How to Grow and Care For Schefflera (Umbrella Plant)

Schefflera plant on a table

The Spruce / Kara Riley

Schefflera is a genus of tropical plants including 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.

Schefflera plants are hardy only to USDA zone 10. In cooler climates, they're grown indoors for most of the year and can be taken outdoors for the warmer months. Indoors, they will thrive alongside other tropical plants. However, this plant is unlikely to bloom inside. They typically have to be grown outdoors to display their show of long red, white, or pink tentacle-like flowers.

Schefflera plants are fast-growing plants, especially if planted outdoors, where they can add 3 feet per year. Indoor plants are slower-growing, especially if you keep them somewhat confined in a smallish pot. 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 toxic to humans and their pets.

Common Name Schefflera, umbrella plant, umbrella tree
Botanical Name Schefflera spp.
Family Araliaceae
Plant Type Broadleaf evergreen shrub or small tree
Mature Size 4–15 ft. tall, 3–6 ft. wide (indoors); up to 50 ft. tall (outdoors)
Sun Exposure Bright, indirect light
Soil Type Rich and moderately moist
Soil pH 6.0-6.5 (slightly acidic)
Bloom Time Summer (outdoors)
Flower Color White, pink, or red (indoor plants rarely bloom)
Hardiness Zones 10–11 (USA)
Native Area Australia, Taiwan, Hainan
Toxicity Mildly toxic to pets and humans
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Watch Now: How to Grow the Schefflera Plant (Umbrella Plant)

Schefflera Care

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.

closeup of schefflera arboricola
The Spruce / Kara Riley
closeup of schefflera actinophylla
The Spruce / Kara Riley

Light

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 light because the intense sun can burn the leaves.

Soil

Plant Schefflera in a rich, loose potting media with moist compost. 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

Water weekly during the growing season and spray the leaves frequently. You can wait until the soil in the pot dries out and then thoroughly soak the soil when you water. Cut back on water during winter. Often, people will overwater a Schefflera plant, and doing so 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.

Fertilizer

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 Schlefflera

Of the many species in the Schefflera genus, two are common houseplants:

  • Schefflera actinophylla: The most common Schefflera, has oval leaves that grow up to 10 inches from a central stalk. It can be quite a large 50-foot specimen outdoors, but indoor potted specimens usually top out at 15 feet.
  • S. arboricola: This smaller version, popular in home gardens, has 1- to 2-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 high as 25 feet outdoors, but houseplants are normally kept to no more than 6 feet.

Pruning

Your Schefflera may 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 eventually be a fuller and lusher plant.

Propagating Schefflera

It's best to propagate Schefflera in the spring: Doing so keeps your current plant from being too bushy, and offers you new plants for free. Schefflera can be propagated by cuttings.

  1. What you'll need: a clean, sharp garden shear, rooting hormone, potting soil, a container, a plastic bag.
  2. To do so: cut off a 6-inch section of stem at a 45-degree angle, and remove all but four or five leaves at the top of the stem.
  3. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone, then plant the cut end into a container filled with potting soil.
  4. Cover the pot with a loosely secured plastic bag to hold in humidity, then place the pot in bright indirect light.
  5. Check the container daily to make sure the soil remains moist, watering when necessary. Check for roots by lightly tugging on the stem.
  6. After about a month, if good roots have formed, you can remove the bag and continue growing the new plant. If roots don't form (success can be sporadic), discard it 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 tangle apart the roots; it may help to soak them in water to do this. Then, using a combo of one part potting soil and one part sphagnum moss, repot in a larger container (clay or plastic) that has good drainage holes.

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 tricks don't work applying a copper fungicide.

Indoors, Schefflera are prone to problems with aphids, which leave a honeydew 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 an easy-going plant, but sometimes your plant may have a problem. Here's how to determine what's wrong.

Yellowing Leaves

Overwatering is often the issue when your Schefflera's leaves turn yellow. Try watering less to see if this helps. If not, your plant may not be receiving enough light; move it to a brighter location.

Brown Spots on Leaves

Underwatering is likely the cause for spots on your Schefflera. Giving yours a good drink may be the answer!

FAQ
  • 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 spot with lots of bright, indirect light—and a temp from 55 to 75 F—is the perfect spot for this tropical beauty.

  • What other plant is like Schefflera?

    Money tree has a similar look to Schefflera, especially if you find a braided variety that will offer a "bushier" appearance.

schefflera actinophylla
The Spruce / Kara Riley
schefflera arboricola
The Spruce / Kara Riley
Article Sources
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  1. Schefflera arboricola. Missouri Botanical Garden

  2. Schefflera Production Guide. Mid-Florida Research & Education Center