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Aralia elata (Japanese Angelica or Devil's Walking Stick)

Its common name is the rather unlovely sounding ‘Devil’s Walking Stick’. We tend to stick with Aralia elata. In the winter, a single slender trunk covered in viscious prickles. It’s deciduous and the leaves emerge early – around March. Assuming you’ve been seduced by its huge leaves and exotic presence, rather than by its silly name, you’ll want to do what you can to make it look as dramatic and exotic as you can. Cut off any branches and lower leaves as it grows during the summer. This is most rewarding as it affects the size of the leaves (they become huge) and improves the look of the plant. They can get to nearly 20ft but one hesitates to call it a tree because the trunks are so slim.

They always look best in a grove. Sometimes they sucker which is convenient – otherwise plant several. Many years ago (maybe still, I don’t know) there was the finest clump I’ve ever seen by the Hawth Theatre in Crawley and there’s quite a nice little clump outside the Capitol Theatre in Horsham. I like the theatrical connection. Is it just a coincidence? They seem to grow on any soil, in sun or light shade but maybe avoid very windy sites where the leaves might get blown off. Slightly nerdy : technically, they produce the largest leaves of any woody plant that can be grown outside in Britain. The leaves are pinnate – made up of dozens of smaller leaves so you could be fooled…

All propagated by us from seed.

N.B. When clipping several plants with the same tool, have a bucket containing a 5% bleach solution and swish your blades around for 30 seconds between plants to sterilise them. This will help avoid the chance of cross contamination of disease.

As with all woody plants, plant high, exposing as much of the taper at the base of the trunk as possible. Allowing soil to accumulate round the base of a tree can be fatal. Keep very well watered when first planted.

Hardiness traffic light green

Hardiness level Green

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Hardy anywhere in Britain below approximately 1000ft (300m)

This is only meant as a guide. Please remember we're always on hand to give advice about plants and their frost hardiness.

Please remember that these coloured labels are only a rough guide.

General Point about Plant Hardiness: The commonly held belief that it's better to 'plant small' is perfectly true with herbaceous plants, but not necessarily true with woody plants. They need some 'wood' on them to survive severe cold - so plants of marginal hardiness in very cold areas should really be planted LARGER, rather than smaller, wherever possible.

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