Ultimate Schefflera Genus Guide

11 Mar 2022

The Schefflera genus isn’t a popular houseplant for no reason. Its lush, green foliage and tropical look make it a fantastic plant to grow in your home. The best part is that it’s fairly easy to look after too.

We’ll explore everything that you’ll need to know to grow and care for a thriving and prosperous plant. So, if you’re a newbie to growing houseplants then you’ve come to the right place.

Main Features

This houseplant is also known by a few other common names such as octopus tree, umbrella tree, and dwarf umbrella tree. It’s also known as the umbrella plant, however, it shouldn’t be confused with another houseplant that is also nicknamed the umbrella plant.

This genus is made up of many different types of low-maintenance and absolutely stunning houseplants that belong to the Araliaceae family. Typically, they sprout broad-shaped leaves atop of long, slender stalks that resemble an umbrella, hence its common nickname.

It is native to Australia and other tropical areas in southern Asia. As it thrives in tropical regions, it loves a warm and humid environment which we’ll explain how to replicate later on.

Fun fact: The Schefflera genus includes houseplants that act as brilliant air fresheners. They release oxygen while also removing pollutants from the air you breathe.


There are tons of species that make up the Schefflera genus. We’ll list the top two varieties that make for excellent houseplants.

  • Schefflera actinophylla: This species is also commonly known as ‘starleaf’ and ‘Australian ivy palm’. It produces amazing light green, long, shiny, and oval-shaped foliage. It sprouts compact growth and is native to regions in both Australia and New Guinea.
  • Schefflera arboricola: This type of Schefflera is commonly known as the ‘parasol plant’ and ‘Hawaiin umbrella tree’. It sprouts smaller leaves with a glossy appearance and is often decorated in creamy-white variegation.

Fun fact: This genus is comprised of approximately 600 to 900 different species.

How Big Does It Get?

A mature houseplant can reach between 4 to 15 feet (1.2 – 4.5m) tall. It also grows around 3 to 6 feet (0.9 – 1.8m) wide too.

Once it’s reached its mature size, you’ll also notice that it sprouts about 12 to 16 leaflets per stalk.

Fun fact: An outdoor Schefflera plant can grow up to 50 feet (15.2m) tall.

How Fast Does It Grow?

An indoor Schefflera grows much slower than an outdoor houseplant. Typically, it produces an extra 13 inches (33cm) of new growth a year.

Fun fact: An outdoor plant can sprout an additional 3 feet (0.9m) of growth per year.

How Long Does It Live?

When well looked after and grown in optimal conditions, your houseplant will have a relatively long lifespan. It can survive for around 25 years as an indoor plant.


This genus contains calcium oxalate crystals, just like many plants in the Araceae family such as theAlocasia genus. The calcium oxalate crystals are found in the Schefflera’s stem, leaves, and roots.

These crystals have a needle-like shape which causes micro-tears that can bring about numerous painful and unpleasant side effects when ingested.

We’ll explain what symptoms to look out for if either you or your pet consumes any part of the houseplant.

Is It Toxic to Cats and Dogs?

The sap found in this houseplant is toxic to both cats and dogs. When it drops on either of your pets’ skin or fur then they may develop an itchy, red rash. The major cause for concern is if either of your fury friends consumes any part of the plant.

Here’s a list of side effects that may crop up when your pet ingests the sap:

  • Mouth, tongue, and throat irritation
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty swallowing food
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite

When you suspect that either of your pets has eaten this houseplant then you must contact your vet straight away.

Is It Poisonous to Humans?

The Schefflera is toxic to people too. It can cause many harmful side effects when you or a child eats the stems, leaves, or roots. The sap can also cause skin dermatitis if you come into contact with it.

We’ve provided a list of common symptoms that occur when the sap is consumed:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Numbness in the mouth
  • Swelling of the mouth, lips, and tongue
  • Difficulty swallowing

It is always important that you seek professional medical advice if either you or a child has ingested this houseplant.

