Umbrella Tree: How to Grow Umbrella Tree
Having beautiful houseplant within the constrained spaces of our urban homes will always give us a breath of fresh air and a closer experience to nature. For people who already started their plant journey and mastered taking care of a low maintenance plant would eventually look for an upgrade. A plant that grows tall, requires basic maintenance and care and brings more life and energy into the comforts of your home. The Umbrella Plant is a good start to add vibrance in your life.
The Umbrella Tree or Schefflera Arboricola is a popular plant among amateur gardeners because of its charming shape, manageable size, basic maintenance requirements and vibrant look perfect for the relaxing mood of your home.
It is often mistaken as Schefflera Actinophylla, which is its close relative because of its almost identical appearance. This plant is also known as the Dwarf Umbrella Plant, Octopus Tree and Parasol Plant.
There are several varieties of Umbrella Tree, but the most common are Compacta, Gold Capella and Green Gold.
Facts About Umbrella Tree
The Schefflera Arboricola belongs to the ginseng family.
It is believed that this plant is named after either the German botanist Christian Jakob Scheffler or Polish scientist Johann Peter Ernst von Scheffler.
The umbrella tree absorbs negative energy and is a great air purifier.
This plant is seen as a weed in some places like Hawaii and Florida because of its invasive nature. It rarely blooms flowers if grown indoors.
Schefflera arboricola is native to the forests of Taiwan while its closest relative, Schefflera actinophylla is from the soil of Australia and New Guinea. Among the hundred species of Schefflera, only arboricola and actinophylla are called 'umbrella tree' because of its umbrella-like look.
The Umbrella Tree can adapt to a variety of conditions. Its flexibility gives a plus point to its manageable characteristic, especially when grown indoors. It can be a tall plant if you want to place it in one corner of your house or small and clean if you plan to put it on a coffee table.
This plant likes to be under bright, indirect light but allows direct sunlight when planted outdoors. It tolerates medium to high humidity, requires average number of watering and blooms flowers during the warmer season.
The susceptibility to pests of the Umbrella Tree is one of its disadvantages.
The Umbrella Tree grows with one trunk with multiple branches, revealing four to twelve leaflets that appear like fingers coming from a stalk thus its umbrella look. The structure of this plant will depend on how you prune it. It can be a tall plant or a dwarf.
Known for its flexibility, an indoor Schefflera arboricola can grow up to 8ft to 10 ft tall and 6ft wide. Umbrella trees planted outdoors can reach up to 26ft to 30ft tall.
Dwarf umbrella trees can reach a height of 8 inches to 10 inches.
Its sibling, the Schefflera actinophylla, can grow up to 50ft tall outdoors.
Variegated varieties or the colorful ones normally grow shorter than the non-variegated ones.
One of the charms of the umbrella tree is its leaves. Its foliage grows in a circular group of 5 to 9” long, oval, and pointy-tipped leaves.
You can determine if your umbrella tree is an Arboricola or Actinophylla through their leaves.
Arboricola mostly has the variegated varieties or colored leaf. Its leaves can grow up to 5” in length while Actinophylla can reach longer than 5” and is usually plain green in color.
Blooming flower is a rare occasion for your umbrella tree, especially if you grow it indoors.
Your umbrella tree is more likely to produce flower when grown outdoors. It has a tentacle-like bright red flower which blooms above the foliage. Pink and white are also common colors for the flowers. The flower spikes in clusters often take the form of 'tentacles' thus getting its nickname 'octopus tree'. The flowers appear during summer.
The flowers also turn into inedible bright orange berries and eventually become black in color as they age.
Umbrella Tree Varieties
The Umbrella Tree or Schefflera Arboricola has three favorite varieties: Gold Capella, Green Gold and Compacta. Most of these types are variegated or have tinted leaves.
Just like other varieties, gold capella has glossy palmate leaves. It has oblong-shaped dark green leaves tinted with gold, creamy yellow and light green.
This plant loves bright filtered light but can live in places with lower light levels, compromising the vibrance of its colors, however.
It needs to be watered in average amount when the soil is already dry but make sure not to leave them sitting in water.
Gold capella is a fast-growing plant. It can reach up to 2 meters in height and has a maximum spread of 4 meters. It also has dense foliage, making this plant ideal to use as a hedge.
The plant is also known as an air purifier plant as it filters airborne toxins. A mature capella gold can live up to 20 years if it is in good condition.
The dwarf variety of gold capella can grow up to 24 inches in height and 24 inches in spread.
Green Gold or Plain Green Leafed
Green Gold is almost similar to Gold Capella in terms of appearance, except that its dark green oval-shaped leaves have a bolder band of gold at the broad center of the foliage.
Since Green Gold and Gold Capella are both variegated species, they have the same growing conditions.
Green Gold tolerates low lights but thrive best in bright light. A good amount of indirect sunlight helps Green Gold to keep its leaves shiny and vibrant.
Although this plant adapts quickly in room conditions, it prefers above average humidity level.
It requires an average amount of water; abundant watering can damage the roots.
