Schefflera - Expert Tips
How to care for Schefflera: Expert Tips for Thriving Plants
Schefflera plant is a popular tropical houseplant due to its lush foliage, low maintenance, and adaptability to various conditions. It is known for its cute, almost hand-shaped leaves, which are really special. They are like little umbrellas! That's why they are also known as Umbrella Plants or Umbrella Trees. Their leaf colours can vary from dark green to yellow-green to white-green.
Schefflera is a genus of flowering plants in the family Araliaceae that includes an estimated 600-900 species. Schefflera genus is named after Johann Peter Ernst von Scheffler, a physician and botanist from Gdańsk and later from Warsaw.
Umbrella Plants require very little maintenance, which makes them ideal for beginner plant parents. The most important thing is to choose a spot with adequate light and not to water it too frequently. It also belongs to the group of plants that purify the air. A nice bonus! The plant is known for its cute, almost hand-shaped leaves, which are really special. In this article, we will discuss Schefflera's main care requirements and how to maintain its beauty as a houseplant.
Umbrella Plant Care: 10 expert tips for growing it successfully
- Provide bright, indirect light. Schefflera thrives in filtered sunlight. It's best to avoid too intense sun rays as they can damage its leaves.
- They will tolerate shadier spots well. It may grow slower there (growth may be stagnant, too), and leaves may be smaller.
- Be careful not to overwater. Wait until half of the topsoil or the entire soil has dried before watering it again. Overwatering can lead to root rot very quickly.
- Use well-draining soil. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole and the soil mixture drains well to avoid water accumulation at the bottom.
- Keep the humidity levels moderate. Schefflera prefers a humidity level of around 40-60%.
- Don’t fertilise too much. It should be noted that Schefflera is not a heavy feeder, especially when growing in the shade.
- Keep its leaves clean by wiping them with a damp cloth. Over time, its big lush leaves will collect dust and debris. By cleaning, you will encourage photosynthesis and improve its health overall.
- Avoid sudden temperature changes. Schefflera doesn't like temperature changes, so try to keep the room it is in at a stable temperature.
- Prune regularly to maintain its shape and size. Prune back leggy stems to encourage bushier growth.
- Watch out for pests. Spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects can all attack Schefflera. Inspect the plant regularly and treat any infestations as soon as possible.
Types of Schefflera
The Schefflera genus has many different species, but two are grown mainly as houseplants: Schefflera Arboricola and Schefflera Actinophylla.
Schefflera Arboricola, also called Dwarf Schefflera or Dwarf Umbrella Tree, is most commonly grown as a houseplant. This is due to its compact height and better light tolerance, making it ideal for homes and offices. A native of Taiwan and Hainan, this plant grows in subtropical rainforests. Drawf Umberall Trees have deep green glossy leaves, but some varieties have beautiful variegated leaves, such as ‘Melanie’ and ‘Charlotte’.
The second most popular is Schefflera Actinophylla. It is native to northeastern Australia and the rainforests of New Guinea. Grows up to 15m tall tree. The good news is that you can cut it to a smaller shape and keep it at a moderate height at home. This plant is highly regarded for its large, glossy leaves and attractive growth habit.
Overall, both caring requirements are pretty similar. But when comparing these two, Schefflera Arboricola is pickier when it comes to watering and tolerates low humidity much less. However, it can take shadier conditions much better. Schefflera Actinophylla is more tolerant of dry conditions and can survive without water for a longer period. In addition, it needs more light and can even tolerate direct sun a little.
Schefflera Care Tips
Light and placement for Umbrella Tree
They love lots of filtered light! Schefflera plants are medium-light plants, which means they need bright but indirect light. It would be ideal if you could find a spot near the windows or somewhere else inside the room where the Schefflera is not exposed to direct sunlight. Too much direct sunlight will hurt its leaves.
Umbrella Tree will also tolerate light shade, but in the brighter spot, they will grow stronger, healthier and have a more beautiful shape. Although, they don’t want too shade spots. A common complaint about Schefflera plants is that they quickly become leggy and floppy. This problem is caused by too little light.
Good to know! If it does not receive enough light and you have leggy Schefflera, it may need pruning occasionally to have a bushier shape.
When it's too dark, the Schefflera may grow slower, and the leaves may become smaller and less vibrant in colour. This is especially with variegated Scheffleras, as the plant tries to produce more chlorophyll to compensate for the low light levels. When necessary, use grow lights since they are tolerant of artificial light.
Water Schefflera with care as it is susceptible to overwatering and hates excess water. It is best to wait until the soil in the pot dries out a little. For smaller plants, wait until the top 2-3 cm of soil has dried out; for larger plants, wait until half of the soil has dried out.
To know when it is time to water, stick your finger into the soil and see if it is dry to the touch. You can also use a water meter to measure moisture which is especially worth using for larger plants as the finger only reaches a little deep to measure the moisture.
Good to know! It easily survives when the soil dries out completely and immediately signals this by slightly drooping its leaves. But remember that Dwarf Umbrella Tree is more sensitive to dry soil and can be stressed.