Schefflera - size, lifespan, toxicity, growth speed (infographics)

Schefflera Care

Now we can delve into actually caring for your houseplant. The Schefflera doesn’t demand a lot when it comes to caring for it, however, you will still need to maintain its appearance and create the optimal environmental conditions.

Let’s explore exactly how you can grow a flourishing and thriving houseplant.

How Often to Water It

The Schefflera genus needs to be watered regularly during its active growing seasons. Typically, it should be watered 1 to 2 times a week during the spring and summertime. Once, temperatures begin to drop in winter and autumn then you can water it once every two weeks.

A general rule of thumb is that this houseplant should be watered once the top 75 percent of the soil is dry. It doesn’t do well when under- or overwatered. So, you’ll want to allow the potting soil to dry out slightly before you water it again.

When you water the houseplant, you should soak it in a basin or deeply water it until the water begins to flow out through the drainage holes.

Additionally, it’s best to use distilled water or rainwater. It is sensitive to the chemicals found in tap water such as chlorine.

Top tip: You can always use water that has been placed in a container outside overnight. This will allow any harmful chemicals to evaporate before you water your plant.


As this genus thrives in moist but quick-draining soil, you’ll need to ensure that any excess moisture doesn’t sit at the bottom of its container. Creating a good drainage system is the best way to ensure that any extra water drains out.

You will need to plant it in quick-draining soil such as one that is sandy. Furthermore, it must be grown in a pot with numerous drainage holes.

The Schefflera genus requires good drainage so that it doesn’t become waterlogged or develop root rot.

When and How to Prune It

Trimming this houseplant is a great way to manage its growth and maintain its appearance. You will need to prune off any overgrown, leggy, or unhealthy growth during the springtime.

Pruning your houseplant will also encourage more bushy and compact growth too. It’s also a great way to ensure that your plant doesn’t tip over as it becomes too large for its current container.

Follow the steps below to trim back unhealthy stalks or maintain the plant’s size:

  1. The most important step is to sterilize your pair of pruners or shears. This is imperative to prevent the spread of disease and harmful bacteria.
  2. When an entire stalk is unhealthy then you’ll need to cut it back to about 3 to 4 inches (7.5 – 10cm) tall.
  3. If you want to maintain your plant’s size then simply cut off the top inch (2.5cm) of the stalk.
  4. When you want to remove that leggy growth, you must snip off around 6 inches (15cm) of the stem or stalk.
  5. Once you have pruned the plant, you must water it well and position it back in its sunny home.

When and How to Repot It

Ideally, you’ll only need to transplant it every 2 to 3 years during the springtime.

If your plant has become rootbound then it’ll need to be repotted as soon as possible. You’ll know when this has occurred as its roots will grow through the drainage holes or they’ll appear at the top of the soil.

Follow the steps listed below to successfully repot it:

  1. You must find a new pot that is 2 inches (5cm) wider than its current container.
  2. Next, you’ll need to fill the new pot about one-third of the way with fresh and well-draining soil.
  3. To loosen the houseplant, you can knock on the sides and the bottom of the pot. Then you will gently slide or tip the plant out of its pot.
  4. Now, you can plant the Schefflera in its new home at the same depth that it was previously.
  5. Finally, you must water it well and position it back under indirect sunlight.

Environment Conditions

Light Requirements

Just like the parlor palm, this houseplant prospers under bright and indirect light. It is important to shield it from any direct or full sunshine because this will burn its leaves.

It’s also important to ensure that it receives at least 6 hours of sunshine a day. When it is placed in a shady area and receives too little light then it’ll produce leggy growth.

Best Soil

The umbrella plant thrives in moist and well-draining soil. The ideal potting mixture is one that is sandy, loamy, and slightly acidic with a pH level between 6.0 to 6.5.

Ideally, it should be planted in a loamy and rich potting mixture. You can use an all-purpose potting soil and mix in a few key ingredients to create the optimal mix.

