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09-14-11 | Posted by Roni

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Salon straightening treatments have been a real game changer for frizz-fighting, with a few short hours in a stylist’s chair shaving cumulative hours off of clients’ daily beauty regimens. Concerns over formaldehyde content prompted a Cosmetic Industry Review, which should conclude this fall. In the meantime, we wanted to give a run-down of our experiences with Brazilian Blowout and Coppola Keratin Complex, two of the biggest names in the arena. We also have some tips for choosing a salon and a stylist when booking a straightening service.

Photo Credit: brazilianblowout.com

Brazilian Blowout – Fairly or not, this company has borne the brunt of criticism. In response to consumer concerns, they now offer two product lines – Brazilian Blowout Original and Brazilian Blowout Zero. We have only experienced the Original. The process starts with a special clarifying shampoo to prepare the hair. The straightening solution is then applied to towel dried hair from root to tip. Following a blowout, the stylist flat irons the hair. After rinsing the hair, the stylist applies a masque to seal in the solution then rinses again. A smoothing serum is worked through the hair and a final blowout completes the process, which took approximately three hours for my thick, long hair.

Phot Credit: folica.com

Coppola Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy – The salon experience starts with a shampoo and blowdry, after which point the solution is applied and allowed to absorb for 20 minutes. Hair is blown dry and flat ironed, at which point the treatment is complete. On my hair it took about two hours. Coppola Keratin promises to eliminate frizz and loosen curls.

Comparison – The Brazilian Blowout takes considerably longer, but in exchange for more chair time I was able to wash my hair immediately. With Coppola Keratin the first 72 hours are pretty draconian: no washing, sweating, ponytails, pinning back or even tucking the hair behind my ears for fear that it might cause a bend or a dent. Given all of the concerns about these products and their content, it made caring for three young kids challenging, as I didn’t want them to touch my hair until after I was able to wash it. Both products have proprietary sulfate-free hair care lines. I found that I liked the results of the Brazilian Blowout shampoo more but preferred the scent of the Coppola shampoo.

As far as the salon experience itself goes, Coppola is the clear forerunner. The Brazilian Blowout has more steps, making the process longer and more tedious. Both treatment’s solutions have a strong odor during the flat ironing phase, but with the Brazilian Blowout I experienced a burning sensation in my eyes and nose. It was worrisome for me but likely could have been improved had the stylist implemented better ventilation at her station.

What about the results? The Brazilian Blowout worked incredibly well. It may have worked a little too well at first, because my hair was bone straight but lacked body. Within a week or two it regained some volume, and I was delighted to find that I could blow dry my hair with more speed and ease than ever, just running my fingers through as I used a hair dryer with a concentrator attachment. Washing two or three times a week, I found that the treatment lasted about 16 weeks.

Honestly, I only tried Coppola because I was unnerved by the burning in my eyes and nose with the Brazilian Blowout. The aldehydes in the Coppola solution are encapsulated, which is said to prevent vaporization. Still, my stylist diffused any fumes with a small tabletop fan and it worked wonders, making my Coppola treatment far less stinky than my Brazilian Blowout. I dreaded those 72 hours of babying my hair and had a hard time following the guidelines. Once I washed my hair it looked great, but my satisfaction was short lived. Within a month of the service I found that my frizz had returned with a vengeance. Blow drying minimized it, but ultimately the results were no better than what I could have accomplished with a smoothing product, dryer and round brush. To my disappointment, the flat iron came out just as quickly as I had stashed it in the bathroom drawer.

Verdict – I loved everything about the Brazilian Blowout except for the fumes during the treatment and the worrisome news reports about its contents. I eagerly anticipate the results of the current inquiry and will likely book a Brazilian Blowout Zero treatment for my next keratin treatment. I didn’t find the Coppola service worth the time spent in the salon or the expense. It bears mentioning that other high profile brands including Bumble and Bumble and L’Oreal are entering the fray with formaldehyde free smoothing treatments.

Top Tips For Booking A Smoothing Service – Whichever treatment you choose, here are a few suggestions from BITB to make your experience as smooth as your hair.

Choose a reputable salon and find out how many times the stylist has performed the service. You want the expert who does six a week, not three a month.

Ask questions. Is the treatment recommended for color-treated hair? Hair that has been previously chemically straightened? What kind of ventilation does the salon use to assure their clients’ comfort and safety? Most importantly, once you park it in that stylist’s chair, ask what kind of results you can expect for your hair. These treatments will yield different effects on coarse, kinky hair or fine, frizzy hair. A trained stylist should be able to anticipate the outcome once they have a chance to study your hair, and they may suggest another course of action altogether.

Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. Smoothing treatments crop up on the daily deal sites all the time, but often times there are considerations that don’t even show up in the fine print. Some salons will charge clients more if their hair requires additional solution, typically on a per ounce basis. Ask if aftercare products are included in the price. Find out which version of the treatment is being promoted; some smoothing treatments have different levels and salons often promoted the entry-level treatment. Clients might only learn that they need to upgrade the treatment once they are in the stylist’s chair. We love beauty bargains, but this is one of those instances where we think that consumers can’t afford to be cheap. Ultimately we would advise spending a bit more (and skipping the nickel-diming routine of restrictive promotions) if it means getting a seasoned stylist in a reputable salon.

