How to Care For Schefflera

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I don’t think that there’s enough Schefflera love. They’re one of those OG, grandma-type house plants that haven’t really piqued the interest of the cool house plant gang.

Luckily, I have never been cool (I had a briefcase when I was a kid. A briefcase.), so I’m happy to throw my money (all £3 of it) at uncool plants.

Despite my love for these plants, I cannot say the world ‘Schefflera’. I like to add an extra L or two. Never mind.

Where do Schefflera come from?

Schefflera hail from Australia and Taiwan. You can grow them outside though, though they will NOT appreciate frost or particularly cold weather.

They will grow really fast outdoors (like three feet in a season) so if you desire a big one, and only have the fund for a small one, stick it outside for a boost.

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Alternative names for Schefflera

Usually, there’s a tonne of alternative names for plants, but I can only find Umbrella plant/tree. I have seen people refer to them as money plant BUT tbh if ten people claim they each have a money plant, they may very well have ten different plants.

I vote we outlaw the nickname entirely. It’s gone too far, guys.

Ok, so I was reading up on getting Schefflera to flower, and apparently a common name (that I’ve never come across before) is ‘octopus plant’ due to the shape of the blooms.

Whoever decided on that one has clearly never laid eyes on an octopus.

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How much light do Schefflera need?

Schefflera are one of those plants that will live…fine in lower light. Like, absolutely fine.

It might not grow though, and if it does, you’ll probably only get little leaves.

Mine is currently in a south-facing window, but the light is blocked by next door’s house.

schefflera in a south-facing window
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How to water Schefflera

The actual watering is pretty straightforward – it’s the usual ‘water when the soil is dry’ schtick. If you over water you’ll get root rot blah blah blah.

In my experience, Schefflera aren’t THAT fussed by either overwatering or underwatering. You can get away with either for a few weeks.

Obviously, if you’re watering every day you’ll kill it within the month, but they’re a good plant for beginners.

I also don’t think they’re particularly fussy about water quality. I experimented with using exclusively rainwater because the new leaves were getting oedema (more on that in a sec), but it didn’t make a difference. Tap water is fine (if it’s ok for you to drink, it’ll be fine for your Schefflera).

My Schefflera is a PAIN for getting oedema spots on the leaves. From what I can see, the spots don’t do the plant any harm. Mine has them on many of its leaves and it’s still growing pretty quickly.

Oedema is usually caused by incongruent watering – i.e. the plant isn’t getting watered when it should be.

You could be watering too much or too little, BUT it’s equally likely that your watering habits are fine, it’s just that your Schefflera is using more water than normal (for example when it’s growing a new leaf, or in dry weather) and didn’t tell anyone about it.

I just…live with spotty leaves. I learned from helicopter-parenting my fiddle leaf fig that oedema happens even when you’re doing your very, very best to care for plants.

Here’s what oedema looks like:

oedema on schefflera plant

Oedema occurs when plants take up too much water, and the cells in the leaves swell and explode. That sounds very dramatic, and I don’t why they can’t just guttate like regular plants, but I’m sure they have their reasons.

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Why is my Schefflera turning brown/dropping leaves?

There are a plethora of reasons why your Schefflera leaves are unhappy. I have an article here about leaves going brown and one here about leaves dropping off.

Firstly, check it isn’t oedema (see photo above). If it is, er, there isn’t much you can do about it, other than try to water the plant as perfectly as you can. As I mentioned, Schefflera aren’t that fussy but try to wait until the soil is fairly dry (a 2 on the moisture metre) before watering.

Other things that may make your Schefflera leaves unhappy are:

  • Overwatering

This causes root rot, and as the roots rot they can no longer support all the plant’s leaves. This can kill your plant pretty quickly. To treat, remove all the mushy roots, soak the roots in diluted hydrogen peroxide and don’t do it again.

  • Underwatering

Fairly self-explanatory. Lack of water leads to dehydration, and the plant can’t support all of its leaves. If you’re watering regularly (but not overwatering), the issue could be that the plant is either rootbound or that the soil has dried out to the point that it’s hydrophobic.

Soak the plant in a tray of water until the top of the soil is damp.

  • Pests

Most house plant pests will cause some kind of leaf damage (and, ultimately, drop), so I recommend preventative care, in the form of keeping the plant leaves clean.

Schefflera are also really dusty (I’ve no idea why some plants attract more dust than others, no matter where I move them, but they do) so spraying them down regularly with a mix of dish soap and neem oil diluted with water should keep most pests away.

If you have pests, you can try one of the many, many, insecticide sprays available.

I’ve tried them ALL (ok, that’s not true but I’ve tried a lot, including systematics) and none of them are 100% effective and NONE of them is an ‘easy’ way to get rid of pests.

I’ve found that regularly showering off the leaves with plain water is as good as anything, plus you don’t need to worry about masks, gloves, or pets (I have fish, which don’t appreciate any kind of pesticide in the air).

  • Lack of humidity

Schefflera aren’t that fussy about humidity, but if you live somewhere super dry and you can’t work out why your Schefflera is dropping leaves, it could well be a sign that you need to invest in a humidifier. Think how good it’ll be for your skin!

  • Sunburn

Schefflera have medium leaves in terms of thickness. They’re not super delicate, but they’re not that succulent. I’d say they also have medium tolerance to direct light.

