Today’s post is a bit of a plant discovery story that started out as a photo I posted on my Instagram of a rogue pot of ‘ivy’ I have on my balcony. Labelled as ‘hedera helix’ when I bought it last year, this plant has been puzzling me with its upright growth habit and larger-than-your-average-ivy sized leaves. I asked on my Instagram post (photo below) if anyone had any identification ideas and a few days later, I got a message from Iván who offered the correct ID. It turns out it wasn’t a traditional ivy… but in fact, a plant I’d never heard of before!
Let me introduce you to Fatshedera; an inter generic hybrid plant which was created by crossing Fatsia japonica ‘moserii’ and Hedera helix (common ivy) in a nursery in Nantes, France in 1912. Now, I do love a Fatsia so was very pleased to find this out, so got out my plant books and did a bit of research. Fatshedera is sometimes written with an ‘x’ in front of its name to signal its bigeneric hybridity. It has a few nicknames; aralia ivy, tree ivy, ivy tree and (my favourite, slightly flamboyant) botanical wonder!
Below left is a Fatsia japonica and to the right a Hedera helix:
As with the Hedera and Fatsia, the Fatshedera can be grown as both a houseplant and a garden plant in shady conditions. It is worth noting that there is also a variegated variety of this plant, which (as with all variegated foliage) requires slightly brighter light than the fully green variant. This is because more variegation means less chlorophyll, which makes it more difficult to turn the suns energy into food, and so growth is also generally slower. The stems are shorter than that of the Fatsia and the foliage is often five-lobed and can span approximately 6-8 inches wide in mature specimens.
I have been growing my xFatshedera lizei on the balcony and have repotted it once at the start of Spring. So far, it has retained its upright form without the need for staking (yet), but as these plants can get as tall as 4 feet, they will require some support in maturity. I water mine about twice a week when the top layer of potting mix has dried out, at the same time spraying the leaves with a water pressure sprayer. In my experience (as with both ‘parent’ plants), a decent amount of humidity and keeping the plant free from dust can really detract spider mites, which can be a problem in dry atmospheres. Perhaps my favourite thing about the foliage is the sheen; it looks so beautiful after the rain (or a shower)!
Regular feeding can also help the plant stay strong and healthy which itself helps its resilience and resistance to pests. On this note, in addition to spider mites, watch out for aphids and scale. Even though these warnings make it sound like a bit of a plant-diva, I urge you to not be put off by these potential issues though… just ensure you consider the Fatshedera’s location well and these can be rather easy going plants indeed!
One of the things I love about our online plant community is how readily people share their knowledge to help others. After two years ‘online’ as HPH, I still find it really remarkable how we can connect all over the world over a shared interest, sharing photos, care tips, and even actual plants. So thanks Iván for the heads-up on my plant and if you have a strange looking ‘ivy’ in your garden, it could well be this ‘botanical wonder’! If you have made any similar plant discoveries I’d love to hear about them, leave me a comment below or send me a message on Instagram.
Thanks for reading,