Also called “umbrella trees,” schefflera plants are popular houseplants that can flourish for years with the right care. Here’s what you need to know.
- Place plants in bright, indirect light or grow outside in bright sunlight in zones 10 to 12.
- Plant schefflera in containers with potting mix.
- Water when the top inch of soil is dry.
- Feed with indoor plant food.
- Prune when the plant is getting too tall or you want more fullness.
- If desired, root cuttings to grow more schefflera plants.
Schefflera plants, sometimes called “umbrella trees” thanks to the umbrella-like arrangement of their leaflets, can be found in the houseplant section of nearly any garden center or grocery store, as well as in the interior landscaping of most shopping malls. That’s because they’re remarkably easy to grow, long-lived, and will tolerate the medium light and low humidity of most indoor spaces. There are two species of schefflera plants: Schefflera actinophylla can grow to heights of 8 to 10 feet inside and up to 40 feet outside in very warm climates. Schefflera arboricola, known as the “dwarf umbrella tree,” has smaller leaflets and a shorter mature height of just 3 to 4 feet indoors. Care requirements are similar for both types, as the dwarf version is just a bit daintier in looks.
If you want a houseplant with a unique look that isn’t “spiky,” grow schefflera. Here’s how.
Where to Grow Schefflera
Schefflera will adapt to almost any indoor growing conditions, but they prefer medium light, moderate humidity, and temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees F. They make fine office plants under artificial light, but growth will slow down significantly if stuck in a dark corner. Ideally, place schefflera plants near a window that gets bright but indirect light. Don’t put plants near heating/air vents and doors to the outside during the winter, and keep them away from both children and animals (schefflera is mildly toxic). Gardeners in zones 10 to 12 can grow schefflera plants outdoors in full to partial sun in moist, well-drained soil. When grown outdoors, mature Schefflera actinophylla plants will bloom during the summer.
How to Plant Schefflera in Containers
Select a container that is about 1/3 wider than the plant’s root ball. Fill it 1/3 of the way with potting mix, which contains no compost or bark, two ingredients known to shelter fungus gnats (a frequent problem with houseplants). Place the plant so that the top of the root ball is about an inch below the rim of the pot, to leave room for watering. Fill in with more potting mix around the root ball. Thoroughly water the plant and let it drain, then move it to its permanent location in the house.
How to Water Schefflera
Water schefflera when the top inch of soil is dry. To check, simply stick your finger in the soil see how deep the dryness goes. Water at the base of the plant until the soil is thoroughly wet (when water begins to come out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot). Do not allow the plants to sit in standing water.
How to Feed Schefflera
A month after planting, begin feeding schefflera plants once a week with indoor plant food. This will give the plants an instant boost of nutrition for strong growth. Apply directly to the soil and water as normal. Use 1 pump for small pots and 2 pumps for larger pots (over 6 inches in diameter). Be sure to follow label directions.
How to Prune Schefflera
Schefflera plants respond well to pruning for height and fullness. As plants age, the lower leaves will fall off, leaving bare stems. To encourage new growth, simply snip off the top of the plant at the desired height. You can also pinch off the growing tips of the plant for bushier growth. Always wear gloves while doing this, as contact with sap from a schefflera plant can cause a rash in some people.
How to Grow More Schefflera Plants
Grow additional schefflera plants by taking 6-inch stem cuttings from your existing plant during the summer. To do this, cut off the growing tip of one of the branches, then strip off all but the top two leaves. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and stick it 1 to 2 inches down in a small container filled with moist potting soil. Be sure to keep the soil consistently moist as the cutting grows.
How to Help Prevent Problems with Schefflera
One reason schefflera plants are such popular houseplants is because they are virtually problem-free. If plants aren’t growing or have spindly, yellow leaves, they probably need to be moved into an area with brighter light. Watering too frequently can lead to root rot, so if in doubt, keep plants slightly on the dry side.