Above all, do your homework. Technology and the beauty industry have given us incredible possibilities. With a little research you can find the right treatment and get the results that you desire.

  1. Bonnie Says:

    The Professional Keratin Smoothing Council PRESS RELEASE/OCTOBER 2011 states that appropriate salon ventilation should always be used for keratin hair smoothing treatments. Salons that are not equipped with the appropriate salon ventilation (chemical source capture ventilation) should NOT provide these services until this situation is corrected.

    New technology (salon chemical source capture ventilation) has been developed and proven to be highly effective for improving salon air quality by minimizing exposure to formaldehyde, as well as the many gases, vapors and dusts found in salons.

    Press Release Link:

    December 14th, 2011 at 2:02 PM

  2. Bonnie Says:

    The Professional Keratin Smoothing Council PRESS RELEASE/OCTOBER 2011 states that appropriate salon ventilation should always be used for keratin hair smoothing treatments. Salons that are not equipped with the appropriate salon ventilation (chemical source capture ventilation) should NOT provide these services until this situation is corrected.

    New technology (salon chemical source capture ventilation) has been developed and proven to be highly effective for improving salon air quality by minimizing exposure to formaldehyde, as well as the many gases, vapors and dusts found in salons.

    Press Release Link at:

    December 14th, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Schefflera arboricola ‘Gold Capella’

  • Position: bright but indirect light
  • Soil: good potting compost
  • Rate of growth: average
  • Hardiness: tender (indoors only)
  • Current height: approximately 140cm (including pot)
  • Pot covers: choose a 25cm pot cover to give a good fit over the pot
    The leaves of this easy to grow house plant form in finger-like leaflets, which radiate out from a central point – hence the common name of ‘umbrella tree’. These rich green leaflets are variously and irregularly splashed with yellow, so some will have a lot of yellow, while others may have none at all.
    Please note that the pot in the photograph is not supplied with the plant (which is sent out in a black plastic pot). They do however make excellent potted plants, and if you wish to pot yours up, we do have a wide range of pots on our website to choose from.
  • Home care: Place in bright but indirect light and keep well watered during the growing season – making sure that the excess water can drain away freely. Water less often in winter and maintain temperatures above 12C. Mist the leaves regularly with water to improve the humidity around the plant, or sit the pot in a tray of moist shingle.

The Schefflera arboricola or dwarf umbrella tree is a broad-leaved evergreen shrub belonging to the family Araliaceae and hailing from Taiwan and Hainan.

The plant’s genus name honors Polish, 19th-century botanist, Jacob Christoph Scheffler. The specific epithet, arboricola, is derived from the Latin and means tree-like.

Common names for this plant include:

  • Hawaiian Umbrella Tree Plant
  • Dwarf Hawaiian Schefflera
  • Dwarf Umbrella Tree
  • Australian Ivy Palm
  • Dwarf Schefflera plant
  • Umbrella Plant
  • Octopus Tree
  • Parasol plant
  • Starleaf

When colorful annuals make their way into garden centers, spring foliage indoor plants like the Hawaiian umbrella tree plant – Schefflera Arboricola, arrive as well!

In most garden centers you’ll find arboricola in the regular “mix” of tropical plants filling out many of the spring indoor house plant assortments.

Schefflera arboricola is the “dwarf” cousin to the old time umbrella plant – Schefflera actinophylla.

You’ll find quite a few arboricola varieties in most garden centers or nurseries.

Below are some of Dwarf Hawaiian variegated Schefflera varieties commonly found today:

  • Arboricola – regular green variety
  • Renate Green variety that has more ripple to the leaves
  • ‘Gold Capella’ variegated green, gold or yellow leaves
  • ‘Trinette’ variegated cream and green leaves
  • ‘Dazzle’ variegated some leaves almost completely creamy white

New Schefflera arboricola cultivars are introduced each year.

Schefflera variegated Arboricola growing as a bush in Terra Cotta “vase” an interesting look. Outside St Johns Town Center Jacksonville, Florida Oct 2016

Dwarf Schefflera Arboricola / Umbrella Tree Care

Size & Growth Of The Tree That Looks Like An Umbrella

When grown in its native climate, these dwarf trees can actually grow to reach 10’ to 15’ feet tall.

When growing in the wild, dwarf Hawaiian Schefflera arboricola trees also grow as epiphytes with aerial roots on the bark of other trees.

When kept as a houseplant, the arboricola tree usually tops out at about 5’ – 6’ feet fall. Three feet high is more typical.


During the summertime, the Schefflera plant produces very small red flowers that grow on compound panicles.

These transition into rounded, orange or red drupes which turn black as they mature.

Flowering is common on umbrella plants outdoors in the ground. Dwarf umbrellas kept indoors seldom flower.


The oblong leaves of the umbrella tree may grow to be 4’ to 6’ inches long individually.

