Plant care and cultivation

How to Care for a Schefflera Plant (Umbrella Tree) Indoors?

María Belén Acosta
By María Belén Acosta, Landscape and Horticultural Technician. July 4, 2024
How to Care for a Schefflera Plant (Umbrella Tree) Indoors?

This versatile plant is a favorite for both beginners and experienced plant owner. It is known by its stunning glossy leaves, air-purifying properties and low-maintenance needs. Whether you're a new plant parent or short on time, the Schefflera can thrive in your home.

In this article by thedailyECO, we'll uncover everything you need to know to care for a Schefflera plant (Umbrella Tree) indoors.

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  1. What are the characteristics of a Schefflera?
  2. Where to put schefflera plant?
  3. How often should a Schefflera be watered?
  4. What kind of soil does Schefflera need?
  5. What is the best fertilizer for Schefflera plants?
  6. When to trim Schefflera?
  7. How do you multiply Schefflera?

What are the characteristics of a Schefflera?

Schefflera arboricola, commonly known as schefflera or umbrella tree, is a tropical plant native to Australia. It is characterized by its glossy, decorative leaves that can be solid green or variegated, depending on the variety. Interestingly, schefflera typically grows with a single main stem and branches out as it matures, creating a tree-like form.

In optimal conditions, schefflera can grow to heights exceeding 8 feet (2 meters), but when cultivated indoors in pots, it typically remains more compact and manageable. There is also a smaller variety known as Schefflera arboricola 'Yanini' or mini schefflera.

One of the notable attributes of schefflera is its ability to act as a natural air filter, purifying indoor air by removing harmful elements. This quality has earned it recognition as one of NASA's recommended plants for improving indoor air quality.

The popularity of Schefflera as indoor décor extends beyond its visual appeal. Schefflera is known for its low maintenance requirements. It tolerates lower light conditions and infrequent watering, making it a suitable choice for busy individuals or those new to caring for houseplants.

How to Care for a Schefflera Plant (Umbrella Tree) Indoors? - What are the characteristics of a Schefflera?

Where to put schefflera plant?

Proper placement is crucial for schefflera, much like many tropical plants. Depending on your climate:

  • In temperate and cold regions, schefflera thrives indoors.
  • In warmer or tropical climates, it can flourish outdoors.

Schefflera prefers bright, indirect sunlight. A spot near an east or west-facing window (with some sheer curtains for filtering) is ideal. It can tolerate lower light conditions, but growth might be slower. Avoid placing it in a completely dark corner. If your schefflera sheds leaves, it likely needs more light. It is also advisable to regularly rotate your Schefflera to ensure even growth on all sides.

Maintaining a consistent temperature around 21°C year-round is ideal, though it can tolerate temperatures between 15°C and 25°C (60-75 degrees Fahrenheit). Avoid placing it near drafts, both indoors and outdoors, as they can quickly dry out the plant.

Finally, Schefflera enjoys moderate humidity levels (around 40-50%). If your home has dry air, consider using a pebble tray (tray with pebbles and water), misting the plant occasionally (avoid over-misting), or grouping it with other humidity-loving plants. Grouping your Schefflera with other humidity-loving plants can help create a more humid environment collectively.

Curious about the difference between compost and fertilizer? We explain it all in another article.

How to Care for a Schefflera Plant (Umbrella Tree) Indoors? - Where to put schefflera plant?

How often should a Schefflera be watered?

Schefflera care requires a delicate balance when it comes to watering and humidity. While they dislike soggy soil and overwatering, they also prefer consistent moisture in the air. There's no one-size-fits-all answer to how often you should water a Schefflera because factors like pot size, climate, and sunlight exposure can all influence its watering needs.

You might need to water your Schefflera once every 7-10 days, depending on the factors mentioned above.

The key is to water sparingly. Scheffleras are more tolerant of underwatering than being constantly wet. Before watering, remember to always check the soil's moisture level. Insert your finger or a stick a few inches deep. If it feels moist or soil sticks to it, hold off on watering.

Furthermore, you can mist the leaves daily with filtered or lukewarm water. However, be mindful of over-misting, which can encourage fungal diseases.

How to Care for a Schefflera Plant (Umbrella Tree) Indoors? - How often should a Schefflera be watered?

What kind of soil does Schefflera need?

The key to cultivating schefflera successfully lies in using a light substrate that is rich in nutrients. A recommended approach is to use a universal mixture consisting of equal parts peat, coconut fiber, and worm castings. The potting mix shouldn't be too dense or compact. Air pockets are important for healthy root development.

