Umbrella Trees

Schefflera arboricola (sometimes referred to as 'Heptapleurum arboricola')


  1. Top Tips
  2. Location, Water, Humidity & Fertilisation
  3. Common Issues
  4. Origins, Temperature, Propagation, Repotting & Toxicity.

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Top Tips & Info

  • Care Difficulty - Moderate
  • Provide a few hours of morning or evening sun per day, especially during the winter months. Rapid lower-leaf drop or variegation loss are caused by low light.
  • Allow the top third of the soil to dry out in between waters, reducing this further during the autumn and winter.
  • Fertilise using a 'Houseplant' labelled feed every four waters in the spring and summer, reducing this to every sixth water in the colder months.
  • Repot every three years using a well-draining potting mix and the next sized pot; a 'Houseplant' labelled potting mix is best.
  • Keep an eye out for Mealybugs and Scale that’ll sit in the cubbyholes of the plant. 

Location & Light - 🔸🔸🔸

A position that offers a splash of morning or evening sun is best, especially during the autumn and winter months. Avoid more than three hours of direct sunlight a day during the summer, as this will lead to dehydration and sun-scorch. Rapid leaf loss will occur to plants that are placed in too dark locations - if it's too difficult to read a book, it'll be too dark for the plant, too!

Water - 🔸🔸

During the spring and summer, maintain good soil moisture by only allowing the top third to dry out in between irrigations - reduce this further during the colder months for the replication of its dormancy period. Umbrella Trees situated in darker locations must be watered far less than those located in brighter ones for the prevention of root rot. Under-watering symptoms include stunted growth, dry spots appearing on the leaves and yellowing older leaves; these issues are either down to an over-crowded pot, too little light, or forgetfulness. Over-watering symptoms include yellowing lower leaves, brown mushy patches developing in the stems, and root rot. For the latter, take the plant out of its pot and investigate the health below the soil line. If there are visible signs of rot, click on this link to learn about the recommended steps to eradicate this problem.

Humidity - 🔸

Low humidity won't affect an Umbrella Tree too much, as long as you occasionally mist the foliage whilst the radiators are operating. A gentle hose-down once a month will help with the hydration of leaves, but will also wash off any excess dust and pests.

Fertilisation - 🔸🔸

Supplement every four waters during the growing period, reducing this to every six weeks in the autumn and winter. Never use a 'ready to pour' fertiliser into the soil without a pre-water beforehand as it'll quickly lead to root-burn. It's recommended to use a 'Houseplant' labelled product as it'll provide a good blend of the thirteen essential nutrients for quality growth.

If you're forgetful with watering or battling with dry air, why not fill the decorative pot's bottom sixth with small grit? This will promote more reliable soil moisture that'll help encourage better growth & all-round health as the excess moisture will drain from the plant's plastic pot, thus creating a humid environment for root interaction. 

Common Issues with Umbrella Trees

Continual lower leaf loss is a significant issue among gardeners. This unfortunate phenomenon is caused by dark locations and will continue to occur until it is relocated. Introduce the plant to a more well-lit location with a splash of off-peak sunlight; if caught in time, the leaf loss should stop within a few days.

Black/dried juvenile leaves at the top of the stems are the result of under-watering. Sit the plant in a bucket/large container of water to allow the rootball to become thoroughly soaked. After 15 minutes, take the plant and repot it into the next sized pot with a 'Houseplant' labelled potting mix. Wait a day before watering the plant to settle it into its new home. This will wrap the rootball in a cushion of moist soil to provide a more consistent environment for your Umbrella Tree to grow in.  

Low light may also cause new growth to develop with an absence of variegations. If you're not overly bothered about this texture, keep the plant where it is, or relocate it to a brighter location.

Pest damage and Umbrella Trees go hand in hand. Check the leaves' undersides and along the central archways (midrib) for possible infestations of Scale. Along with the brown ovular shells, they'll produce a shiny sticky substance that'll develop on the top sides of the leaves - this is what's known as sooty mould. Click on the hyperlink above to learn more about how to eradicate this pest.

