Polyscias fruticosa ming aralia

How to Care for a Threadleaf Aralia

Use these instructions to care for a Threadleaf Aralia plant. This guide will tell you how to water your Threadleaf Aralia; its light, temperature, and humidity preferences; and any additional care your plant might need to help it grow.


Your Threadleaf Aralia will do best in medium to bright indirect light. They tolerate medium light, but will grow faster and fuller in a bright spot.


Water your Threadleaf Aralia just enough to keep it from wilting. It’s best to let the top inch or so of the soil to dry before watering again. It may be a couple times a week to once every two weeks, depending on the size of your plant and how much light it gets. If in doubt, it is best to keep it on the drier side rather than too wet—always make sure your pot has good drainage.


Like other popular indoor plants, your Threadleaf Aralia appreciates humidity. Feel free to mist your plant occasionally to keep it happy.


The Threadleaf Aralia is comfortable at ordinary room temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees. Do not expose it to temperatures below 60 degrees because cold air will damage the foliage.


Fertilize your plant every 4-6 weeks during the spring and summer, and once every eight weeks in the fall and winter.


The Threadleaf Aralia does not like to be moved. A sudden change in location will cause leaves to drop off. Make environmental changes gradually, and try not to move the plant in the winter. It also benefits from being repotted every couple of years; spring and summer are best, but you can re-pot an Aralia any time of the year without harming it. When repotting, look for a container that is only a couple of inches wider than the previous pot, Threadleaf Aralias prefer a tight-fitting pot.


Relatively low toxicity to pets and humans. Typically, ingestion will cause mild mouth and low stomach irritation.

Using Ming Aralia for Bonsai

What is Bonsai?

Bonsai is a gardening art form practiced in Japan and other Asian countries such as China and Vietnam. The concept of bonsai (called penzai or penjing in China and hòn non bộ in Vietnam) is to create dwarfed plants or miniature landscapes. There are specific rules for creating the shapes according to aesthetic principles and specially designed bonsai pots are used in this work.

Principles of Bonsai

Bonsai principles are at least 1,000 years old. They include:

  • Miniaturization – a tree is to be kept small while looking mature.
  • Proportion – all parts of the plant and scene should be in proportion.
  • Asymmetry – a bonsai should not be perfectly symmetrical.
  • Invisibility – this refers to the expectation that the designer leaves no visible traces of his/her work.
  • Emotion – the bonsai should elicit an emotion such as poignancy.

About Ming Aralia

A native of Southeast Asia, the luxurious foliage of the ming aralia (its name means “many shaded”) top a shrub that grows vertically. This is advantageous in bonsai treatment as many bonsai subjects tend to branch sideways. Even when mature, the leaves are small, with seven or more leaflets per stalk. The stem can be shaped as a single or double trunk, increasing the resemblance to a mature tree.

Environmental Conditions for Ming Aralia

Ming aralias are tropical plants, which means they must have a warm environment. While they also like humidity, they don’t like wet feet. Plant in well-drained soil and be careful not to over-water. Your pot should have one or more drainage holes to prevent soggy soil. Ming aralias should have either full sun (not at midday) or bright indirect light. Repot once a year in spring and keep roots confined.

Managing Bonsai

The artificial environment of a bonsai setting means you must pay close attention to your plant’s needs. It is common to place a bonsai in a pot that is small for the size of the plant, which means you may have to water frequently. You must also balance the plant’s needs for nutrients with the need to control growth. Regular pruning and trimming are required to shape the plant and control size.

Gardening FAQ

There are a couple of possible reasons for the leaves of ming aralia (Polyscias fruticosa) to turn yellow and drop. Sudden temperature drops to 70°F or lower can cause this tropical plant’s leaves to lose their color and fall off. However, if the temperature change is gradual enough, aralias can acclimate to 65°F just fine. Drafts can cause a similar reaction. If there are no signs of pest infestation such as scale on the stems or leaves, leaf drop is probably due to changes in temperature.

Another issue that could cause yellowing of leaves is overwatering. Most large specimens of ming aralia have virtually no roots in the top 2-3 inches of soil. For these large plants, when the soil has dried down 2 or 3 inches from the surface, water sparingly with tepid water all the way around the plant. Water early in the day, not at night. The trick is to water only enough to get some water to the bottom of the pot where the roots are, with a little water seeping from the drain holes, keeping very little in the saucer. If too much water fills the saucer, drain out the excess.

