Umbrella Plant Care Guide

Calming. Balanced. Exotic.

The main appeal of caring for an Umbrella Plant is its calming presence, coupled with its sustainable growth and exotic foliage that adds a touch of natural wonder to your space, promoting a sense of inner balance and eco-conscious living.

Umbrella Plant Care Guide

Umbrella Plant Overview

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The Umbrella Plant – or Schefflera – is an interesting tropical plant to add to your indoor plant family. It is hardy under the right conditions and can adopt beautiful variegation when exposed to the proper light.

This plant is easy to care for and able to be propagated, meaning you can continue to increase the size of this plant over time with healthy cuttings, or you can propagate out entirely new plants from your Umbrella Plant pruning sessions.

So whether you just brought home your Umbrella Plant or plan to head on out to your local botany shop or nursery, read on to get all the most vital information you need from our Schefflera Plant Care Guide! This guide is applicable to both regular Umbrella Trees and Dwarf Umbrella Trees, so if you are on the hunt for a Dwarf Umbrella Tree Care Guide, this guide has you covered!

Light Needs

Umbrella Plant light needs are flexible – they can grow healthily indoors in bright, indirect light or can grow more rapidly when placed in direct indoor sunlight. When placing in direct light, such as in a west-facing window, your Schefflera may develop beautiful variegation, giving it a “starburst” splash of color toward the inner portion of the leaves.

At LeafWise, we’ve found our Umbrella Plants tend to enjoy being placed in a window sill that is west-facing. Even if the light coming in is scattered, your Umbrella Plant should receive enough light.

If you find your Schefflera leaves browning or drying, check the soil. If the soil is still moist, that means your plant is receiving too much sunlight; try moving the Umbrella Plant to a location in the room that receives bright, but indirect light.

Soil Type

Schefflera plants originate from tropical regions; they’ll enjoy well-draining soil that allows some aeration around the roots while also retaining moisture. Your Umbrella Plant would benefit from a light, mossy soil mix that includes soil or compost as well as perlite or other drainage-promoting additive.

At LeafWise, we encourage the use of coconut coir as a substitute for peat moss, due to environmental concerns. So a potting mix that is a mix of coconut coir, compost, and perlite would perform excellently for your Umbrella Plant.

Target pH for the plant’s soil is in the 5.5 to 6.5 range. Learn about our recommendations for common tropical plant potting soil mixes.

Watering Preferences

Umbrella trees grow in tropical regions, meaning they like high humidity and consistently moist soil. Water your Umbrella plant when the top two inches of soil is dry. You can also use a moisture meter to see how wet the soil at the root level of the plant is.

When watering, make sure water drains out of the bottom of the pot in a steady stream. This will let you know the soil is fully saturated – you can even follow up by inserting your finger into the soil or using a moisture meter to make sure you got an even water for the plant.

If your Schefflera is in a window, you may find you need to water it more frequently than when it is in bright, indirect light.

Humidity

Umbrella plants thrive in high humidity – levels exceeding 75%. We understand this isn’t always feasible, especially in drier climates.

At LeafWise, we keep our umbrella plants in a humidity room that has a plant humidifier that keeps the room in the 60-70% humidity range; we find our Schefflera do just fine and grow healthily. We supplement the humidity in the room with a daily misting for the Umbrella plant, using a cheap spray bottle we got from our local grocery store.

Check out our recommendations on great humidifiers for plants!

Ideal Temperature Range

The ideal temperature range for your Umbrella Plant is between 55F and 75F – this will closely resemble the native temperature range for the Schefflera. In combination with the right humidity levels and soil, you’ll have a healthy and happy Umbrella Plant!

Learning how to temperature control the room you’ll keep your plants in (especially tropical ones) is simple, but extremely important. A simple thermometer that reads both room humidity and temperature helps an extraordinary amount when it comes to indoor plant care. Here’s the set we use for all of our rooms.

Umbrella plants thrive in USDA Zone 10-11 when outdoors. Learn about USDA Zones by clicking here!

Repotting

Repot your Umbrella Plant whenever it becomes rootbound. You can easily check if your Schefflera is rootbound by looking at the bottom of the pot – if roots are growing out of the drain holes, it’s time for a repot!

Increase pot size by 1” to 1.5” when repotting. You can also repot yearly in the same pot to replace the soil and replenish nutrients, if the Umbrella Plant is not yet rootbound.

Want to know more about pot size? Check out our explanation on how to measure plant pots.

Pruning

When pruning Umbrella Trees, it’s always a great idea to prune in a way that allows you to propagate your cuttings and promote new growth on the mother plant. Wherever you make your cuts will encourage new growth, often creating multiple new buds, on the mother plant. We will cover propagation in the next section of this Umbrella Plant Care Guide.

 

Where to Prune your Schefflera: 

Scheffleras create an interesting pruning opportunity – with your cuts, you can control which direction new growth on the mother plant will go. Find a leaf that is already growing in the desired direction and make your cut slightly above the leaf that is growing in the direction you want the mother plant to regrow in. A couple millimeters will suffice.

Set aside your fresh pruned Umbrella Tree cuttings for propagation.