The leaves grow in round clusters of 7 to 9 individual leaflets, arranged in a circular fashion that mimics the spokes of an umbrella.

Light & Temperature

Dwarf Schefflera is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 10 through 12.

The Schefflera arboricola can adapt to a wide variety of light levels but prefers a bright light intensity if possible especially the variegated varieties – ‘Gold Capella’ & ‘Trinette plants’.

When grown outdoors, dwarf Hawaiian Schefflera plants should be placed in a sheltered location with bright indirect light and partial shade.

Outdoors, Dwarf arboricola trees can tolerate full sun but will do better with protection from harsh punishing midday and afternoon sun.

The Umbrella Plant cannot tolerate being outdoors in cold winter weather and should be kept as a houseplant during this time.

In the summertime, you can move your container plants outside to a sheltered location with bright, partial shade.

As a houseplant, the umbrella plant is well-placed in a southern, western or eastern window receiving curtain-filtered light for three or four hours daily.

Avoid direct sun exposure for the schefflera houseplant.

When kept indoors, take care not to allow the temperature surrounding the plant to drop lower than 55° degrees Fahrenheit throughout the wintertime.

Keep humidity high surrounding the plant by misting the foliage and by setting the container on a tray containing wet pebbles.

Potted green Schefflera Arboricola at Disney World Animal Kingdom, 2019

Watering & Feeding

Hawaiian umbrella trees have an extensive root system and as mentioned even grow climbing a tree. They also seek water when grown outside.

As with most plants grown as a house plant indoors, dwarf tree Schefflera arboricola does not like to sit in water.

Avoid letting the arboricola bush sit in a saucer of water! Dwarf Scheff’s like moist soil but not wet. Wet soil promotes disease.

During the growing season (Spring and Summer), keep your Dwarf Hawaiian Schefflera well watered, but avoid overwatering.

Water deeply and then allow the soil to almost dry out before watering again.

From late in the autumn until early in the spring, you should reduce watering.

Fertilizer is optional, but giving the plant a half dose of a water-soluble fertilizer once per month during the growing season helps maintain color.

Soil & Transplanting

In all climates, the umbrella plant does well as a container plant. When used as a houseplant, provide high humidity and a well-drained potting mix with extra peat moss.

Repot in the springtime if the plant is rootbound. Do not fertilize for several weeks after repotting. With fresh soil, your Schefflera will not need fertilizer.

Grooming & Maintenance

Houseplants collect dust on their leaves and the arboricola bush is no different. Clean the leaves periodically using a damp sponge.

Don’t forget the undersides where mites like to hang out.

More on How To Clean House Plant Leaves

Prune umbrella plants to maintain size and shape.

If left alone the branches and stems can stretch and grow “out of shape”. It’s easy to keep them shaped with selective pruning.

Like a Ficus tree, dwarf arboricolas can handle some radical pruning and come back strongly.

Don’t be afraid to prune the plant when needed.

Occasional yellowing of the leaves is normal. Remove yellow leaves when they appear.

NOTE: Remember when plants move indoors they go through a period of acclimation. Expect the plant to thin out and loose leaves while acclimating.

Schefflera Umbrella Plant Propagation – How To

Propagate Dwarf umbrella plants from seeds, cuttings or by layering.

Plants will grow from seeds but most house plants never flower or seed.

Propagating from Cuttings

  • Take stem cuttings near the base of the plant. It should be about 4” – 6” inches long.
  • Cut the leaves on the cutting in half, crosswise to help reduce dehydration.
  • Dip the cut end of the cutting into rooting powder
  • Place the cutting in a 4” inch pot of clean well-drained potting soil.
  • The end of the cutting should be buried two inches deep.
  • Water and place the potted cutting in a warm, airy location with bright, indirect sunlight.
  • Keep the soil slightly damp.
  • New roots begin to develop within a couple of weeks.

Propagating By Layering

  • Bend a flexible, low stem into a pot of new soil placed next to the parent plant.
  • Bury it slightly, and anchor it in place with a rock or similar weight.
  • Keep the soil slightly moist.
  • The bent stem should produce roots and start to send out new shoots within a couple of weeks.
  • Once rooted cut the stem loose from the parent plant.

More on air layering propagation

Umbrella Schefflera Pest or Diseases

The Dwarf Umbrella Plant experiences very few diseases and pest problems.

However, the Schefflera is in the Aralia family and like many of the plants from this family spider mites like this plant.

As with most plants, overwatering and poor conditions will cause problems with root rot.

Compromised plants are susceptible to attacks by thrips, aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs.

More on Natural Pest Control for Plants

Schefflera Dropping Leaves

If leaves turn black and begin dropping off it’s a good signal of overwatering. The soil is staying too wet or moist.

On the flip side when leaf tips wrinkle and begin to wither, it indicates that you are not watering enough.

Is Schefflera Considered Toxic or Poisonous to People, Kids, Pets?

According to the ASPCA, Umbrella tree Schefflera is toxic to cats and dogs because it contains calcium oxalate crystals.

