Dwarf Umbrella Tree Care – Growing Schefflera Arboricola

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 NameSchefflera arboricola
FamilyAraliaceae
OriginAustralia, taiwan
HeightUp to 50 feet
LightDirect sun
WaterLight-medium
Temperature60-70°F
HumidityMedium-high
SoilStandard potting soil or compost.
FertilizerAverage, every few weeks
PropagationDifficult, remove the growing tips in spring
PestsRed 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.

Light

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.​

Water

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.​

Soil

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

Fertilizer

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.​

Repotting

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​

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.​

Propagation

Umbrella trees can be propagated via seeds, cuttings, or by air layering. It's one of the harder plants to propagate, however.

Cuttings​

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.

Air Layering​

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.​

From Seed​

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.​

Problems

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!

Pests

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.​

Diseases

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.​

FAQs​

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.

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  • Ri Ko

    Hi I live in Canada .My tree is blooming for second year . It had about 20 blooms ,now they’ve turned to yellow beries. In the summer I keep it outside and in the winter inside

  • JaymiC

    Ive had my tree for a while, no blooming but its indoor, will it ever do that? and can i make the leaves stronger so they dont fall off

  • Thomas Patrick Piedmont

    I own one of these plants, that I purchased at Home Depot near Dunellen NJ. It is easy to grow, can be grown as a bonsai if you like.

  • Nancy

    I have a couple of several year old Umbrella trees (scheffelerias) that have lost all of its lower leaves and they have no branchs- just leaves off the trunck. Is there a way to may the lower buds develop into branches? They are both 4-6 Feet. they get new leaves at the top but look very “naked below”.

  • Alix

    My aunt gave me this plant as a graduation present and I am horrible with plants anyway I over watered the plant and it is dying how can I save it?

  • Samantha Durrant

    I have just been given one of these plants from my friend who has no luck with plants at all. half of it has died, some of the leaves have wilted and drooped, when i took the plant out of its out pot, it was sodden, it looks like it has been over watered. I have taken off the dead leaves, but left on the wilting ones, once the plant has dried out, will these leaves pick up again?.. i have given it a good position in the home..

  • arlene

    i have an umbrella plant im not sure what kind it is large i have had this plant for at least 10 years my plant has nrver had flowers on it half the time i forget to water it it grows like crazy regardless of how i care fof it it also has long narrow root like stems what are they it is dark green how do i care for it what can you tell me about it thank you

  • CoCo

    Alix the only way I know to try to save a plant that has been over watered is to repot it, or at least take it out of the pot and add new soil.

    If it’s a big umbrella tree it might not be easy. If it’s had too much water, some of the roots are most likely rotted and decayed. If these aren’t removed it will cause the other roots to rot as well. I would take it out of the soil and remove as much of the dirt as I could from around the roots. Check all the roots and remove any that are mushy and decaying.

    It probably wouldn’t hurt to leave the tree out of dirt for a few hours and let the roots get some air to let them dry out a little. If you do want to go ahead and repot it, I’d wait a few days before I watered it again.

    A lot of times even when the soil is really dry, the soil that is clumped around the roots is still wet. It’s like when you have one potato in the bag that’s started rotting, if you leave it in there all the potatoes around will soon start to rot. Hope this helps.

  • albina anne

    hi .I have my tree Dwarf Umbrella Tree .Its very small about 8 inches tall.It s so nice .The leaves are very nice dark green and it has alot of light but i give it no direct sun.I water it only once every 2 weeks and i only put 6 onces of water every 2 weeks….I have a passion for plants .My umbrella tree is so nice i hope it stays like that.In a few weeks ill let you know ,how its turning out .But for now its a baby .I only have it for about 3 weeks .But if it continues to grow like that .Ill be very happy

  • Jackie

    I have had my dwarf umbrella tree for three and a half years. It was given to me when my first son was born. It was doing really well, then I repotted it and ever sence then it has been dying. The trunks are turning brown and shrivling up. I don’t know what i have done to it or how to save it. I would love any advise any one can give me.

  • arlene

    to jackie about your tree if i were you i would replant it in all new soil and give it less water trie to find potting soil for that kind of tree from a nursey

  • erica g.

    well i had jus bought this tree and i am worried bout having little bugs in my house from the tree.. does this happen often???

  • Heather

    I’m seriously confused as to the toxicity of the Umbrella tree. I want to get 2 to place in my bedroom, but I have cats and the ASPCA lists Schefflera as toxic to them. However, some other sources indicate that Arboricola or the Umbrella plant is NOT toxic to dogs or cats! Can someone please help me out so that I don’t go buying a plant that will make my kitties sick?!?!? Thanks.

    • Robin

      i would call your vet and ask them they should be able to research from the correct sources .

  • Debbie – Namibia

    I have a dwarf umbrella tree for a few years now. It is quite healthy and in indirect sunlight indoors. A few months ago I noticed it leaves seemed to be sweating a type of sticky clear type of resin which then leaves the table where it stands on all sticky. I washed the plant off with water and it was alright for a few months and the leaves (although healthy) have now again started weeping the watery looking sticky type of resin. does anyone have an idea what this is?

  • Where I live we have an umbrella plant and it is starting to show nasty sap on the leaves. Please does any body no any thing about these plants. I have tried everything and can not figure it out . Please help me.

  • Chris

    Hi there,
    I found a parasol plant in the street a month or so ago and immediately took it home to ‘save’ it; it’s about 5′ tall with a fair amount of growth at the top. I repotted it in fresh compost in a pot with good drainage and it stands in a well-lit room out of direct light. I assume as it was dumped in the road whoever owned it previously realised it wasn’t well but I’d hoped a new home and fresh soil would help. However, the leaves have begun to turn yellow and brown and many of them have developed brown lines as though something is chewing away at them. However are no signs of infestation that I can see.
    It makes me very sad that it’s dying, any advice gratefully accepted!

  • arlene

    an umbrella tree ; needs a lot of direct light .if the leaves are turning brown it is getting to much water. i put my plant on my patio all summer ;bring it in side in the winter and put it in front of my patio window for direct light i do not water it all winter as it gets enough water from rain in the summer . ive had mine for a good ten years.

  • JJ

    I have a healthy umbrella tree that is very tall 5+’ . . .this afternoon my 2 1/2 year old took all the leaves off while I thought she was napping ( oh the bittersweet risk of taking a nap while you’re child is “napping”). . .anyway. . .I was curious to know if you think it will grow them back if I continue to care for it well. . .???? Should I cut it down? Or should i just cut my losses??? Any advice would be great THanks!

  • Carol Kroeger

    I have an umbrella plant that is 22 years old & still looks great.

  • Shibibi

    I never knew mine was a Dwarf until I read this article while researching different trees with my son for a grade Six science assignment. My umbrella tree was inherited from my late Grandmother in 1989 and while it does get forgotten at times (and not watered) it still grows and looks lush and beautiful! Also I don’t believe it to be poisonous as I know my dogs have eaten the leaves and they are fine. The weight of the branches can be challenging as it pulls the whole tree over so pruning is a must! But overall, it is gorgeous and easy to care for. I hope to see it live on many more years.