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Publication #FPS180

Dizygotheca elegantissima False Aralia1

Edward F. Gilman2


The lacy juvenile leaves of false aralia are made up of 7 to 10 slender, jagged leaflets arranged like fingers of a hand (Fig. 1). They are coppery in color when they unfold but then become a very dark grey-green. The mature foliage looks entirely different and is heavier with broader leaflets, giving a coarser silhouette. Both types of leaves can be present on the plant at the same time.

Figure 1. 

False aralia.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Dizygotheca elegantissima
Pronunciation: diz-zee-goe-THEEK-uh el-uh-gan-TISS-simuh
Common name(s): false aralia
Family: Araliaceae
Plant type: shrub; tree
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: container or above-ground planter; near a deck or patio; suitable for growing indoors; accent
Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range

Figure 2. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Height: 6 to 25 feet
Spread: 3 to 15 feet
Plant habit: upright
Plant density: open
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: spiral
Leaf type: palmately compound
Leaf margin: lobed; serrate
Leaf shape: oblong
Leaf venation: none, or difficult to see
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: 8 to 12 inches
Leaf color: purple or red
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Foliage of false aralia.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Flower color: white
Flower characteristic: summer flowering


Fruit shape: unknown
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit cover: fleshy
Fruit color: brown
Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: showy; typically multi-trunked or clumping stems
Current year stem/twig color: green
Current year stem/twig thickness: thick


Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun; plant grows in the shade
Soil tolerances: slightly alkaline; clay; sand; acidic; loam
Drought tolerance: high
Soil salt tolerances: poor
Plant spacing: not applicable


Roots: usually not a problem
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

False aralia provides a tropical look as a house plant indoors or in outdoor settings, whether in containers or at entranceways where its distinctive foliage casts interesting shadows on background walls. It can be pruned to develop into a small tree. Due to its upright, vertical habit, false aralia is best used as an accent or specimen plant.

This somewhat branched, small evergreen tree will tolerate bright light, performing best in light shade. False aralia needs fertile, well-drained soil and protection from strong winds to develop into a nice specimen.

Propagation is by air-layering, cuttings, or seed.

Pests and Diseases

Nematodes are a problem in the soil, while mites and scale can be serious leaf problems.

No diseases are of major concern.



This document is FPS180, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.