Houseplant Pruning: Cutting a Large Umbrella Tree

Updated February 21, 2017

Umbrella trees (Schefflera actinophylla) can reach heights of 40 feet if planted outdoors. The tree grows from multiple shoots emerging from a central base. The leaves grow on limp fronds that hang downward, giving the tree its umbrella shape. Pruning large umbrella trees maintains its health and reduces the size so it does not overtake the planting site.

Wait until the early spring and look at each of the main stalks. Identify any with no leaves, which means they are dead. Cut the stalks as close to the ground as possible using loppers or a pruning saw for thicker stalks.

Look at the centre of the umbrella tree and locate the tallest stems. Prune the top 1/3 of these stems by tracing them back to the ground.

Examine the main stalks and horizontal branches. Locate any that rub against other parts of the tree. Prune those branches. If needed, cut entire limbs off near the trunk.

Search for any fronds or limbs that are hanging down and touching the ground. Cut these limbs back to at least 3 feet above the ground to prevent disease from entering the plant.

Cut the outer 1 to 2 inches off the fronds to create a more attractive rounded shape.


Repeating the pruning procedure each year keeps the umbrella tree healthy. If the umbrella tree limbs are killed by frost, leave them alone until the late winter, and then prune all damaged limbs as close to the trunk as possible. The trees will often recover in the spring and produce new, green growth.

Things You'll Need

  • Loppers
  • Pruning saw
  • Pruning shears
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About the Author

Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.