Umbrella Tree Care – Guide
The Dwarf Umbrella Tree (Schefflera arboricola) is a tropical plant native to southern Taiwan. They are a smaller version of the True Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla) and are grown as houseplants. Umbrella tree care is easy and low maintenance.
This guide will focus on care for the Dwarf Umbrella Tree, however, both species have extremely similar care requirements.
Some Interesting Umbrella Tree Facts:
Umbrella trees are also called umbrella plants or octopus trees.
Dwarf umbrella trees will grow up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall. On the other hand, true umbrella trees can grow up to 65 feet (20 meters) if planted outside.
Umbrella trees are poisonous to both cats and dogs. Consumption is usually not deadly but can result in mild to extreme symptoms.
Sundaygardener.com provides more umbrella tree information and other care tips.
Umbrella trees thrive in temperatures between 65°F and 85°F (18°C to 30°C). Their growth is so rapid in this climate that they are invasive in Florida and Hawaii.
They can survive temperatures as cold as 35°F (2°C) and as warm as 105°F (40°C) for a short time. However, prolonged exposure to these temperatures will result in stunted growth and/or wilting.
If you live in zones 10 to 11, umbrella trees can be grown outdoors. If you live in colder or warmer zones, they will need to be taken indoors. Both hot summers and freezing winters can be deadly to the plant.
*Make sure to check with local regulations before planting umbrella trees outdoors. Their rapid growth has caused them to become invasive in some parts of the world.
Also, avoid placing potted umbrella trees in drafty areas. Drafts can cause leaves to dry out and curl, which can result in leaves falling off.
Umbrella Tree Water Requirements:
Umbrella trees generally like to be on the drier side. In fact, they have naturalized in northern Australia, which is quite dry.
Allow the soil of umbrella trees to dry out between waterings. They are able to survive drier environments, however, they will quickly rot when given too much water.
Make sure they never sit in water or soaked soil. As a general rule, water plants once a week to twice a month.
Umbrella trees have a dormant season where they will stop growing as much during the winter. During this time they can be watered slightly less.
Signs of over or under watering include yellow/spotty leaves, leaf loss, or stunted leaf growth during the summer. Usually they are over watered so take the time to carefully water and the plant will recover.
Umbrella Tree Light Requirements:
Effective umbrella tree care requires correct lighting. They will do best in bright, indirect light. For example, a room with a large window or bright light will be plenty for an umbrella tree.
They are also able to tolerate direct sunlight, so they can be kept outside if it is warm enough.
Medium to dark lighting will cause umbrella trees to become leggy. Their leaves will become smaller and their stems will grow longer in order to reach sunlight.
Leggy plants will require more light in order to begin growing properly. Try moving leggy umbrella trees to brighter locations or providing more light sources.
Learn more about caring for leggy plants and succulents at sunspotnursery.com.
Umbrella trees will thrive in well draining soil. They will not tolerate sitting water, and their roots will rot if left wet for too long.
The best soil for Umbrella Trees include:
- Sphagnum peat moss based soils
- Cactus and/or Citrus potting mix
- Or mix 1 part potting soil to 1 part perlite to make a well draining soil
Also, try adding a layer of rocks to the bottom of a pot to help with drainage. A layer of rocks helps to prevent water from sitting in the soil.
Make sure the umbrella tree’s pot has at least one drainage hole in the bottom. Drainage holes allow water to escape instead of sitting inside of the pot and causing rot.
If your umbrella tree is indoors and a drainage hole causes water to leak onto the floor, place the potted tree into another pot without a drainage hole. This allows water to escape the soil without draining onto the floor.
Other methods to deal with water are to place the pot on a dish or a towel to retain some water.
Learn more on the different types of pots and drainage at sunspotnursery.com.
Fertilizing Umbrella Trees
Umbrella trees do not need any fertilizer to survive or even thrive. However, fertilizing plants a few months of the year can help boost growth and produce more leaves.
Find an all purpose fertilizer for either indoor plants or trees. Umbrella trees are not that picky when it comes to fertilizer.
Follow the instructions of the fertilizer. Most varieties will require 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of fertilizer to be mixed with a gallon of water.
Water umbrella trees with the fertilizer/water mixture once a month for three to five months of the year. Fertilizing should be started in late spring and done throughout the summer to produce healthier plants.