Why Is My Fatsia Japonica Drooping (Causes and Solutions)

Fatsia japonica, also known as a glossy-leaf paper plant or Japanese aralia, is a common houseplant, sometimes used as a landscaping plant, loved for its leaves.

Its enormous, deeply lobed leaves grow on long stems that take them upward and outward. They grow as much as a foot or 30 centimeters across.

The plant can easily reach ceiling height in a few years if it receives adequate care.

However, the beautifully indented leaves of the Fatsia japonica just aren’t as lovely when they are drooping. 

Why Is My Fatsia Japonica Drooping?

The most common reason for drooping leaves on Fatsia japonica is overwatering. How much water is too much for your Fatsia japonica depends on several variables, including lighting, watering frequency, temperature, soil, and fertilizer.

Why Is My Fatsia Japonica Drooping?
Photo by Reggaeman, CC BY-SA 3.0

Watering Your Fatsia Japonica

Glossy-leaf paper plants, the Fatsia japonica, are forgiving when their owners forget to water them.

This plant is so popular because it won’t wilt or die back if the soil in its pot stays dry for a day, two days, or even as long as a week.

Regular watering, of course, promotes healthy growth. Ensuring your glossy-leaf paper plant never completely dries out encourages full development of its glossy, indented leaves.

Check the soil in your Fatsia japonica’s container every other day for dryness.

You can use a kind of electronic probe called a thermohygrometer or a soil moisture meter to dig the soil about 3 inches or 8 centimeters deep and add water if it reads “dry.”

Or you can stick a finger into the soil to the same 3-inch depth and judge the moistness of the soil for yourself.

Every Fatsia japonica needs good drainage.

There should be a layer of gravel or grit about 2 inches or 5 centimeters thick in the bottom of the pot, with three or four drainage holes.

A single drainage hole in the bottom of the pot may work, but you will need to be extra sure that you do not overwater. 

Once you have confirmed that the soil around the roots of your glossy-leafed paper plant is dry, pour two cups or 500 milliliters of room-temperature tap water evenly over the soil’s surface in the pot.

Water should immediately sink into the soil, down to the root zone, without puddling on top.

Fatsia Japonica Drooping. Watering.
Photo by Araliacostarica, CC BY 3.0

Providing the Right Level of Humidity for Your Fatsia Japonica

The Fatsia japonica originated in Japan and southern Korea’s warm, temperate woodlands. These woodlands aren’t really tropical.

Temperatures can drop to 5 degrees Fahrenheit or about −15 degrees Celcius on the coldest winter nights.

Humidity in the woodlands where the glossy-leafed paper plant originated, however, is always high.

This plant prefers constant relative humidity of about 60%, whether raised outdoors or as a houseplant.

You don’t want to place your glossy-leaf paper plant too close to the heater vent. But you also want to avoid putting this plant directly in front of an air conditioner.

Situate your Japanese aralia about 3 feet from a humidifier.

You don’t want this plant so close to the humidifier that its leaves get wet, but you want it close enough that it is constantly bathed in moist air.

Alternatively, you can mist your Fatsia japonica with warm water twice a day or place the pot on a humidity tray filled with perlite or pebbles.

Fatsias Prefer Well-Drained Potting Soil

The ideal potting mix for a Fatsia japonica is a mixture of perlite, peat moss, and a good commercial potting mix.

The peat moss lowers the pH of the potting mix to the acidic levels that the plant prefers. Perlite stores a little less than half of its weight in water, slowly releasing it to the roots of the plant. 

Outdoors, you can grow glossy-leaf paper plants in sandy, loamy, or even clay soils, but good drainage is essential. Standing in water will kill them.

On the other hand, gravelly, gritty, or sandy soils don’t hold water well enough to keep glossy-leaf paper plants happy.

Add peat moss to these soils before you set out your glossy-leaf paper plants so they will retain moisture for slow release.

Fertilize your Fatsia japonica with mild, liquid fertilizer. Organic products like fish emulsion are beneficial during the growing season.

Do not fertilize the plant in the fall, winter, or spring before all danger of frost has passed.

Glossy-leaf Paper Plants Are Fussy About the Amount of Light They Get

In their native settings, glossy-leaf paper plants grow in forest glens, under trees, in dappled shade.

Your Fatsia japonica should get at most two hours of direct sunlight per day, whether you are growing it outdoors in a garden bed or indoors as a houseplant.

Too much sun will cause these plants to develop sunburn.

Their beautiful leaves will curl, and the distinctive white flecks of the “Spider’s Web” or “Spider White” variety will disappear.

Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, CC BY-SA 4.0

Japanese Aralia Prefers a Cool Growing Season

The ideal summer growing temperatures for Fatsia japonica are around 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 23 degrees Celcius during the day and 55 degrees Fahrenheit or 14 degrees Celcius at night.

During the winter, this plant prefers temperatures above freezing but too low to support vigorous growth, around 45 degrees Fahrenheit or 7 degrees Celcius.

If you have warm summer temperatures—and most North Americans do—you will need to grow Fatsia japonica as a houseplant.

Frequently Asked Questions About Drooping Leaves in Fatsia Japonica

Q. Are there any diseases that can make my glossy-leaf paper plant droop?

A. Chinese scientists report that Fatsia japonica often gets a condition called anthracnose in its native habitat.

This fungal disease is most likely to occur when leaves are kept dripping wet. Leaves will droop, then develop black spots, and shrivel away.

Q. If my Fatsia japonica starts drooping, will it help if I cut it back?

A. If the reason your Fatsia japonica plant has drooping leaves is too much water, trimming it will not help.

When the problem is that your plant is getting more water than its leaves can remove by transpiration, reducing the number of leaves will only worsen the situation.

However, there is nothing wrong with pruning a Fatsia japonica to get the shape you want. Remove brown or yellow leaves that are just draining energy from the plant.

Use sharp gardening shears or a sharp knife that you have sterilized before you start cutting. Fertilize your Fatsia after pruning it to restart the growth of lush foliage.

Never prune a Fatsia japonica during its dormant season. Avoid pruning before the last frost to minimize damage to new growth.

Q. Will repotting my Fatsia japonica solve problems with drooping leaves?

A. When a glossy-leaf paper plant’s roots fill its pot, they soak up all the water you give the plant before it can drain.

This can result in overwatering, which makes the leaves droop.

The solution is usually to repot your paper plant in a larger pot at least 23 inches across. Ensure all the roots are covered with soil when you put your plant into its new pot.

Q. Can drooping leaves be caused by keeping my Fatsia japonica too dry?

A. If you completely neglect to water your Fatsia japonica, its leaves will droop, and it will eventually die.

Most of the time, however, the problem is watering too much, not watering too little.

Related: Fatsia Japonica Problems