Umbrella Tree: The Best Ways To Grow Scheffleras

Ed Wike
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Umbrella Tree Overview

The umbrella tree (Schefflera arboricola) is a tropical plant found in moist rainforests in Southeast Asia and the West Indies. Many people are familiar with a patented variety called the dwarf schefflera. However not all dwarf scheffleras are created the same, so we’ll cover a few tips that will help get yours just right.

It’s important to understand that a dwarf schefflera is an umbrella tree but not all umbrella trees are dwarf scheffleras. Dwarf scheffleras are usually around knee high and slow growing. This usually means it will stay above knee-height for most of its adult life.

Umbrella trees require more sunlight than many other indoor plants. Put your plant where it will easily receive a minimum of 4 hours of bright indirect light each day. If the sun is streaming in the room but your tree isn’t getting direct light, provide a few fluorescent bulbs.

The umbrella tree can easily get shadows from nearby plants and furniture so be sure to leave a large enough space around your plant to avoid shadows. The most significant threat to a newly planted umbrella tree is over-watering. When you first plant your tree-plant it in a 6-inch pot. This helps stabilize the plant as it’s transitioning to its new container.

All About Umbrella Tree

The Best Ways To Grow Scheffleras

The umbrella tree, or schefflera, is one of the most popular houseplants around. This houseplant is easy to care for, making it a great choice for beginners. Plus, a schefflera is particularly easy to grow. All you need are a few basic tips to get started.

If you’re looking for eye-catching houseplants, this is definitely one to add to your collection. Your schefflera plant can grow up to 5 feet tall, with its thick, glossy, light green leaves. These leaves are not only attractive, but they are also quite versatile. You can use them in a wide variety of ways, from arranging them to use as a centerpiece for a party to cooking recipes.

Schefflera is a bamboo plant, so it's the perfect addition to a houseplant collection that includes bamboo plants. These plants share several key characteristics. The schefflera, like bamboo, is a tall and fast growing plant. The leaves of these plants are sometimes ovate, sometimes spade, or even heart shaped or lobed. Schefflera is also very versatile as a houseplant.

Is the Umbrella Tree Toxic?

Scheffleras are also known as the Chinese Evergreen. It gets the name umbrella tree from the bright green, needle-like leaves at the top of the trees. In fact, it is the only of the 300 or so species of the Schefflera to have this similarity. When the Schefflera does not get enough sun, the bottom leaves start to fall off.

The Schefflera is a great addition to your landscape because they make smaller plants around them appear bigger.

The Schefflera can grow up to three feet high and three feet wide. It can grow a bit bigger than that if you are lucky.

Umbrella Tree Care

When keeping an Umbrella Plant indoors, you have to be sure to keep the plant appropriately watered. Remember that this plant should be getting water equal to the amount of water lost through its leaves. Typically, this kind of plant will require constant moisture.

It is not an easy plant to grow, unless you are familiar with its needs and care requirements.

They thrive in warm temperatures, but are not often found in overly warm places outdoors, such as the southeastern United States. They thrive much better if you keep an umbrella tree indoors.

However, they can only be grown indoors if they are kept above freezing outside, so keep yourself aware of the temperatures.

While it’s not fully understood why, Umbrellas are known to do best if placed in front of north-facing windows.

Whether above or below freezing, the amount of water given to an Umbrellas is essential to keeping it healthy indoors. If the plant dries out, roots will not be able to support the top many leaves will fall off.

The roots should be kept moist, and wet constantly, but should also be allowed to completely dry out between waterings, just as you would people.

Light & Temperature

How bright you keep your home can influence how fast your tree grows. When it is in the sun, it grows more quickly. This is because the sunlight contains solar radiation. This radiation is absorbed by the plant and is converted into food.

It grows more slowly in darker conditions, but still grows well enough to be a stunning indoor plant.

The temperature of your home can also influence how quickly your new plant grows. It grows more quickly in warmer temperatures (60°F to 75°F) and grows more slowly at cooler temperatures.

However, you shouldn’t let temperatures drop below 60°F because it could cause the plant to go dormant. In other words, it may slow down its growth and may not grow as quickly as it could.

