Any plant that flowers during the dank grey month of November has to be worth a place in the garden. Add in the fact that it must be beneficial to insects as well and you wonder if there is such a plant. Well, there is.
Fatsia japonica is a native of Japan and South Korea, where it grows in woodlands near the coast. Here it has to put up with heavy shade in a soil that remains moist all year. The glossy, evergreen leaves resemble a hand with outstretched fingers, up to twelve inches across. There is a variegated form, with white tips to the leaves, but with F. j. ‘Spider’s Web’, the entire leaf is covered with small white spots. Some claim it looks diseased; I think it looks spectacular. In mid to late autumn, it carries small white flowers like those of an ivy (to which it is related), a rich source of nectar. Here is a two year old plant growing in total shade on heavy clay.
Fatsia japonica will grow quite happily in anything from light shade to heavy gloom, and will even take a little sun. The soil must remain moist to maintain all the sails of foliage, and although heavier soils are preferred, lighter ones can be improved with home made compost to prevent them from drying out. Eventually growing to eight feet in height and width, fatsia japonica can be reduced by cutting out one or two of the oldest stems at the base in April. Alternatively, it can be kept to size by cutting just above a leaf joint in late winter/early spring before growth restarts.
This is a plant for even the most ardent arachnophobe.