People often overwater their Schefflera plant, and this will cause root rot. Yellow leaves that fall off the plant and brown spots (that are not crispy) signify that you may be giving it too much water. Make sure that you then quickly change your watering schedule. Don’t let it stand in water! Always remove excess water from the pot saucer.
A Schefflera grows best in a warm place. It prefers temperatures between 15 and 24°C, but winter temperatures can range between 13-18°C. Protect your plant from sudden temperature changes, such as cold drafts from open doors and windows.
Is it safe to take it outside in the summer (Europe)?
If you keep your Umbrella Plant in a shaded area, you can take it outside during summer. Additionally, you must protect the plant against strong winds, which can damage the leaves and stems. Remember to take it back inside before nights get chilly!
Ideally, Umbrella Plants grow between 40-60% relative humidity. Their minimum humidity tolerance is around 30%. The leaves may become yellow and crisp in arid environments, and the plant may become stressed. If the humidity is consistently low, it is essential to increase it to maintain the plant's health.
Your Umbrella Tree plants benefit from periodic repotting to provide fresh soil and encourage healthy root growth. These plants typically need to be repotted every 2-3 years or when the roots become pot-bound and start to grow out of the drainage holes in the bottom.
Good to know! Your plant's repotting frequency also depends on where it grows - if it is in a shady spot and will not develop new growth very rapidly, it needs to be replanted much less often.
As it is prone to root rot, always plant Schefflera in a pot with drainage holes!
There are no special soil requirements for them. The most important thing is that it drains well, as they are sensitive to overwatering and excess water. We recommend using PLNTS organic potting soil especially made for a lush houseplant. Schefflera plants prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil pH, between 6.0 and 7.0. This pH range allows the plant to absorb nutrients easily.
Schefflera plants are not heavy feeders, but fertilisation frequency depends on where you grow them. If it is growing in a well-lit spot and rapidly growing new growth, feed it once every two months in the growing season (spring and summer) with liquid fertiliser.
However, if your Schefflera is growing in a shadier spot and its growth is stagnant, it needs much less fertilisation as it will use nutrients from the soil slowly, and over-fertilisation becomes a risk. In the case of over-fertilisation, the soil becomes very acidic, which can burn the roots. So, in this case, fertilise it 1-2 times per year during the growing season.
For best results, use PLNTS Nutrition liquid plant food and dilute it to half the recommended.
Pruning Schefflera plant
Pruning a Schefflera is easy, and they tolerate it very well. Just cut back what you think is overgrown, too leggy and narrow or too long to size or shape you like. Schefflera houseplants recover quickly from pruning and will look even fuller and bushier shortly after pruning. Just remember not to prune more than ⅓ of your plant as more than this can really stress out your Schefflera.
Expert tip! If you prune your Schefflera, make cuts between two leaf nodes, not too close to the nodes. New shoots will emerge from the bottom node.
Pruning can be done at any time of the year, but the best time is during the spring or summer when the plant is actively growing. If you cut a Schefflera with a woody stem, be sure to do it in the spring because they will recover a little longer from that.
Scheffleras can easily be propagated using stem cuttings (there must be a growth node in the cutting), but be prepared that it may take a few tries before you are successful. Spring or early summer is the best time to take a stem cutting.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to propagate Schefflera with stem cuttings:
- Choose a healthy stem at least 15 cm long with several leaves. Cut the stem just below a leaf node (the point where the leaf is attached to the stem). Use a sharp knife or scissors to make the stem cut.
- You can encourage root development by dipping the cuttings in rooting powder.
- Prepare a small pot with well-draining soil and sting a 5 cm hole with a pencil. Then place it in the hole and gently tap the soil around the cutting to hold it in place.
- Water the soil and place the pot in a warm place with constant light, but not in direct sunlight.
- You can cover the container with plastic wrap or a plastic bag to create a humid environment for your stem cutting. Make sure to poke a few holes into plastic to allow air circulation.
- Alternatively, you can root your stem cutting in water. If some roots have developed, plant Schefflera stem cutting into a small pot with well-draining soil. Remember to replace water from time to time as it tends to go soggy very fast.
Most common pests and diseases on Schefflera plants
Schefflera plants do not often suffer from pests or diseases, but it can happen occasionally. Spider mites and mealybugs are the most common pests that affect Schefflera plants. Also, be aware that pests usually attack this plant when it is already a little weaker, so if your Schefflera has pests, this is probably a sign that it is either getting too little light or too much water.
The most common disease that affects Schefflera is root rot. This disease is caused by over-watering and poor drainage in the soil. If you want to be sure which disease or pest is bothering your plant and how you can fix it, visit our PLNTS doctor page.
Are Schefflera plants toxic for pets or children?
Schefflera plants are poisonous to humans and animals if eaten. It is not often fatal but causes a burning sensation, swelling, difficulty in swallowing and, in severe cases, breathing difficulties. So be alert if you have pets or small children that can get close to this plant.
Buy Schefflera online at PLNTS.com
At PLNTS.com you can buy your new Schefflera online, for example the Schefflera Melanie and Schefflera Charlotte. Whether you like your PLNTS big from the start or prefer to grow them from tiny BabyPLNTS into full-grown PLNTS - buy Schefflera online at PLNTS.com