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Dwarf Umbrella Tree (Schefflera arboricola) Plant Care 101

Dwarf Umbrella Tree (Schefflera arboricola) Plant Care 101

Schefflera arboricola, commonly known as the Dwarf Umbrella tree, is a flowering plant of the Araliaceae family, native to both Taiwan and the Chinese island province Hainan.

This evergreen shrub is not to be confused with the larger Schefflera, Schefflera actinophylla, which also goes by the name of just Umbrella tree. 

Dwarf Umbrella tree care is not very demanding, as these shrubs are considered very hardy. 

Still, to keep your plant as happy and healthy as possible, it certainly won’t hurt to have a look at some basic care tips for this beautiful Schefflera plant.  

Dwarf Umbrella Tree Plant Care Secrets

 


 

INDOOR Dwarf Umbrella tree CARE BASICS

Although easy to keep happy, you’ll need to provide them with a few essentials along the way. 

 

SOIL

Schefflera arboricola feels comfortable in slightly acidic soil. This is why you should aim for a soil pH between 6 and 6.5. Moreover, the perfect soil for Schefflera arboricola should be well-draining.

Good drainage is important. If not guaranteed, excess moisture might lead to root rot

Miracle-Gro Potting Mix is a popular soil choice for indoor plants. 

 

LIGHT

Medium light is best for Dwarf Umbrella trees. Medium light equals bright, indirect light! If you keep your Dwarf Umbrella tree outside in summer, make sure it is in the shade. 

 

WATERING 

While pruning your Dwarf Umbrella tree can be unnecessary and fertilizing can be neglected, watering your Schefflera should not be taken half-heartedly. Adopting an adequate watering routine is, in fact, crucial for the well-being of this plant. 

As a tropical plant, Dwarf Umbrella trees like moisture. However, when watering, waterlogging needs to be avoided as the plant does not like to sit in water. However, regular watering is important with Dwarf Umbrella trees. 

In summer, as a rule of thumb, watering once a week yields great results. Depending on the location and also the size of the container and various other factors, you will need to adjust your watering routine. 

In winter, water less. 

Use distilled water or rainwater when watering your Schefflera.

 

TEMPERATURE 

Dwarf Umbrella Trees like it relatively cold. Temperatures of 15 to 20 degrees are ideal. Temperatures below 13 degrees should be avoided at all costs, as leaf loss can be expected at such cold temperatures. 

 

HUMIDITY 

As a tropical plant, the Dwarf Umbrella tree likes high humidity. However, even lower humidity levels are well-tolerated by Schefflera arboricola. 

 

FERTILIZER 

During growing season (spring to autumn), feed your Schefflera once every 2 to 3 weeks. A balanced, half-diluted liquid fertilizer (10-10-10) can be used for that purpose. You can also feed monthly, in that case, use a 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer. Liquid fertilizers are very easy to deliver. When watering, just add the fertilizer to the water. 

During winter months, you don’t need to feed your Schefflera at all. 

It is best to err on the side of caution with fertilizer. The general rule is: Better feed too little than too much.

The reason for this is simple: Over-fertilizing often has devastating effects on your plants, while feeding too little often does not impact your plant all that much. 

 

PROPAGATION  

Dwarf Umbrella trees can be propagated through stem cuttings. However, Schefflera arboricola can also be propagated through air layering. 

Air layering might not be the most popular propagation method but it is a very effective propagation technique, especially with upright plants such as Schefflera. 

 

GROWTH

Schefflera arboricola can get pretty big. Up to 1.5 meters (5 ft) is not uncommon for Dwarf Umbrella trees. They can spread up to 1 meter (3 ft).

 

(Re)POTTING

At some point, you’ll need to repot your green companion. With most houseplants, repotting is best done in (early) spring. 

