Dwarf umbrella tree, scientific name Schefflera arboricola, belongs to the family Araliaceae of the order Apiales. It is a flowering, evergreen shrub native to Taiwan and Hainan. This tree has a trailing shoot and grows up to a height of about 3 - 4 meter. The leaves are palmately compound with 7 - 9 leaflets; each of the leaflet averages 10 - 20 cm in length and 5 - 10 cm in width. The shape and color of foliage may vary depending upon the cultivar. In some, the centers or edges of the leaves are yellowish in color. Flowers of this shrub are red in color, which are arranged in panicle inflorescence.
Growing and Caring Guide
This tree is very popular as a houseplant, especially due to its hardiness to poor growing conditions. To be precise, it requires minimal maintenance in comparison to other decorative houseplants. Following are some of the caring tips for S. arboricola plants, maintained in containers.
This tree can be propagated by various methods, namely, seed sowing, stem cuttings, and air-layering. For starting, purchase healthy S. arboricola saplings from a nursery or horticulturist. Select the disease-resistant cultivar with attractive foliage. In the next growing season, you can propagate on your own by stem cuttings.
These trees grow well in a mixture of sandy soil and clayey soil. While preparing the potting mixture, amend it with three parts of organic fertilizer or farmyard compost. Fill the potting soil to about three-fourth of the pots or containers. When the plants are established, mulch the top exposed soil around the plants with dried leaves and barks.
Regarding irrigation of S. arboricola plant, remember that it does not tolerate wet soil. Hence, watering should be done to such an extent that the soil is moist, but not wet. While practicing indoor gardening, never keep the dwarf umbrella in soggy soil. Blackening and dropping of leaves indicate excess watering, while drying of the leaf tips shows dry conditions.
This tree requires moderate to bright light for better growth. While placing indoors, make sure that you install artificial lights so that the plants receive optimal light intensity. Yellowing of foliage is an indication for inadequate light conditions. Regarding temperature range, favorable range is between 60 - 85 °F.
Dwarf umbrella tree, if left alone, may spread its branches excessively. Hence, regular pruning or trimming of the branches and leaves is advisable to maintain a round, bushy, and thick canopy shape. Pruning can be done at any time of the year, whenever required. You can practice occasional selective pruning to maintain its shape.
One of the most common problems with indoor growing of dwarf umbrella tree is the presence of spider mites on the underside of the leaves. To prevent such a condition, regular cleaning of the plant to remove old foliage is recommended. In case of any sign of diseases, you can consult with the local horticulturist for appropriate preventive measures.
Spray the S. arboricola plants with a good quality liquid fertilizer once in every month. If maintained with proper caring tips, they will continue to grow for many decades. Since this evergreen tree is tolerant to frequent pruning, you can create an attractive bonsai out of it. The retention of green foliage throughout the year and presence of aerial roots are some of the attractive features that make this tree a perfect plant for training as a bonsai.