Schefflera

OFFICIAL NAME

Schefflera arboricola

ALSO KNOWN AS

Umbrella Plant, Dwarf Schefflera, Gold Capella

ORIGINS & CLIMATE

Australia, Taiwan | Subtropical

ABOUT THE
PLANT

A unique plant with their small palm-shaped leaf bundles radiating out like little bursts of green (and sometimes splashes of yellow if you have a variegated specimen). You can find this plant as a petite bush-like plant or an impressive tree growing to great heights!

HOW MANY GREEN THUMBS?

easy going, bright indirect, goldilocks, great heights, upright, bushy or dense, tabletop, floor, tree or tree-like, subtropical, palmate, variegation

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Schefflera

The basics

Water Needs

Always water thoroughly, but allow the top inch or two to dry out completely before watering again. Reduce watering in winter, allowing the soil to get up to 50% dry.

Water

Preferred Light

Your Schefflera prefers bright, indirect light and lots of it, but will enjoy brief exposure to direct light. Can tolerate lower light conditions, but be sure to adjust watering and expect the plant to take on an elongated, sparse look.

Light

Humidity Needs

Can adapt to average room humidity, but will thrive in higher humidity, especially in the summer or hot, dry conditions (like near a heater). Schefflera will also appreciate occasional misting to help remove dust from their large leaves and can keep brown edges at bay.

Humidity

Ambient Temperature

Adaptable to average indoor temperatures, but may complain when exposed to cold drafts or dry heat from vents.

Temperature

Toxic or Not?

Schefflera leaves are mildly toxic to pets and humans. Ingestion will cause mouth and stomach irritation and possible vomiting.

Toxicity

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant can grow up to around 6-9 ft tall with a 3-4 ft spread (when mature and with enough light)! The leaflets themselves will only grow to about 1-2 inches wide.

Size

Overall Look

Usually found as a group of a few upright stems with leaves growing along the entire length—lending a full, bushy appearance. However, a single stem (or a group of braided stems) can be pruned to encourage branching, which will give the plant a more classic tree-like look. Works best on a tabletop for smaller specimens and on the floor or a plant stand for a larger one.

Format

Leaf Look

Delicate teardrop leaflets form small palm-shaped leaf bundles that radiate out like little bursts of green (and sometimes splashes of yellow if you have a variegated specimen).

Leaf Shape

Water

|

Allow top inches of soil to dry between waterings.

Water Needs

Always water thoroughly, but allow the top inch or two to dry out completely before watering again. Reduce watering in winter, allowing the soil to get up to 50% dry.

Light

|

Bright, indirect light.

Preferred Light

Your Schefflera prefers bright, indirect light and lots of it, but will enjoy brief exposure to direct light. Can tolerate lower light conditions, but be sure to adjust watering and expect the plant to take on an elongated, sparse look.

Humidity

|

Extra humidity appreciated in drier spaces.

Humidity Needs

Can adapt to average room humidity, but will thrive in higher humidity, especially in the summer or hot, dry conditions (like near a heater). Schefflera will also appreciate occasional misting to help remove dust from their large leaves and can keep brown edges at bay.

Temperature

|

Can adapt, but doesn't like sudden change.

Ambient Temperature

Adaptable to average indoor temperatures, but may complain when exposed to cold drafts or dry heat from vents.

Toxicity

|

Mildly toxic to humans and pets if ingested.

Toxic or Not?

Schefflera leaves are mildly toxic to pets and humans. Ingestion will cause mouth and stomach irritation and possible vomiting.

Size

|

A popular plant for those seeking a larger specimen.

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant can grow up to around 6-9 ft tall with a 3-4 ft spread (when mature and with enough light)! The leaflets themselves will only grow to about 1-2 inches wide.

Format

|

Can be trained into a single trunk tree-form.

Overall Look

Usually found as a group of a few upright stems with leaves growing along the entire length—lending a full, bushy appearance. However, a single stem (or a group of braided stems) can be pruned to encourage branching, which will give the plant a more classic tree-like look. Works best on a tabletop for smaller specimens and on the floor or a plant stand for a larger one.

Leaf Shape

|

Bright green palmate leaf bundles.

Leaf Look

Delicate teardrop leaflets form small palm-shaped leaf bundles that radiate out like little bursts of green (and sometimes splashes of yellow if you have a variegated specimen).