Another common pest are Spider Mites, which are small, near-transparent critters that'll slowly extract the chlorophyll from of its leaves. Have a check under the leaves, most notably along the midrib, for small webs and gritty yellow bumps. Click here to read our article about eradicating Spider Mites, along with some extra tips that you may not find elsewhere!

Sudden leaf-loss is a common issue with Umbrella Trees. In most cases, it's caused by low light and a lack of irrigation, most notably on variegated specimens. We'd recommend increasing the light level slightly and hydrate the soil more frequently; fertilise every third water with a 'Houseplant' labelled feed for the next two months to see if this begins to help the situation.

Environmental Shock is a familiar occurrence with newly-located specimens, that usually results in stunted growth and lower leaf loss (common). When a plant is relocated into a new, unfamiliar setting, the effects can be catastrophic. The humidity, temperature and light levels will all suddenly shift into different proportions, inflicting great stress the individual. There are two options of addressing this issue; either wait it out or relocate it into a more Umbrella Tree-friendly environment. As long as the specimen appears healthy with little change to its pre-existing leaves, new nodular growth should emerge in the following months.

Yellowing lower leaves is a clear sign of over-watering, commonly sped up by too little light. Although non-variegated specimens can do well in low light, irrigations must be reduced to counteract the chance of root rot. This soil-borne disease is the breakdown of the root systems that'll inhibit the plant's ability to soak up moisture and vital nutrients for growth, thus resulting in wilting and yellowed leaves.

You'll know when an Umbrella Tree is in a dormancy period as there'll be no growth emerging from the stem's tip. Keep the plant well-fed & provide a location within 2m (6ft) of a window if yours hasn't grown in three months. 

Always use lukewarm water, and if you choose to use tap water, allow it to stand for at least 24hrs before application. Their root systems tend to be quite sensitive to temperature change, so pouring cold tap water into the pot will not only ironise the roots, but could even cause yellowed halos around each leaf.

Transplant shock is a big issue when it comes to repotting; give the plant a good soak 24hrs before the action and never tinker with the roots, unless it has been affected by root rot. Typical signs of transplant shock are largely similar to under-watering (wilting, yellowing leaves and stunted growth). For more information about addressing this issue, click on this link and scroll down to the 'Transplant Shock' section!

Small brown spots that appear on your Umbrella Tree can be the product of dehydration. Create a watering-schedule and regularly feed the soil with a 'Houseplant' levelled fertiliser every third water to help this issue. The already-affected leaves will always have the spots, so look out for the new future growths that should be spot-free! 


Schefflera is part of the Araliaceae family that holds genera such as PolysciasFatsia japonica and Hedera. In 1775, the genus was named after Johann Peter Ernst von Scheffler, an 18th-century German physician and botanist who contributed to the Reygers books on botany. The S. aboricola originates from Taiwan and is commonly called the "Dwarf Umbrella Tree' due to its smaller appearance from its popular Australian cousin, S. actinophylla.

A Distribution Map of the two most popular Schefflera, the S. actinophylla (Green)  &  the S. arboricola (Umbrella Tree) in Red.


12° - 23℃  (54° - 75℉)
H1b  (Hardiness Zone 12)  - Can be grown outdoors during the summer in a sheltered location with temperatures above 10℃  (50℉),  but is fine to remain indoors, too. If you decide to bring this houseplant outdoors, don't allow it to endure more than an hour of direct sunlight a day as it may result in sun-scorch. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, especially when re-introducing it back indoors.


Up to 4m in height and 1m in width. The ultimate height will take between 5 - 10 years to achieve, with 20cm of growth being put out annually.

Pruning & Maintenance

Remove yellowed or dying leaves and plant debris to encourage better growth and improve the all-round appearance. Pruning must be done with clean scissors or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases; remember to make clean incisions as too much damage can shock the plant.

Clean the leaves monthly with a damp cloth of warm water to increase photosynthesis rates & its overall appearance. 


Via Seed or Stem Cuttings.