I wouldn’t shove mine outside on a sunny day (though the shade would be fine), but it should be ok in a bright window. If you do increase the light for your plant be sure to do so gradually to reduce the chance of your plant burning.

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How much humidity do Schefflera need?

Regular household humidity (around 40%) should be fine, but I’ve had Schefflera in humidity as high as 65% and they’ve been absolutely fine.

I’ve not kept a Schefflera in super low humidity, but they have fairly sturdy leaves, so it might be worth a try, but don’t be surprised if your plant looks a bit droopy.

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How to fertilise Schefflera

Hahaha.

So I googled this (because I’m super lazy and my plants get fertilised every six weeks whether they like it or not) and the top two answers are…

Actually, here’s the screenshot:

how often to fertilise schefflera

So, either never, or every week.

Erm.

Shall we just stick with every six weeks? Or perhaps adding worm castings to the soil every six months.

THIS IS WHY HOUSE PLANT CARE IS SO CONFUSING.

By the way, both of these websites are really good. Both answers could well be perfectly reasonable. It’s just not helpful when you try to Google something and you can’t get a straight answer.

We can conclude from this that, er, Schefflera have no opinions about being fertilised. Do whatever you like.

I shall continue with my every-six-weeks-whether-they-want-it-or-not-routine.

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Are Schefflera toxic?

Yes they are.

Like many plants, Schefflera leaves contain calcium oxalate compounds which will cause irritation and respiratory problems for animals, so keep them away from pets/kids/anyone in your family that munches the house plants.

If your pet eats some Schefflera, then make sure they drink water – cold water can help with the pain. Monitor the pet closely and if they look like they’re in a lot of pain and distress, get them to a vet, who can prescribe them pain meds or antihistamines.

Schefflera taste bitter, so the pet SHOULD stop eating after a couple of mouthfuls, and will probably show no symptoms, BUT plenty of animals aren’t put off eating something simply because it hurts their mouths.

I advise keeping poisonous plants separate from pets – presentation is always better then cure.

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Do Schefflera flower?

Yes, but it’s not common for them to do so inside.

It seems that temperature is the key to getting Schefflera to bloom, so if you live somewhere with consistently warm weather, you might be in look.

The blooms are cool, but not especially pretty (in my opinion, anyway). They remind me of Snake plant flowers.

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Best pot/potting mix for Schefflera

I keep mine in a well-draining aroid mix, but a store-bought house plant soil with added perlite should work perfectly well.

If I were an overwaterer I’d be tempted to put my Schefflera in a terracotta pot, just to try and keep oedema at bay, but I’m not, so I keep mine in a plastic nursey pot, with a cache pot to make it look pretty.

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How quickly do Schefflera grow & growth pattern

If you give Schefflera plenty of light they grow pretty quickly, and have small internodal spacing. The less light they have, the leggier they’ll get – not just the gaps in the stem between leaves, but the petioles get longer too.

schefflera in a south-facing window

It’s quite easy to see in this photo when I moved the plant into its current location. The last nine leaves on the stem are all fairly close together, with barely any internodal spacing.

Further down the stem, there are much larger gaps between the leaves.

You can see a little nub at the top of the stem – that’s where the new leaf will emerge. If something happens to the new leaf (sometimes if you miss a watering the new leaf will shrivel up and die) a new leaf will start to grow next to the old one.

I know this, because it happened to me recently:

new leaf emerging on schefflera after old one died

New Schefflera leaves are adorable. They look like little claws:

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How much do Schefflera cost?

Mine was £3 from Morrisons, but you could easily pay £100 for a really big one. They’re a great option for a big, structural plant that won’t try to attach itself to your walls or grow wildly like a Monstera.

Always less likely to randomly drop down dead like a fiddle leaf fig tree.

These Etsy shops often have reasonably priced Schefflera:

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Can you grow Schefflera in LECA?

If you weren’t aware of leca, it’s a soil-less growing medium that takes the guesswork out of watering and fertilising (great if you’re technically minded and love a schedule). Read my ultimate guide to leca here.

I’ve never done it, though they have pretty thick roots, which I find take to leca better (and my GOD they’re easier to clean).

I’ve scoured Facebook for information from people who have transferred Schefflera to leca and the general consensus is that they convert well, but you should be prepared to lose a few leaves in the process.

Though, to be fair, it’s always best to prepare yourself to lose a few leaves when you’re converting ANYTHING to leca.

A lot of people are recommending the shower method rather the reservoir method, but if you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know that, er, I don’t do the shower method. I’m reservoir method or soil.

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How do you propagate Schefflera?

The easiest way to propagate Schefflera is to take a cutting and put it in water. I’d cut off a section from the top (obviously, I can’t just take a middle bit) that had, say, five leaves on. Remove the bottom two leaves and stick the stem in some water (or perlite, or moss, or leca) and wait for roots.

If you have an Aerogarden, they’re a great way to propagate small cuttings, especially if you’re lazy like me and can’t be bothered to change the water. They’re pricy though, so not worth getting unless you propagate a lot, or want to have fresh herbs on hand.

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Are Schefflera plants easy to care for?

In my opinion, yes.

They’re fairly forgiving when it comes to over and underwatering, grow quickly, but are easy to prune, and apparently only need fertilising when you feel like it.

I’ve also found that they’re not particularly prone to a particular pest – they’re not pest-resistant, by any means, but they’re not like, for example, Crotons, where you’re forever fending off spider mites.

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