By: Raffaele Di Lallo, Author and founder of Ohio Tropics houseplant care blog
Is your schefflera too leggy? Maybe it was nice and bushy at one time, but now it has lost a lot of its foliage and needs some help. Let’s take a look what causes leggy schefflera plants and what you can do to improve their appearance.
Why is My Schefflera Leggy?
There are numerous reasons why your umbrella plant is getting leggy. With older plants, it is natural for the older mature to drop off. Leaf drop is also caused by sudden extremes in temperatures, such as cold and hot drafts near doorways, from air conditioning, or heating vents.
Keeping your plant too dry, or even too wet, can cause its foliage to drop off as well. Be careful of foliage that has dropped because schefflera contains calcium oxalate which is toxic to cats and dogs.
Fixing Leggy Schefflera Plants
There are a few things that you can do to fix your leggy schefflera plants. If you want to fix your leggy plant and propagate at the same time, you can use air-layering to propagate. This is a slower method, but it will result in a rooted cutting that you can cut off the plant and pot up. Once you cut off the rooted section, the original plant will start to show new growth and branch off.
If you don’t care to make more plants and just want to make your plant bushier, you can do some pruning immediately. Pruning leggy schefflera plants is an effective way to fix a leggy plant and these plants respond well to pruning.
Simply trim any areas that appear leggy and new branches will grow from these areas. If you want to speed up how quickly your plant will recover, place the plant outdoors during the summer months.
The increased light and humidity outdoors will supercharge your schefflera’s growth. You can even give your schefflera another light trimming by late summer to encourage further bushiness if you desire.
Also, make note that if you have your schefflera in a dark location, it will not grow dense and will appear less full than you might like. If your plant appears not to have too many leaves and the leaves are spaced out pretty far on the stem, your plant may not be getting enough light. Be sure to grow your plant in bright, indirect light close to a window for best results. Some direct sun is fine but avoid full sun.
To summarize, if your umbrella plant is getting leggy you can either air-layer to propagate, prune your plant, and increase the light it receives. You will have a bushy schefflera again in no time!
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Read more about Schefflera Plants
Schefflera Care Tips
Umbrella plants are a great choice for beginner plant parents or to keep in places like offices and dorm rooms. Low maintenance, they can handle growing in low light, or you forgetting to water it every once in a while.
These plants originate from Taiwan and are part of the Araliaceae plant family.
This article will go into more detail about how to care for your umbrella plant:
- Bright, indirect light
- Water frequently
- Fertilize in spring and summer
- How to prune and propagate an umbrella plant
- When to repot
- Common care problems and easy fixes
Need a plant care refresher? Check out the Beginners Guide to Basic Houseplant Care. It will tell you all you need to know to take care of all your indoor plants.
Umbrella tree is propagated using cuttings. The plant has very woody stems at the bottom which are not ideal for propagation. The new growth is light green, fleshy, and pliable. The new growth provides cuttings that are ideal for propagation.
Take clippings and root them in water. However, this is not to say that some of the more mature stems won’t root in water, it’ll just take a lot longer than if you just cut some of the younger growth.
It takes about a month or two for roots to form on cuttings being propagated in water. You need to be patient. Once the roots form, establish the cutting in soil.
You can also propagate the Schefflera plants directly in the soil. After making the cutting, deep it in rooting hormone powder to promote root formation.
How Do You Want Your Plant to Look?
Before pruning, decide how you want your plant to look. Obviously, umbrella plants with more than one stem will look bushy while those with one stem will be tall and thin. It is best if you choose to keep this shape and simply prune your plant back to maintain this natural shape.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when pruning is the plant’s natural shape and growth pattern. You will want to follow this natural growth pattern. This will make pruning easier and quicker. Fighting this pattern, on the other hand, will make your job much more difficult. It is therefore best to follow the natural growth and simply shape and trim where necessary to keep your plant neat.
It is always best to determine how you want your plant to look in the future. Trimming and pruning makes the plant grow in certain ways so you need to know what you actually want to achieve before you start cutting. It is vital to make a decision where to cut before you make any cutting.
This is the only way to avoid any mistakes and prune too much. Again, over-pruning will likely not harm your plant but it might result in a look that you do not want. It is therefore important to decide where you want to prune before you start.
How to grow a Schefflera or Umbrella Plant
I have 3 Schefflera plants that were from my dad’s funeral in 1999. Now from the pictures you can see they are wild crazy looking plants that appear to be a bit leggy. Truth be told that is from a lack of sunlight and pruning. I have an emotional attachment to my plants and so I have let them be for years growing in whatever direction they desire.
The Schefflera will tolerate low light but it really wants a bright indirect light such as being opposite south or west facing windows in a room. If you do not have a bright room, place in front of an east facing window or purchase a grow light and spotlight your Schefflera between 8-12 hours a day (I would mimic the season so longer light in summer and shorter in winter).
The Schefflera (or Umbrella plant) will tolerate a drier soil and root rot will happen if you overwater. Do not let the pot sit in water. Do not water with straight tap water and do not worry about fertilizing during the fall and winter months. I do not repot until the plant’s roots start creeping outside of the pot. I have found in my many years of growing these that they love to be potbound. When you do repot, go up only about 2″ for a couple different reasons:
- easier to move the plant outdoors with a smaller pot
- it is easier to control the growth of the plant in a smaller pot
- and I have found, in my experience, that it stresses a plant if you go too large (the plant will concentrate on growing roots and you will not see any new growth on the top)
In the summer, the Schefflera loves the heat and humidity and seems to really grow and flourish. If you can set up an area in your shade garden, the plant will thrive and grow. No full sun but bright indirect light under the canopy of trees or a gazebo where the sun is filtered.
I have rooted the Schefflera by cutting too and want to advise that it takes some patience. I rooted one stem in water and it took about 2 months for roots to appear.
The Schefflera is a fairly common plant found in floral, grocer, and retail stores. It can survive temps down to 50 at night. My house is 65 during the winter months and the Schefflera loses a few leaves but nothing I fret over. Losing some leaves is expected when bringing the plant indoors or home from the store. When leaves turn yellow at a rapid rate and fall off, then worry. When this happens check for pests and soggy soil. If it is soggy soil, then let the plant dry out and water only once a week after that. If you have a place, you may want to check the roots by pulling the plant out of the pot and check to see if the roots are rotting (which healthy roots are usually white and flexible not brown and mushy). If so, then you may want to try and cut off rotting roots, clean the pot, and repot in fresh soil. If you have room I would try and root a stem in water in a small vase.
Another tip: do not sit the Schefflera (or any plant) too close to vents or doors. This can cause leaves to fall off too. So recap of how to care for a Schefflera or Umbrella plant:
- prefers bright indirect light away from direct sunlight
- do no place in full sun or right in front of a south or west facing window
- do not let it be in temps below 50
- pot in good potting soil that drains well
- let it become rootbound and keep it pruned for shape, if desired
- water every 5-7 days and let soil dry out on top
- do not let the plant sit in wet soil or a pot that does not drain
- the Schefflera will grow in low light situations but will become leggy
- prefers to be outside in the heat, humidity, and shade of summer
- you can fertilize in spring and summer
- can grow very large upwards of 6′
- an easy plant to grow and it helps clean the air
- susceptible to pests such as mites (if a sticky substance appears on the leaves, you may have mites) I would find an organic or natural pesticide or if you can move it around use Dawn dishwashing liquid and give the plant, soil, and pot a soapy shower
- Blue Dawn is safe for humans, pets, and plants
I hope I have given you the knowledge to grow one of these green beauties. Thank you for stopping by!
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