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How to Care for Umbrella Plants

Schefflera, a tropical evergreen tree, is also known as the umbrella plant or octopus plant. A popular house plant, the schefflera's leaves measure 4 to 10 inches in width, resembling the spokes of an umbrella. This tree can grow to 40 feet tall in its natural habitat. Indoors, the umbrella tree can reach 10 feet. This tree is easy to grow and, if back-lit, can add a splash of drama to an otherwise dark corner.

Plant your umbrella tree in a mixture of soil, perlite and a little builder's sand. Umbrella plants don't tolerate full sun, so place the plant in a well-lit area but out of the direct sun. Ideal growing temperatures for the umbrella plant are between 60 and 65 degrees F, but they will do fine at higher temperatures as long as the plant is misted frequently to provide humidity.

Water the plant to keep the soil moist but not soggy. As a rule of thumb, water when the top inch of soil is dry. Remove any standing water in the pot's tray, as this can cause root rot.

Fertilize your umbrella plant every 2 months with an all-purpose plant food, making sure to apply it to moist soil.

Protect the umbrella plant from pests, such as spider mites, by periodically cleaning both sides of the leaves with a soft, moist cloth. Misting the plant occasionally with water will also help to avoid a pest infestation. Heavy infestations will require the use of a pesticide or miticide.

Prune the umbrella plant to force it to grow fuller. With hand pruners, cut off the tips of the branches.

Care For An Umbrella Tree

Prized for their glossy foliage and tiered growth habit, umbrella trees (Schefflera actinophylla) add a lush, tropical look to home interiors and outdoor landscaping within U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11. Let the soil dry out in the top 2 inches before watering again. Reduce water by half during the winter to prevent root rot. Maintain temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 65 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Shield the umbrella tree from heating and cooling vents to prevent thermal stress. Dilute 1 teaspoon of fertilizer in 1 quart of water. Sanitize the pruning shears before use by soaking them in a 50-50 solution of rubbing alcohol and water for five minutes. Repot umbrella trees if they outgrow their pot, which occurs every two to three years in established plants. Watch for signs of salt buildup in the soil such as a whitish crust on the surface and a generally unwell appearance in the plant. Scoop out the salty white layer of soil and replace it with fresh soil. Prune outdoor umbrella trees only to control their size or to create branches with different heights. Snip off no more than one-third the height from the main branch, making a cut just above a set of foliage. Apply general purpose, 20-20-20 ratio fertilizer to moist soil beneath the tree's drip-line at a rate of 1 pound per 100 square-feet of area. Feed only during the active growing season, from spring until midsummer.


Schefflera is toxic if ingested, and the sap may cause a skin reaction.

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