However, repotting can’t always be planned and sometimes repotting becomes inevitable because of certain issues, such as:

  • If your pot has a drainage hole (pots with drainage holes are highly recommended!) and roots are poking out of this hole, then this is a clear sign that you’ll need to switch to a larger container
  • Did you have your Dwarf Umbrella tree in the same pot (with the same soil!) for an extended period of time (over two years) If so, that is another reason for repotting because the quality of the soil will decrease over time (exhaustion of nutrients)
  • Are roots circling the soil? This is yet another sign that your pot became too small and it is time to repot!

Once you are sure you need to repot, it is time to find a suitable container. The rule of thumb is to choose a container that is one size bigger than the actual container.

Over-potting (choosing too big of a container) needs to be avoided because this can actually hurt your plant quite a lot (the main problem being that roots stay wet for too long like this and this could ultimately result in root rot and other plant diseases)

Please don’t forget: Dwarf Umbrella trees have large root systems. It is, therefore, best to choose a large container for this evergreen shrub. 

 

PROPAGATING YOUR Dwarf Umbrella tree

 

PROPAGATION THROUGH STEM CUTTINGS

Propagating your Dwarf Umbrella tree is pretty easy. Just follow our step-to-step guide and you should see results in no time.

 

Step 1: Search your Croton for healthy stems. 

Step 2: Use a sharp, sterile knife to proceed with the cuttings

Step 3: The cuttings need to be done directly below the leaf node (cuttings of about 10 to 15 cm)

Step 4: Dip the freshly made cutting in a rooting hormone. 

Step 5: Then, put the cuttings in a glass of water. Make sure to use soft water for that purpose.

Step 6: Change the water regularly. Once every two days or even once a day will yield the best results. 

Step 7: As soon as the first roots show and new leaves can be seen at the top, you can put the cutting in soil.

 

Please note that it is also possible to put the cuttings in soil immediately rather than putting it in a glass of water. Schefflera arboricola can both root in water or in soil.

We generally recommend rooting cuttings directly in soil (if you want to do just that, please forget about Step 5, 6 and 7 and proceed with putting your cuttings into soil after dipping them in rooting hormone as explained in step 4), as roots that grow in water quite often have a hard time adapting from water culture to soil culture.

As far as rooting hormone goes (see Step 4), this is not a must, but using a rooting hormone will increase the chances of successful propagation and it will accelerate the rooting process.

Also, you’ll need to be patient. It will take 2-3 weeks for the new plants to root.

 

PROPAGATION THROUGH AIR LAYERING

The air layering propagation technique is most suitable for upright plants such as our Schefflera arboricola.

While air layering might not be the most popular propagation method, it is still a very effective method and if you should be unsuccessful with propagating your Schefflera through stem cuttings, why not give this fascinating method a go?

Air layering is especially recommended for plants that became top-heavy

It is also a great method to use for plants that have outgrown their pot

The cool thing about air layering is that you are actually propagating while the stem is still attached to the mother plant and are encouraging this stem to develop roots.

The rooting medium will be attached directly to the plant stem. But instead of doing that in a pot, this is all done while the stem is still attached to the mother plant. Pretty cool, right?

It might be a little bit difficult to visualize how all of this actually works. But don’t worry. For starters, have a look at this great video here. After watching that video, what we have pointed out earlier on, should hopefully all make sense. 

 

POTENTIAL PROBLEMS FOR Dwarf Umbrella tree OWNERS

Overall, the Dwarf Umbrella tree is easy to keep healthy. This does not mean, however, that they are invincible. With the wrong conditions, these Aizoaceae members can fall victim to a number of diseases and other problems. Here are the most common:

 

TELLTALE SIGN #1: Drooping leaves

Drooping leaves are usually a sign of a faulty watering routine. The problem is just that drooping leaves can be caused by both over- and underwatering

 

TELLTALE SIGN #2: Leaves that fall off

If your Schefflera is suffering from leaf loss, too low temperatures could be the reason for this. Dwarf Umbrella trees don’t tolerate temperatures below 13 degrees (55°F).

