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The Spider’s Web. That’s what I call my fatsia japonica. It has beautiful leathery leaves that make my home feel like a tropical garden, and I love it for that.
What a unique way to beautify my space without taking up too much space! While this plant can grow more than 15 feet (4.5 meters) tall in the wild, it’s been pretty compact in my space.
But at a rate of 8 inches every year, that could soon change, and I am open to the idea of added coverage. In a few months, it should reach the coveted 4 feet (1.2 meters) and should be an excellent backdrop for my numerous selfies.
Of course, I know that for my fatsia japonica to grow bigger, I must ensure it gets adequate care. And for any plant, that’s often all about good lighting, enough water, and sound feeding.
I’ve honed in on the last two, but it’s taken a bit of a learning curve to get the lighting right finally. Today, I want to share all the secrets I have unearthed in my bid to grow a much bigger spider’s web:
But if you want to jump right on it, your fatsia japonica requires indirect lighting for at least 6 hours each day.
If you give it more than this, it burns – and if you give it less, you stunt its growth and create the ideal conditions for fungal growth.
So, you cannot avoid striking a balance to prevent these adverse effects. I should also point out that if you get the variegated fatsia japonica, you must provide it with more light than the standard plant.
Else, it loses its variegation. And we would not want that, would we?
Below is a detailed guide on how much light you should give your fatsia japonica, when, and how. Enjoy!
What Type of Light Does My Fatsia Japonica Need?
The fatsia japonica prefers indirect light, which can be low, medium, or bright. What kind of light is this? Let’s uncover some light types:
This light comes directly from the sun with no obstruction. E.g., what you would get if you were to lie against an east-facing window in the morning. Such light casts a harsh shadow and is unsuitable for the fatsia japonica as it can damage its leaves.
This light features an obstruction. E.g., if you were to be near an east-facing window in the morning but the window had sheers. The sun’s rays would not hit you, but the light would be present. Indirect light falls into 3 categories:
This is what you would get in an east, south, or west-facing room. Variegated fatsia japonicas would do well in such lighting,
This light is present in an east or west-facing room. However, you need to place the plant a few feet away from the window. Shadows cast by this type of light are not very visible, and
Such light is present in hallways and other spaces where light sources are few and far between.
In most cases, your fatsia japonica can do well in low and medium indirect light. And if you have a variegated plant, you can go for bright and indirect light.
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How Much Light Does a Fatsia Japonica Need?
Whenever you want to know how much light a plant can tolerate, you must always relate your answer to its native habitat.
The fatsia japonica is native to Asia, where it grows in tropical areas. But unlike some plants which grow tall and reach the sun’s direct rays, the japonica grows hidden in the foliage.
It thus receives partial shade most of the time and has grown accustomed to such conditions. Another key thing to look at is where it grows according to USDA zones.
Plants that do well in bright and direct or indirect light often grow in zones 9 going forward. But in this plant’s case, we’re working with zones 7 to 9.
What does that tell you about this plant? It does not need to be in direct contact with the sun’s rays. Moreover, it can withstand periods when the sun exposure reduces owing to changes in seasons.
Your plant can survive indoors due to its shade-loving nature. It can even do well in heavy shade, making it a good choice for homes with poor lighting.
However, variegated plants prefer more access to light as this exposure plays a vital role in their patterns.
But how much light should your plant get? It’s advisable to ensure it gets at least 6 hours of exposure to light. The light must be indirect.
Then you can decide if it should be low, medium, or bright, as explained earlier and per your species.
Your plant will always communicate if it feels that you’re not giving it ideal lighting. Below, I detail some of the signs you must watch out for in this regard.
What Happens If Your Fatsia Japonica Gets Too Little Light?
Fatsia japonica can withstand shade, including heavy shade. Even so, too much shade can contribute to the following problems in your plant:
1) Leggy Growth
If you notice your plant growing leggy such that its stems are elongated with few leaves in between, it’s trying to reach more light.
So, take note of the internodal distance (distance between the adjacent leaves). And if it starts increasing without a corresponding increase in the size of the leaves, you will know your plant needs more light.
2) Leaning Growth
Besides growing leggy, your fatsia japonica can also start leaning towards the direction of light.
For example, if it’s in a corner that gets little light, the stem can start leaning towards the center of the room or window where it can get more light.
And you can see this in the whole plant, leaves, stems, or other sections. Moreover, leaning fatsia japonicas often show healthy growth on one side and poor growth on the other side.
3) Small Leaves
The fatsia japonica has broad, inviting leaves that add to its allure. So, if you notice that it’s now producing small leaves, you can know that something is amiss.
But why does this happen? Well, plants need light to make food which they use in growing leaves and stems.
If they don’t have enough light, the food production reduces, and they use the energy left to grow longer stems to reach the light.
Thus, take note of such leaves as a sign that the plant lacks the energy to sustain healthy foliage development.
4) Stunted Growth
Sometimes, your fatsia japonica will not lean towards the light or even grow towards it. Instead, it will stop growing or grow at a slow pace.
The situation can be such that you give the plant all its other routine needs (feeding, watering, etc.), yet it does not grow.
