Caring for Schefflera aka Umbrella Plant, Arboricola, Amate
Among the most popular indoor plants, Schefflera are known for their characteristic splayed leaves that resemble a pop up umbrella, earning it the common name of umbrella tree.
Schefflera are very versatile and can often be found shaped into an elegant little bonsai tree. There are variegated (mixed color) varieties, there are large leaf varieties like Amate, and there are smaller leaved varieties like Arboricola.
Schefflera can be an easy plant to care for when placed in a good environment, it is well equipped to tolerate indoor conditions, but can yield mixed different results depending on location and quality of care. Indoor houseplant pests can also be an issue to be reckoned with for Schefflera. A good understanding of the tendencies and preferences of this plant can definitely help to give you the upper hand on maintaining a healthy happy plant.
Native Habitat; Pacific Islands
Finding a Space
When selecting a space for this lush interior foliage plant, it is best to select a spot that provides moderate natural light. Schefflera with its dense foliage needs a significant amount of light to support and maintain all of those leaves.
High light is an option for this plant as well. Be advised that in high light this plant will increase it's water and nutrient usage, and growth will speed up significantly. Attention to periodic pruning will be a necessity in high lighting, and replenishment of nutrient will also be needed to avoid creating a chlorotic plant.
Consistent artificial light is less desirable for Schefflera, since considerably less benefit is delivered to the plant from light sources such as fluorescents. There is often a significant sluffing off of foliage in such situations and the plant can be left with a leggy looking appearance, often desperately reaching for its light source. Though this lighting environment is not ideal it can still work, but expect reaction for some time until the plant stabilizes.
Low light is the is the least desirable situation for Schefflera. In Low light these plants have been known to completely defoliate and ultimately die. An Umbrella tree that begins losing healthy green leaves in mass is most likely signaling that it is not receiving enough light.
Watering Scheff is a simple task if you have been mindful in selecting a space for your plant with good lighting conditions.
In an ideal moderate natural lighting environment, about once a week, your plant will need enough water to moisten the soil through, without excessive water left in the liner. Watering in this manner should allow for the soil to dry out completely in a weeks time before water is reapplied. If the soil is still wet or considerably moist then wait for it to dry out further before watering again. Keeping the soil too moist for too long can cause over watering damage which shows up in Scheff most often as yellow and green mosaic looking leaves that are still well attached.
High light, and or temperatures will increase the productivity of your plant, so in these conditions it is best to water your plant through and leave some excess water in the liner. Allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again.
In lower light conditions, or artificial light conditions, the amount of water should be minimal enough to provide some moisture through the soil. It may also be necessary in such conditions to space watering's out two weeks or more depending, making sure that the soil is allowed to dry out thoroughly between watering's.
Scale and Scheff
Scale is the number one interior plant pest commonly found on Schefflera. The bi-product of Scale referred to as Honey Dew is most often noticed long before the pesky insect itself is detected. Honey Dew is the excrement of the Scale, and is described as looking like sticky dried residue on plant leaves and the surrounding area, similar to what one would see if a soda had been sprayed on something and left to dry. The insect itself looks much like nothing more than a tiny brown bump on the backs of leaves and stems, it can often be mistaken for being part of the plant.
Schefflera should be checked periodically for sign and symptoms of Scale. Treatment can be challenging since schefflera has such dense foliage, it is best to remove as many of the pests as possible by hand wiping. Using a lightly diluted solution of dish soap (1/4 tsp soap to 12 oz water) to both clean, help kill, and coat the leaves of Shefflera is recommended. If the infestation is localized cutting away severely infested areas can be helpful in extinguishing the problem. In sever situations the best choice may be to find systemic pesticide for treating the infestation.
Once lighting and watering have been mastered there are some other things to know, that help to keep your Umbrella tree looking spectacular.
- Regularly remove all dead foliage that has fallen down onto the soil surface. Dead organic material is a primary catalyst in developing a fungus gnat problem, this issue along with over watering are sure to create a fabulous habitat for nasty obnoxious little gnats, so keep the soil clear of debris, you will be happy you did.
- Pruning schefflera from time to time is very healthy. This is a highly active plant so cutting back awkward, leggy, jutting stems back from time to time will keep this plant looking great.
- Remove yellow, or brown leaves. It is natural for highly active densely foliated plants to looses a few leaves here and there, Scheff can be well done by to get a good shake down every now and then releasing and of those dead stragglers that may have gotten trapped inside.
- Rotating this plant just like any other helps to keep an aesthetically pleasing shape, and balanced growth.
Taking into account these tips and techniques will help you to build a healthy long term relationship with your Schefflera.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
I have a formerly beautiful umbrella plant in a 6" pot. The first week I brought it home, it started losing leaves. I've tried varying the amount of water it gets and also the amount of light it gets. At first, whole stems were turning dark and dropping (along with leaves). Now there are drooping stems that eventually fall off. To date, the plant has thinned out by about 40%. What can I do?
Schefflera are notorious for dramatic defoliation when being moved, and when they are in too low of light. It would be my guess that you are primarily witnessing acclimation to a new environment. If trying to mitigate the damage I would lean toward increasing the amount of beneficial light the plant is receiving throughout the day.Helpful 3
Why are the leaves and stems on my umbrella plant turning black?
Black or purple leaves or plant stems usually indicate cold damage. Sometimes overwatering, and high humidity can cause mold, mildew, and rot issues that can cause a plant to turn black as well.Helpful 13
When should I repot the umbrella plant?
Repot if the plant has outgrown its pot or is unstable otherwise it is probably not worth the stress risk that can be created by repoting. Active growing season is the best time of year which is Spring & early summer in most places.Helpful 12
Can I cut a stem of my umbrella tree and replant it straight in fresh soil or should I put it in water until it re-roots and THEN plant it in soil?
It is best to re-root a Schefflera stem before trying to plant a cutting directly into the soil.Helpful 10
Why are a lot of leaves falling off? The plant no longer looks full.
If the leaves are green that have fallen the two most likely causes are too little light or too much water. If the leaves are yellow or brown that are falling then too little water is likely the problem.Helpful 7