Stem Cuttings (Difficult)

  1. Hygiene is the most crucial element of successful propagation. The secateurs must be dirt-free with a fresh (or well stored) batch of compost. As you'll be cutting through vulnerable tissue, using uncleanly equipment will introduce harmful pathogens to the cutting and its mother plant.
  2. For stem cuttings, the best specimens are those located at the leading growths. You should aim for a semi-wooded base, but still juvenile enough to slightly bend with the diameter of a pencil. Never use diseased or weakened growth, as it is likely to fail.
  3. Make the best incision possible to prevent the development of disease and remove the bottom half of the leaves.
  4. Decide on rooting the cutting via water or soil. The first option tends to have better success, especially if you're a new-time propagator. Remove any rotten debris and replace the water every ten days with lukewarm tap water to prevent shocking the plant. Although collected rainwater is acceptable, the risk of harboured diseases is too high, especially with an open wound. Once the roots surpass 3cm (1.1 inches), you can safely pot them up. For both options, use an aerated soil that has a fluffy texture with some perlite, too. Never use a poorly stored bag of compost as it'll promote larvae or perennial seeds to arise. ukhouseplants would recommend using 'Houseplant Compost' with a 7cm (3 inches) pot that has adequate drainage holes.
  5. Place a 2cm (0.8 inches) layer of soil at the bottom of the pot, and then rest the cutting vertically in the middle - you may have to hold it for support.
  6. Fill the compost around the cutting, making sure that its bottom half is submerged. Do NOT press or compact the soil. Condensing it to support the cutting will push the oxygen above the soil line, suffocating the roots until they rot. If it needs support, introduce a cane or something that won't lead to compaction!
  7. Place the potted cutting in a transparent bag or box. Because of the lack of roots, it'll start to lose stored water - very quickly. A confided environment will lock-in the humidity and reduce the rate of transpiration (water loss through the leaves).
  8. You'll rarely have to water the soil due to the moist air. If it compacts itself after the first irrigation, level it out by adding more compost. 
  9. Open the bag every few days for fresh air, but be sure to keep the soil evenly moist and NOT soggy - if it looks saturated, leave it! The surrounding humidity in the container will do its job by hydrating the leaves and its stem.
  10. Situate it in a bright, indirect location away from any heat sources (i.e. radiators). Keep the temperature around 18℃ (64℉) as this is the optimum temperature for root development - you can even use a bottom-heat pad to speed-up the process. The roots will develop BEFORE the foliage. You can safely remove the bag or box once new leaves emerge, as, at this point, there'll be a sufficient root system. Introduce a pebble tray to maintain a good level of atmospheric saturation and to reduce the severity of environmental shock 
  11. Keep the soil moist and maintain a bright, indirect location away from direct sunlight and other heat sources. After around six months, transplant into a slightly bigger pot, keeping in mind transplant shock (where the root hairs are damaged or over-touched). For more information on how to perform the perfect transplant, click here!


White or yellow flowers will appear several times during its lifespan, but will only bloom once it reaches a certain level of maturity. Blooms are formed in clusters that will develop into yellow berries if pollination is successful. The whole plant, including the berries, is toxic due to the heightened levels of calcium oxalate crystals.

The panicle-arranged flowers of Schefflera arboricola.


Repot every three years in spring, using a 'Houseplant' labelled potting mix and the next sized pot with adequate drainage. Umbrella Trees are far better being potbound for several years due to the heightened risk of root rot and repotting-issues (like transplant shock), so only repot if you feel it's wholly necessary - restricted root growth will also increase the chance of blooms, too.

Hydrate the plant 24hrs before tinkering with the roots to prevent the risk of transplant shock. For those situated in a darker location, introduce an extra amount of perlite into the deeper portion of the pot to downplay over-watering risks. Click here for a detailed step-by-step guide on transplantation, or via this link to learn about repotting with root rot.

Pests & Diseases

Keep an eye out for scale, aphids, spider mites, vine weevils & mealybugs. Typical diseases associated with Umbrella Trees are leaf-spot disease, botrytis & root rot - click here to learn about these issues.

Scale is a big issue among growers. Shiny, sticky leaves is the first tell-tale sign of an infestation. (Click on image to learn more about eradication).


This plant is classified as poisonous, so if small sections are eaten, vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite may occur. Consumption of large quantities must be dealt with quickly; acquire medical assistance for further information.

Retail Locations

Dobbies,  Blue Diamond,  British Garden Centres,  TESCO,  Waitrose Garden  &  Online Stores.

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