Beyond The Basics

Soil & Potting

Thrives in a rich, very well-draining potting mix—you can use a good quality potting mix labeled for indoor plants or make your own mix. You can try a 1:1:1:0.5 mix of potting mix, orchid bark, perlite, and activated charcoal. Ensure the pot has the appropriate drainage and don't forget to pour out any excess water collected in the drainage tray or cachepot.

Repotting

These ambitious growers are fairly quick to fill out their pot and become rootbound, but they don't mind as much as other plants. Try to repot every 1-2 years in the spring, especially when tending to a younger plant. Increase the pot size by about 2 inches each time. Once mature and becoming unwieldily to maneuver—you can reduce your repotting frequency and switch to a routine of refreshing just the top few inches of soil. More on repotting here.

Feeding

If you're not already planning to repot, you can fertilize during the spring and summer months. Once to every two months should be plenty. No fertilizer is necessary during the winter when plant growth naturally slows down. You can try a balanced liquid or water-soluble fertilizer—always diluted more than the recommended strength. More on using fertilizer here.

Grooming

Can be prone to legginess (or straggly, elongated growth). Regular pruning of the new growth (up to a third of the whole plant) will promote a fuller, bushier appearance. New leaves will emerge from the cut stem. Plus, you can use these stem cuttings to propagate! In addition, it's always good practice to regularly remove yellowed or dying leaves and any fallen plant debris. Ensure your scissors or pruners are sanitized to avoid spreading disease or pests.

Propagation

If you pruned a leggy Schefflera, you can propagate with this apical stem cutting (the top of the stem where there is new growth). Trim the stem back a bit, if needed, leaving a decent section with 3-4 leaf bundles and make the cut just below the lowest leaf. Remove the lower leaves to ensure a clear stem before rooting in water or another medium. Schefflera are a bit more stubborn to root that other plants, so it can be helpful to dip the cut stem in rooting hormone first. Once the roots are a few inches long you can pot up your new Schefflera! More on propagation techniques here.

Variants

A common variant is Schefflera actinophylla (sometimes known by the cultivar 'amate')—essentially identical to this Schefflera except for the shape of the leaflets. Instead of the petite teardrops, actinophylla has much larger, slightly ruffled and elongated almond shaped leaves.

TrOUBlESHOOTING

Why is the variegation on my Schefflera disappearing?

Symptom

Whole plant looking less and less variegated. New leaves are mostly solid green.

Cause

This is most likely due to insufficient light. While Schefflera can tolerate lower light conditions, they may begin to loose their variegation to compensate. Greener leaves means more efficient photosynthesis.

Solution

Improve the lighting conditions for your Schefflera. These plants prefer bright, indirect light. Make sure to adjust your watering to accommodate the increased light.

More on lighting here.
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Why is my Schefflera dropping leaves?

Symptom

Leaves dropping in droves! Many leaves have suddenly died off.

Cause

Schefflera can be particularly sensitive to environmental changes. The most common culprits are sudden temperature changes (when exposed to cold drafts or dry heat from vents) and big moves (from the nursery to your home or simply from one part of your house to another).

Solution

Try to avoid any shocks to the system by introducing change gradually (when possible). For example, if you want to move a plant from their preferred bright light to a lower light location, do so for just a few hours at a time, slowly increasing the duration over time. Otherwise, you may have to accept some leaf drop and simply continue following the best possible care routine for your plant until new growth emerges.

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Why are the leaves on my Schefflera wilting and yellowing?

Symptom

Multiple leaves are wilting and turning yellow—particularly the older, lower leaves. You may also notice stunted growth and mushy stems.

Cause

The most likely culprit is overwatering and initial signs of root rot. When a plant's roots sit in waterlogged soil for too long, a fungal infection can quickly take over, causing the roots to rot (turning brown and mushy).

Solution

First, ensure that your plant has appropriate drainage (both in terms of well-draining soil and plenty of drainage holes in the plant's container).

If you think you've caught the overwatering early on, you can simply let the plant dry out more than you have been. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out before watering again. Continue monitoring and only water when needed. You may also try using chopsticks (or something similar) to poke holes in the soil to help the roots get more oxygen. And finally, you can try to "wick" the excess moisture out of the soil by placing the whole pot (with drainage holes) in a tray or container with dry soil. This new layer of dry soil should soak up some of the excess moisture from the waterlogged areas around your plant's roots.

However, if you suspect a serious case of root rot, you'll definitely need to take a peak at the roots by removing the plant entirely from their container. If there are any black and mushy roots, trim them back completely before repotting with fresh soil in a new or sterilized container.

More on leaf changes here.
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