An animal or person who ingests the plant may experience difficulty swallowing, burning and irritation in the mouth, excessive drooling, and vomiting.

Are Arboricola Trees Considered Invasive?

Schefflera can be invasive in areas where it is winter hardy, such as Hawaii and Florida.

If you grow umbrella plant outdoors in an area where it is winter hardy, take care to keep its spread under control.

Suggested Schefflera Arboricola Uses

The Dwarf Schefflera plant is an attractive, easy-care houseplant in any climate.

In areas where the plant is winter hardy, it can be used as a:

  • Container plant – most found in the garden center are bush form.

variegated umbrella gold capella bush growing in bowl at Disney Springs, Orlando

  • Used as a hedge plant

Arboricola hedge growing at Disney Magic Kingdom – Tomorrowland

  • Single accent or specimen plant in the garden
  • Trained as a bonsai plant
  • Grown and pruned into a small tree with a single trunk or braided

Remember with your dwarf umbrella / Scheffleracare plant:

  • Don’t keep the plant wet
  • Place the plant in an area with bright light or filtered indirect light, these are bright light houseplants.
  • Watch out for mites
  • Don’t be afraid to prune when needed

That’s a quick look at one of the easiest to care for and popular houseplants on the market – the Umbrella plant or Schefflera Arboricola plant.

The Schefflera/Umbrella tree will live for years when cared for properly.

Schefflera is a plant commonly found in houses, apartments and offices. It is appreciated for the beauty of its foliage and its great ease of care.

Summary of Shefflera facts

Name – Schefflera arboricola
Family – Araliaceae
Type – indoor plant

Height – 10 feet (3 meters) indoors, 100 feet (30 meters) in its native environment
Soil – indoor plant soil mix
Exposure – bright light but no direct sunlight

Foliage – evergreen

Care, pruning, watering and treatment, follow this advice to grow a beautiful schefflera and avoid having it fall sick.

Short background facts about schefflera

Schefflera is one of the shrubs most often found as an indoor plant for the beauty of its leaves and its resilience.

It is appreciated for its aesthetic appeal but also for its highly adaptive survival traits that let it thrive in the most varied settings of our homes, apartments and offices.

It is also often present in office spaces because of its care-free growing and capacity to survive being ignored.

Caring for schefflera

Schefflera is quite tolerant as regards exposure, watering and temperature levels of where it stands.

Indeed, it does just great in a room where temperatures might range from 55 to 72°F (12 to 22°C). Best still to avoid brutal temperature shifts.

  • It must be set in a luminous room but cannot be exposed to sunlight.
  • It can tolerate veiled light but dotes most on bright light.
  • Watering is needed when the soil is dry, but not abundantly and preferably with water at room temperature.
  • Lastly, avoid moving it too often, since this tree needs time to adjust to its new setting.

Every 2 or 3 years, you must repot your schefflera.

  • Refer to our guidelines on how to repot your schefflera.

Pruning schefflera

It is important to prune schefflera stems for it to branch out.

This means pinching the tip of the main stem so that new lateral shoots may develop.

  • You can renew this step several times.

Diseases or mistakes made while growing schefflera

Schefflera losing its leaves

Quite common for schefflera, this is normal as long as leaf loss is regular and not too many are falling.

In case of leaf loss, check that it is well watered, and eventually proceed to topdress the pot.

  • This may also be connected to a change of pots or of place.
  • It may also lack light, in which case you must provide more light to it.

It should quickly bounce back more vigorous than ever.

Schefflera leaves turn yellow

This is often caused by a mite attack.

  • Simply treat it with organic mite killer sold in horticulture stores.
  • Avoid other chemical products, especially for an indoor plant.

White powder appears on leaves which get all sticky

This is usually due to mealybugs or scale insects.

  • Read how to rid your schefflera of scale insects

Watering schefflera

Its preferable to wait for the soil to have dried up before watering again.

Consequently, water on average once a week.

If the air indoors is quite dry or if it is summertime, it’s possible to water more often, but always wait for the soil to have dried up in the surface layer.

Of course, in winter or if surrounding moisture levels are high, you may space the watering somewhat.

Feel free to mist the leaves on a regular basis, this will increase leafage quality and keep the leaves from drying up.

Propagating and multiplying schefflera

It’s actually easy to propagate your schefflera – simply prepare cuttings from the stem.

How to prepare schefflera cuttings

  • Snip pieces of woody stems about 4 to 6 inches long and remove leaves (mark which side goes “up”).
  • In a pot of moist soil mix, make a hole with a finger or pencil and slide the bottom of the stems in.
  • Keep the soil mix moist but not waterlogged.
  • Roots should sprout within a few weeks
  • Leaf buds should form at junctions where you removed the leaves from earlier, within a month.

Cuttings is a sure way to replicate your favorite schefflera.

This is especially relevant if you want to keep mutations such as the particularly variegated schefflera, shown below.

Variegated schefflera plants require more sun than the more conventional, green varieties.

Smart tip about schefflera

With a pot or garden box and regular topdressing, your schefflera can grow to reach a magnificent 6 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) tall!

