Schefflera is a large genus of tropical plants that includes two species that make wonderful tropical houseplants. The larger Schefflera actinophylla (sometimes called the umbrella plant or umbrella tree) features long, shiny, oval green leaves that droop gracefully from a central stalk, resembling an umbrella. 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. Schefflera arboricola (sometimes called dwarf Schefflera) features smaller, glossy leaves, sometimes with creamy variegation. Other than the smaller size, it looks very similar to its taller cousin.
Hardy in USDA hardiness zone 10 to 12, Schefflera pants are usually grown indoors for most of the year in cooler climates but can be taken outdoors for the warmer months, where they will thrive alongside other tropical plants. However, Schefflera plants typically have to be grown outdoors to display their show of long red, white, or pink tentacle-like flowers. Plants grown indoors rarely produce flowers.
Schefflera plants are fast-growing plants, especially if planted outdoors, where they can add three feet per year. Indoor plants are slower-growing, especially if you keep them somewhat confined in a tight-fitting container. If you are planting a Schefflera in a warm climate garden, they are best planted in spring or fall when the weather is not blazing hot.
All parts of the Schefflera plant are mildly toxic to humans and more seriously toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.
|Common Name||Schefflera, umbrella plant, umbrella tree|
|Botanical Name||Schefflera spp.|
|Plant Type||Broadleaf evergreen|
|Mature Size||4 to 6 feet. tall, 3 to 6 feet wide (indoors); up to 25 feet tall (outdoors)|
|Sun Exposure||Bright, indirect light|
|Soil Type||Rich and moderately moist|
|Soil pH||Slightly acidic (6.0-6.5)|
|Bloom Time||Summer (outdoors)|
|Flower Color||White, pink, or red (indoor plants rarely bloom)|
|Hardiness Zones||10–12 (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Mildly toxic humans, toxic to pets|
Watch Now: How to Grow the Schefflera Plant (Umbrella Plant)
Schefflera are not difficult plants to grow if they receive plenty of indirect light, warmth, and humidity. In very cold climates, bottom heat might be necessary. Leggy Schefflera can be pruned to encourage a fuller plant.
Schefflera prefers bright, indirect light. In the summer, move potted plants outside where they will receive bright light but not direct sun, such as under a patio cover. A Schefflera plant that gets leggy or floppy might not be receiving enough light. Never place a Schefflera in direct, full sunlight because the intense sun can burn the leaves.
If growing indoors, plant Schefflera in a rich, loose, well-drained potting soil. When grown outdoors, a well-draining, sandy loam soil with a slightly acidic pH is ideal. Avoid planting in an outdoor location where the soil becomes too wet or waterlogged.
Water regularly during the growing season and spray the leaves with water frequently. Wait until the soil in the pot dries out and then give it a deep and thorough soaking. Cut back on water during the winter months. Overwatering a Schefflera plant will eventually kill it. Yellow and dropped leaves are a sign that you might be watering too much.
Temperature and Humidity
Because it is a tropical plant, Schefflera requires fairly high humidity and tropical temperatures; it will suffer in temperatures lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not expose these plants to drafts or dry heating vents. An underwatered or cold Schefflera will begin to drop leaves quickly, so take leaf-drop seriously and correct the issue if it occurs. If the plant loses all of its leaves, you can attempt to save the plant by moving it outdoors in the spring and watering generously.
Feed Schefflera plants 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.
Types of Schefflera
Of the many species in the Schefflera genus, two are common houseplants:
- Schefflera actinophylla: This most common Schefflera has oval leaves that grow up to ten inches from a central stalk. It can be quite a large 50-foot specimen outdoors, but indoor potted specimens usually reach 15 feet tall.
- S. arboricola: This smaller version, popular in home gardens, has one- to two-inch leaves that grow in tight clusters; it is a variegated variety of this plant, with creamy blotches on its leaves. It can grow as tall as 25 feet outdoors, but houseplants are normally kept to no more than six feet. Popular cultivars include 'Dazzle', a variegated form with nearly white leaves; 'Gold Capella', a yellow and green variegated form; 'Trinette', a white and cream variegated plant; and 'Dwarf', which has dark green leaves and grows to only about four feet tall.
Your Schefflera might need to be pruned occasionally, especially if it is not getting quite enough light. Cut off what you feel is overgrown or appearing leggy. Schefflera houseplants rebound quickly from pruning and will reward your efforts. The result will be a fuller and bushier plant.
It's best to propagate Schefflera in the spring: Doing so keeps your current plant from being too bushy, and provides you with new plants. Schefflera can be propagated by cuttings.
- Using sharp pruners, cut off a six-inch section of stem at a 45-degree angle, and remove all but four or five leaves at the top of the stem.
- Dip the cut end in rooting hormone, then place the cut end into a container filled with potting soil.
- Cover the pot with a loosely secured plastic bag to hold in humidity, then place the pot in bright indirect light.
- Check the container daily to make sure the soil remains moist, watering when necessary. Check for root development by lightly tugging on the stem.
- After about a month, if roots have formed, you can remove the plastic bag and continue growing the new plant. If roots don't form (success can be sporadic), discard the cutting and try again with a new cutting.
Potting and Repotting Schefflera
Repot the plants annually or as needed: if they've grown too big for their containers they need new soil and a bigger pot. (You can slow the growth rate and prevent plants from getting too large by prolonging the period between repotting and allowing them to get somewhat rootbound).
If you choose to repot Schefflera, remove it from its container and gently loosen up the roots; it might help to soak them in water. To repot, select a larger container (clay or plastic) that has drainage holes, fill it with a peaty well-drained soil mix.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Both bacterial leaf spot and alternaria leaf spot affect Schefflera. These diseases can easily be remedied by avoiding overhead watering, not watering in the evening, and if these watering practices don't work, applying a copper fungicide.
Indoors, Schefflera are prone to problems with aphids, which leave a honeydew excretion that leads to sooty mold; treat for aphids with a spray of insecticidal soap. Outdoors, the plant is susceptible to several pests, including mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects.
Common Problems With Schefflera
Schefflera is a low maintenance plant, but sometimes your plant can exhibit some problems. Here's how to determine what's wrong.
Overwatering is often the cause when your Schefflera's leaves turn yellow. Try watering less to see if this helps. If not, your plant might not be receiving enough light so move it to a brighter location.
Brown Spots on Leaves
Underwatering is likely the cause for spots on your Schefflera. In that situation, water your plant more regularly during the growing season. A best practice is to water the plant deeply and allow the soil to dry out before before giving it another deep watering.
How long do Schefflera plants live?
Outdoor Scheffleras grown in the right hardiness zones can live for decades; indoor specimens can live for 25 years or longer.
Where should I place Schefflera in my home?
A location with lots of bright, indirect light—and a temperature between 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit—is the perfect spot for this tropical beauty.
Are there similar plants I can consider?
Money tree (Pachira aquatica) has a similar look to Schefflera, especially if you find a braided variety that will offer a bushier appearance. A native of Central and South America, the money tree is hardy in USDA zones 10 to 12 but is commonly grown as an indoor houseplant.
“Schefflera Are Toxic To Pets.” Pet Poison Helpline, 4 Oct. 2011, https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/schefflera/
“Schefflera Arboricola - Plant Finder.” Missouribotanicalgarden.Org, https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=276622&isprofile=0&letter=S