A Schefflera plant, native to Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, is often called an Umbrella Tree because of its large, shiny, dark green leaflets that drape down like the spokes of an umbrella. In nature, the plant can be a tall tree or a short bush with woody stems, growing as tall as 10-50 ft. In some outdoor areas, a Schefflera is called an Octopus Tree because it produces impressive, tentacle like flowers.
Schefflera Description and Varieties
The Schefflera actinophylla, sometimes referred to as Brassaia actinophylla, is the most popular large schefflera used as a houseplant. Each leaf grows at the end of a long stem and consists of several smaller leaflets. As the plant matures, the number of long, leathery, glossy, oval leaflets increases from 4 – 6 to 12 -16. The plant produces multiple, woody trunks and may grow as tall as 10-12 ft. Indoors, a schefflera rarely produces any flowers.
The newer Schefflera Amate, which is grown from a tissue culture, has larger glossier leaves, requires less light, is more resistant to spider mites, has a better developed root system, and is very symmetrical and full. A Schefflera Amate is a little more expensive than a regular schefflera, but well worth the extra cost.
The Hawaiian Schefflera, S. Arboricola, sometimes referred to as a “dwarf” schefflera, is a much shorter, bushier, compact variety with 1”- 2” leaflets.
Quick Care Tips for a Schefflera
Prefers bright light but no direct sun
Green leaves drop off and new growth turns black from too much water
Leaves turn yellow from not enough water
Prefers warm temperatures between 65°-80°F (18.3°-26.7°C)
Propagate using stem tips cuttings during the summer
Big dark brown and black spots on the leaves – Leaf Spot Disease
Tiny hard, light brown bumps and sticky residue on leaves – indicates a Scale plant pest problem
Fine webbing and pale leaf color – Spider mites pest infestation
Light green rather than dark green leaves – plant needs more fertilizer
A Schefflera does well in medium light, but grows faster and develops more leaves in bright, indirect light. The Schefflera Amate variety needs less light than a regular Schefflera plant.
Allow the top 25-30% of the soil to dry out before watering. Green leaves drop off and new growth turns black when a Schefflera is over-watered. Yellow leaves indicate the plant needs more water.
Fertilize a Schefflera monthly during the spring and summer, when it is actively growing, with a balanced plant food diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength. During the fall and winter feed every other month when the plant is producing new leaves.
A Schefflera prefers temperatures between 65°-80°F ( 18.3°-26.7°C). They do not do well in temperatures below 55°F (12.8°C). Keep the plant away from cold drafts and heaters.
A Schefflera grows well in basic household humidity or higher. If the air is very dry, place your plant on a tray of small pebbles and water. Be sure the plant is sitting on the pebbles and not in the water.
An indoor Schefflera rarely flowers.
Spider mites, mealy bugs, aphids, scale, and fungus gnats an be a problem for a schefflera plant. Insect prevention is always easier than treatment, so examine the leaves of your schefflera time you water.
Leaf spot disease and powdery mildew may develop if the leaves stay wet. Read more about these plant diseases in the Glossary of the website.
A Schefflera prefers a well-aerated, fast-draining, indoor potting soil. Replace 1/3 of the soil with fresh soil every two years.
Schefflera plants can be purchased in 4″-14″ pots. When the roots have filled the pot, move the plant to the next size container and nothing larger. There must be drip holes in the bottom of the pot so excess water can drain out.
If a Schefflera loses its bottom leaves or becomes leggy, don’t be afraid to aggressively prune the plant. When cutting back the thick stems or trunks, make the cut a little above a plant node. New growth will develop from these plant nodes.
Use stem tip cuttings, in the spring, to propagate a Schefflera.
Poisonous Plant Info
A Schefflera plant is a slightly poisonous houseplant with a level #1 toxicity. It is toxic to cats, dogs, and small children.
A Schefflera plant becomes tall, thin, and spindly when there isn’t enough light and the plant is reaching for whatever light is available. The light green instead of the usual dark green glossy leaves indicates the plant probably needs more fertilizer. I’d aggressively prune the plant and move it to a brighter location. Once new leaves start to develop, feed it monthly with a basic houseplant food at ½ the recommended strength. If it’s not putting out new leaves, don’t fertilize.
Your Schefflera plant is over- watered and has probably suffered some root damage. Carefully take the plant out of its pot and replace the current wet soil with a well-aerated quick draining soil. Put your Schefflera plant in bright indirect light and don’t water for several weeks. After that, only water your Schefflera plant when the top 25-30% of the soil is dry.
The black and brown spots on the leaves of your schefflera plant are a form of Leaf Spot Disease. Cut off the diseased leaves and move the plant away from your other plants to prevent the Leaf Spot Disease from spreading. Keep the schefflera plant leaves dry, provide good air circulation around the plant, and cut back on your watering. If the disease doesn’t clear up you may have to purchase a commercial Fungicide or try the homemade remedy of putting a tablespoon or two of baking soda and a teaspoon or two of mineral oil in a spray bottle of water. Shake the solution well and spray all areas of the plant.
The “sticky stuff” is referred to as honeydew and it attracts the dark powdery residue called sooty mold. These two things usually indicate that your schefflera has an aphid or scale infestation. Spray the entire plant with the green solution (recipe in the Glossary) or Neem Oil every 10 days for a month. Be sure to concentrate on the new growth.
Webbing and pale spots usually mean your schefflera plant has a spider mite problem. Spray all parts of your schefflera plant with the green solution (recipe in the Glossary) and repeat the spraying every 10 days for a month. If that doesn’t get rid of the mites, you may have to buy a commercial mitacide. Spider mites appear when the air is very dry. Try putting a small humidifier near your plant or grouping plants together to increase the humidity in the area.