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Dreamy schefflera by Dave Hosford under © CC BY 2.0
Schefflera leaf by Маргарита Харитонова under license
Well-watered schefflera leaf by abubibolabu under license
Schefflera cuttings by Marcel Hoyer under © CC BY-NC 2.0
Schefflera, variegated by Светлана Гурьева under license

Schefflera arboricola belongs to the most popular indoor plants. Under optimal conditions, this plant can reach a considerable height of up to 4 m. The Schefflera’s greatest ornaments are the very decorative, hand shaped, shiny and variegated leaves. The plant is quite undemanding and it is demonstrably able to improve the room climate. It functions practically as a natural room freshener.

Plant Profile

  • Order: Apiales
  • Family: Araliaceae
  • Genus: Schefflera
  • german name: Strahlenaralie
  • scientific name: Schefflera J.R.Forst. & G.Forst
  • Species: Schefflera arboricola
  • Origin: Taiwan and South of China
  • average height when kept as an indoor plant: 30 – 180 cm
  • leaves: long-stemmed, leathery, lacquer-green
  • Flowering period: July to October, rarely forms small yellow flowers
  • Fruit: small, globular stone fruits

This pretty house plant grows laterally as an evergreen shrub, sometimes climbing or as an epiphyte. Originally from Taiwan and Hainan, the plant produces colourful red flowers in its natural habitat. When kept in the living room, it normally does not flower.

Besides its pretty appearance, Schefflera also scores as an air freshener. The leaves do not only release oxygen, they also absorb pollutants such as benzene and formaldehyde. Growing this plant is quite easy, if you pay attention to a couple of things.

Schefflera arboricola, Schefflera


Compared to other Scheffleras, the Schefflera arboricola or small-leaved Schefflera is a more graceful species with slightly smaller but conspicuously variegates leaves. Due to its growth, it finds sufficient space even in small rooms. The following care instructions are supposed to explain how to care for this plant properly and which mistakes should be avoided when keeping it.


The best place for Schefflera is a light to semi-shaded and draft-free place. Exposure to direct sun should be avoided. During summer suitable shading can be useful, since otherwise the risk of burns exits. On the other hand, some sun in the morning and evening hours are favourably for this plant. During summer, it can also be located in a sunny place outside, on the balcony or terrace.

Schefflera arboricola, Schefflera

Temperatures between 15 and 20° C are perfect for the Schefflera. However, they should not be exposed to temperatures below 12 °C, because this could cause them to lose leaves. For an even and straight growth, the plants should always be turned towards the light. Otherwise, the canopy of leaves on the side which is turned from the light may thin out, while the other side is closely leafed.

Soil condition

Customary soil from the gardening centre or building centre is only partially suitable for this plant, since it does not adequately meet the Schefflera’s requirements. The best solution is to mix a substrate consisting of 4 parts of clay, 2-3 parts of soil, 1 part of lavalit, lava granules or pumice gravel and 0, 5 part of quartz sand.

Schefflera arboricola, Schefflera

The pH value should be slightly acidic and should be between 6.0 and 6.5. This value can be adjusted by adding more or less arable soil with some clay. If this seems too complex, Schefflera can also be kept in hydroponics.


This plant does not like it too dry or too wet. This applies both the watering and the humidity.

  • during growing, from April to September, pour moderately
  • allow the upper substrate layer to dry to a depth of approximately 2 cm before every pouring
  • pour until the first drops run out of the drain holes
  • remove the water in the coaster after a couple of minutes
  • avoid waterlogging
  • the substrate should never dry out
  • a too dry substrate appears in brown, dried leaves
  • a substrate that is too wet causes putrefaction and the loss of leaves
  • spray the plant frequently if the air is too dry
  • a humidity of 60-70 % is of advantage
  • use lukewarm water for spraying and watering

Eleutherococcus sieboldianus

To preserve the shine of the leaves, it is advisable to wipe them with a damp cloth now and then. Larger specimens can be placed in the tub or shower and effervesced with lukewarm water, which has the same effect.


In order to provide the Schefflera with the necessary nutrients, it should be fertilized from spring to autumn. For this purpose a normally dosed fertilizer is used once or twice a week. This may be a liquid fertilizer which is added to the irrigation water, a commercially available fertilizer for green plants or flowers, as well as special fertilizer rods or organic fertilizers, e.g. Horn shavings. If the plant has just been repotted, fertilizer is not necessary for the next 8 weeks.


Schefflera looks the most plenteous and lush, when there are several plants placed in one pot. In spite of this all, for a bushy growth and for combatting the height, a back cut is recommended from time to time. If the plant grows undisturbed, it may soon appear bald and shabby. The best time for cutting is spring, no later than May.

