How to Grow and Care for Schefflera actinophylla (Umbrella Tree) Indoors


Umbrella Tree, Schefflera actinophylla

Botanical name: Schefflera actinophylla
Synonmy: Heptapleurum actinophyllum Family: Araliaceae
Common names: Umbrella Tree, Octopus Tree, Australia Umbrella Tree, Queensland Umbrella, Amate

Description

Schefflera actinophylla commonly called Umbrella Tree, Octopus Tree, Australia Umbrella Tree, Queensland Umbrella or Amate is one of the popular and easy to grow tree-like houseplants and is an ideal specimen plant for large spaces.

Umbrella Tree gets its common name, 'umbrella Tree', from its large finger-like glossy leaflets radiating like umbrella spokes.

The common name, 'Octopus Tree', is because of its spectacular, red-colored, tentacle-like flowers.

Size

Octopus Tree can grow to a height of 6 ft if adequately watered and exposed to bright light.

As the plant ages, it loses its lower leaves and therefore becomes leggy. Cut it back harshly to stimulate new growth and pinch off the growing tips to encourage a compact and bushy growth.

Origin

Schefflera actinophylla also called Heptapleurum actinophyllum is native to tropical rainforests in nothern and north-eastern Queensland coasts, Northern Australia, New Guinea and Java.

The common name, 'Queensland Umbrella', is due to its origins in the Queensland Coasts while the name, 'Australia Umbrella Tree', is due to its origins in Northern Australia.

Related Plants

Australia Umbrella Tree is closely related to Schefflera arboricola (Dwarf Umbrella Tree), which is a more compact and smaller version of Umbrella Tree.


Where to Buy

Umbrella Trees in various sizes are readily available online at Etsy. Buy Schefflera Plants online from Etsy.

Umbrella Tree, Schefflera actinophylla

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Schefflera actinophylla Care Indoors

Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla) thrives in bright light away from direct sunshine, moderate warmth and moderately moist, rich, well-drained soil coupled with monthly feeding during the growing season.

Australia Umbrella Tree requires repotting every 2 years only when it becomes pot-bound. Regular pruning is necessary to keep the plant neat, to minimize pest and disease infestation and to encourage a bushy, compact growth. Keep reading for more on these growing conditions and how to achieve them.

Light Requirements

Umbrella Tree grows best in bright light away from direct sunshine to prevent sun burn on the leaves. It can also tolerate some shade but the growth will be much slower.

Regularly turn the pot to ensure that the plant receives light on all sides for uniform growth to prevent lop-sided growth.

Octopus Tree will also thrive under a grow light where the natural lighting is not sufficient.

Watering

Water Umbrella Tree liberally during the growing season and allow the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings to maintain the soil moderately moist.

Decrease watering during the cold season to maintain the soil slightly moist as growth is minimal at this time but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

Make sure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead in root-rot disease and the eventual death of the plant.


Temperature

The best temperature for growing Umbrella Tree indoors is an average warmth with a minimum of 120C. Keep the Australia Umbrella Tree away from cold draughts to avoid sudden drop in temperature as it can cause leaf drop.

Humidity

Normal household humidity is ideal for Umbrella Tree; normally it has no need for extra humidity. Mist the leaves regularly and clean them by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to get rid of dust and to keep them shiny.

When the temperatures a very high which significantly reduce air humidity, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier to raise humidity. Check out these techniques on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Fertilizer (Feeding)

Feed Umbrella Tree with a balanced, liquid fertilizer every 4 weeks during the growing period for lush growth.

Do not feed Octopus Tree during the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time may lead to fertilizer burn.

Regularly flush out accumulated salts from the soil by running a stream of water through the soil until the water comes out through the drainage hole. Allow it to run for a few minutes and repeat several times.

Repotting

Repot Umbrella Tree every 2 years during the growing season when the plant becomes root-bound. A pot 1 size larger than the current one is ideal as it prefers to be root-bound.

Ensure that the pot has a drainage hole as the plant does not like to be in soggy soil and it can lead to root-rot disease and the eventual death of your plant.

The Umbrella Tree can get top-heavy therefore use a heavy pot to prevent it from toppling over.

For a large Australia Umbrella Tree that may be difficult to repot, replace the top 2-4 in. of soil with fresh soil annually.

Soil

The best soil for Umbrella Tree should be rich in organic matter and free-draining to prevent it from getting soggy while providing the required nutrients.

Most multi-purpose potting mixes are ideal for this plant. Purchase quality Potting Mix for Octopus Tree online from Etsy.

Pruning

Pruning Umbrella Tree requires removal of dead and yellow leaves to maintain the plant neat and tidy as well as discourage pest and disease infestations.