Without light, it cannot produce adequate energy to promote healthy leaf and stem development. So, if it’s not winter and your plant seems to be stunted, take it as a sign that it needs more light.
5) Ever-Moist Soil
The fatsia japonica enjoys moist soil and does well in such conditions. Even so, the soil should not always be moist as this can attract fungal growth and cause root rot.
But if you notice that the soil is often wet even with a regular watering schedule, poor lighting could be the issue.
Plants need water, light, and nutrients to make food. And without enough light, they don’t use up much water and thus end up sitting in excess water for days on end.
6) Loss of Variegation
Not all fatsia japonicas have variegation, but those that do need more light compared to the green varieties. Else, they lose their variegation and start looking dull.
7) Browning Leaves
Many causes can result in browning leaves. But if you can cross them all out, poor lighting could be the culprit in this case.
Have you noticed such signs? You can solve them by:
- Moving the plant closer to light,
- Adding grow lights if natural light is not adequate (I will detail this later), and
- Choosing a south-facing or north-facing window based on where you live.
Keep adjusting the plant’s location until you get it right.
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What Happens If Your Fatsia Japonica Gets Too Much Light?
You may think that indoor plants cannot get too much light, but that is not the case. If you give your plant too much light, you will notice signs like:
- Drooping leaves,
- Browning on the leaves, which starts as patches that eventually take over the leaves,
- Dull-looking leaves,
- Crisping leaves, and
- Dry soil.
Leaves that have suffered damage owing to direct sun exposure cannot recover. It’s best to prune them using a sharp and sterilized knife, then move the plant to where it does not receive direct sun.
Where To Place Your Fatsia Japonica to Get the Best Light
The fatsia japonica is not so picky when it comes to lighting. As such, below are the ideal places to place your fatsia japonica:
If you want to grow the plant outdoors, locate it among other plants such that it gets partial shade most of the day,
2) Near (not against) east-facing or west-facing windows
These receive direct sun for a few hours of the day, so you want to have the plant a few feet away from the windows. The light in these rooms is bright and indirect.
3) Near south-facing or north-facing windows
People who live in the northern hemisphere should locate their plants near south-facing windows, and those in the southern part should choose north-facing rooms.
Please note that these rooms receive bright light most of the day. They are thus best suited for light-loving fatsia japonicas, like the variegated options.
Place the plants near but not against the windows. Else, their foliage will burn under direct sun exposure.
If the above placements are not enough for your plant, please consider artificial lighting as shown below.
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Can Fatsia Japonicas Grow in Artificial Light?
We have seen just how detrimental poor lighting can be to your plant. But what can you do if the natural light you get is not enough to support your plant’s healthy growth?
What should you do in the colder months when access to light reduces significantly and your plant starts to suffer? The good news is that you can grow your fatsia japonica under artificial light, as detailed below:
How To Grow a Fatsia Japonica Using An Artificial Light
While growing your plant under artificial lighting may seem foreign, it’s a great way to supplement natural lighting. You see, plants need full-spectrum light to grow.
Blue wavelengths and crucial in the development of leaves, while red ones come in handy in reproduction. So, to grow your fatsia japonica, you must find a light that balances these spectra.
Luckily, most artificial lights have this capability. But it’s always best to play it safe by buying lights that directly state that they are suitable for houseplants. And these include:
1) LED Lights
When it comes to energy efficiency, no other lights have your back like these options. Moreover, they also emit very low heat.
So, you can place them up to a foot near the plant without damaging its leaves. I should also add that your utility bills will not increase much with these lights in place.
2) Fluorescent Lights
These lights are easy to use and do not emit much heat. As such, you can place them a foot away from the plant, and it would not suffer bleaching or other adverse effects.
Always choose full-spectrum lights to ensure you get the benefits of this artificial light,
3) Incandescent Lights
While these lights are effective as supplementary lights, they emit much heat. And over time, you may notice that your fatsia japonica shows signs of bleaching and foliage damage.
As such, you should place them at least two feet away from the plant. Or you can complement this light with a fluorescent bulb to reduce the heat emission.
4) Halogen Lights
These lights are great as they have all the wavelengths your fatsia japonica needs to survive. Even so, their heat emission can get out of hand.
You will want to place them at least two feet from the plant. And if it shows any signs of too much light, adjust the light accordingly.
How long should you keep any of these lights on? It comes down to the ideal exposure time for the fatsia japonica.
If the plant needs 3 more hours of light, set the timer to 3 hours to accommodate this need. There’s no need to give the plant more light than it needs – it only contributes to bleaching and other forms of foliage damage.
Did you know? The fatsia japonica, which I happily refer to as the spider’s web, also goes by other names. These include Japanese Aralia, False Castor Oil, and Glossy-Leaved Paper Plant.
Regardless of what you call this beautiful shrub, its care routine is relatively easy to understand and implement. Ensure it gets enough light with protection from direct sun, and it should be okay.
However, your plant care routine will only bear fruits if you focus on all the plant’s aspects, including watering, feeding, humidity, temperature, and the potting mix. Happy Gardening!