Adding a handful of vermiculite and perlite further enhances the substrate's water retention capabilities while ensuring excellent drainage for the plant. A good Schefflera mix should have a loamy texture. This means it's a combination of sand, silt, and clay particles, offering good drainage while still holding some moisture.

Ensure your chosen pot has drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water to escape. Never let your Schefflera sit in waterlogged soil.

Repot your Schefflera every 1-2 years with fresh potting mix to replenish nutrients and ensure proper drainage as the old mix might compact over time.

How to Care for a Schefflera Plant (Umbrella Tree) Indoors? - What kind of soil does Schefflera need?

What is the best fertilizer for Schefflera plants?

Schefflera plants aren't heavy feeders and don't necessarily require frequent fertilization. If your Schefflera has pale leaves or stunted growth, it might be a sign of nutrient deficiency. However, these symptoms can also be caused by other factors like underwatering or incorrect lighting. It's always best to diagnose the problem before resorting to fertilization.

For optimal care of your schefflera plant, consider adding one to two centimeters of organic fertilizer, such as compost or worm castings, to the base of the pot one to two times a month during the warm season. This practice will ensure that your schefflera receives essential nutrients for healthy growth.

You can alternatively use a liquid fertilizer specifically designed for green plants. You can dilute it to a half-strength solution and apply it during watering every 2-3 weeks during the growing season (spring and summer). Avoid using liquid fertilizer during winter when the plant is less actively growing.

Also, slow-release pellets provide a steady dose of nutrients over time, reducing the risk of over-fertilization. This can be a convenient option, especially for forgetful plant owners.

As a general rule, it's better to under-fertilize than over-fertilize a Schefflera. Over-fertilization can lead to problems like leaf scorch and salt buildup in the soil.

When to trim Schefflera?

While Schefflera can be trimmed year-round, the best timing depends on your desired outcome:

  • For extensive pruning: Spring and summer are ideal. During these active growth seasons, Schefflera recovers faster from pruning cuts, allowing you to shape it more dramatically. If you need to control the size or shape of the schefflera, you can trim back branches to the desired length or shape to encourage bushier growth.

  • For light trimming: Fall and winter are suitable for minor maintenance trims. However, avoid heavy pruning during these dormant or slower growth periods unless absolutely necessary. The plant's slower recovery might lead to weaker growth or stress.

It is advisable to regularly remove any dead, yellowing, or damaged leaves throughout the year to maintain the plant's appearance and health.

Finally, make sure to always use clean and sharp pruning shears or scissors to make clean cuts without tearing the plant tissue.

How to Care for a Schefflera Plant (Umbrella Tree) Indoors? - When to trim Schefflera?

How do you multiply Schefflera?

There are two main ways to multiply Schefflera: propagation by stem cuttings and air layering.

Propagation by stem cuttings is the most common and easier method for multiplying Schefflera. To do it, simply

  1. Select a healthy, non-flowering stem with at least 2-3 nodes (leaf bumps). Ideally, choose a stem that's not too woody.

  2. Using sharp pruners, cut the stem just below a node at a 45-degree angle. Make a clean cut to promote healthy rooting.

  3. Remove the lower leaves from the cutting, leaving 1-2 sets of leaves at the top. This helps minimize water loss and allows the plant to focus its energy on root development.

  4. Prepare a pot with a well-draining potting mix. Make a hole in the center and insert the stem cutting, ensuring at least one node is buried in the soil.

  5. Water the soil thoroughly and place the pot in a warm, humid location with bright, indirect sunlight. Keep the soil moist but not soggy.

It can take several weeks for roots to develop. Signs of successful rooting include new leaf growth at the top of the cutting.

Propagation by air layering is slightly more complex but can be useful for propagating larger branches. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Select a mature branch that's at least 15 cm (6 inches) long.

  2. About 2.5-5 cm (1-2 inches) below a leaf node, make about 2.5 cm (1-inch) deep cut through the bark partially encircling the branch.

  3. Apply damp sphagnum moss around the wounded area and secure it with plastic wrap and tape, creating a sealed moss pouch.

  4. Keep the sphagnum moss moist by misting it regularly.

It can take several weeks or months for roots to develop within the moss pouch. Once visible roots have developed, cut the branch below the moss pouch. Plant the rooted branch in a pot with fresh potting mix and care for it like a newly propagated Schefflera by stem cutting.

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How to Care for a Schefflera Plant (Umbrella Tree) Indoors?