Umbrella Plant: Care & Pruning Tips
The Dwarf Umbrella Tree-more commonly called the Umbrella Plant-is a popular houseplant in many households, far from its native lands in Taiwan and surrounding countries. The Dwarf Umbrella Tree, or Schefflera arboricola, is an evergreen shrub whose popularity as a houseplant and use in landscaping in humid climates is compounded by its tolerance of unfavorable conditions, including lack of water and sunlight.
The Umbrella Tree can grow to around five feet in height, but with proper trimming and care, can remain small in size and be used as a bonsai. The leaves of Umbrella Trees can come in two different colors- solid green or a variegated variety, with yellow or white patches on the leaves. The variegated type is the most popular for bonsai.
Care of Umbrella Plants
Despite their natural hardiness, Umbrella Plants will die just like any other houseplant if neglected. Umbrella Plants favor moist soil, but will not do well if their soil is routinely saturated at length. Test your soil by digging a small hole about the length of your index finger in the soil about four inches away from the base of the plant. If the soil is damp in the bottom of the hole, but not at the top, water evenly within the next few days.
Wilting leaves are an obvious sign that the plant requires watering, but if the leaves begin to turn different colors and drop, the plant is getting too much water. Water more frequently in spring and summer, but scale back your watering during the plants’ dormant season in winter. It is also a good idea to mist your plant regularly with distilled or filtered water if you live in a dryer climate as Umbrella Plants prefer more humid and moist conditions.
Umbrella Trees do not require any special soil and can be potted with any standard quality potting mix. Pot your umbrella Tree in a container with a drainage hole in the bottom and line the bottom with rocks or a mixture of peat and sand to help aid with drainage of excess water. The Umbrella Tree blooms from early to late summer and is also in its most active growing phase during that time. If your Umbrella Plant is not placed near a source of bright sunlight for the majority of the day, you can fertilize it with good quality liquid fertilizer once a week throughout the growing period.
Umbrella Plants are light lovers and prefer bright lights, but as with many plants, can suffer damage and dehydration in direct, hot light. Umbrella Plants are very adaptive to different light sources and will thrive in a variety of light levels if allowed time to adjust. It can be stressful for the plant if it is suddenly placed in a different environment without being allowed sufficient time to adapt.
The Umbrella Plant normally remains in good health, but is also prone to infestations of mites, mealy bugs and other insects. If you discover spotting on the underside of your plant’s leaves, or other signs of infestations, spray with any common pesticide as directed.
Pruning of Umbrella Plants
Umbrella Plants need little pruning if allowed to grow to full size, beyond regular removal of dead stalks and leaves. If you have an outdoor Umbrella Plant, it can be easily pruned to a desired size with shears. Umbrella Trees are among the easiest plants to use for those just beginning the art of bonsai, however, if you are growing an Umbrella Plant as a bonsai, you will need to be aware of how to properly prune your tree.
Converting a full grown Umbrella Plant to a bonsai will take large quantities or time and be stressful on the plant. It is recommended you start with a young, small plant. Pruning is used as a tool to encourage heavy branching of the plant, so you should prune your plant around areas where you want thicker foliage and trim to shape as desired. Water your bonsai frequently, and never allow the soil to dry out, or become too saturated. It is somewhat difficult to prune the Umbrella Plant into traditional bonsai shapes, but it is easy to trim and preserve at a miniature size.
It is important to note that the Umbrella Tree is poisonous if ingested, so you should take care to keep all trimmings, seeds and fallen leaves away from pets and small children.