Polyscias guilfoylei: Geranium aralia

Family: Araliaceae
Common name: Geranium aralia, Wild coffee

An ideal candidate for hedge plants, Geranium aralia plants have very thick foliage and can stand very hard pruning to retain desired shapes. These plants can reach a height of about 5-7 meters with thick brown stems and heavily branched foliage.

The stem has a ridged appearance and looks brown and woody almost till be the very tip of the plant, from where it is a green stem with leaves.

The name Polyscias means ‘many-shaded’ referring to the variegations and coloring of leaves. Although it is called Wild coffee, this plant is not related to Coffee plants in any way.

Geranium aralia leaves are unipinnate, opposite, broadly ovate, and very heavily toothed. There are variants with dark green leaves, and some with yellow and white patterns or borders. Petioles are 10-18 cms with branched leaflets at the ends. The leaves are quite thick and leathery with a glossy upper surface.

Though very uncommon in home plants, Geranium aralia can produce green inflorescence in the form of umbels. Umbels have multiple stalks of roughly equal length growing from a central point, forming a flat or umbrella-like upper surface.

These plants also produce small berries that are about 4-5 mm in diameter. Since flowering is quite rare, Geranium aralia plants are grown as ornamental plants for their beautiful foliage.

The plants themselves are very hardy and can tolerate extreme sunlight or shade, drought, salinity, and pollution. In many countries, they have escaped from cultivation and are considered an invasive weed, though they are quite easy to get rid of.

In gardens, they can be grown as hedge or border plants, or as showpieces in large pots. Geranium aralia plants stay green through all seasons with thick, heavy foliage.

A variant called ‘Polyscias guilfoylei victoriae‘ is very popular among gardeners because of its heavily variegated, jagged leaves, and has won the Royal Horticultural Society’s award. This variant has distinct patterns on each leaflet, with varying shades of white and green, and some leaflets are almost completely white especially towards the tip.

Propagation is through stem cuttings.