Try out one of the potting mixtures listed below:

  • 3 parts sphagnum moss + 1 part vermiculite + 1 part perlite
  • 2 parts perlite + 1 part compost + 1 part perlite

Top tip: If you’re concerned that the soil is too dense then you should throw in a handful of sharp sand to improve its drainage.


It requires feeding during its active growing seasons. During the spring and summertime, you should fertilize it once every two weeks, however, you shouldn’t feed it during winter and autumn.

The ideal fertilizer is one that’s well-balanced, water-soluble, and liquid. You can opt for a fertilizer with a ratio of 20-20-20.

You must dilute the fertilizer to half its strength to avoid over-feeding the houseplant.

Top tip: If fertilizer salts have built-up in the soil then you’ll need to flush the plant. You can do this by running a stream of water over the potting mixture for 15 to 20 minutes.

Pot Size and Type

It prefers a terracotta container as porous material prevents root rot. It also allows for more air and water to flow through it. This will ensure that the roots don’t become waterlogged and they’ll receive plenty of oxygen.

The ideal pot size is one that’s at least one-third wider than the rootball. The container will allow for new root growth without the plant becoming rootbound.

Temperature Tolerance

It prospers in a warm region and cannot withstand a cool environment. This plant prefers a wide temperature range between 60 to 75°F (15.5 – 24°C), just like the Mandevilla genus.

When the temperatures dip too low then you may even notice its leaves will begin to fall off.

Humidity Level

The umbrella plant flourishes in humid environments as it’s native to tropical regions. You will need to maintain a relative humidity level between 60 to 80 percent.

If your household humidity level is relatively low then you can increase the moisture in the air by placing a humidifier near the plant. You can also place the plant on top of a humidity tray or mist its leaves with room temperature water.

Top tip: A super simple way to increase the humidity level surrounding your houseplant is by putting a bowl of tepid water next to it.

Outdoors vs. Indoors

The Schefflera genus can be grown outdoors and this may even encourage it to bloom. It is always a good idea to position it in your garden during the summertime as natural light will really benefit this plant.

The houseplant can be grown outside year-round if you reside in USDA hardiness zones between 10 and 11. Once winter approaches you will need to bring it back indoors as it isn’t frost-tolerant.

When you grow it outdoors, you will need to water and feed it more regularly. The plant will grow quickly outside, so it will require more nutrients and moisture to support this excess growth.

Additionally, you must spritz its leaves more often as you’ll still need to maintain a humid environment. Another factor to consider is the amount of sunlight it receives. It cannot withstand harsh sun rays which means it must still be planted under indirect sunshine.

Schefflera - care, water, light, soil, pot, temperature, fertilizer (infographics)


Sadly, the Schefflera rarely ever blooms when grown indoors. When grown as an outdoor plant then it’ll bloom during the summertime.

Typically, it flowers long and showy spikes in either pink, red, or white. The spikes will appear in groups atop of a stalk, and then along the length of these spikes smaller flowers will emerge.

The best way to encourage blooms is to ensure that the plant receives plenty of bright sunshine. You’ll also need to create an environment that is similar to its native tropical regions.

How to Grow It

You can expand your umbrella plant collection by propagating it or planting its seeds. Ideally, you should carry out each method during the springtime.

Top tip: Always wear a pair of gardening gloves before handling this houseplant, so that you won’t come into contact t with its sap.


You have plenty of options when it comes to growing a new Schefflera. You can either propagate it in soil or water.

We’ll explain each method below.

Propagating in Soil

You can propagate this houseplant by either planting its stem cuttings or air layering it. The most important thing to remember is that you must use fresh and fast-draining soil.

How to Grow It from Stem Cuttings

A single stem cutting can be planted in a potting mixture, and it’ll form an entirely new plant.

Follow the steps provided below:

  1. Snip off a 6-inch (15.2cm) long stem with a leaf attached to the top of it.
  2. Dip the cut area in rooting hormone.
  3. Fill a small pot with soil and plant the cutting.
  4. Position the stem cutting under bright light and water it regularly so that the soil is moist.
  5. After 4 to 6 weeks, the cutting will root and you can then care for it as you would an adult houseplant.
  6. Once it is big enough then you’ll need to transplant it into a larger pot.
Air Layering

Air layering is a process that involves making a small cut into a stem and allowing new roots to grow before planting it.

