Polyscias balfouriana ‘Marginata’: Variegated Balfour Aralia

Only on occasion does one see the shrub displayed in the florist’s window. This is a great pity for it is a true gem with its delicate, fern-like habit, which has won it a place not only in tropical parks but also in cultivation in some countries, such as Japan, where several lovely colour forms are grown, and the United States.

P. balfouriana (syn. Aralia balfouriana) is native to New Caledonia where it grows to a height of almost 10 m (33 ft). However, it remains quite small in cultivation and older specimens are generally only 1 m (3 ft) high. The leaves are odd-pinnate, the leaflets about 10 cm (4 in) across. In the type species the margins are spotted whitish yellow. Also relatively common in collections is the species P. guil-foylei with pinnate leaves; the leaflets are ovate to orbicular, the terminal leaflet larger (up to 15 cm [6 in]) and elongate. The leaves are likewise edged with white. This is an extremely variable species; an attractive form is ‘Laciniata’ with finely fringed leaves.

Polyscias balfouriana is suitable for very warm, centrally-heated homes, but it must have ample atmospheric moisture, which may by provided by a humidifer or else by putting it together with other plants in a large dish arrangement or on ‘dry land’ in a paludarium. Ideal conditions are also provided by a large glass plant-case.

The compost should be humusy but not too light and should be kept well drained by the addition of coarse stone rubble and sand. John Innes potting compost with extra sand added would be an ideal mixture.

Propagation is very easy by means of cuttings, which need not, but may be woody. These should be cut at a slant and inserted in a peat and sand mixture in a warm and moist propagator.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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