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Umbrella Tree Guide: How to Grow and Care for Schefflera

Umbrella Tree placed on table

Umbrella Plant, also known as Schefflera, is a stunning and vibrant addition to any indoor garden thanks to its low-maintenance nature. With its lush green leaves and graceful appearance, it can instantly uplift the ambiance of your living space.

As a master gardener and houseplant lover, I’m always on the lookout for unique and easy-to-grow options! One of my favorites is the umbrella tree, also known as the octopus tree or Schefflera. This plant belongs to the Araliaceae family and is known for its hardy nature, making it perfect for those of us who might not have a green thumb.

The umbrella tree is a popular, quick-growing, low maintenance plant featuring distinctive oval-shaped leaves that resemble fingers. These leaves grow in circular groups and can be variegated or solid green. Scheffleras come in various sizes, from dwarf to full-sized species, catering to different space requirements and preferences.

What makes the umbrella tree stand out is its versatility; it thrives as both a houseplant and landscape plant, even in cases of neglect or poor growing conditions. The captivating foliage and adaptability of Scheffleras make them an appealing addition to any indoor space, offering an air of sophistication and charm.

Whether you are an experienced gardener or just beginning your plant journey, this guide will provide you with all the essential information you need to successfully plant, grow, and care for the Umbrella Plant.

Umbrella tree (Schefflera) colorful leaves

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Scientific Name: Schefflera spp.

Common Name: Schefflera, umbrella plant, umbrella tree, dwarf umbrella tree, parasol plant, octopus tree

Family: Araliaceae

Plant Type: Broadleaf evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 10 – 12 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light

Soil Type: Rich and moderately moist

Soil pH: Slightly acidic (6.0-6.5)

Height: 4 to 6 ft tall (indoors), up to 25 ft tall (outdoors)

Bloom Time: Summers

Flower Color: White, pink, or red (rarely blooms indoors)

Native Area: Taiwan, Tropical Australia, New Guinea, and Java

Umbrella Plant Care

Proper care is crucial for the health and well-being of your Umbrella Plant. By providing the right conditions, you can ensure that it thrives and flourishes in your home.

The Umbrella Plant, also known as Schefflera, is a popular choice for indoor plants due to its attractive foliage and ease of care. Native to tropical regions, this plant can add a touch of greenery to any space, whether it’s a living room, office, or bedroom.

This species can grow up to 50 feet in height in its natural habitat; however, when cultivated as a houseplant, it can be pruned and controlled to a more manageable size.

Its leaves grow in circular groups of 5-9 leaves, giving them their umbrella-like appearance and hence the reason why it’s called umbrella plant.

This plant prefers bright sunny locations with high humidity and protection from hot afternoon sun. Regular watering is essential, with a reduced amount in the winter months.

A young Umbrella Plant can change dramatically in a single season due to its rapid growth. Young plants have four or five leaflets per stem, increasing to 12 or more when mature.

You have no control over the changes, so you can not make it grow fewer or more leaflets. You can keep the plant short by pinching out the growing tips; this will keep the plant looking young with fewer leaflets for a longer period of time if you prefer that look.

There is an advantage for outdoor growers in warm climates like Hawaii, Florida, or southern California. These climates are ideal for dwarf scheffleras, and your plants will grow exponentially as a result.

It’s also important to note that when ingested, umbrella tree is toxic to both humans and pets.

Let’s dive deeper into the specifics of caring for an Umbrella Plant to help you create the ideal environment for it to thrive.

Light

Umbrella plant on windowsill for indirect light

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

When it comes to light, the Umbrella Plant prefers bright, indirect light. Placing it near a window that receives filtered light throughout the day would be ideal. This mimics the dappled light conditions it would experience in its natural habitat.

During the summers, you can move your potted schefflera plants outside so that they can receive bright light but not direct sun, such as under a patio cover.

The leaves of the Umbrella Plant are sensitive to direct sunlight and can easily get scorched. If you notice the leaves turning yellow or brown, it’s a sign that the plant is receiving too much light. In such cases, you can consider moving it to a spot with slightly less intense light or providing some shade during the hottest part of the day.

If you don’t have a suitable spot with enough natural light, you can supplement it with artificial lighting. A fluorescent grow light placed a few feet above the plant can simulate natural sunlight and help it grow compact and bushy.

Remember to rotate the plant every few weeks to ensure even growth, as the leaves tend to lean towards the light source.

Soil

The Umbrella Plant thrives in well-draining potting soil that is rich in organic matter. A mixture of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite provides the perfect balance of moisture retention and drainage.

When repotting your Umbrella Plant, choose a pot that is slightly larger than its current one. This will allow the roots to spread and grow. However, avoid using a pot that is too big, as excessive soil can retain too much moisture and lead to root rot.

