Fatsia japonica: an exotic-looking shrub, perfect for adding textural interest
Fatsia japonica is a wonderfully useful plant at any time of the year, but in November it really shines with a profusion of delightfully unusual flowers. An evergreen shrub originating from Japan, F. japonica (commonly known as the false caster oil plant) is often used as a ‘background’ plant. With large palm-like glossy leaves and an interestingly-architectural growth habit, it is a great plant for providing textural contrast. Growing to heights of 2.5-3m, and happy enough in full sun, partial shade or even quite dense shade, it is hugely versatile.
It can cope with most soil types providing they are not too wet, but prefers some shelter from strong winds because of its large foliage leaves. Despite its exotic appearance, F. japonica is sufficiently hardy to survive all but the worst of our winters, although it can shed leaves if subjected to long periods of heavy snow.
Versatile, evergreen, interesting and unusual foliage and happy to grow in the vast majority of locations including those in tricky shade. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? But, we mentioned flowers earlier and this is why Fatsia is such a wonderful plant for late autumn and early winter. Whilst few other plants are flowering at this time of the year, F. japonica chooses November to ‘do its thing’. Clusters of small white flowers ‘explode’ into a really unusual display. We say ‘explode’ because they always make us think of fireworks…but maybe that’s rather apt in November. These attractive flowers tend to last for a few weeks, or until the frosts really start to become a little too regular.
From a garden designer’s point of view, F. japonica is a ‘must have’. We regularly use it to provide evergreen texture and interest at the rear of a mixed border or in a difficult shady corner. We love to contrast it with colour, either in the form of foliage with plants such as Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’ or with the bright red winter stems of Cornus ‘Sibirica’. It can also be rather fun alongside some of my favourite ornamental grasses. The tall and graceful Stipa gigantea is a particularly effective companion.
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