The umbrella plant or schefflera (Brassaia actinophylla) is a tropical Australian plant popular as a houseplant even though it can grow up to 30 m (100 feet) high. It is popular because of its attractive, divided leaves with up to 16 drooping leaflets. The foliage is shiny and often variegated and the leaves can be up to 25 cm (10 inches) across. The umbrella plant will get taller every time it is repotted into a larger container.
- Skill level:
Place your umbrella plant in a bright location with some direct sunshine every day. A south or west facing windowsill is ideal. Umbrella plants grow best at temperatures of between 18.3 and 32.2 degrees C (64 and 90 degrees F).
Water your umbrella plant by soaking the soil thoroughly and allowing all excess. Reduce watering during the winter months but never allow your umbrella plant leaves to wilt due to lack of water.
Fertilise your umbrella plant monthly during the warmer months of the year using a liquid houseplant fertiliser. Do not fertilise during the winter.
Check your umbrella plant regularly for signs of mealy bug or scale insect infestation. Treat mealy bugs, which are white with a fluffy appearance, by dabbing them with a paintbrush dipped in rubbing alcohol. Treat scale insects with an insecticidal soap spray. Repeat the treatment until the last signs of infestation has disappeared.
Propagate your umbrella plant from cuttings taken at any time during the year. Take a cutting from the tip of a stem, long enough to include two sets of fully developed leaves. Dip the cut surface in hormone rooting powder and plant in moist compost. Place the cutting in a bright, humid location with plenty of air movement. Umbrella plants can also be propagated from fresh seed.
Tips and warnings
- Plant umbrella plants outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 10 and above with minimum temperatures of -1.11 degrees C.
- The unrelated Cyperus alternifolia is also known as the umbrella plant but it a semi-aquatic species that needs very different conditions to B actinophylla.
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