General gardening topics

Fatsia Japonica Pruning

Last updated on March 3rd, 2022

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When it comes time to prune your Fatsia japonica, also known as the Japanese aralia or the cast oil plant, you want to do it at the end of spring. The end of spring is the perfect time to prune in such a fashion and you can help your plant fit into its space more effectively or you can get rid of any unwanted growth. They are very hardy and can be pruned by as much as half and will soon recover.

Ideally, you should prune after the risk of frost has passed to avoid any new growth being damaged, but early enough to give it time to recover before the following winter.

  • The first thing you should do when pruning is to remove any of the leaves that turned yellow at the end of summer.
  • Thereafter you should remove any shoots that were damaged during the winter.

How to Prune Fatsia

How to prune Fatsia and when

When you set about pruning you want to choose your sharpest pair of gardening shears. These should be properly sanitised with a mixture of 9 parts water to 1 part bleach. This is simply to prevent the unwanted transfer of diseases (or other problems) from one part of your garden to the next. You might not be able to see bacteria on a set of gardening shears that made its way onto the shears when you cut away a sickly plant elsewhere in your garden, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Once your Fatsia reaches maturity you might see some straggly stems coming out of the bottom. It’s important that you prune these so that the new shoots can be cultivated from the base. If you don’t remove these stems, your plant will end up with a completely bare underbody, with bright foliage located at the top and nothing the rest of the way down.

Pruning established Fatsia plants

If you have a mature plant you can help to keep the bush the size you want by pruning it heavily, all the way to the ground for the older stems, and back to approximately 60cm from the ground for the younger stems. Doing this will allow the plant to grow back the following year much stronger than before, however, it should only be done every few years once the plant has reached maturity. As a general rule, overgrown Fatsias can be pruned back by half and will fully recover and usually respond very well.

When you look at your Fatsia (at any stage of growth) and you notice that the middle is becoming overcrowded, you can cut back some of the stems to the central stem, that way you can allow for better air circulation and reduce the risk of fungal infections that arise from improper air circulation. Removing some of the central stems will also allow new growth to emerge from the centre.

If you are growing in pots it’s important to prune more regularly so that you can keep the size and shape under control and keep it looking good.

No matter how you prune, once it is completed, it’s important to add fertiliser to the ground so that you can give your Fatsia the opportunity to replenish itself after the pruning is over and heal properly.

Image credits – Shutterstock

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  1. Elena Luke

    Hi John,
    I do like your site very much, having read several posts from you. The plants you talk about are my favourite plants!
    I have rather a big garden (by UK standards) in lovely Southport, with sandy soil and wet winters.
    Just wanted to ask you, if I may, while my clematis Montana (white) is doing very well, the Avalanche is struggling. It has yellowish leaves and very poor growth… They are planted along the same south-facing fence. Both clematises have roots covered by ground-covering plants.
    I will appreciate a lot if you could advise me on what the problem could be.
    Many Thanks,

  2. John Moore

    Hi Elena, nice to hear you have enjoyed the blog. If the two clematises are on the same wall then it’s difficult to know why one might not be doing too well. Its sounds like some sort of soil deficiency maybe with yellowing leaves. I would maybe give it a good top dressing of a multi-purpose feed or clematis feed around the base of the plant and see how it goes on. It’s still a little early and Montanas are early risers too and spring to life earlier than most clematis do. Hope this helps

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