The bold, glossy green leaves of the umbrella tree make it a striking foliage plant. Each "hand" of palmate leaves has 5-7 fingers which form on the end of 8-10 inch long, stiff petioles.
The variegated forms add even more interest to the sub-tropical landscape.
There are two types: Schefflera actinophylla which can reach 40 feet in its native habitat and Schefflera arboricola which is most often seen at 4-6 foot heights with an equal spread.
S. actinophylla has larger leaves. The fingers or leaflets can grow up to a foot long.
We have one in our zone 9a yard. It will grow to 7 or 8 feet high and 3 feet wide before it gets cut down by one of our winter frosts.
Our umbrella tree coming back from a hard freeze.
So far, it has always recovered in the spring.
Schefflera actinophylla used as a foundation shrub in Ormond Beach, Florida.
This is the way they are most often planted here.
The concrete block walls of the house will store and radiate heat back to the plant on cold nights.
S. arboricola is similar to S. actinophylla except it doesn't grow as tall and its leaflets are only about 3 inches long. They are also smooth whereas S. actinophylla's leaves are veined.
This variety is more densely foliated. It is sometimes used as a hedge where it is winter hardy.
There are several arboricola cultivars. Some have yellow or white markings on the leaflets.
Variegated types require more light than the plain green variety to maintain their markings.
They also will sometimes start sending up plain green shoots like the plant in the image below:
If you see your variegated Schefflera doing this, cut the plain green stems out.
They are stronger growers than the variegated shoots.
If they are not removed, the whole bush will eventually revert to plain green.
You can root the cuttings and grow the green variety separately, if you like.
In their native Australia, umbrella trees bloom in the summer months. Flowering is rare in the U.S. but sometimes occurs in South Florida and on the coasts.
Umbrella tree flowers are not as showy as the bright red (actinophylla) or orange (arboricola) fruits that follow them. These tiny berries occur in great numbers on umbels that radiate out from the branch tips like sparklers on the 4th of July.
The brightly-colored fruits are also as attention-getting as a fireworks display.
Schefflera fruit in the process of coloring up.
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Pot a young umbrella tree into a peat based mix. Mature trees appreciate a bit of compost mixed into their soil. In any event, they are rapid growers so be prepared to pot them up often.
Once it is in the largest pot you can handle, cut the top off if it becomes too tall. This will only cause it to branch lower down and become bushier and more attractive.
You may be able to root the piece you cut in water.
Keep it in a warm location and change the water daily. It may take several weeks before roots appear. Pot it when the roots are 2 inches long. Keep the new plant shaded until it is well established.
This is a 15-year-old S. arboricola banyan style bonsai.
It is part of the bonsai collection at Heathcote Botanical Gardens.
Plants may be trimmed to shape at any time.
Plants in pots should be watered when the soil surface is dry. In ground plants are very drought tolerant once established.
These are sun lovers. A lack of light will cause legginess.
In the rainforest, the Schefflera plant most often grows as an epiphyte. It attaches itself to other trees and its roots hang down like those of a banyan.
Schefflera plant care is very easy in a pot or in the ground as long as it is kept warm enough and gets enough light.