Schefflera (Umbrella) Plant Profile

Umbrella plant

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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 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) feature smaller, glossy leaves, sometimes with creamy variegation. Schefflera will thrive alongside your other tropical plants. Schefflera is unlikely to bloom inside, so if you are keeping schefflera as a houseplant, it is unlikely that you will see its show of long, red, white, or pink tentacle-like flowers.

Botanical Name Schefflera
Common Names Schefflera, umbrella plant, Australian ivy palm, octopus tree, and starleaf
Plant Type Evergreen shrub
Mature Size 12 to 15 feet tall
Sun Exposure Bright, indirect light
Soil Type Rich and moist
Soil pH Acidic to slightly alkaline
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color White, pink, or red
Hardiness Zones 10, 11
Native Area Taiwan

How to Grow Schefflera

Schefflera are not difficult plants to grow, as long as 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 may be easy to grow, but there are several pests which can cause trouble in your garden. This plant is susceptible to mealybugs, spider mites, aphids, and an insect known as scale.

Light

Schefflera prefer bright, indirect light. In the summer, move it outside if possible under a shady overhang. A schefflera plant that gets leggy or floppy might not be getting enough light. Never place a schefflera houseplant in direct, full sun as this will burn the leaves.

Soil

Plant schefflera in a rich, loose potting media with moist compost. You can try a well-draining sandy loam soil with an acidic to slightly alkaline pH. Avoid planting in a 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 their schefflera plant and this will eventually kill it. Yellow leaves that fall off the plant is a sign that you may be watering too much.

Temperature and Humidity

As it is a tropical plant, schefflera appreciates a lot of humidity and tropical temperatures; it will suffer in temperatures less than 60 degrees. 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 you lose all the leaves but you want to save the plant, move it outside in the spring, and give it lots of water.

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.

Potting and Repotting

Repot the plants annually as needed. A mature schefflera can grow into a small tree up to 12 or even 15 feet tall. However, it is more likely that an indoor plant in a temperate climate will stop growing around six feet. Slow the growth rate by prolonging repotting.

Propagating Schefflera

In the right conditions, schefflera can be propagated by leaf cuttings, but it is not easy. Use a rooting hormone and provide lots of humidity and warmth. Expect a high failure rate, however, since these are tropical plants and can be hard to work with. They can also be propagated by air-layering.

Pruning

Your schefflera may also 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.

Toxicity of Schefflera

According to the ASPCA, the schefflera plant is toxic to dogs, cats, and humans. The plant contains calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, intense burning, and irritation of the mouth, lips, tongue, excessive drooling, vomiting, and difficulty in swallowing. The toxicity results from ingesting the plants. Keep these plants away from dogs, cats, or children who might chew on them.

Varieties of Schefflera

There are two main varieties of schefflera:

  • S. actinophylla: The most common schefflera, it has oval leaves that grow up to 10 inches from a central stalk.
  • 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.