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 lightVery few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. High light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages Spider Mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn't provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 ft. of a south facing window. A high light area has over 300 ft. candles of 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 DiseaseHow to identify and treat Leaf Spot plant disease. See a picture of Leaf Spot disease and learn how to prevent leaf spot disease from attacking your plants.
Tiny hard, light brown bumps and sticky residue on leaves – indicates a scaleSoft Brown Scale plant pests are the most common scale that attack indoor houseplants, especially ficus tress, various ivy varieties, spider plants, ferns, aralia, and schefflera. The scale plant pests appear as small, bumpy, brown spots that may appear to move. As the scale plant pest sucks on the sap of the plant, it secretes a sticky substance called "honeydew." The honeydew attracts black mildew. Because of the shell-like exterior, sprays are only partially effective against scale. Wipe off the lines of brown oval bumps with your finger, a cloth, or a child’s toothbrush then spray the plant with Neem Oil or a houseplant insecticide. You can use the non-toxic, easily made Green Solution to clean off the black mildew. plant pest problem
Fine webbing and pale leaf color – Spider mites pest infestation
Light green rather than dark green leaves – plant needs more fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small.
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.