In most garden centers you’ll find a regular “mix” of plants filling out many of the spring houseplant assortments. One of these plants is the Schefflera arboricola also known as the dwarf schefflera, dwarf scheff, arb’s and dwarf umbrella tree.
The Schefflera is the “dwarf” brother to the old time umbrella plant – Schefflera actinophylla. Today, you find one variety of the large Schefflera grown called ‘Amate” however the “Dwarf Umbrella” has quite a few varieties and is easy to find in almost any garden center or nursery.
Here’s a couple of the varieties commonly found today:
Arboricola – regular green variety
Renate Green variety that has more ripple to the leaves
Gold Capella’ variegated yellow or gold and green leaves
‘Trinette’ variegated cream and green leaves
‘Dazzle’ variegated some leaves almost completely creamy white
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There are others currently being introduced and tested. I’m sure we’ll see many new varieties of arboricola introduced over the next 5 years.
Arboricola propagation starts in a variety of ways: seeds, cuttings and air-layers, and then grown in full sun to produce thick full plants. Usually the umbrella’s you’ll find in the garden center will be of the bush form. Pruning the bushes make them full, round and thick with leaves measuring 4 to 6 inches across forming a “fingered umbrella”. The dwarf scheff is also grown in tree forms, bonsai and braided just like Ficus trees. The lifespan of a Schefflera/Umbrella tree can be years when cared for properly.
Whichever form you buy remember when plants move indoors they go through a period of acclimating.Expect as part of your umbrella care for the plant to thin out and loose some leaves.
The Schefflera arboricola can adapt to a wide variety of light levels but prefers higher light if possible especially the variegated varieties – ‘Gold Capella’ & ‘Trinette’. If left alone the branches can stretch and grow “out of shape”. It’s easy to keep them shaped with occasional selective pruning. Fortunately, just like a Ficus the dwarf Schefflera can also handle some radical pruning and come back strongly. Don’t be afraid to prune the plant when needed.
If leaves turn black and begin dropping off it’s a good signal the soil is staying too wet or moist. On the flip side when leaf tips wrinkle if they are too dry.
These plants have a pretty extensive root system and can even grow climbing a tree. They also seek water when being grown outside. As with most plants used indoors, arboricola does not like to sit in water.
Avoid letting the plant sit in that saucer after you water it likes to be moist but not wet… you don’t want to promote disease. The Schefflera is in the Aralia family and like many of the plants from this family spider mites like this plant. Clean the plant regularly when indoors and don’t forget the undersides where mites like to hang out. Check with your local garden center for some of the “safe” preventive measures such as “Safer Soap” or than that disease is not a big problem to this plant.
That’s a quick look at one of the most easy to find indoor plants today – the Umbrella or Schefflera plant.
Remember when caring for your dwarf umbrella / schefflera
1. Don’t keep the plant wet
2. Place the plant in as bright an area as you can
3. Watch out for mites
4. Don’t be afraid to prune when needed
Plantscape Designs interior landscapers repeatedly design with the arbricola in mind in our Boston, Ma officescape locations.