Eleutherococcus sieboldianus

  • long shoots can be shortened by two-thirds
  • the occasional cutting of the shoot tips promotes the growing of new side shoots
  • always cut above the leave buds
  • the knotted joints on the trunk form numerous new shoots
  • cut off old inflorescences, if there are any
  • regularly remove diseased and limp plant parts

This plant does also tolerate a radical cutback. The cuttings that remain can be used to cultivate new Scheffleras. If the Schefflera is still young and if more plants are grown in one pot, the sprouts can be twisted together. This makes them an optical eye-catcher. However, you should wear gloves when handling this plant, because all plant parts are poisonous. This is very important to know when small children and pets live in your household.


The Schefflera is not a dormant plant in the proper sense, since it grows throughout the year. In winter, light conditions and temperatures play an important role. The species with variegated leaves, including Schefflera arboricola, require temperatures of at least 15-18 °C.

Schefflera arboricola, Schefflera

If it is colder or warmer, this can cause the leaves to fall off or even lead to a pest infestation. During this period, the plants need far less pouring. Fertilizing is not fully adjusted but significantly reduced. Henceforth, you only fertilize once in every four weeks and with a low dose.


The propagation of this indoor plant can be carried out by using terminal cuttings, leaf cuttings or stem cuttings, as well as seeds. While propagation with cuttings usually show rapid successes, it may take several months until the first seedlings show up after sowing.

Terminal and stem cuttings

  • cuttings are cut in spring between January and March or in the late summer
  • under perfect conditions rooting is quite fast
  • terminal cuttings are cut from the tips
  • stem cuttings are cut from the wooded middle part of the stem axis
  • they should be about 10- 20 cm long
  • the leaves in the lower part are removed and 3 or 4 leaves are left on the cutting
  • stem cuttings are cut directly under a knot
  • rooting can be done in a glass of soft water or soil
  • thereto put the cutting 3-5 cm deep into a peat-sand mixture
  • moisten the substrate and keep in evenly moistly
  • in case of rooting in a glass of water, add some charcoal ash
  • this is supposed to prevent rotting
  • depending on the ambient temperature and light, rooting takes 4-12 weeks

Schefflera arboricola, Schefflera

Repotting the cuttings

As soon as the cuttings have formed roots in the water glass, they can be planted. Soil-rooted cuttings are repotted as soon as they have grown about 3-5 cm. When they have reached a size of about 10 cm, the young plants can be fertilized for the first time. Of course, watering must not be neglected. Generally the cultivation in pots is preferred, because the fine roots are very sensitive and could get harmed during planting.

Leaf cuttings

  • only use healthy and strong leaves from the mother plant
  • leaf cuttings should keep the leafstalk; this is where the roots are formed
  • use a sharp knife to cut off a thin stripe at the lowest end of the leafstalk
  • then place the leaf cutting about 1 cm deep in a small pot which is filled with cultivation soil
  • moisten the substrate and keep it evenly moistly
  • light-permeable film can support rooting
  • remove the film daily for a little while to ensure ventilation
  • rooting takes place after approximately 3 months


Between February and March or in July the seeds are sown in sowing vessels or in an indoor greenhouse, using customary soil or compost. The substrate must be kept evenly moist until germination occurs. The soil temperature should be about 25 °C.

Schefflera arboricola, Schefflera

When the seedlings are large and strong enough, they can be separated and put into several pots. If you don’t want to single them, you can sow them in small pots, in which the young plantlets can then be cultivated for a short time further.


From time to time Schefflera arboricola has to be repotted. This is the case in every 2-3 years. You can see it is time to repot, when the pot is strongly rooted and roots are already sticking out on the top or bottom of the pot, the substrate collapses or the growth is only miserable. The best time for repotting is during the early spring, after wintering. First you carefully lift the plant out of the pot. Then you carefully remove the old substrate.

The new pot should only be slightly larger than the old one. A drainage of coarse gravel is placed on the bottom of the pot, which is to ensure that excessive water can drain well. A fleece is placed on the drainage to separate gravel and soil. The fresh substrate is then placed on top. After placing the plant, fill the pot with soil, press the soil slightly and water it well.

Eleutherococcus sieboldianus


Root rot

Even though Schefflera is very robust and usually not very prone to diseases, it can get infected with root rot. This is a fungal infestation, which is fueled by too much moisture and in the worst case it can lead to the death of the plant. Signs of root rot can be e.g. yellow leaves, a rotten smell from the substrate, a wet substrate as well as black roots and shoots.

If you detect root rot, you have to react immediately, to save the plant. You take the plant out of the pot, remove all the soil and all rotten roots and plant parts. Then the plant is repotted to a fresh substrate.


Scale insects

In most cases, the appearance of aphids, mealybugs or scale insects is the result of unfavourable growing conditions. Scale insects are recognizable by their small brown tags and sticky honeydew, the secretion of these insects. In order to eliminate the infestation, each single insect can be spread with a mixture of lubricating soap and alcohol or you can treat the plant with plant broths such as broth from tansies or stinging nettles. Beneficial species like ichneumon flies, predatory bugs, hoverflies or lacewings can also be helpful, since they fall for these parasites.

