The Umbrella plant, Schefflera Arboricola, also known as the Dwarf umbrella tree is a popular indoor plant due to its ease of care and attractive appearance.
Grown indoors the Schefflera Arboricola can be kept to a manageable size of 4 – 8ft tall, and the good news is they respond well to basic indoor conditions.
Umbrella Plant Care
|Temperature:||Grows well in average room temperatures between 60 – 75 °F (15 – 24°C) but no lower than 55F (13C) or higher than 75°F (24°C). Avoid sudden temperature drops and cold drafts.|
|Light:||Average humidity levels indoors are usually fine. If the air is dry in the room, creates high humidity levels.|
|Watering:||The best advice is to water once the topsoil becomes dry. Over-watering is more of a common problem than a lack of water.|
|Soil:||A peat moss-based potting soil with 2 parts peat moss and 1 part perlite is suggested.|
|Re-Potting:||You will need to re-pot the plant once every 2 years and provide a new potting mix, during spring. To be on the safe side – hold off feeding for one month because enough nutrients should be present in the new potting soil. A good solid and heavy container is needed to prevent tall and mature trees from toppling over.|
|Fertilizer:||I would not go over the top with feeding this plant and just use a diluted fertilizer once a month from spring – to fall.|
|Humidity:||Average humidity levels indoors are usually fine. If the air is dry in the room, create high humidity levels through misting or a pebble tray.|
|Propagation:||These are quite tricky to propagate, which is done by taking 4 – 6 inch stem cuttings, during spring. Do the usual stem-cutting process remove all leaves apart from one set and make sure a node is available which new growth will sprout from. You’ll need to use rooting hormone on the cut to be placed in the potting soil and pot the cutting in a container that can have a plastic sheet placed over the top (usually with elastic bands holding the plastic on) or use a propagator. These need to be kept at temperatures between 65 – 75 °F (18 – 24°C and be provided with bottom heat to improve your chances of success. Make sure you do not over-water the soil, which can begin rotting the cutting, and wait until you see plenty of new growth before beginning to provide basic care conditions.|
|Pruning:||The umbrella tree is a fast-growing species that will need pruning back. If a tree becomes leggy or you want to encourage a bushy appearance to grow, pinch growing tips. You’ll find you can pretty much cut back as much as you like with this plant and it will bring new growth back, during spring.|
Umbrella Tree Description
The umbrella plant is a multi-trunk tree that can grow over 15 meters tall outdoors and has to be pruned and topped at some point to keep its size manageable within a home. There is also a dwarf schefflera variety if you need something smaller. Its close relative, Schefflera Actinophylla, has to be carefully planted because of its invasive nature and is seen as a weed in certain places.
You will find three main varieties available including variegated (Gold Capella), plain dark green-leafed, and dwarf-sized trees just named Schefflera plants, and umbrella plants on sale in garden stores). They are also grown as bonsai trees. If you want to purchase a plant but your unsure of whether it’s a Schefflera Arboricola or Schefflera Actinophylla and it’s just named Schefflera; there are some slight differences, although schefflera care conditions needed are the same – so I would suggest you buy it if you like it.
How they look
They can grow with one trunk, but most likely with two or more and multiple branches displaying palmate compound or whorled leaves (like fingers coming from the stalk) with four to twelve leaflets or more, giving it an umbrella spoke appearance. The glossy leaflets are near oval-shaped, a few inches long, and a couple of inches wide (depending on the age and size of the tree).
Grown in warmer climates outdoors – the umbrella plant produces bright small red flowers like tentacles growing above the foliage on long stems (it’s where it gets the common name octopus tree). Unfortunately, we’re not able to get these in flower when grown indoors.
The umbrella tree is a mildly toxic plant when ingested by cats or dogs and causes them to become unwell.
Level of Care
Basic schefflera care and maintenance will keep this plant looking healthy and living a long long life indoors. It’s a plant which less is more, concerning watering and feeding – too much of these will cause plant problems. When a tree matures it’s likely to need to be supported with a stake or a moss stick (if it has matured enough and produces aerial roots) unless it’s pruned down and pinched. A little bit too much or too little water, heat, cold, or dryness won’t cause any serious issues.
