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How do you prune a schefflera (umbrella plant)?

Warsaw, IN

A few more qustions on how to prune a scheffler (umbrella plant).
Thank you so much for your previous posts, help and suggestions.
I have just a couple more questions:
I am so afraid that I may kill the plant if not pruned correctly. When I lop off the top, should I cut it right above a leave/branch spout or the "segment" line above the branch? What happens to the exposed cut? Should I put the pruned off top in potting soil or suspend in water to get it to start roots?
Many thanks again,
Dan

Poughkeepsie, NY(Zone 6a)

Close your eyes and cut! The cut end will heal over by itself. The cut piece can be rooted in water or in damp potting mix. If it's long enough you could even cut the cut piece into several others. 3-4" pieces are good.

Warsaw, IN

TommyR2006 - thank you so much for your reply.
Your suggestion is much appreciated. I will be sharpening the pruning shears this weekend!

Aylesbury, United Kingdom

I have 2 umbrella plants. One has totally green leaf, and the other has Green and pale yellow. As I am new to these plants I would appreciate some advice.

Both plants are 5' tall and stand in pots in our conservatory ( which can get up to 36'C with the doors closed in the summer). Now both plants are releasing a very sticky type of sap from the leaves. Is this normal or is there some underlying issue that I need to attend to?

Thanks

Del

Poughkeepsie, NY(Zone 6a)

Dell I would check closely for bugs.


(Zone 1)

Rainman73: I have two very large Scheff's planted in my yard and have rooted cuttings from them a couple of times over the years. You will need to make sure you are cutting hardwood. I have found if it is soft new growth it doesn't root, it just rots. I have never had luck rooting this particular plant in water but there are a few different kinds of Scheff's so maybe what you have would do okay rooting that way. I always just put it in potting soil to root. Here's a picture of my Monster in the backyard: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/161029/ They seem to be pretty hardy plants! I just recently cut one all the way to the ground that was too close to the house and we were concerned that the root system would crack the foundation. My husband dug it up and planted it out by the fence in the backyard away from the house. It has already sprouted new leaves.

I also have a couple of the Schefflera 'Trinette' (the variegated leaf form) in containers on my deck.



Del: I agree with Tommyr2006, I would check your plants for aphids: http://www.ext.vt.edu/departments/entomology/factsheets/gaphids.html They produce a sticky sap that gets all over everything. Spraying with an insecticidal soap will control them but you will have to spray more than once to be sure you get any newly hatched eggs.

There are eleven different Schefflera's (Umbrella Tree) listed in Plant Files: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/adv_search.php?searcher%5Bcommon%5D=&searcher%5Bfamily%5D=&searcher%5Bgenus%5D=schefflera&searcher%5Bspecies%5D=&searcher%5Bcultivar%5D=&searcher%5Bhybridizer%5D=&search_prefs%5Bblank_cultivar%5D=&search_prefs%5Bsort_by%5D=rating&images_prefs=both&Search=Search

Berkeley, CA(Zone 9a)

Rainman73: I have a monster Schefflera in my office (east-facing window). I've trimmed it (okay, hacked it) two to four times, and it's still thriving! I can't tell anymore where I hacked it; cut ends heal quickly and thoroughly. I don't think you can really kill this plant. I stuck my trimmings in a bucket which I stuck on my patio, and they rooted like crazy. I've read elsewhere here that you can stick the trimmings in soil, without waiting for them to root, and they will take off. Good luck!

Los Altos, CA

I have a 9ft Schefflera house plant. It has two main trunks, one is about 9ft with about 5 ft of woody trunk and rest green. The other one is about 8ft with about 4 ft of woody trunk. Question:

-If I cut off the taller one at the 4 ft point, will the remaining heal and then branch off from the cut off point? or it will just heal and stay short.
-can I root the cutted? it would have about 1ft of wood, rest all green and lots of leaves.

Thanks for helping.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Once you terminate a leader (cut the top off of a stem growing vertically) you have permanently eliminated the ability for that stem to elongate. You would need to train another branch to vertical growth if you want the tree to grow taller, and any secondary branch near the top of the tree will willingly take over the duties of leader. If the tree is currently growing with good vitality, you can cut back hard (virtually anywhere you want), though it would have been better if you'd done it in Jun or Jul. I think though, given your zone and that you still have lots of good growing weather ahead of you before winter, you should be fine. The tree will respond in a few weeks by back-budding. You respond to the back-budding by keeping the branches that occur where they are wanted, and rubbing off those in spots less appealing. Whenever you have a plant with 2 trunks, the one with the thicker trunk should be the taller tree (referred to as the mother tree). The subordinate tree with the smaller trunk (the daughter tree) will look best in the composition if it is about 2/3 the height of the dominant tree.

You can root the tip cuttings by sticking them in rinsed perlite, or screened Turface or NAPA floor-dry. Internodal cuttings can either be stuck or 3" chunks can be laid on the soil where they will root if you tent & keep the surrounding humidity high - bright light but no direct sun.

Al

Canton,IL &Dent Coun, MO(Zone 5b)

okay I must be doing something wrong...mine is still only about 8" including the pot...are they just slow growers or do I need to repot it in a bigger pot to get it to grow? how often should I water it?

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Still only 8" after how long? Is this a cutting you started or something you bought? How much light is it getting & when did you last fertilize - with what?