Schefflera arboricola, Schefflera

Aphids and mealybugs

Aphids and mealybugs are also usually the result of a faulty growing. An aphid attack can often be eliminated or at least reduced by a powerful water jet. Mealybugs can be recognized by their small white, cotton-wool-like threads with which they surround themselves. They can be eliminated by dabbing them with an alcohol wipe or using their natural enemies. These include lacewings, the Australian ladybug and the ichneumonfly Leptomastix dactylopii.

Spider mites

Spider mites and thrips belong to the greatest enemies of the Schefflera. The cause for an infestation is usually water deficiency. By spraying the plants with soapy water daily, an infestation can usually be eliminated without any additional pesticides. Spraying the plant with a soapy solution of water and curd soap once a week usually prevents pest infestation.


An infestation with thrips mainly occurs when the air is warm and dry. It can be recognized by silver suction marks and small crumbles under the leaves. Infected plants should be isolated from the others and given a shower with warm water several times. For this purpose the substrate has to be covered. In addition, natural giddies, such as the lacewing and products of the neem tree can help to eliminate an infestation.

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An adorable pet for your floral collection, and an amateur gardener’s most obedient subject, the umbrella tree is the houseplant you didn’t know you wanted, but a houseplant you deserve to take care of.

Taking its name from the charming shape of its foliage, the umbrella plant gains its affection because of being very adaptable to growing in different types of conditions, and it takes neglect sportively.

What’s In A Name?

Scientifically known as Schefflera arboricola, it’s more commonly called as an umbrella tree, with a dwarf suffix attached to it for one variety. It also bears the names octopus tree and parasol plant, so next time you hear any of these names know it is your friendly neighborhood houseplant.

However, there are some common confusions regarding the umbrella plant. It is mistaken for Heptapleurum, which is botanically very similar to Schefflera, and which has an uncanny resemblance to the Umbrella plant. If you are one of those who have confused one for the other, there is a reason for relief. This swapping of plants does not hinder how you take care of them, as the difference isn’t that big at all. But, another common misconception is with the cyperus plant, which in itself is a type of umbrella plant, but still considerably different.

Dwarf Umbrella Tree-Land of Origin

Its place of origin is not one, but two. Australia and Taiwan. Tolerating temperatures of 60 to 70°F best, the scale of tolerance starts from 15°F. It does require medium light water and direct sun, but not harsh or it will burn, more on that below.

It can grow up to the height of 50 feet and thrive in medium-high humidity, while the dwarf variety reaches only a meager 4 or 5 feet. When trimmed and pruned well, the growth can be managed for the indoors. It doesn’t bother its owner on the soil side either, with the standard compost or potting soil being more than enough, and fertilizer once a few weeks or so keeps it healthy.

It does have a few downsides, one of them chiefly being propagation. One will need to sunder the tips while they are growing, in spring. Pests need to be tackled too, especially red spider mites and scale insects.


This adorable plant gets its names from the look of its leaves, often in a group of five to nine, shiny and long and oval and its tips pointed, hoisted in a circular fashion above stems that are delicate on touch. These leaves, due to the rapid growth of the plant, can double in number as it grows. But, the more, the merrier, and prettier.

It has two varieties for its color, one is a green with a dark and lush hue, and the other is a variegated pigmentation with creamy white or yellow tinges. A bonsai darling, the umbrella plant is often grown in its variegated skin by aficionados. Apart from the look of its leaves, there is a more detailed difference between the two varieties as those with green leaves – even though not as appealing to the eye as a variegated type – are more robust in their make as they can survive with lesser light and in far colder temperatures. Variegated varieties are more delicate and don’t grow as tall as the green ones.

Schefflera actinophylla, which is native to Australia and Java, has more varieties of green than variegated, more often than not having slightly variegated pigmentation. The Schefflera Arboricola found natively in Taiwan is the commonly variegated one. Even though both plants are quite common to purchase, and have special specimens like the Compacta and the Gold Capella, it is the variegated ones that are more in demand.


Apart from the leaves, the umbrella plant does sprout flowers, and needless to mention, berries too. With the appearances of long spikes with a red hue, the flowers bloom during the summer season and make way for round berries that are dandelion, rouge, and black in color, the gradient changing as they age, eventually turning black. In spite of being a flowering plant, it does not bloom indoors often.

Some Health Concerns

Toxicity is a concern every plant owner must explore thoroughly before purchasing or growing any plant. And in this segment, the Umbrella Tree is not without its toxicity, and its effects vary. For most people, there is no reaction, but others suffer from irritated skin and a terribly itchy rash due to the sap. The skin irritation isn’t persistent in most cases and goes away in a short while.

Touching and ingestion are widely different and the latter – be it leaf, a flower or berry, can be a cause for your body going numb, your mouth tingling, disorientation and poor coordination, and yes, vomiting. But, this is only serious in some cases when the allergy has caused an extreme reaction. It is recommended to consult a physician when doubtful.

If you like petting more than just trees, please do keep your cats and dogs away from the plant. It is mildly toxic to your pets and is best kept beyond their reach for their safety.