Umbrella Plant Facts
|Names:||Umbrella Plant, Queensland Umbrella Tree, Octopus Tree, Gold Capella (common). Schefflera Arboricolum, Heptapleurum Arboricolum (botanical/scientific).|
|Max Growth (approx):||Height 10ft tall or more.|
|Poisonous for pets:||Toxic to cats and dogs.|
- Leaves turning yellow and losing leaves: An umbrella plant will naturally lose its lower leaves to encourage new growth. If it’s losing a lot of upper leaves it could be any one of many conditions causing a problem, such as over-watering (most common), under-watering, too much heat, sudden temperature drops, or lack of light. You will need to go through a process of eliminating what you are doing correctly that could be a cause and then apply the above care instructions for what is conditions are not provided.
- Leaves and stems turning brown (not as common): The most likely cause of the common problem is over-watering if the leaves or stems are soft. Check the roots to see if any root rot has set in and take remedial action. The tree will need all affected leaves, stalks, and root sections removed before re-potting to try and save the plant from dying.
- Pests: Spider mites are a common threat to this plant and become more present in dry air conditions. Check for spider webbing under leaves at times and take remedial action straight away if needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes – like other houseplants, it successfully removes toxins and pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde, and toluene from the air.
If ingested, the plant is toxic to both pets and humans. It can cause heart, respiratory, and gastrointestinal problems, however, simply handling the tree should be fine without the use of gloves.
There are six types of umbrella plants – the standard umbrella tree, the umbrella papyrus, the Indian rhubarb, the Harper’s umbrella plant, the umbrella leaf, and the American Mayapple.
It prefers temperatures between 55-75°F, so indoor room temperatures should do just fine.
Watch out for spider mites. These are the most common pests that cause issues with the umbrella plant. This is more likely to be an issue in dry conditions, so make sure the air is humid and you’re checking for spider webs under the leaves. A simple wipe with rubbing alcohol should get rid of spider mites and lightly misting the leaves could help prevent them in the future.
The umbrella tree is aptly named, with its ovular foliage grouping together to create an umbrella-like image. This plant is much like the bonsai tree varieties, growing between 4ft and 8ft high. This is a manageable size for most homes, just make sure it has plenty of space to grow into.
The umbrella tree is a great houseplant considering its adaptability to indoor conditions. It originates from Taiwan but grows well in room temperatures – somewhere between 60°F and 75°F does the trick! You may be tempted to place this tree in a hallway or entrance, but this plant is sensitive to temperature changes, so next to any door or draughty window isn’t the best option.
Avoid direct sunlight with the umbrella tree but place it in an area with bright indirect light. It can tolerate low light conditions, but this may result in stunted growth. If the leaves on your umbrella tree are yellowing, it could be a sign that you need to move your plant into an area with more bright light. But if the leaves are falling off or browning, you could be exposing them to too much light.
For maximum growth, use a standard diluted fertilizer once a month during the summer. This plant really doesn’t need much more help growing, so go easy on the fertilizer.
Water your umbrella plant thoroughly when the soil dries out. Less is more with the umbrella plant, so if you’re unsure, cut back on the water. Make sure to replace the excess water in the saucer that has drained out over the week, sitting in water can be harmful to this plant.
If the leaves of your umbrella plant are wilting or curling, it could be a sign that you’re overwatering your plant. This can lead to root rot and soil mold, which is difficult to recover from.
Elyssa Goins is an experienced house plant hobbyist who maintains over a hundred plants. She is a gardener, beekeeper, and a proud mother of four. She is a member of the American Horticultural Society, has been published in a Scientific Journal, and loves to talk about her love of plants. For the past twenty years, she’s been all about growing and caring for various fruits, veggies, herbs, livestock, kids, and houseplants. Managing a big garden to feed four growing kids and raising dairy goats has taught her so much about being an excellent plant parent and now is her time to share with you.