Make sure to choose a pot with drainage holes to prevent water from pooling at the bottom and causing waterlogged soil. This will help maintain healthy roots and prevent fungal issues.

It’s also a good practice to refresh the soil every couple of years to replenish nutrients and ensure optimal growth.

Water

Proper watering is essential for the Umbrella Plant’s overall health. Aim to keep the soil slightly moist but not soggy. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again. This mimics the natural rainfall patterns the plant would experience in its native habitat.

When watering, make sure to water thoroughly, ensuring that water reaches the root zone. This encourages deep root growth and helps the plant withstand periods of drought.

During the winter months or in cooler conditions, reduce the frequency of watering. Overwatering can lead to root rot, while underwatering can cause the leaves to wilt and dry out. Find the right balance to keep your Umbrella Plant happy.

If you’re unsure whether it’s time to water, you can use the finger test. Stick your finger about an inch into the soil, and if it feels dry, it’s time to water. If it’s still moist, wait a little longer.

Temperature and Humidity

The Umbrella Plant thrives in average room temperatures ranging from 60°F to 75°F (15°C to 24°C). It can tolerate slightly cooler temperatures, but it’s best to avoid exposing it to temperatures below 55°F (13°C) or drafts, as this can cause leaf drop or slow growth.

While the Umbrella Plant can tolerate normal household humidity levels, it prefers high humidity. If your home has dry air, especially during the winter months when central heating is on, consider using a humidifier or placing the plant on a tray filled with pebbles and water. This will create a humid microclimate around the plant, allowing it to thrive.

Misting the leaves occasionally can also help increase humidity, but be careful not to overdo it, as excessive moisture on the leaves can lead to fungal diseases.

Umbrella plant after the rain

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Fertilizer

Feeding your Umbrella Plant with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer once a month during the growing season (spring and summer) will help maintain its vigor. Dilute the fertilizer to half strength to avoid over-fertilization, as it can burn the roots.

During fall and winter, when the plant enters its dormant phase, reduce or eliminate fertilization. This allows the plant to rest and prepare for the active growth period in the following season.

When applying fertilizer, make sure to water the plant beforehand to prevent fertilizer burn. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer packaging for the appropriate dosage and frequency.

Additionally, it’s a good practice to occasionally flush the soil with plain water to remove any built-up salts from the fertilizer and prevent nutrient imbalances.

Pruning

Your Schefflera may require pruning on occasion, especially if it is not receiving enough light. Remove anything that appears to be overgrown or leggy. Pruning helps Schefflera houseplants recover quickly and will reward your efforts. The end result will be a fuller, bushier plant.

By following these care tips, you can enjoy a healthy and thriving Umbrella Plant that adds beauty and freshness to your indoor space. Remember to monitor your plant closely and adjust the care routine as needed, as each plant may have unique requirements. Happy gardening!

Types of Schefflera (Umbrella Plants)

With their lush foliage and unique characteristics, these plants can bring life and beauty to any room. Let’s explore some of the different types of Schefflera and their distinct appeal.

Schefflera arboricola: One well-loved variety is the Schefflera arboricola, also known as the Dwarf Umbrella Plant. As the name suggests, this type of Schefflera is compact and bushy, making it perfect for smaller spaces. Its smaller leaves add a delicate touch to your indoor garden, creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere.

Dwarf Umbrella Plant (Schefflera arboricola)

Dwarf Umbrella Plant (Schefflera arboricola) – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Schefflera actinophylla: If you’re looking to make a bold statement, the Schefflera actinophylla, commonly known as the Australian Umbrella Tree, might be the perfect choice for you. This variety stands taller than its counterparts and features larger leaves that exude a tropical vibe. With its vibrant green foliage, the Australian Umbrella Tree can transform any room into a lush oasis.

Australian Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla)

Australian Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla) – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Schefflera elegantissima: For those who appreciate a touch of elegance, the Schefflera elegantissima, or False Aralia, is a fantastic option. This variety showcases stunning variegated foliage, with its leaves displaying a beautiful mix of green and creamy white. The False Aralia adds a sophisticated and graceful element to your indoor garden, elevating the overall aesthetic of your space.

False Aralia (Schefflera elegantissima)

False Aralia (Schefflera elegantissima) – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

It’s important to note that each type of Umbrella Plant has its unique care requirements. Before bringing one of these beauties home, it’s essential to research and understand the specific needs of the variety you choose.

Some may require more sunlight, while others thrive in low-light conditions. By providing the right care, you can ensure that your Schefflera will flourish and continue to enhance your indoor environment.

How to Propagate Umbrella Plant

Propagating these plants allows you to create new plants from existing ones, ensuring that their beauty continues to thrive.