Water & Humidity

Schefflera is an indoor plant. The key to keeping them healthy is moderate watering. The soil should be kept evenly moist at all times, but the plant needs to be able to drain freely.

If the roots remain waterlogged, they will rot.

To keep the soil from drying out too quickly in winter, you can place a pot with gravel containing a layer of water underneath the pot.

When watering the soil, the water should drain freely out the drainage hole, and there should then be no standing water at the bottom of the pot.

In the summer, you can mist the leaves of your Schefflera once or twice daily to increase the humidity. Leave the blinds open for a few hours afterwards to allow the leaves to dry. Schefflera can become very sensitive to light and heat if they are overwatered.

Soil

In preparation for planting your tree, you will want to dig a hole large enough to fit your tree and positioned at the correct depth. This will vary greatly according to the manufacturer but a typical range is 2″ to 3″. The soil used around the tree should be kept completely loose and holes in the soil should be filled with compost to keep the soil loose and rich in nutrients. This will allow for easy drainage and air movement.

Once your soil is properly prepared, you can then plant your tree. Remember not to pack the soil tightly when planting. Your tree will typically be planted with the top of the rootball exposed above the soil line. It should be planted at the same level as it was in its previous container. Remember to add a little bit of water to the hole to make sure that the soil stays loose and then place your tree in the hole.

To create a well-balanced and healthy tree, it will be necessary to add two to three inches of mulch around the rootball to help conserve moisture and maintain the temperature of the surrounding soil.

It is very important that once your tree is planted that you keep it well cared for. The first step to keeping your tree healthy is to water it at least once a week in the summer. While in the winter there is no need to water it as often, there should still be a weekly watering schedule to ensure proper tree health.

Fertilizer

When to fertilize is dependent on the type of fertilizer you use. Young plants need very different amounts of fertilizer than mature plants. General rule of thumb is to fertilize as the plant grows.

Apply a water-soluble fertilizer as directed on the label. Mix the fertilizer into the water and water as usual. That's all there is to it. Done correctly, the plant should look vibrant and green again within a couple of days of the feeding.

As always, follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully, especially when using a spring feeding product on a deciduous plant. Remember that you'll need to water frequently in the summer for a vigorous plant.

Repotting

If the plant is indoors, and has outgrown its pot, it will be necessary to repot before the roots may be damaged. It's best to repot a schefflera plant during the fall or winter months, when they are active.

It's not necessary to re-pot frequently as the schefflera can remain in a container for several years before needing repotting. Repotting a schefflera that is only root bound may take a toll on the plant, stunting its growth. When repotting, move it into a container one size larger.

Use a commercial potting mix formulated for scheffleras, or a well-draining potting soil. Fill the container 1/3 full. Put an inch of gravel, pebbles, or broken clay pots into the bottom, before adding soil. This will keep your rootball separate from the water. Break up any large roots, using your fingers, before repotting. Fill the pot to within 1/4 inch of the top.

When you fill the container with soil, firm the soil around the rootball with your hands. Water the plant well to settle the soil and remove any air pockets. Position the schefflera close to the light source after repotting. DO NOT allow the soil to dry out for one week after repotting.

Pruning

The tree responds best to pruning at the end of spring and the beginning of the fall. Cut only when the tree is dry so that your scissors won’t get stuck in the bark. Winter pruning can be done the same way. This is a good time for removing dead, diseased, or decaying parts of the plant.

Pruning works best after the plant has finished blooming for the season. If you are pruning in the summer or fall, do so in the evening, when the sun is not shining directly on the plant.

Schefflera pruning is not necessarily deep pruning. You can trim a few inches off the top of a young plant or look at the shape of the overall plant and selectively prune out some branches in order to get a desired effect.

If the plant is getting too big for the room it is in, severe pruning may be needed. In this case, take out about 1/3 to 1/2 of the plant just above a leaf node or branch union.

If you are trimming a tall plant that has pushed its branches up towards the light, trim the bottom of the plant at the same time as the top.

Propagation

Propagation is a cheap and effective way of growing an umbrella tree. It also involves very little effort on your part.

The first step is to cut a section of the umbrella tree off. Most people do this when the tree is dormant; that is, during late fall or early spring.

The top section of your plant is the most desirable for propagating. This is what you want to cut off, which will become the root of your vine.