Compacta or Dwarf
Compacta has small oval-shaped yellow-green leaves. Unlike the variegated varieties, Compacta requires less light. This plant is mostly grown indoors in a bonsai size. It can grow up to 4ft tall and 4ft wide but can be trimmed to maintain its small size. Compacta is a fast-growing plant, but keeping them indoors can impair their speed growth.
Although this plant can tolerate days without water, it hates drowning in it.
Compacta loves a moist and warm environment as it is a tropical plant.
How to Grow the Umbrella Tree
A peat moss based potting soil mix is ideal for your umbrella tree. Although it can grow from common soil, it must have a good draining capability and can retain moisture. You can add perlite and sand to increase its draining property.
The pH value of your soil should be between 6.0 to 6.5.
Variegated varieties require more bright light than the non-variegated. It is ideal for them to keep the shiny and vibrant look of their leaves.
Although the variegated ones love the sun, it should not be left under direct sunlight for too long, especially during midday.
It tolerates medium light. However, it slows the growth of your plant. Umbrella trees kept in a poorly lit environment grow weak and bent instead of upright.
Umbrella trees require moderate watering during spring and summer since it is its growing period. Overwatering might rot the root. Always check if the soil is dry before hydrating it. You can lessen the watering during winter as long as the soil remains slightly damp.
Room temperature or a bit warmer water is ideal to use.
As a tropical plant, the umbrella tree loves warm weather. It enjoys the summer a lot when placed under a partial shade outdoors.
Generally, your umbrella tree will grow healthy in a temperature between 15°C to 21°C
During winter, better to place it in an area with a temperature ranging between 16°C and 20°C. You can bring it again outdoors in spring.
Umbrella trees love moist air. If your plant is kept in an area with below-average humidity level, make sure to do misting using warm water occasionally. You can reduce the misting during winter. You can also use plant humidifier.
You can also wipe its leaves with damp cloth or use pebble water tray to increase the humidity in the area.
The umbrella trees are more vulnerable to pests if the humidity level is low.
Avoid placing your plant near air vents, air conditioners and heaters where the air is much drier.
Your rapid-growing umbrella tree needs regular feeding. Fertilize the soil thrice a month during spring and summer. Take advantage of the growing seasons.
You can use mineral fertilizer and crushed eggshells alternately.
You can give your plant a rest from fertilizers in fall and winter since it is dormant in those during these periods. Using fertilizers during its asleep month may cause root burn.
You can stop using fertilizers when your plant reaches your desired height.
Umbrella trees grow dense foliage fast. Regular pruning is needed, especially if it is being kept indoors to maintain its size and aesthetic look.
You can remove dead leaves, leggy stems and unwanted growth. You can prune the plant back to its main branch if it gets too large for your room.
If you want your umbrella plant to grow compact, trim the upward growth of your plant. If you prefer it to be tall, leave the growing shoots alone.
Trimming is done during the growing period.
There are three ways to propagate your umbrella tree: by seed, cuttings and aerial roots. Generally, propagating your umbrella tree needs an above average gardening skill. Propagation is done in spring.
This process is used for indoor umbrella trees that do not bloom flowers.
Cut the most developed semi-woody shoots with two internodes or a portion of the stem that has two nodes using a knife. The stem cutting should be at least 10cm to 15cm long. Dip the end node in a root stimulant for at least six hours before planting in a soil mixed with peat and sand. Put a transparent plastic cover or a propagator on the top pot to maintain the humidity level.
Keep the plant in a room that has a temperature of 22°C with a bright diffused light.
Moisten the soil regularly until it takes root. You can transfer the plant into a larger container once the root fills the entire pot.
Cut a part of the stem vertically. Wrap the sliced portion with a wet sphagnum moss moistened with water and nutritious solution using a transparent plastic cover.
Keep the moss wet all the time until it grows root.
Once roots appear on the sliced part, you can wait for two months to finally cut the entire stem portion to put on a separate container either filled with water or directly planting on soil. Place the plant in a bright, warm area. You can wait until young shoots appear.
You can gather the seeds once the flowers turn maroon. Dry the seeds under the sun before gently washing it.
Before sowing the seeds, soak it in a solution of growth stimulant.
You can plant the seeds in a soil mix of peat and sand.
Water the soil before covering it with foil. Put the pot in an area with a temperature ranging from 20°C to 23°C.
Let your soil breathe from time to time by removing the foil. You can use this period to moisten the soil.
Germination normally takes two to three weeks. If the seedlings grow healthy, you can transfer it to its pots 5 inches in diameter by autumn. Keep the seedlings in a room with a temperature ranging from 13°C to 16°C.
Umbrella Tree Health Benefits
Aside from its aesthetic look perfect to set the relaxing mood of your home, the umbrella tree also has some health benefits it can show off.
Schefflera arboricola belongs in the top list of plants that are great air purifiers.
Umbrella tree can filter airborne toxins from the atmosphere. It removes harmful air pollutants such as benzene, a carcinogenic substance, formaldehyde and toluene, and even the toxins cigarettes give off.
Having this plant indoors guarantees a much healthier air inside our homes.
