GARDEN TIME with DOUG: My Houseplant Highlight for October – Schefflera



Sometimes called Umbrella Tree, the Brassaia actinophylla is a large tropical shrub with rosettes of 5 long glossy green leaves forming umbrella-like symmetrical heads. Native to Queensland, Java, and New Guinea, the Schefflera is an easy houseplant in a bright location. It can grow 10 to 15 feet or more in height in a container.

While the Brassaia actinophylla is commonly called Schefflera, the Schefflera arboricola is commonly called Dwarf Schefflera or Arboricola. This slightly smaller shrub has smaller leaves, also arranged in a rosette of 7 to 8 leaves with maturity. The arboricola tends to grow faster and will require regular pruning to control size and shape.


The Schefflera plants prefer bright indirect light to direct morning or late afternoon sun. An east-facing window is an ideal situation for most indoor foliage – sunny but not hot. A west-facing window is great for sun-loving plants. A south-facing window may burn even sun-loving plants. A north-facing window is great for moderate to lower-light tolerant houseplants. Keep in mind that windows with drapes or blinds, overhangs or porches, or that are shaded by buildings or trees have their light levels greatly reduced and that plants placed along the wall next to the window do not benefit fully from the window’s light level.


The number one killer of houseplants is TOO MUCH WATER! Check the soil before watering to determine if watering is needed (dry plants droop; water-logged plants also droop!). For both Schefflera and Dwarf Schefflera you want to allow the soil to dry moderately and provide good drainage. Check for water needs by: sticking your finger or a moisture meter into the root ball to determine the depth of dryness: lifting the pot to check its relative weight when freshly watered or when partially dry; feeling the leaves for firmness; feeling the outside of a porous container such as terra cotta for dryness or coolness. With new plants or old plants in new conditions, check the soil every day for one or two weeks to learn the plant’s approximate water schedule. Water thoroughly: slowly and evenly around the surface of the root ball, stopping when a little water trickles out of the bottom of the pot.

Both the Schefflera and the Dwarf Schefflera make very attractive potted plants for home or office.

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