and in summer this can sometimes happen quickly. From a certain size, however, it is better to plant the tree or shrub out. During the winter in a container, it must be protected against freezing.

How old does the Japanese aralia get?
I found quite different opinions about this. Some reports come from trees over 20 years old and there was no talk of problems. However, I have also read that the specimens growing as shrubs would be more short-lived. After about 10 years, individual shoots would die off, but regenerate with new shoots. Unfortunately, I can’t say more about that.

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