To encourage a bushy and compact growth, regularly pinch the growing tips and new growth will appear just below the cut.

If the plant becomes leggy, cut it back to the desired height to encourage new growth to sprout below the cut.

The foliage emanating from the pruning can be used for taking cuttings to propagate new Umbrella Tree plants.

Propagation

Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla) can be propagated during the growing season from seeds, stem cuttings or from stem-tip cuttings.

How to propagate Umbrella Tree from seeds

Soak the Umbrella Tree seeds in hot water for 12 hours before sowing them in order to increase germination rate.

Sow the seeds twice as deep as their size in moist, free-draining soil.

Place the set up in a warm, well-lit place and maintain the soil moist through out until germination takes place.

Once germination has occurred, ensure the soil remains moist at all times until the new plant is well established.

Allow the new Queensland Umbrella Tree to develop at least 2 sets of leaves before transplanting.

How to propagate Umbrella Tree from stem cuttings

Take a 6 in. Umbrella Tree stem or stem-tip cutting, ensure it has several leaf node as this is where new growth will come from.

Strip off the lower leaves and dip the lower cut end in a rooting hormone to hasten rooting.

Insert about 2 in. of the lower cut end of the cutting into moist, free-draining soil.

Cover the set up with polythene to create a greenhouse effect to increase warmth and humidity.

Place the set up in a warm, well-lit place away from direct sunlight and maintain the soil moist until new growth emerges.

Rooting should take about 3-4 weeks; new growth indicates rooting has taken place.

Acclimatize the new Umbrella Tree to normal growing conditions by opening the polythene cover a little bit everyday for a period of two weeks. During this period, keep the soil barely moist.

At the end of the two weeks, water moderately, apply liquid fertilizer monthly until a fine network of roots appear on the soil surface.

The new tree should by this time have developed 2-3 new leaves. From this point, the plant is ready for repotting and normal Umbrella Tree care can begin.

Umbrella Tree, Schefflera actinophylla

Photo Credit: FlorAccess

Schefflera actinophylla Problems Indoors

Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla) problems indoors include yellow leaves, pale colored leaves, leggy growth, leaf drop, drooping leaves, pests and diseases among others. Keep reading for more on these problems and how to solve them.

Yellow leaves

Yellow leaves in Umbrella Tree are caused by overwatering or too wet soil (soggy soil). Ensure that both the soil and the pot have adequate drainage to prevent unhealthy water retention in the soil.

Pale colored young leaves

Pale young leaves in Umbrella Tree are due to underfeeding (inadequate feeding). The tree requires to be adequately provided with the necessary nutrients to thrive.

Feed Octopus Tree with a balanced, liquid fertilizer every 4 weeks during the growing period but do not feed it in the cold season.

Dropping leaves (leaf drop)

Leaf drop in Umbrella Tree is brought about by sudden change in growing conditions due to draughts or moving the plant suddenly.

The plant needs to be slowly acclimatized to the new growing conditions before moving it. Also keep the Umbrella Tree away from draughts (drafts) like windy doors and windows, hot air vents, hot surfaces, air conditioning units and others to avoid sudden changes in temperature.

Leggy growth, undersized yellow leaves

Leggy growth and undersized yellow leaves in Umbrella Tree are due to too little light.

Move the Octopus Tree to a brighter spot where it will receive bright light but away from direct sunshine or instal a grow light where the natural light is inadequate.

Drooping leaves

Drooping leaves in Umbrella Tree are due to underwatering that is too little moisture in the soil. This means that the plant is losing more water than is available in the soil for uptake.

Water the Umbrella Tree thoroughly during the growing season and maintain the soil moderately moist.

Water less in the cold season to keep the soil slightly moist but never allow the soil to dry out completely.

Pests

Common pests in Umbrella Tree are Scale Insects, Mealy Bugs and Red Spider Mites. Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to other houseplants and treat appropriately for the pests.

Mist and clean the leaves regularly to discourage the pests infestations and also get rid of dust. Read more on how to identify and get rid of pests in houseplants.

Diseases

The most common disease in Umbrella Tree is root-rot disease which is brought about by soggy soil due to poor soil drainage.

The presence of root-rot disease is indicated by yellowing of leaves, stems turning brown-black and gradual wilting of the plant.

Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to other houseplants and treat it appropriately for the disease. Read more on how to treat root-rot in houseplants.

Is Umbrella Tree toxic?

Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla) is toxic to both humans and pets as indicated by ASPCA.

The plant contains "sharp" calcium oxalate crystals that are insoluble and damage cells and tissues of animals if ingested.

The Calcium oxalate crystals cause swelling of the exposed tissue and the digestive tract which may be fatal to both animals and humans.

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