X Fatshedera lizei: Ivy Tree

If one has a conservatory or other large room that is unheated in winter then the ideal plant to grow successfully is fatshedera. Its heat requirements, in other words cold conditions in winter, are a characteristic inherited from the parent plants — Hedera helix and Fatsia japonica.

The hybrid was cultivated by Freres Lize in Nantes in 1912, but it did not become more widely cultivated until some 15 years later. In habit, it is a combination of both parents: the stem is upright, up to 5 m (16 ft) high and covered with rust-coloured powder in the juvenile stage. The leaves are palmate, 3-to 5-lobed, up to 20 cm (8 in) long and nearly 30 cm (1 ft) wide, in other words smaller than those of fatsia. Less common is the cultivar ‘Variegata’ with partly white leaves.

Cultivation is very simple. It should be grown in John Innes potting compost No. 2 or 3 and should be watered and fed liberally during the growth period. Though the leaves are slightly leathery the plant is much more beautiful if it is syringed regularly.

The only problem is providing it with cold conditions in winter, but even in modern centrally-heated homes one can generally find a cool place with good air circulation, such as a corridor or glassed-in foyer. There is one form that can be recommended for permanent room decoration in a warm, centrally-heated flat, and that is the variegated cultivar ‘Variegata’, which, on the contrary, requires a higher temperature in winter.

Propagation is easy, either by tip or stem cuttings in a propagator. The stems from which the cuttings are taken must not be entirely woody.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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