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Umbrella Plant (Schefflera arboricola)

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The leaflets are arranged in a whorl around the leaf stem giving the plant its common name, the number of leaflets increases as the plant ages. S. arboricola 'Variegata' has the same dark green leaves splashed with gold while 'Nora' is a relatively new cultivar which is much more compact.

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      24.05.2011 12:09
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      a carefree plant for indoors

      One of the evergreen plants I've got in my living-room is the Schefflera, a member of the Araliaceae plant family. It got its name in honour of Jacob Christian Scheffler, a German botanist and physician who lived from 1698 to 1742. I couldn't find out if he discovered the plant in New Guinea or Australia, the home countries of the plant, or if the honour of naming a plant after him was bestowed on him for something he'd done in the field of science.

      The Schefflera is also called Umbrella Plant, an odd name if you ask me. Admittedly, the leaves are arranged in a whorl around the leaf stem, they're long and wide and touch each other so that they look a bit like an umbrella. The problem is only that the leaves begin with a thin stem so that there is no cover at the centre of the 'umbrella' meaning anybody using a whorl as an umbrella would get a wet head.

      In its countries of origin, also on Tenerife, the plant can grow up to the height of about 5m, the houseplant variety we have indoors in Europe usually only grows up to 1,50 or 2m. It has whorls with 7 - 9 leaflets which are about 10-15cm long and 2cm wide, either green throughout or with creamy-white to yellow edges or centres. The indoor Schefflera doesn't develop blossoms, it's just a green decoration for living-rooms, reception areas and offices. Now that smoking is banned in public buildings it can display its smoke absorbing quality only in private homes.

      I don't remember for how long I've had my Schefflera, I guess it's been standing at the same spot for more than 30 years. Obviously it likes it there. It doesn't want abrupt changes of temperature, a constant 20°C make it happy. It doesn't like drafts, a spot in bright but indirect light is just right. My Schefflera stands on a low table beside a window facing west. It gets indirect light in the afternoon, sunbeams touch it (if there are any).

      Whenever I look closely at my Schefflera, I see small new leaves, what I like about the plant, though, is that they grow very, very slowly. It's now 1,30 m high, when I bought it, it was half the size. Last year I bought a 1.50m long green plastic stick in a garden centre which I stuck into the pot and tied the stem to it because it began to lean to one side. I'm glad the Schefflera grows so slowly, I don't want to turn my living-room into a jungle. Internet advice sites tell me that Schefflera need pruning from time to time to keep them looking vigorous and healthy and that pruning session is the perfect time to start new plants. I've never pruned it, it looks vigorous and healthy enough to me and then what should I start new plants for? One Schefflera is enough in my living-room. Sadly, indoor Schefflera don't produce blossoms.

      It has been standing in the same soil since I've got it, I've never changed it. There is no conviction behind this that this is the right thing to do but merely laziness. The Schefflera doesn't seem to mind. I 'coffee' it once a week like all my other plants, I always do it on Sunday so that I won't forget it. After making filter coffee I pour water through the coffee dregs a second time which, when it has become cold, I use for my plants. They love it! You better believe it. A woman who worked in a coffee bar told me that often in the evening gardeners came to take the coffee dregs home that had accumulated during the day to muck their flowers with. It's no problem to go away for two weeks, too little liquid is always better than too much.

      Occasionally my Schefflera loses some leaves or small twigs, I collect them and throw them away. As long as the loss isn't exorbitant I don't bother. Spider mites which are said to be fond of the plant haven't found their way into my living-room so no use of pesticide or washing with insecticidal soap has been necessary up to now. When I think of it, which isn't too often I must admit, I spray the leaves with water. It's the perfect plant for beginners and people without a 'green thumb'

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        22.11.2008 15:20

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        i have one of these plants and i like it, but it is getting very tall around 4 feet high and 4 feet wide. i have been a bit brutal in past when i pruned it but i grew back with a vengance. what do i do with it now it is taking over my front room?

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        30.10.2008 20:47

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        I have an umbrella plant that is over 40 years old and thriving. It is approximately 10 ft tall. I put it on the front porch (yes, it does get sun) all Summer and bring it in when it gets colder in the Fall. I have a question regarding pruning it - how is this done? Thanks

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        19.05.2006 01:27
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        Good all round pretty house plant

        The Schefflera arboricola (umbrella tree plant) should not be confused with umbrella grass (which it often is in reviews and gardening books). It originates in Australasia.

        The umbrella plant is a highly ornamental plant that can grow to about 8-foot-tall. Mine is about two foot at the moment and is coming along nicely. The umbrella plant derives its name because of the way that its leaves radiate out and hang downwards.

        It makes the perfect houseplant for those who love their plants a little too much for it is a plant that likes plenty of water - two or three times a week in summer and about once a week in winter. It should be potted in a loam based soil.

        The umbrella plant likes to dwell in bright areas but like so many other house plants it should not be subjected to direct sunlight. It will however still survive in more shaded areas of the house.

        You can even take your Umbrella Plant out in the rain if you wish just like a normal umbrella. I took my little plant out this moring when the rain was pouring down. When back indoors you should make sure that the room temperature be kept above 50 degrees fahrenheit if possible. If you don't like walking in the rain you can spoil them by giving them a spray of rain water two or three times week.

        These plants should live to a ripe old age if you treat them well.

        If you decide to buy this plant look for good green leaves - they should appear like highly polished green leather. My two foot plant cost about £3 at a local family garden centre.

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