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The Umbrella Plant or Dwart Umbrella Tree (Schefflera arboricola) gets its name from the look of its long oval leaves, growing in an umbrella-like circular cluster.
It is a wonderful plant to keep indoors. Scheffleras are easy to care for, fast-growing, can handle a little neglect, and purify the air!
Schefflera Care Tips
Umbrella plants are a great choice for beginner plant parents or to keep in places like offices and dorm rooms. Low maintenance, they can handle being in low light, or you forgetting to water it every once in a while.
These plants originate from Taiwan and are part of the Araliaceae plant family.
The best location for your Schefflera is somewhere where it gets plenty of bright indirect light. Therefore, if you can provide light, definitely do so.
Your umbrella plant can survive in low light locations. Just be aware that your plant will most likely grow slower and could get very leggy if it doesn’t get enough light.
It likes to be within a few feet of a sunny window. Some direct sunlight is okay, but limit it to not more than a few hours, and watch out for hot midday sun. Too much can burn the leaves.
Protect your plant from the sun during the hottest hours of the day by making a quick and easy DIY window sun diffuser.
Variegated / non variegated: Schefflera plants with creamy variegated leaves need more light than the solid green variety.
In spring and summer, when your Schefflera is actively growing, water your plant frequently to keep the soil slightly moist. Water less in winter.
No worries if you happen to forget to water your plant on occasion. These plants can handle being under-watered for a little while.
Scheffleras aren’t as okay with being overwatered so be careful. Watering too often can result in root rot.
Water with lukewarm water when the leaves start wilting or the top inch of the soil is nearly dry. Just stick your finger into the soil to check.
If you have a bright bathroom, your Schefflera will be very happy there. Since these plants come from tropical places, they are used to living in high humidity. The steam from the shower will provide your plant with the humidity it loves.
Schefflera plants are fast growers and work really hard during the growing season. Help your plant by fertilizing weekly from early spring through summer.
Don’t fertilize in the fall and winter. Give your plant some time to rest.
How to Prune and Propagate
If you have a fast-growing single-stem Schefflera, it can get leggy or too tall pretty quickly. When this happens, go ahead and prune your plant. Schefflera plants can handle a severe cutting back.
Don’t expect your Schefflera to branch out where you prune the tip off. Instead, it will usually grow just one new stem from where you made the cut.
What can happen with a vigorous pruning, is that the stem will send energy to the lower part, activating dormant buds, and make them branch out.
You can always plant your cutting into the pot next to the original plant. That way there are two stems in one pot, making it a shorter, fuller plant instantly.
Caution! The sap of the Schefflera is slightly toxic and could irritate your skin. Be careful when pruning, or wear gloves.
If you want to propagate the piece you are removing, make your cut below a leaf node, where the stalk connects the leaves to the main stem.
Remove two or three leaf stems from the bottom and either root the cutting in water, or apply a little rooting hormone and plant it straight in slightly damp soil.
If you have a large cutting, you could even cut that one piece into several parts.
Don’t worry if it takes a while before roots grow. This is normal. Just be patient. It could take a month, maybe two… just wait. It will happen. Keep changing the water regularly if you have your cutting in water.
Transfer your cutting to soil when the roots are at least about 2-3 inches.
To have your Schefflera branch out, you can do something called defoliating. Removing all leaves during the active growing season. This will promote branching out and will result in smaller leaf size when new growth returns. Defoliation is often seen when dwarf Scheffleras are grown as bonsai trees.
Repot your Schefflera when it gets too big for its pot, if not, at least every three years. By that time the soil will be depleted of nutrients and could use a freshen up.
Spring is usually the best time to repot your plant. Schefflera plants don’t go completely dormant in winter, but still, it will be full of energy at the start of the sunnier season.
Repot into a pot one size bigger. Too large of a pot makes proper watering harder and overwatering more likely. Make sure the pot has drainage holes on the bottom.
Schefflera plants like fast-draining soil. Add perlite or pumice to your soil to make it really airy.
