Schefflera species are wonderful tropical plants. The larger schefflera (sometimes called the umbrella plant) features long, shiny, oval green leaves that droop gracefully from a central stalk. A mature schefflera might have 12 to 16 leaflets from a single stalk, while an immature schefflera is more likely to have four to six. They can grow to a height of three feet tall.
Schefflera arboricola (sometimes called dwarf schefflera) feature smaller, glossy leaves, sometimes with creamy variegation.
Schefflera will thrive alongside your other tropical plants. Sadly, schefflera is unlikely to bloom inside, so you'll miss the long, red tentacles that pass for flowers.
Schefflera prefer bright, indirect light. In the summer, move it outside if possible under a shady overhang. As it's a tropical plant, it appreciates a lot of humidity and moist compost. Water it weekly during the growing season and spray the leaves frequently. You can cut back water during winter. The schefflera will suffer below about 60 F. Do not expose to drafts or dry heating vents. Plant them in rich, loose potting media. You'll want to feed it twice a week during the growing season with liquid fertilizer or use two applications of slow-release pellets. They are heavy feeders and will benefit from the extra nutrients.
In the right conditions, schefflera can be propagated by leaf cuttings, but it's not easy.
Use a rooting hormone and provide lots of humidity and warmth. Expect a high failure rate, however, as these are tropical plants and can be hard to work with. They can also be propagated by air-layering.
Repot annually as needed. A mature schefflera can grow into a small tree, up to 12 or even 15 feet tall.
However, it's more likely that an indoor plant in a temperate clime will stop growing around 6 feet. Slow the growth rate by prolonging repotting.
There are two main varieties of schefflera:
- S. actinophylla: The most common schefflera, with oval leaves up to 10 inches long growing from a central stalk.
- S. arboricola: A smaller version, with one to two inch leaves that grow in tight clusters. This plant is the smaller of the two. A variegated variety of this plant, with creamy blotches on its leaves, is popular in home gardens.
Schefflera are not difficult plants to grow, providing you supply plenty of indirect light, warmth, and humidity. In very cold climes, bottom heat might be necessary. Leggy schefflera can be pruned to encourage a fuller plant.
An underwatered, cold schefflera will begin to drop leaves quickly, so take leaf-drop seriously and move to correct the problem. If you lose all the leaves, but you want to save the plant, move it outside in the spring, give it lots of water, and it should leaf back out.
Schefflera may be easy to grow, but there are several pests which can cause trouble in your garden. This plant is susceptible to mealy bugs, spider mites, aphids and an insect known as scale.