Also, temperature fluctuations could be the source of this problem. 

The problem is indeed tricky, as leaves that are falling off your Dwarf Umbrella tree could also be caused by both over- or underwatering. 

Last but not least, it might just be that your plant just does not get enough light, as this is another possible reason for leaf loss. 

 

Dwarf Umbrella tree plant pests & diseases

Schefflera arboricola is susceptible to scale insects as well as spider mites & thrips

So, how to win the battle over scale insects, spider mites & thrips?

Please have a look at our article on Selaginella lepidophylla (Resurrection plant). In that article, you will find proven ways on how to get rid of these stubborn creatures.

While Selaginella lepidopyhlla is obviously not the same as a Dwarf Umbrella tree, the techniques to free your plant from these plant pests are almost always the same, no matter what plant. 

 

5 tips to keep your Dwarf Umbrella tree problem-free

As far as plants go, these succulents are pretty hardy. They don’t require much attention and extra fuss. Even so, you’ll want to keep an eye on their daily needs. To make it easy for you, we’ve laid out the bare essentials. 

  1. Bright, indirect sunlight is what works best for Dwarf Umbrella trees
  2. Avoid temperatures below 13 degrees
  3. Watering your Schefflera on a regular basis is important. It doesn’t like wet feet, though. 
  4. Pruning your Dwarf Umbrella tree makes for a denser, more bushy look
  5. Mist regularly if the air is too dry

 

Is Dwarf Umbrella tree care difficult?

Dwarf Umbrella tree care is pretty similar to Croton care. However, it is fair to say that Dwarf Umbrella trees are slightly hardier than Crotons. Crotons are very susceptible to change in temperature and location. Dwarf Umbrella trees, on the other hand, are a little more forgiving in this regard. 

 

Dwarf Umbrella tree FAQ

 

Is it possible to keep Dwarf Umbrella trees outside in summer?

In summer, Dwarf Umbrella trees do great outside. Make sure to put them in the shade, if kept outside. 

 

How tall can Dwarf Umbrella trees get?

Dwarf Umbrella trees can get very tall. When kept outside, they can grow up to about 9 meters (30 ft) tall. When kept indoors, they can still reach a height of about 3 meters (10 ft.)

 

What nicknames does Schefflera arboricola have?

Schefflera arboricole is primarily known as the Dwarf Umbrella tree. Other nicknames include Dwarf Schefflera, parasol plant and Octopus tree.

 

Is Schefflera arboricola toxic to cats?

Yes. According to the ASPCA, Dwarf Umbrella trees are toxic to cats. Check out our article on houseplants that are non-toxic to cats. 

 

Is Schefflera arboricola toxic to dogs?

Yes. According to the ASPCA, Dwarf Umbrella trees are toxic to both cats and dogs. 

 

Does Schefflera arboricola make a good bonsai?

Yes. The Dwarf Schefflera lends itself easily to bonsai form and is a favorite among indoor bonsai aficionados. 

 

The leaves of my Dwarf Umbrella tree are very sticky. What’s wrong with my plant?

Sticky leaves on Dwarf Umbrella plants are a possible sign of a scale insect infestation. Dwarf Umbrella plants are very prone to scale insects. Other plant pests that you might need to deal with as a Dwarf Schefflera owner are spider mites and thrips. 

 

Does Schefflera arboricola bloom?

Dwarf Umbrella trees do indeed bloom. However, when kept indoors, this seldomly happens.

 

Does the Dwarf Umbrella tree go dormant in winter?

The Dwarf Schefflera does not completely go dormant in winter but it rests. 

 

Can Schefflera arboricola also be cultivated in hydroponics?

Yes, the Dwarf Umbrella tree can be cultivated in hydroponics. 

 

Is it possible to air layer Dwarf Umbrella trees?

Absolutely. Air layering is a proven way to propagate Dwarf Umbrella trees. Air layering as a propagation technique ist most suitable for upright plants such as Schefflera and Ficus.