What you're learning
Schefflera plant is a tree that originally grows in the forest. It has found its horticultural value as an ornamental in a tropical outdoor landscape or as a potted small tree indoors. Its foliage produces stalks that bear 12 to 16 leaflets making it look like an open umbrella.
As a low maintenance plant, Schefflera will most likely survive in an indoor setting provided that sufficient light, warmth, and humidity are given. However, you have to be cautious in planting this in your area because it has an invasive tendency. Make sure that your state doesn’t ban this species, otherwise, you’re bringing more harm than good.
|Scientific Name||Schefflera actinophylla (formerly Brassaia actinophylla)|
|AKA||Umbrella Tree, Octopus tree, Schefflera, Brassaia, Ivy palm|
|Similar to||Money tree|
|Native to||New Guinea, North of the Tropic of Capricorn of Queensland, Australia as well as Java, Indonesia|
|Maximum size||6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide (indoors)|
|Light requirements||Full sun or partial shade (47 to 55%)|
|Preferred temperature||65 and 90°F (18 to 32°C)|
|Soil or Potting Medium||Clay; sand; loam; slightly alkaline; acidic; well-drained|
|Fertilizer||Twice a week application of diluted liquid fertilizer|
|Propagation method||Seeds, cuttings, or air layering|
|Toxicity||Toxic to cats and dogs|
|Vulnerable to||Leaf spot|
Overview of Schefflera Plants
You can trace back the origin of Schefflera in New Guinea, North of the Tropic of Capricorn of Queensland, Australia, and Java, Indonesia. It’s an evergreen, fast-growing tree that can reach up to 12 meters high or more when planted outdoors. It can have a single or multi-stemmed trunk.
Schefflera also produces clusters of bright, red flowers every summer. However, plants kept indoors rarely blooms. Not a big thing though, since Schefflera makes an attractive ornamental even with its foliage alone.
Thoroughly water your potted Schefflera every week. Keep in mind to wait until the soil dries out before watering again. Potted plants are prone to overwatering and your Schefflera is not an exemption.
Also, mind the changing seasons and adjust the water volume and frequency. Your plant will need more water during summer because the temperature is higher and the transpiration rate also increases. Cold seasons such as winter are normally dormant seasons for plants so water application should be cut back.
By observing the behavior of your plant, you’ll know when it needs more water or not. Yellowing leaves are often signs of overwatering. Wilted plants are dehydrated ones.
Schefflera can tolerate full sun or partial shade (47 to 55%) approximately 5,000 to 7,000 foot-candles. In an indoor setting, it will need bright, indirect light. You have to place it in a location where there is ample light whether natural or artificial sources.
Direct contact with high light intensities especially during summer should be avoided. Partial shade is necessary to prevent scorching the leaves of your plant. On the other hand, a very low light level isn’t advisable as well.
Humidity & Temperature Preferences
Your Schefflera would love a warm and highly humid environment. The ideal temperature is 65 and 90°F (18 to 32°C) but it can tolerate up to 35 to 105°F without chilling or heat damage. If extreme conditions persist for a long time, Schefflera may suffer from temperature stress.
The main challenge here is to maintain a high level of humidity inside your home. In order to cope with such, you have to constantly mist on your plant to provide additional moisture in the air. Using a humidifier is also a big help especially if you have limited time and you have more plants to attend to.
Plant Food and Potting Media
A rich, moist, and well-aerated soil is preferred by Schefflera. It can grow from a slightly alkaline to acidic soil and has moderate tolerance for salt. You can make use of a commercially available potting mix as long as the soil is draining well.
Schefflera plants are heavy feeders which means they require more frequent fertilization. Apply a liquid fertilizer that’s diluted to half twice a week for a continuous supply of nutrients. No fertilizer should be given during the winter season.
Schefflera is a fast-growing plant so you have to prune it once in a while. You can cut the main branch to encourage lateral growth. It will make your plant dense which is more preferred for small spaces.
Trim off the leaves that are discolored and aged. Remove the branches that protrude in the wrong direction. This will keep your Schefflera in maintain good shape and appearance.