Check out the step-by-step guide here:

  1. Make a small incision just above the leaf node and prop the cut area open with a toothpick.
  2. Cover this cut area with sphagnum moss and then secure the moss with a plastic bag and fabric tie.
  3. Wait for about 2 to 3 weeks and you’ll notice tiny roots growing from the cut area.
  4. You can then remove the sphagnum moss and snip the cutting off just below the roots.
  5. Plant this stem cutting into fresh soil and water it well.
  6. You can then treat it as you did its mother plant.

Propagation in Water

You can propagate a stem cutting in water too. The only difference is that you’ll need to place them in a glass of water before planting them in some soil.

Check out the guide below:

  1. Cut a 4-inch (10cm) long healthy stem, and make sure that one leaf is attached to the top of the stem.
  2. Fill a glass jar with room temperature water and place the stem inside of it.
  3. Position the cutting under bright sunshine and keep an eye out for any new root growth.
  4. After 2 to 4 weeks you can transplant it fresh soil.
  5. Now, you can care for the cutting as if it were a mature plant.

Seed Planting

The Schefflera can be grown from a single seed. It is a fairly easy method to carry out and you’ll see new growth in around a month.

Follow the steps below:

  1. First, you must soak the seeds in hot water for 12 hours before you plant them.
  2. Fill a shallow tray with a seed starting mix and plant the seeds about 1 inch (2.5cm) deep.
  3. Spritz the seeds and place a plastic bag over the container.
  4. Once the seedlings produce new growth then you can remove the plastic bag and care for them as you would a mature plant.
  5. When they are large enough then you’ll need to transplant them in their own containers.

How to Revive It

Although this houseplant may be simple to care for and grow, that doesn’t mean that it won’t run into a few issues here and there. We’re here to help you understand what may be impacting your plant’s health and what you can do to revive it.

Yellow Leaves

When its leaves begin to yellow then your plant is trying to tell you that it’s being overwatered, receiving too much sunlight, or it isn’t soaking up enough sunshine.

When you water your plant too much it can become waterlogged. This means that you’ll need to allow the soil to dry out before your water it again.

This plant cannot cope when it is positioned under full sunshine. You will need to discover a new home for it where it’ll receive bright and indirect sunlight.

Another issue that your houseplant may be facing is that it’s not soaking in enough sunlight. Always remember that your plant needs to be placed under filtered sunshine.

Leaf Drop

The umbrella plant’s leaves may fall off when it is watered improperly or exposed to extreme temperatures.

It is easy to resolve both of these issues. First, you must check whether the soil is too dry or too wet. If it’s dry then simply water it deeply, however, if the soil is too moist then allow it to dry out before you water it again.

The houseplant will experience stress when the temperature is too high or too low. All you have to do is position it in a warm location. This may become an issue during summer and wintertime. You must ensure that the houseplant is located in its optimal temperature range.

Brown Spots

When brown spots appear on the leaves then this may be caused by a few reasons. Your houseplant is either watered incorrectly, placed in a cold environment, or it may be receiving too much sunlight.

The best way to ensure that the soil is neither too dry nor too wet is by creating an optimal watering schedule. You must make sure that the soil never completely dries out or becomes too moist.

When winter approaches you must find a warmer area for your houseplant. Once temperatures drop too low then your plant will suffer, so place it under bright light.

If your houseplant is positioned under full or direct sunlight then its foliage will burn. The best location for your plant is a bright windowsill where it’ll bask under indirect sunshine.

Final Comments

The Schefflera is an amazing houseplant for a newbie as it is super low maintenance. All you have to do is provide it with the right care and it’ll flourish for decades.

The most important care requirements to keep in mind are the amount of sunshine it receives and how often you water it. Always remember to place it under bright light and allow the soil to slightly dry out in between watering, and then you’re all good to go.

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