How to Care for Schefflera Plants


The Schefflera (Schefflera arboricola and actinophylla), or "octopus tree," is an attractive, long-living and popular houseplant that grows into a large tree in tropical climates. The name "octopus tree" comes from its very large flower cluster, which is red with eight "arms" that resemble an octopus. It's not likely to bloom for you indoors, but its foliage is good looking and its care is simple. As one of the 70 genera of the large Araliaceae plant family of tropical shrubs and trees, the Schefflera genus contains about 900 species and is native to Southeast Asia, some Pacific islands and Central and South America.

Step 1

Remove your Schefflera from its nursery pot and transplant it into a large clay or ceramic pot with a drainage hole. Use a good quality potting soil.

Step 2

Provide warm temperatures for your plant---it favors temperatures above 50 degrees F, even in winter.

Step 3

Give your Schefflera water only when the soil dries out---from spring through summer you might need to water it only every 10 days. Spray the leaves often with a fine mist of water, especially in summer. Water it less in winter and be sure never to allow it to sit in a puddle of water in its plant saucer.

Step 4

Apply a balanced plant food once each year, in early spring, to encourage maximum health and growth during its rapid summer growing season.

Step 5

Prune your Schefflera during winter to keep it a manageable size. It is hardy and springs back quickly from pruning, so you can prune it to your heart's content.

Step 6

Spray insects, such as spider mites, with insecticidal soap or simply soapy water. If you wipe the undersides of the leaves with a soap solution frequently, you will prevent this destructive insect from gaining a foothold.

Tips and Warnings

  • The Schefflera is classified as an invasive species in some tropical areas, such as Hawaii. If you care about native forests, do not plant Schefflera outdoors in these places.

Things You'll Need

  • Medium to large pot with drainage hole
  • Potting soil
  • Bright indirect light
  • Fertilizer
  • Insecticidal soap (optional)


  • Encyclopedia of Houseplants
  • Gardening Know How

Who Can Help

  • Pacific Islands Ecosystems at Risk
Keywords: Schefflera arboricola, house plants, indoor gardening

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.