Dead or dormant branches differ.

How to Trim an Unruly Aralia Sieboldii

by Patricia H. Reed

A shrub that looks lush and tropical even in full shade, Aralia sieboldii has a common name the kids might get a kick out of and an updated scientific name to match. Fatsia (Fatsia japonica, formerly Aralia sieboldii) is an evergreen in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11 and a houseplant elsewhere. Fatsia sends up unbranched shoots from its base, which topple under the weight of the large hand-shaped leaves and sprawl across other shoots or the ground as they approach their full height of 8 to 15 feet. Because of this unusual growth habit, fatsia looks unruly without pruning .

Clean the blades of your pruning tools with household antiseptic cleaner and a paper towel. Clean tools are less likely to spread plant disease or fungus from one plant to the next one you prune. A household cleaner sterilizes tools just as well as rubbing alcohol or bleach, and is more convenient to use and less corrosive to metal tools.

Cut out any dead or broken branches whenever you notice them.

Examine your fatsia shrub in mid to late spring after all danger of frost has passed. Cut any frost-damaged tips back to healthy wood. Scratch your nail into the bark until you see green as you move down the stem from the tip if you don't see any new growth. Make cuts at a 45-degree angle, 1/4 inch above a leaf node.

Look at the outline of your fatsia from a few feet away. Cut out any branches from the base that stick out from the rounded, upright profile of the plant.

Remove any old branches from the base that have fallen over under the weight of the leaves or are threatening to do so.

Cut out all the oldest, tallest stems at the base, leaving the smaller younger shoots to thin and rejuvenate an older fatsia shrub.

Items you will need

  • Gloves
  • Loppers
  • Bypass pruners
  • Household antiseptic cleaner
  • Paper towels


  • Use hand pruners for shoots that are up to 3/4 inch in diameter and long-handled loppers for stems that are from 3/4 to 1 3/4 inches across.
  • Fatsia is considered safe to plant in areas where children and pets play.


  • Handle pruning tools with care, and store them out of reach of young children.

About the Author

Patricia Hamilton Reed has written professionally since 1987. Reed was editor of the "Grand Ledge Independent" weekly newspaper and a Capitol Hill reporter for the national newsletter "Corporate & Foundation Grants Alert." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University, is an avid gardener and volunteers at her local botanical garden.

Photo Credits

  • arbre mort image by Frédéric Georgel from