You can put your cutting in water or a sand-potting mix to stimulate growth. Place it in a well-lit area and water it on a regular basis.

If your cutting doesn’t sprout new leaves within about two weeks, discard it. This means your cutting was not viable.

At this point, you have a cutting with a very small root system. Place it in a soil-based mixture that is high in organic material. Most people opt for such a mixture, because it is easy to use. You also don’t need to prepare it ahead of time.

People often keep their cuttings indoors or near a window because this is where the plant prefers to grow.

Once your cutting has attached itself to a new root system, it will send out shoots and leaves. Place your new plant in a sunny location. Water it as necessary to keep the soil moist.

Troubleshooting Umbrella Tree Plants

If you are considering making an umbrella tree plan purchase, then it is without a doubt an excellent choice of indoor plant. However, you should take your time to learn what needs to be done with the plant before making the purchase.

Here are a few simple things to remember about the umbrella plant to help you save some time, money, and energy.

Only Water Flexible Umbrella Tree

One of the largest mistakes that a first-time umbrella tree owner can make is to repeatedly water their plant. Just like any other ficus plant, umbrella tree needs to be watered sparingly and more often. Adding extra water is not good since it leads to mold and root rot, and this can destroy the plant entirely.

Even if the pot it is in is full of water, a plant will not absorb all of it. Your goal should be to keep the top several inches of the soil wet, but the roots must not sit in water.

Ensure that Your Plant's Pot Is Not Too Big

Some people also get confused about the pot size when it comes to umbrella plants. The first thing that you need to keep in mind is that an umbrella tree can grow very fast, and the larger the pot is, the slower it will grow.

Pests

Umbrella trees or Schefflera actinophylla have grown in popularity with homeowners as well as business. The beautiful color and sizes available in these plants make them appealing as a focal point in your home or office as well as their usefulness. They are adaptable to low-light situations and also will thrive outdoors as well as indoors all year round.

Because of the wide use of these plants, there are many pests that would love nothing more than to have their way with the umbrella tree. This includes pests such as scale, spider mites, mites, leaf spot diseases, mealybugs, and plant bugs.

One of the most frustrating pests for the homeowner to deal with is scale. Scale can be devastating to the umbrella tree when left unchecked. Scale insects look like tiny, hard brown or black bumps on the leaves which should be wiped off with a cloth. If left unchecked, the foliage can become bleached and die and the infestation will spread to the rest of the plant. Some of the most common causes for scale include: weak immune system, overwatering, and artificial light. The organic way to remove the scale is to simply use ice cubes. Lightly run the ice cube over the scale. If you have a lot of insects, a warm soapy and water mixture can be made and also run over the areas where you see the scale.

Diseases

The most fatal disease in most Scheffleras is root rot. If your Schefflera tree dies suddenly and you cannot figure out why, then you most likely have root rot.

The symptoms are yellowing and then browning leaves, which are dropped. Hollow stems filled with brownish water are also a sign of root rot. You'll know root rot is the culprit if you pry off the top of dead stems. You'll often find brown root-looking things at the bottom of these stems.

It is very important to remove affected plants and do not put them into the compost heap as the compost may be contaminated.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why Are My Scheffleras Looking Broke and Dry?

The best way to prevent this is to top transplant. Research has shown that Scheffleras are much healthier and much less prone to problems when they are pruned correctly. This prevents the "rock" that you are seeing and makes them bushier. It also means you have a more compact product, and you will achieve a beautiful bonsai tree look much sooner.

If you have a broken or leafless trunk, it's a good idea to repot in the fall. Give the tree a good soaking.

Why Are the Leaves Falling Off My Schefflera?

There are a few things that can contribute to this happening. First, it could be a sign of root fungus. However, if you've recently trimmed your tree, it could be a result of overcrowding. That's why it's so important to top your plants oftentimes. This is also another reason why moving into a bonsai pot is essential.

If you suspect fungi, you should treat your plant with fungicide.

How Can I Make My Schefflera Bloom?

Schefflera's grow on a tropical plant, and they need at least 50 degrees to flower.

Many people don't realize that, when they treat their tree like a bonsai, they are actually attempting to make them flower.