Umbrella Plant: Care & Pruning Tips
The dwarf umbrella tree, Schefflera arboricola, is an evergreen shrub native to Southeast Asia. It's popularity as a houseplant and in landscaping in tropical climates is augmented by its tolerance of unfavorable conditions, including lack of water and sunlight.
It can grow to around five feet in height, but with proper trimming and care, can remain small in size and be a wonder bonsai plant. Their leaves of can come in two different colors: solid green or a variegated variety, with yellow or white patches on the leaves. The variegated type is the most popular for bonsai.
How to Care for Your Dwarf Umbrella Plant
Despite their natural hardiness, umbrella plants will die just like any other houseplant if neglected.
These plants favor moist soil but will not do well if their soil is routinely oversaturated. Wilting leaves are an obvious sign that the plant requires watering, but if the leaves begin to turn different colors and drop, the plant is getting too much water.
- Test your soil by digging a small hole about the length of your index finger in the soil about four inches away from the base of the plant.
- If the soil is damp in the bottom of the hole but not at the top, water evenly within the next few days.
- Water more frequently in spring and summer, but scale back your watering during the plants’ dormant season in winter.
- It is also a good idea to mist your plant regularly with distilled or filtered water if you live in a dryer climate as they prefer more humid and moist conditions.
They do not require any special soil and can be potted with any standard quality potting mix.
- Pot your umbrella tree in a container with a drainage hole at the bottom and line the bottom with rocks or a mixture of peat and sand to help aid with drainage of excess water.
- Blooming starts from early to late summer, its most active growing phase during that time. If it is not placed near a source of bright sunlight for the majority of the day, you can fertilize it with high-quality liquid fertilizer—once a week throughout the growing period.
They are light lovers and prefer bright lights, but as with many plants, can suffer from heat damage and dehydration in direct, hot light. Luckily, they are very adaptive to different light sources and will thrive in a variety of light levels if allowed time to adjust. It can be stressful for the plant if it is suddenly placed in a different environment without being allowed sufficient time to adapt.
They normally remain in good health but are also prone to infestations of mites, mealy bugs, and other insects. If you discover spotting on the underside of the leaves, or other signs of infestations, spray with any common pesticide as directed.
Umbrella plants need little pruning if allowed to grow to full-size, aside from the regular removal of dead stalks and leaves. If you are growing outdoors, it can be easily pruned to a desired size with shears.
However, if you are growing as a bonsai, they are among the easiest plants to use for those just beginning the art. You will just need to be aware of how to properly prune your plant.
Converting a full-grown umbrella plant to a bonsai will take large quantities of time and can be stressful on the plant. It is recommended you start with a young, small plant.
Pruning is used as a tool to encourage heavy branching of the plant, so you should prune your plant around areas where you want thicker foliage, and trim to shape as desired. It is somewhat difficult to prune the umbrella plant into traditional bonsai shapes, but it is easy to trim and preserve at a miniature size.
It is important to note that the umbrella plant is poisonous if ingested, so you should take care to keep all trimmings, seeds, and fallen leaves away from pets and small children.