Always use sterilize pruning shear to avoid the spread of diseases. You can save the pruned stems or branches that are mature to be used for propagation. Diseased parts that have been pruned should be disposed of properly.
When the container seems crowded, that’s a sign that your Schefflera needs repotting. Repotting is a means to keep your plant healthy by replenishing the depleted soil, trimming off the roots, and providing for a larger container. Always do the repotting in the spring season.
Water the Schefflera first before repotting and let it sit for a few hours. This will help loosen the compact of soil. Gently remove the root ball from the pot and shake off the old soil.
Trim a few outgrowing, old or dead roots. You may also trim some branches on top. Put the plant in a new container that has initial soil in it and fill in the spaces.
Water the repotted plant thoroughly and let it drain. Put it back in a place with bright, indirect light.
There are three ways to propagate a Schefflera plant. You can use stem cuttings, seeds or air layered parts. Seed propagation requires hard work and a long waiting time so it’s rarely employed.
The most efficient method is using stem cuttings. Choose a mature branch, one that is close to the base of the plant. Dip the base to a rooting hormone for a few minutes and plant in a potting mix.
You can also do air layering but it requires skills to do it. Here’s a step by step procedure you can follow.
- Choose a mature stem and remove the leaves above and below the point where layering will be made.
- Make a cut on the bark up and below creating an inch length. Carefully remove the strip of bark and slightly scratch the wounded portion.
- You may apply rooting hormone on the wounded portion.
- Using a moist sphagnum moss, cover the wounded area and pack around the stem making sure that the wound is fully sheathed.
- Wrap the moss with plastic and secure both ends with string or tape. Make sure that it’s not too loose or too tight.
- Wait for a month or more for roots to appear. Once the roots have grown extensively, you may cut the branch and pot it separately.
Pests & Diseases
Schefflera plant is not susceptible to pests and diseases. Scales and mites can infest the plant if the environmental conditions make it favorable for them. But generally, your Schefflera will survive these pests.
Bacterial leaf spot can also be a problem too. It’s caused by a pathogen named Xanthomonas campestris pv. Hederae. These organisms attack the leaves creating small, tan to yellow, corky, irregularly shaped spots.
Infected portions of the pathogen should be removed immediately to avoid spread. Pests can be managed using various mechanical, chemical, and biological methods. But, of course, prevention is still better.
Based on the list of American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (APSCA), Schefflera is considered to dogs and cats. It contains calcium oxalate crystals that create irritation on the mouth, lips, and tongue. It then leads to salivation, vomiting, and even pain in swallowing.
Make sure to keep your Schefflera away from your pets to prevent poisoning. Also, always use gloves to protect your hands from potential skin irritation.
Typical Questions for Schefflera Plants
How to Maintain the Foliage of Schefflera?
The leaves of Schefflera are its main attraction. To keep it clean, you’ll need to occasionally wipe the dust off its surface. If properly maintained, the foliage should look deep green and shiny.
Use a cotton cloth and gently wipe the surfaces. Be careful to put only slight pressure to avoid creating injury.
Why Are My Schefflera Leaves Turning Yellow?
Yellowing leaves can be a result of overwatering or lack of light. Check the soil if it’s wet and soggy. If yes, then the roots of your Schefflera are most probably drowning below.
Too much water often results in water stress in plants. The oxygen supply becomes deficient and the roots get suffocated. Damaged roots then result in deterred function making nutrients and water unavailable on the upper portions of the plant.
A lack of bright light can also result in yellowing. If your plant is located in an area where light is not enough for the plant to create enough food for its own, then you have to move it somewhere else.
Why Are My Schefflera Plant Dropping Its Leaves?
Dropping leaves can be due to temperature stress. Your plant may have been exposed to hot or cold drafts. Other reasons could be mechanical damage if you constantly move it around or its location has high traffic.
In this case, you have to find a place where Schefflera is safe from extreme temperatures or undue movements.
Taking care of Schefflera is generally easy. It will surely thrive in any home with normal environmental conditions. Just provide enough light, water, and humidity to ensure proper growth.
Always protect your Schefflera from extreme conditions. Unless the environment is really harsh, your plant will surely survive a long time.