The umbrella plant is a fantastic houseplant for beginner and experienced gardeners alike.
It has beautiful foliage, making it perfect to use inside the home. It's popular because it's not an picky plant and tolerates some neglect and a variety of growing conditions.
Umbrella Tree Overview
|Common Name(s)||Dwarf umbrella tree, umbrella tree, parasol plant, octopus tree|
|Scientific Name||Schefflera arboricola|
|Height||Up to 50 feet|
|Soil||Standard potting soil or compost.|
|Fertilizer||Average, every few weeks|
|Propagation||Difficult, remove the growing tips in spring|
|Pests||Red spider mits, scale insects|
The umbrella tree plant has long oval-shaped leaves with pointy tips that grow on delicate stems. Each stem tip has 5-9 shiny leaves that are arranged in a circular shape, hence the name!
Types of Umbrella Tree
Schefflera arboricola comes in both a green and a variegated variety.
The solid variety is a dark, lush green color. The variegated variety has green leaves that are tinged with a yellow or creamy white color. Many growers use the variegated variety as a bonsai plant.
The dwarf umbrella tree variety reaches around 4-5 feet tall, but providing it with excellent growing conditions can produce a taller tree. Pruning and trimming are a must if you want to keep your tree at a manageable size and shape.
The flowers appear as long, red spikes from the top of the plant during the summer. Round orange berries appear after the flowers and will turn black as they age. However, it seldom flowers in the home.
Is the Umbrella Tree Toxic?
While many people have no problems at all with skin irritation, some report adverse reactions. You may develop a itchy rash when coming in contact with the sap. In most cases irritated skin doesn't last long.
Ingestion of any part of the plant can cause numbness, tingling in the mouth, vomiting and a lack of coordination. Only in extreme allergic reactions is this serious, if in doubt contact your physician.
The umbrella tree is also slightly toxic for dogs and cats. If you have pets, place your umbrella tree plant in an area of the home that's out of reach for your little creatures.
Umbrella Tree Care
Overall, care of schefflera arboricola is pretty easy. It doesn't need any kind of special care to survive — just the basics will do.
Like many houseplants, umbrella trees prefer bright, indirect light. Placing them in hot, direct sun will cause the leaves to burn. The best position for them is a few feet from a window that gets a good amount of sun.
If your plant gets too little light, it will start to look spindly. You'll know you're not giving it enough light if the leaves begin to droop and turn yellow.
Note: If you are growing the variegated variety of umbrella tree, you'll need to provide it more light than the green variety.
Umbrella trees are drought tolerant and can withstand some neglect when it comes to watering.
The soil should not be kept web and your pot should drain well. Water your plant when the soil is almost dry or you notice that the leaves start to wilt slightly. When watering, use slightly warm water.
If the leaves wrinkle or wilt, your umbrella tree isn't getting enough water. However, if the leaves turn black or fall off, you are watering it too much.
Umbrella trees like a lot of humidity, so mist it with warm water every 1-2 days. To avoid leaving deposits on the leaves, use filtered or distilled water.
Use a general purpose potting soil for dwarf umbrella trees. As long as it drains well but retains water moisture, your plant will be just fine. You can add perlite or coarse sand to the soil to improve aeration.
To make your own soil, mix:
- 1 part perlite or coarse sand
- 1 part humus or moist peat
- 1 part garden soil
- 1 pinch of lime
You can either use a standard liquid houseplant fertilizer or buy one that is customized for foliage plants. The amount of fertilizer your umbrella tree needs is dependent on the growing season and the amount of light it's getting.
During February to October, fertilize 2-4 times a month with a diluted solution of your favorite houseplant fertilizer. You will need to fertilize more often if your plant is root-bound in the pot.
During winter month, you can get away with not fertilizing at all.
Your dwarf umbrella tree will need re-potting every two years. Choose a pot with a heavy base to prevent your more mature tree from tipping over. Also stop fertilizing once you re-pot, because the fertilizer present in the additional soil should suffice.
Pruning your umbrella tree is a must if you want to control its shape. It's a fast grower, so pinching off the tips of the plant will encourage it to grow bushier instead of taller.
If your plant is growing out of control, cut it back heavily. It will send out plenty of new shoots in spring.
Umbrella trees can be propagated via seeds, cuttings, or by air layering. It's one of the harder plants to propagate, however.
Cuttings should be cut off with a sharp knife and placed in a good quality potting soil. Place the pot in a high humidity area that has indirect lighting. To increase humidity, cover the pot with plastic and mist every 1-2 days.
To air-layer, carefully slice off a thin layer of the stem covering on a lower branch. The open area can then be buried under the soil. Once roots develop, remove the stem and place it in another pot.
These trees can be grown from seeds also. Just sow seeds in small containers and lightly cover with soil. Germination usually occurs within 2-3 weeks and plants can be re-potted once well established.
Overall, umbrella trees are hardy and you shouldn't run into too many issues with pests, diseases, or growing problems with this plant. But here are a few to keep a watchful eye for, just in case!
The number one pest affecting dwarf umbrella trees are spider mites. These are a common houseplant pests and are easily identified by the spider webbing on the underside of the leaves.
Spider mites HATE high humidity, and coincidentally your umbrella tree loves it, so misting your plant and keeping it in a higher humidity environment is a good preventative option.
While there are rare diseases than can affect your umbrella tree, the most common ones you will run into are due to over-watering.
Over-watering will cause root and stem rot. You'll know this is happening when the roots and stems feel soft and mushy, or the leaves of your plant turn black and fall off.
Cut away any affected areas and re-pot into fresh, less wet soil. Take care not to over-water in the future and your plant will recover.
Goal: To answer common problems and questions about planting, caring for, harvesting, or storing this plant.
Q. How do I harvest seeds from my umbrella tree?
A. When the red flower spikes change to dark maroon, let them dry completely in the sun. Carefully wash the pods, seeds should fall out if you gently rub the seed pod, once seeds are removed let them dry again.
Q. My umbrella tree is getting too tall, what can I do?
A. It's common for an umbrella tree to get out of control. They grow quickly, but they also recover quickly. If yours is getting out of control and taking up too much space, heavily prune it back. It will start producing plenty of new shoots!
Q. What is the easiest way to propagate umbrella trees?
A. Schefflera arboricola is known as a hard-to-propagate plant, but there is one way that has a high success rate. Take cuttings, place them in high-quality potting soil in pots. Place these pots in trays of water and place the trays in the shade. As long as the water temperature is warm, you'll see new shoots in 2-3 weeks.