Common Schefflera Problems
Even though Schefflera plants are very strong, you can run into some common problems. Here are a few with easy fixes!
The important thing when your plant is in trouble is to watch for new growth. As long as your plant is forming new growth, it can recover.
Don’t see your Schefflera problem listed? Leave a comment with your question down below, and I will try to answer it asap. Let’s talk
It is perfectly normal for your Schefflera to drop an occasional leaf. On the other hand, if your plant is dropping many leaves in a short time, something is most likely going wrong.
Sudden leaf drop can happen for a number of reasons. If the leaves of your umbrella plant are falling off, inspect your plant to see what could be the culprit.
Overwatering is the most common cause of leaf drop in Schefflera plants kept indoors.
This does not mean you are giving too much water, it means you are watering too often. Let the soil dry out between waterings. Keeping it wet will drown the roots. They need to have a moment to breathe.
And not trying to be funny, but under watering can lead to leaves falling off as well. This just happens less often and is easily fixed by giving your plant a good soak.
Recently moved your plant to another location? The leaves may be dropping because of a sudden difference in light, usually if you have moved your plant to a darker spot, lower humidity, or a drop in temperature.
Bare or leggy Schefflera
When your Schefflera doesn’t receive enough light it can get leggy. The only thing to do to fix this is to prune it back and then give it more light.
With more light, the new sets of leaves will grow closer together as opposed to growing rather spaced out along the stem.
An occasional yellow leaf is nothing to worry about. Leaves die off periodically. You can remove any yellow leaves as they appear.
When many of the bottom leaves start to yellow and fall off, you need to investigate. When have you last watered your plant? Stick your finger in the soil. Is it wet or dry?
What you are looking for is possible overwatering. This is the number one reason for yellow leaves on indoor Schefflera plants. Too large of a pot, no drainage holes on the bottom, and watering too often can all contribute to overwatering.
Going forward, let the soil dry out more before watering again. Use a moisture meter if you are unsure of when to water.
If you are sure you haven’t overwatered your plant, another common cause is that your plant is not getting enough light. Maybe you recently have moved your plant to a spot where it gets less light?
If the soil of your Schefflera has been underwatered and dry for a long time, that too can make the leaves go yellow, then brown and fall off.
Brown crispy leaf edges
Scheffleras are high humidity loving tropical plants. When they are kept potted up indoors, in our homes with central heating, they lack the humidity they love so much.
Low humidity can cause the leaves of your Schefflera to turn brown and dry with crispy edges.
Mist your plant regularly, or put it on a humidity tray. It’s quick and really easy.
How to make a humidity tray for your plant: Place your plant on top of an upside-down saucer in the middle of a larger deep plate filled with water. The water will evaporate bringing up the humidity around your plant. Just make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the pot.
Just as simple to make is a pebble tray to up the humidity. Put the pot on a tray filled with water and pebbles. Again, make sure to keep the pot above the water, not in it.
When you notice the leaves of your Schefflera wilting or drooping, check the soil. Drooping leaves are most often caused by overwatering or underwatering.
If the soil is very dry, give it a thorough watering and then allow it to dry out before watering again.
If the soil is kept too wet, it can lead to the roots rot, which can cause the leaves to droop.
New Leaves look faded or brown
When you notice the new growth on your Schefflera to look a little discolored, maybe a lighter green, or a bit brown, there is nothing to worry about.
It is normal for new leaves to start off like that and change color as they grow and mature.
Are Umbrella plants Poisonous?
Unfortunately, yes. According to the ASPCA, Schefflera plants are toxic to pets.
The leaves and stems have a sap that can cause irritation of the lips, mouth, and tongue.
It is very rare for pets to die or get seriously hurt from eating plants. But some plants can make your pet sick. So if you have a pet that tends to nibble on your plants, keep this one out of reach.
Where to buy Schefflera plants
If you have a plant nursery or garden center nearby, that’s a good place to start. It’s best (and most fun!) to pick and choose the plant you want to take home in person.
If you can’t find a Schefflera in person, there are a number of great plant growers that sell them on Amazon.