Uses of Umbrella Tree
Aside from being an ornament, the umbrella tree proves that it can also have helpful functions in the house. It also plays a role in the field of herbal medicine.
Although the umbrella tree is known for its role in beautifying our home and garden, modern research to this plant has discovered its medicinal uses.
Schefflera Arboricola is widely offered in Chinese traditional medicine. The leaves, stems and roots are used in preparing herbal medicines.
Schefflera Arboricola is said to have nutrients such as aconitic acid, citric acid, tartaric acid, fumaric acid, organic acid and many more.
It can be used as an analgesic, muscle relaxant, anticonvulsant and anti-inflammatory.
It is also known to treat rheumatoid arthritis, abdominal pain, headaches, swollen throat and asthma.
The leaves of the umbrella trees are widely used as a fever medicine. It effectively cools down body temperature when having a fever.
It is also a good detoxifier for people suffering from illnesses caused by dirty blood. It also improves the blood flow within our bodies.
The leaves also treat burns, skin irritation and nosebleed.
You can consume the umbrella tree by making tea out of it. The safe dosage for this herbal medicine is between 15 and 30 grams.
Schefflera Arboricola is mildly toxic, too much consumption may cause vomiting and numbness of the mouth.
It is not advisable to be taken by pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants and young children.
For safety reasons, make sure to consult a doctor before taking Schefflera Arboricola teas or supplement.
If symptoms persist, stop the consumption immediately and consult a medical expert.
Umbrella tree can be your natural air purifier at home.
It can also be a decorative plant indoors.
Umbrella tree outdoors can also be used as a garden and backyard hedge. Since it rapidly grows dense foliage and reaches a height of more than 10ft, it is an option for those who want a natural border of properties.
Using it as a hedge is hitting two birds in one stone. It plays as a marker and protects you from unwanted intruders, and beautifies your garden.
If you are ready to upgrade your gardening skills, might as well get your first umbrella tree.
Umbrella tree brings a unique accent inside your home with its shiny, plain or colorful palmate leaves and upright structure.
Its flexibility allows you to manage its size and to style its structure the way you wanted. You can make it tall or a bonsai-sized ornament.
It likes bright, indirect lights and requires medium watering. It grows best in a warm and humid environment. Just make sure to spray it with warm water when the air is dry.
When winter is approaching, keep your umbrella trees inside your home in room temperature. Do not forget to mist your plant regularly, especially during winter since the humidity level is low during this period.
If your plant is placed in an environment with low humidity level, it becomes much more vulnerable to pests.
Your umbrella tree thrives in a soil that drains well.
It is a fast grower so it needs regular pruning. If you give it a regular dose of fertilizer, you’ll be surprised how fast and big it will grow in just a year!
You can propagate your umbrella tree through stem cutting, air layering or seed planting.
It can be your natural air purifier inside or a beautiful garden hedge outside.
Your umbrella tree is also a wonder in the field of herbal medicine. You can enjoy the health benefit from the roots to the leaves of your umbrella tree.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Umbrella Plant Poisonous to Humans?
One of the downsides of having an umbrella tree is it is not pet-friendly and harmful for human consumption.
The umbrella tree contains toxins potentially harmful to humans and animals once consumed. Usually, the poisoning is not severe. However, it is not fit for human consumption.
The sap of the umbrella tree contains calcium oxalate crystals. Skin contact with the sap may cause irritation that usually lasts only a few minutes. It is advisable to use safety gloves when handling umbrella trees to prevent skin contact.
If a person ingested a leaf or stem of an umbrella tree, he/she may experience vomiting, numbness and tingling in the mouth and lack of coordination. It can also cause swelling of the airways that can impair breathing.
Contact poison control centers if you experience Schefflera poisoning.
Pets that have consumed any parts of the plant may experience vomiting, drooling, difficulty in swallowing, oral irritation and decrease in appetite. It can also cause kidney, heart and respiratory problems.
If you suspect your pet to have consumed umbrella tree or is suffering from Schefflera poisoning, bring your fur friend to a veterinary clinic immediately.
Do Umbrella Trees Grow Fast?
Umbrella trees are rapid growers, recording an average of 3ft growth every year. Its growth period starts from spring to summer and remains dormant in fall and winter.
Umbrella trees outdoors are most likely to grow faster than those indoors.
Using fertilizer during its growing season plays an enormous effect on the maturity of your plant.
Poor lighting impairs the growth of your umbrella tree.
Because of its rapid growth, umbrella trees are considered as invasive species in places like Florida and Hawaii.
You can limit its growth by pruning regularly and restricting its feeding.
How Tall Does an Umbrella Tree Grow?
If placed outdoors under perfect conditions, your umbrella tree or the Schefflera arboricola can grow at least 30ft tall without undergoing any trimming.
Its close relative, Schefflera actinophylla can reach an average height of 50ft outdoors.
Indoor umbrella trees can grow up to 10ft in height.
Dwarf umbrella trees or the smaller varieties have an average height of 10 inches.
Variegated or umbrella trees that have colorful leaves tend to grow shorter than non-variegated varieties.