Beware The Mite-y Pests

Speaking of safety, be it your bed, pet or pot, pests are always a blot on your happiness, and they do have a bone to pick with the umbrella plant from time to time. Spider mites are the number one foe for your dwarf plant. You can curb this minor infestation by spotting the webbing on the leaves’ undersides and clearing them out. You can drive these pests away with the one thing your tree loves: a high level of humidity. The mites cannot stand it and mist the plant regularly is the best to keep the spiders away.

Let There Be Light

While you chase the pests away, please do remember to keep the plant in the general direction of the light, preferably indirect yet bright, a short distance from any window. It isn’t advisable to expose them to direct heat of the sun, as the leaves begin to burn. Direct sunlight is still allowed, but only for a couple of hours a day and preferably not in noontime.

Conversely, lack of adequate light will result in yellowing of the leaves along with discernible drooping. This requirement is of further importance when growing a variegated tree as the need for light is higher for this than the normal one. In spite of this, a darker corner of your house is not entirely a wrong decision. It will merely hinder the width of the plant and space it out less densely.

Unlike its light requirement, the umbrella tree isn’t fussy about its water intake. It has a high tolerance for drought and can thrive through neglectful watering. This does not mean the tree can live through an adverse lack of water, and it will begin to wilt, the leaves wrinkling when not supplied with adequate water.

Excessive watering can be a grave issue, starting with the leaves turning black and falling off. The stems and roots rot at an exponential pace. The water you use for the plant should be of lukewarm temperature, and the plant should only be irrigated when the leaves start wilting, or the soil is nearly dry. Once watered, do not let the water clog the pot, and drain it properly so that the soil isn’t wet for long.

Trees are living things and they too have preferences for special treatment like us, or like our pets. The umbrella plant enjoys abundant humidity and fancying it with misting every couple of days with warm water is recommended. Using distilled or filtered water helps avoid deposits when you mist the leaves.

A Home Called Soil

Now that you know what the plant needs like food and water and how much it actually needs, let’s move onto the place it calls home: the pot, and specifically the soil. It does not require any special type, and a common potting soil is enough, the condition being the soil having a good drainage and moisture retaining the property. You can aerate the soil better by adding coarse sand or perlite. Or you can make your own perfect mixture by adding one part moist peat or humus, one part garden soil, a pinch of lime and one part of the above mentioned coarse sand or perlite.

Adding fertilizer to this mix comes with its own list of instructions. A special foliage fertilizer or a liquid houseplant one is best to use, and the amount you add depends on the season it is growing in and the light the plant is receiving.

While in winter, there is no requirement for fertilizing, from February on until October fertilizing the plant twice or four times per month with a diluted solution should be enough. Increase the frequency a little if the roots of the plant are bound to the pot.

Speaking of pots, your little tree requires changing homes every couple of years. It is important not to fertilize the soil after repotting as there is already sufficient amount of fertilizer in the new soil. Repotting your dwarf tree is essential, and opting a heavier base for the pot will keep your plant from toppling.

Grooming Tips

You know what else will keep your plant from toppling? Pruning it well. The umbrella tree grows rapidly and if you don’t want it to go through a wild teenage phase ever so often, pinch the tips off so that it doesn’t tower out of control and becomes bushier instead. And yes, keep an extra watch on its growth, it tends to spring up in springtime.

Birthing And Nurturing

Puberty, sadly, does not bode well for this plant. Propagating the umbrella plant is tough, but the ways to do it are the common ones: through air layering, seeds, and cuttings. The method for growing them via cuttings is quite simple. Near the base, clip a stem off and use a dampened paper towel to wrap the end that has been cut.

To reduce the moisture losing process of the plant during the rooting, horizontally cut the leaf in half using a sharp knife. To grow the plantlings, root them in the cradle of a pot of six inches filled with fresh potting soil. Plant them by poking holes of two inches with a pen or a pencil or an instrument of the same measure.

The cuttings should be in a place where the humidity is high and are exposed to ample indirect sunlight. To add more humidity, mist the pot every couple of days after covering it with plastic.

If you plan to raise the trees up from seeds, you’ll have to wait through a small incubation period as germination takes two to three weeks from the date of sowing. The sowing is hassle-free, and can be done in small containers with a light soil cover, but the gathering of seeds requires a little more effort on your part. When the flowers start turning from red to a dark shade of maroon, dry them out in the sun and treat the pods with a gentle wash so that when you rub the seed pod carefully, the seeds fall out. Gather them and dry them once more before planting them in the soil.

If this seems like a little delicate process, your final option is air layering, and this is quite an interesting one. Once you have sliced a thin layer from the lower branch stem carefully, bury the open area under the soil and wait for the roots to develop. Once the roots sprout, transfer the steam into a different pot and voila! You have one more umbrella plant in your garden.


From its birth to maintenance, the Umbrella Plant is not one to make you fussy. It’s an eye-catching addition to your garden. It isn’t too expensive on the purchase side either, with an average sized pot costing you between $20 and $26 approximately.

So, keep your pets away and mist the pests away, don’t eat the leaves, or the berries, water it regularly and don’t let it reach too close to the sun, and done, you have an excellent young one to nurture.

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