When selecting a stem for propagation, it’s important to choose a healthy one. Look for stems that are free from any signs of disease or damage. Healthy stems will have vibrant green leaves and a strong structure.

Plus, ensure that the stem has at least two nodes, as these are the areas where new roots will develop.

Before making the cut, make sure your knife or pruners are clean and sharp. This helps prevent the transmission of any diseases or pathogens to the cutting. Make a clean cut just below a node, ensuring that the cut is smooth and not jagged. A clean cut promotes faster healing and reduces the risk of infection.

Once you have made the cut, carefully remove the lower leaves from the stem. These leaves would otherwise be submerged in water or buried in the potting mix, which can lead to rotting.

However, it’s important to leave a few leaves at the top of the cutting to promote photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is crucial for the cutting to produce energy and develop roots.

There are two common methods for propagating Umbrella Plants: water propagation and potting mix propagation. In water propagation, place the cutting in a glass or jar filled with water, ensuring that the nodes are submerged. Change the water every few days to prevent the growth of bacteria or algae.

How to Propagate Umbrella Plants

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Alternatively, you can use a well-draining potting mix and bury the nodes of the cutting, making sure it is stable and upright. For this method, it’s also a good idea to dip the cut end in rooting hormone and then bury it into the potting soil.

Keep the cutting in a warm and humid environment, ensuring it receives bright, indirect light.

Umbrella Plants thrive in warm and humid conditions, which are essential for successful propagation. Place the cutting in an area where it can receive bright, indirect light. Direct sunlight can scorch the cutting, so it’s important to provide filtered light.

To maintain humidity, you can cover the cutting with a clear plastic bag or place it in a propagator. Mist the cutting regularly to keep the leaves hydrated.

Patience is key when propagating Umbrella Plants. After a few weeks, you should start to see tiny roots forming from the nodes of the cutting. This indicates that the cutting has successfully developed its own root system.

Potting and Repotting Umbrella Plant

Proper potting and repotting are essential for the health and growth of your Umbrella Plant. Follow these guidelines to ensure success:

When potting for the first time:

  1. Choose a pot that is slightly larger than the current root ball. Avoid pots that are too large, as they can retain excessive moisture.
  2. Prepare the potting mix with a blend of well-draining soil and organic matter.
  3. Carefully remove the plant from its nursery pot, being mindful not to damage the roots.
  4. Place the plant in the new pot, ensuring that it sits at the same depth as it did before.
  5. Backfill the pot with the prepared potting mix, gently pressing it down to eliminate air pockets.
  6. Water the plant thoroughly and place it in its preferred location.
  7. Continue regular care, monitoring for any signs of stress or need for adjustment.

When repotting:

  1. Repot your Umbrella Plant every 2 to 3 years or when it outgrows its current pot.
  2. Follow the same steps as for potting, ensuring that the new pot provides ample space for root growth.
  3. Trim any damaged or overgrown roots during the repotting process.
  4. Keep an eye out for signs of stress or decline after repotting, and provide extra care during the recovery period.
Schefflera arboricola or Dwarf Umbrella Plant

Dwarf Umbrella Plant – Photo Credit: Dreamstime.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases for Umbrella Plant

While the Umbrella Plant is generally a resilient and sturdy houseplant, it can still fall victim to common pests and diseases. Here are a few to watch out for:

Pests

  • Spider Mites: These tiny pests thrive in warm and dry conditions, sucking sap from the leaves and causing yellowing.
  • Mealybugs: These cottony pests can infest the nooks and crannies of your plant, sucking sap and leaving behind a sticky residue.
  • Aphids: These small insects congregate on new growth, causing curling and distortion of leaves.

Diseases

  • Rhizoctonia root rot: This fungal disease can occur in overly moist soil and cause the roots to rot, leading to wilting and eventual death of the plant.
  • Leaf spot: Fungal leaf spots can appear as small brown or black lesions on the leaves, leading to defoliation if left untreated.

To prevent and treat these pests and diseases, it is essential to maintain optimal care for your Umbrella Plant, including practicing good sanitation, providing proper air circulation, and promptly addressing any issues that arise. If necessary, use appropriate insecticides or fungicides as recommended.

In conclusion, by following these guidelines for planting, growing, and caring for your Umbrella Plant, you can create a thriving and beautiful indoor garden. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a beginner, the Umbrella Plant is a versatile and rewarding plant to nurture. So go ahead, bring this elegant beauty into your home and enjoy the serenity it brings!

Other Houseplant Guides from Planet Natural:

How to Grow and Care for Thai Constellation Monstera

Ficus Benjamina Guide: How to Grow and Care for Weeping Fig