Dwarf Umbrella Tree
Common Name: Dwarf Umbrella Tree, Umbrella Tree, Parasol Plant, Octopus Tree
Latin Name: Schefflera arboricola
Plant Type: Tree, shrub
Blooming Time: Early to Late Summer
Temperature: 60 – 85*F
Color: Green, yellow
Insects and Diseases: Scale, mealy bugs, aphids, spider mites
The Dwarf Umbrella Tree is a beautiful foliage plant to use inside the home. It’s very popular because it’s not an overly picky plant that can tolerate some neglect and a variety of home conditions.
The tree has long oval shaped leaves with pointy tips that grow on delicate stems. Each stem tip has five to nine shiny leaves that are arranged in a circular, or umbrella shape.
The Umbrella Tree comes in both green and a variegated variety. The solid variety is a dark, lush green color. The variegated variety has green leaves that are mingled with yellow or creamy white. This one is also popular when used as a bonsai.
While the dwarf variety generally only reaches around 4-5 feet tall, excellent growing conditions can produce a taller tree. Pruning and trimming can keep the tree at the size and shape you prefer.
The flowers appear as long, red spikes from the top of the plant during the summer. Round orange berries appear after the flowers and will turn black as they age. However, it seldom flowers in the home.
If you have a good location, the tree prefers to have bright, indirect light. Hot, direct sunlight can cause the leaves to burn. But, being a high tolerant plant, it can adapt to most lighting conditions as long as there is some light source.
However, if it receives too little light, the plant will become spindly looking. Yellow, dropping leaves means that the plant needs more lighting. The variegated variety requires a little more light than the green trees.
Umbrella Trees are very drought tolerant and can withstand some neglect when it comes to watering. The soil should not be kept too wet and the pot should have good drainage. Water the plant when the soil is almost dry or you notice slight wilting of the leaves. Use slightly warm water when watering this one.
Like with many other plants, wrinkling or wilted leaves means that it’s not getting enough water. But, if you notice the leaves beginning to turn black and eventually falling off, the plant is getting too much water.
A general purpose potting soil can be used for Dwarf Umbrella Trees as long as it drains well, but retains water moisture. Perlite or coarse sand can be added to the soil to improve aeration.
To make your own soil, mist 1 part Perlite or coarse sand, 1 part humus or moist peat and 1 part garden soil and give the mixture a light dusting with lime. For extra drainage, select a pot with a hole in the bottom.
A good quality liquid fertilizer can be used, or you can purchase fertilizers especially for foliage plants. Umbrella Trees growing under lower lighting conditions, need less fertilization than on that is receiving bright light.
If your pot is full of roots, the plant should be fertilized once or twice weekly with a diluted liquid plant food. Less fertilization is needed during the winter months, unless you notice new growth on the plant. Slow release fertilizers can be used once each growing season.
Stop fertilization in late October and then begin feeding again towards the end of February. Umbrella Trees need a period of rest during winter months when growing has decreased or sometimes stopped.
When the red flower spikes change to dark maroon, let them dry completely in the sun. Carefully wash the pods, seeds should fall out if you gently rub the seed pod, once seeds are removed let them dry again.
Umbrella Tree’s can be propagated through seeds, cuttings or air-layering. Cuttings can be cut off with a sharp knife and placed in a good quality potting soil. Place the pot in a high humidity area that has indirect lighting. To increase humidity, cover the pot with plastic.
To air-layer, carefully slice off a thin layer of the stem covering on a lower branch. The open area can then be buried under the soil. Once roots have gotten established, remove the stem and place it in another pot.
These trees can be grown from seeds also, just sow in small containers and lightly cover with soil. Germination usually occurs within 2-3 weeks and plants can be re-potted once well established.
While many people have no problems at all with skin irritation, some have adverse reactions and may develop a itchy rash when coming in contact with the sap. In most cases skin irritation only last few a little while.
Ingestion of any part of the plant can cause numbness, tingling in the mouth, vomiting and a lack of coordination. Only in extreme allergic reactions is this serious, if in doubt contact your physician.
This plant is actually listed on most of the non-poisonous lists.
To help provide the Umbrella Tree with extra humidity, mist every day or two. Use warm water when watering or misting. Filtered or distilled water is best, water that contains lime will stain the leaves.
Written by Connie Corder for HouseplantsForYou.com, Copyright 2008 All Rights Reserved