For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
– Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service

A Ming Aralia, Uprooted

Q. My seven-year-old Ming aralia was doing fine until I moved to a new apartment. Then it started shedding more branches than usual. I always water once a week and have never used plant food. Please advise.

A. It’s an old story: a happy houseplant is moved and boom! unhappiness reigns. Differences in obvious factors like light levels and in subtle ones like tap-water temperature cause stress that often makes plants pare themselves down, and Ming aralia (Polyscias fruticosa) is particularly vulnerable to change.

You can also blame your old apartment. Its climate apparently let you water by the calendar instead of by plant need. Henceforth water when soil is dry about halfway down. Ming aralias need moisture, but they hate wet feet.

If your plant has not been repotted for three years or more, it will appreciate new soil. When the current soil is on the dry side, turn the plant out and trim off any dead roots. Repot in a container slightly larger than the healthy root ball, using a potting soil formulated for African violets.

Ming Aralia

Botanical Name: Polyscias fruticosa

Ming aralia only looks fussy. Its stems carry compound leaves made up of several leaflets, giving the fancy, finely cut foliage an elegant quality you’d expect from a high-maintenance plant.

Fortunately for us, this tropical native is extremely adaptable to most homes.

Put it in full sun — or indirect light. It’s quite happy just about anywhere. Keep this aralia plant warm, though. It doesn’t like cold temperatures at all. (Who can blame it?)

Ming Aralia Care Tips

Prune. Ming aralia has an upright habit and won’t grow very tall. Over time, it will drop its lower leaves, revealing a gnarled tree-like trunk. If you want, you can keep it short and shrubby by cutting it back every spring. You’ll make it even more beautiful with regular pruning. Prune off the growing tips to encourage branching and denser foliage. Trimming Ming aralia bonsai plant will keep it at 1 ft (30 cm) or less.

Repot in spring only when it has outgrown its pot. Use the smallest pot that will hold its roots — aralias grow best when their roots are confined. Pot taller plants in a heavy container to prevent toppling. Mings are easily killed by overwatering, so use a pot with a drainage hole.

Leaf drop. If your Ming suddenly starts shedding leaves, don’t panic. Some leaf drop is normal. Is it growing new leaves at the stem tips? If so, this is just part of the normal growth. A sudden change in light, such as moving your plant to a shadier location, may cause leaf drop. Give it as much light as you can. Raising the humidity around it can help, too.

Problems with this plant are few. It even seems to shrug off pests. Keep this tropical plant warm and don’t overwater — and you’ll enjoy it for many years.

If you’re looking for a beautiful floor plant, give Ming aralia a try. But be warned, this easy-care house plant just may spoil you for anything else.

Buying Tips

You’ll find Ming aralia for sale by its common name, although other types of aralia plants are sometimes labeled with the same name. Look for Polyscias fruticosa to be sure you’re getting this plant.

It’s well-worth seeking out. With good care, this aralia is a long-lived plant and a lush, graceful accent for your home.

Growing Tips for Ming Aralia

Origin: Polynesia

Height: Up to 3 ft (90 cm); can be grown as a bonsai tree.

Light: Aim for bright light, though it will tolerate varying levels from low light to full sun.

Water: Water thoroughly and allow top 2 in (5 cm) of soil to dry out between waterings. Overwatering is a sure way to kill it. Mings have fine roots and are prone to root rot, so when in doubt, keep it on the dry side. Also cut back on water in the winter when growth has slowed.

Humidity: Moderate to high humidity. If the air is dry, mist the plant every morning or stand the pot on a tray of wet pebbles.

Temperature: Average room temperatures 65-85°F/18-29°C. It can take warmer temperatures, but don’t expose it to anything below 60°.

Soil: Peat moss-based potting mix with perlite added for good drainage.

Fertilizer: Feed monthly spring through fall with a balanced liquid fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) diluted by half. Young leaves that are yellowish-green are caused by a lack of nutrients.

Propagation: Take 4 in (10 cm) stem tip cuttings in late spring or summer. Cut just below a leaf node (the place where the leaf attaches to the stem) and remove the lower leaves from the cutting. For best results, dip cut end in hormone rooting powder before inserting in moist potting mix. Cover with a plastic bag to hold in the humidity. Keep as warm as possible and out of direct sunlight. It can take a few weeks to root, so be patient.

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