Looking for a plant for the office or home that is relatively easy to care for and has good size and impact? A Schefflera (Umbrella Tree) is a great choice. This hardy plant, native to tropical rainforests in Australia and New Guinea, is available commercially from 2 feet in height up to 6 or 8 feet. In its native habitat, it may grow to heights of 20 or 30 feet! It is very full with large, dark green, shiny leaves. It will survive in offices lit with good overhead fluorescent lighting and some natural light. Do not place it too close to west and south windows as it does not like bright direct sunlight. Schefflera does very well when set up in a pot with sub-irrigation (watered from the bottom). It likes to be kept slightly moist, but not wet. In good light, it will grow quickly. Prune regularly to keep a nice uniform shape. If you prune one stem (there are usually several in a single pot) at a time, it will be less noticeable. New growth will quickly appear just below the cut.
Fertilize once per month from early spring until late fall. The leaves tend to get a whitish waxy coating that attracts dust, so polish the leaves regularly with a dry microfiber cloth. Inspect the plant regularly for pests. If it is kept too dry or in bright light, it may become infested with spider mites. These are microscopic insects that will suck the chlorophyll out of the leaves, leaving them pale and mottled. It is difficult to see the mites, but the grayish webs are easily visible between the leaves. Regular cleaning of the leaves will discourage this insect. Schefflera are also prone to scale insect and mealy bug. See some of our other posts for more information on identifying and treating these pests. Prevention starts with keeping the plant stress free. It needs to be in the correct light and consistently receive the right amount of water.