The Q&A Archives: Umbrella Tree

Question: I recently was given a plant by someone who didn't take good care of it. She said it was an umbrella plant. The leaves are waxy and sort of a long oval shape, dark green. The last time she moved she tore all the leaves off so it would fit. The original leaves were about 8" long she says. The ones on it now are barely 4" long and not too impressive for a plant that is at least 4' tall. Only the top 6" of the plant has leaves on it. What can I do to bring this plant back to how it used to be? What are the basics for taking care of it?

Answer: Your Schefflera actinophylla is known as the Umbrella or Octopus Tree because of it's spectacular tentacle-like flowers. Unfortunately it does not bloom under room conditions. Umbrella Tree is a more descriptive name, based upon the finger-like glossy leaflets that radiate like the spokes of an umbrella. Whatever name you call it, Schefflera are easy to grow. Provide average household warmth with a minimum of 55F in winter. Try to avoid temperatures over 70F year 'round. Give the plant bright light, away from direct sunshine, and water liberally from spring to autumn. Water sparingly in winter. Mist leaves frequently during the growing season. Feed monthly during the growing season with a diluted solution of liquid fertilizer. The plant will lose its lower leaves (that's another reason it's called Umbrella Tree), but will continue to develop a tall main stem until it reaches 6'-8' in height, and will continue to produce new leaflets towards the top of the stem. To disguise the bare lower stem, you might want to plant one or two young Scheffleras in the same pot with the taller one.

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