Propagating Umbrella Trees

Learning how to propagate an Umbrella Plant is simple! The Schefflera can be water propagated. Remove, at minimum, the two bottom leaves of your cutting and submerge the nodes that you removed the leaves from under water. Ideally, you’d want to remove 3-5 leaf stems to have a stronger and healthier root network from your Schefflera propagation.

Make sure to keep at least 3 leaves on the propagation.

If, after removing leaves to submerge nodes for propagation, you still have over 10 leaves on the plant, LeafWise recommends removing more leaves to reduce how much energy is used to support keeping leaves healthy – we want all that water to help with root creation rather than leaf maintenance. 5-10 leaves is a great range of leaves to keep on your Umbrella Tree propagation!

Once you’ve prepared your cutting, simply propagate by submerging at minimum 2 of the cutting’s nodes, ideally 3-5, under water! Place in an area with bright, indirect light. Change water, at minimum, weekly.

When roots are 2” to 3” in length, they’re ready to be planted.

Common Pests

Umbrella Plants can fall victim to some common indoor plant pests. Some common pests for Schefflera are:

  • Spider Mites
  • Gnats
  • Aphids
  • Scale

Most of these pests and bugs can be removed or eliminated by using natural pest control treatments for indoor plants, such as neem oil or botanical soap.

Prevent pests from returning by applying a neem oil treatment once a month by spraying the plant following your neem oil’s guidelines as well as spraying the soil to help prevent pests such as gnats from breeding or lingering in the soil’s moisture.

Learn all about LeafWise’s recommended natural pest treatments by clicking here.

Common Growth Issues

While the Umbrella Tree is an easy to care for plant, you may run into some common growth issues. Below are some common growth problems with Umbrella Plants and the likely cause of these issues:

  • Browning/Burning Leaves – Too much direct sunlight; solve by moving out of direct light into bright/indirect and see if it helps reduce burning.
  • Leggy Growth – Not enough light; solve by moving toward a brighter light source or using a grow light for 4-6 hours a day. Pruning may also help promote new/denser growth.
  • Slow Growth – Not enough water, light, or pot has been outgrown; check soil for dryness and follow our suggestions for Umbrella Tree watering. If watering properly does not improve growth, try increasing light. Check the bottom of your Umbrella Plant’s pot for roots to see if the plant is rootbound – if soil hasn’t been changed for over a year and growth has slowed, try changing soil and increasing pot size if necessary.
  • Soggy Stem/Leaves – Overwatering – switch to a better draining soil as outlined by our suggestions for Umbrella Plant soil or wait longer between watering. If root rot has taken place, it may be too late to save the plant.

There are many other non-ideal growth scenarios you may run into while growing an Umbrella Tree or Dwarf Schefflera – check out our breakdown of some of the most common growth issues indoor plants experience and what the solutions are to learn more about indoor plant care!

Frequently Asked Questions

To propagate an Umbrella Plant (Schefflera), follow these steps:

  1. Select a Healthy Stem: Choose a healthy-looking stem that’s at least 4-6 inches long and has several leaves.

  2. Cutting: Using a sharp, sterilized pair of scissors or pruning shears, make a cut just below a leaf node (the point where a leaf joins the stem).

  3. Preparation: Remove the lower leaves, leaving only the top 2-4 leaves on the cutting.

  4. Rooting: You can root the cutting in water or directly in soil.

    • For water rooting, place the cutting in a jar with enough water to submerge the nodes but not the remaining leaves. Change the water every few days. Once roots appear, you can plant the cutting in soil.
    • For soil rooting, plant the cutting in a pot with well-draining soil. Keep the soil consistently moist until the cutting establishes roots.
  5. Growth: Once the cutting has rooted, care for it as you would a mature Umbrella Plant.

Leaf drop in Umbrella Plants can be due to several reasons:

  1. Watering Issues: Both overwatering and underwatering can cause leaf drop. Ensure the soil is well-draining, and water when the top inch or so of soil feels dry to the touch.

  2. Temperature Fluctuations: Sudden changes in temperature or exposure to cold drafts can stress the plant, leading to leaf drop.

  3. Pests: Infestations by pests like spider mites, aphids, or mealybugs can weaken the plant and cause leaves to drop.

  4. Low Humidity: Umbrella Plants prefer higher humidity. If the air is too dry, it can cause leaf drop. Consider misting the plant or using a humidifier.

  5. Insufficient Light: While they can tolerate some shade, prolonged exposure to very low light can cause the leaves to drop.

If your Umbrella Plant is leaning or growing in an undesired direction, consider these steps:

  1. Rotate the Plant: Regularly rotating the plant can ensure even light distribution, which can help in balanced growth.

  2. Staking: Use a stake or support to gently guide the plant to grow straight. Attach the plant to the stake using soft ties, ensuring not to damage the stem.

  3. Pruning: Pruning can help balance the growth of the plant. Trim back overly long or leggy stems to encourage more upright growth.

  4. Check Light Source: If the plant is leaning towards a particular light source, consider moving it to a location with more even lighting or supplementing with grow lights.