How to grow and care for Schefflera actinophylla (Umbrella Tree) Indoors

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Umbrella Tree Care, Schefflera actinophylla Care

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

Umbrella Tree 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.

Umbrella Tree Size

If adequately watered and exposed to bright light, Umbrella Tree can grow to a height of 6 ft.

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

Umbrella Tree Origin

Schefflera actinophylla 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.

Umbrella Tree Related Plants

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


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Umbrella Tree Care, Schefflera actinophylla Care

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Schefflera actinophylla (Umbrella Tree) Care Indoors

Schefflera actinophylla Light Requirements

Umbrella Tree grows best in bright light away from direct sunshine to prevent sun burn on the leaves. Umbrella Tree 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. Check out this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

How to Water Schefflera actinophylla

Water Umbrella Tree liberally during the growing season and allow the soil to dry out between waterings.

Reduce watering for your Umbrella Tree during the cold season to maintain the soil slightly moist as growth is minimal at this time.Read more on how to water houseplants

Ensure the pot for your Umbrella Tree has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead in root-rot disease and the eventual death of your plant.


Temperature for Schefflera actinophylla

The best temperature for growing your Umbrella Tree indoors is an average warmth with a minimum of 120C.

Protect your Umbrella Tree from cold draughts to avoid sudden drop in temperature as it can cause leaf drop. Check out this guide on understanding temperature for houseplants.

Humidity for Schefflera actinophylla

Normal household humidity is ideal for Umbrella Tree; normally Umbrella Tree has no need for extra humidity.

Mist the leaves of your Umbrella Tree regularly and clean them by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to get rid of dust and to keep them shiny. Read more on how to clean houseplants.

Fertilizer (Feeding) for Schefflera actinophylla

Feed Umbrella Tree with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer that contains micronutrients every 4 weeks during the growing period.

Withhold feeding for your Umbrella 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 of your Umbrella Tree 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. Read more on how to feed houseplants.

How to Repot Schefflera actinophylla

Repot Umbrella Tree every 2 years during the growing season when the plant becomes root-bound.

Use rich and free-draining soil. A pot 1 size larger is ideal as your Octopus Tree prefers to be root-bound.

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

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

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

How to Prune Schefflera actinophylla

Pruning Umbrella Tree requires removal of dead and yellow leaves to maintain the plant neat and tidy.

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

If your Umbrella Tree becomes leggy, cut it back to the desired height to encourage new growth to sprout below the cut. Read more on how to prune houseplants.

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

How to Propagate Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla)

Umbrella Tree 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 Umbrella Tree seeds twice as deep as their size in moist free-draining soil.

Place the set up in a warm shaded 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 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 stick about 2 in. of the Umbrella Tree 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, shaded place and maintain the soil moist until new growth emerges.

Rooting of Umbrella Tree cuttings 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 Umbrella 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 Care, Schefflera actinophylla Care

Photo Credit: FlorAccess

Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla) Problems Indoors

Umbrella Tree 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.

Umbrella Tree pale colored young leaves

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

Feed Umbrella Tree with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer that contains micronutrients every 4 weeks during the growing period. Read more on how to feed houseplants.

Umbrella Tree 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 new growing conditions before moving it. Also protect Umbrella Tree from draughts (drafts); both cold and hot draughts.

Umbrella Tree leggy growth and undersized yellow leaves

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

Move your Umbrella Tree to a brighter spot. Umbrella Tree grows best in bright light but away from direct sunshine. Check out this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

Umbrella Tree 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 Umbrella Tree thoroughly and maintain the soil moderately moist but never allow the soil to dry out completely. Read more on how to water houseplants.

Umbrella Tree pests

Common pests in Umbrella Tree are Scale Insects, Mealy Bugs and Red Spider Mites.

Isolate the affected Umbrella Tree to prevent spread to other houseplants and treat appropriately for the pests.

Mist and clean the leaves of your Umbrella Tree regularly to reduce infestation by these pests.

Umbrella Tree 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 in your Umbrella Tree is indicated by yellowing of leaves, stems turning brown-black and gradual wilting of the plant.

Isolate the affected Umbrella Tree to prevent spread to other houseplants and treat it appropriately for the disease.

Is Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla) toxic?

Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla) is toxic to both humans and pets.

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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