Al

Canton,IL &Dent Coun, MO(Zone 5b)

I have had it a almost a year...I bought it as a plant..it gets alot of sun...and I have fertilized it about once a month with some diluted miracle grow....I thought the variegation was pretty...I had to have someone identify it because it didn't have a tag at the nursery....it came in a little pot so i put it in a bigger one...here is a picture

Thumbnail by trinawitch
Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

It looks like it's either being over-watered or the level of soluble salts (from fertilizer and irrigation water) in the soil is too high. I can't tell what kind of pot it's in, but it looks like it might be one of those that are self-watering. I would also consider a different pot if that is the case. Moving your plant into a soil that drains well & adopting a fertilizer regimen that is favorable would bring your plant around in short order.

One of mine at work:

Al

Thumbnail by tapla
Canton,IL &Dent Coun, MO(Zone 5b)

its dry as a bone...soil is 1/2 potting soil and 1/2 coir....the brown leaves which I have since taken off was cause my kids got a little wild with the weed killer and it was windy...have a couple of them that took a small hit...as for the pot no it's not a self waterer..I have to put a tray under it or water goes straight through....as for the water I use rainwater collected in barrels outside because I cannot afford the water bill to feed all the plants. If I have to water them by myself it takes almost 4 hours start to finish

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Jeepers - it would have been helpful to note that the plant had been dosed with a herbicide, instead of allowing us to think the necrotic leaves were symptomatic of an ongoing cultural issue, don't you agree?

The potting soil you cut by 50% was almost certainly limed with dolomite to bring the pH up and to supply Ca and Mg. The pH of coir is very high to be used in container media at such a high %, and often coir is very high in soluble salts. Add to that, the normal upward creep in soil pH over the last year and it's not out of the question that a high soil solution pH + a high TDS (total dissolved solids) is causing nutritional deficiencies on multiple fronts. Also, there is probably an inadequate supply of Ca in the soil because you doubled it's volume by adding the coir, it's a year old, there was probably almost no residual fraction to begin with, there is none in the rainwater, and none in the MG fertilizer. Since there is also no Mg in the MG fertilizer, and Mg is about 125X more soluble than the small amount of Ca in the soil, that fraction of Mg that was included in the original potting soil a year ago is probably long gone; so, you're almost certainly seeing deficiencies of both secondary macro-nutrients Ca and Mg. All of the above is why your plant is not growing - it can't. (Search 'Liebig's Law of the Minimum' for an explanation.)

I'll go back to what I said originally - getting your plant into a suitable soil and adopting a suitable fertilizer program will get it straightened around quickly, but that requires a little faith in what I'm telling you. I can help if you want me to. If not, I wish you success in getting your plant straightened out.


Al



Canton,IL &Dent Coun, MO(Zone 5b)

I would greatly appreciate your help...I forgot about the herbicide until i went in the other room to mess with a fern that also got dosed...just please bear in mind..I can grow things...but I was never taught what anything at all was called...I don't know anything at all about what you just said...I feel like a kindergardner amongst PHD's. My grandfather simply gave me a passion for growing things and just said play with it til it works or dies and if it works repeat it, if it dies try again...so that's what I've been doing but obviously something is not working with this plant so please help me

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

OK. Here is what I will do for you. I'll send you a bag of the soil that I make/use - enough for more than one plant. The soil will be radically different than what you're used to growing in, but I promise it will help you move at least 1 giant step forward in your ability to keep your plants happy. That may seem like a rash statement on its face, but I have helped enough people to allow me some degree of confidence, so please withhold judgment until you've given things a try. You mentioned money is tight, so I won't charge you anything at all for the soil. If you want to send postage, that's fine, if not, that's ok too. I'll also include some Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 fertilizer that I want you to use. It has ALL the necessary nutrients in the right proportions, and it will make life easier for you. If you will contact me via D-mail and give me your address, I'll send the soil out on Mon. After you receive it, let me know & I'll give you more direction. ... sound like a plan?

What made me want to do this is your mentioning you have a passion for growing that was instilled in you by your grandfather. It sort of struck a chord with me.

Al

Canton,IL &Dent Coun, MO(Zone 5b)

I did not have a good childhood and my mother's selection of men was to say the least questionable...my only good memories are of my grandfather and I in the garden...I was the only grandkid allowed in...I remember all the poppies and him haveing a secret spot in between the house and the shed where he worked all winter so that violets would bloom on my birthday (Feb. 25), it was so warm in that spot that kittens hid in it...I also remember in the summers him waking me up at 1 am to go see the moonflowers....I miss him very much. I want to pass that on to my own children now but it would be helpful if I knew all te other stuff that goes with it not just the "magic" he showed me. So I will follow your instructions without judgement

Canton,IL &Dent Coun, MO(Zone 5b)

he taught me to make morning glory vines dance, and philodendrons cry, but not names or soil ph....i just remember being with grandpa was always magic

Cloverdale, CA(Zone 15)

Glad I found this site and I've never posted a comment on the internet before, hope I do this right. One of my colleagues was maintaining a huge schefflera at work, she unfortunately passed away and the plant was untended for many months. When I saw it, it was bone dry and had tilted sideways to reach light. I had a friend with a big truck bring it home, stood it up and it's about 11' high. Looked fabulous for the first few months and now something is wrong. The leaves are turning brown, curling, dropping off. I see small black specks on the undersides of the leaves, look like iron filings, obviously some sort of pestilence. I've sprayed with GardenSafe, swabbed the leaves with soap and water (standing on a ladder), it just gets worse. Can I cut back the plant to about 5' or so, below the infected areas? The lower leaves seem OK (plus I can reach them without endangering my life if they prove to be infected too). Thanks. Oh, the plant is indoors but I'm in northern California about 90 miles from San Francisco if that's important.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Obviously, the first thing you need to do is identify any pests & treat appropriately. Most common are scale, spider mites, and mealybugs.

Scheffs tolerate very hard pruning as long as they are growing with a reasonable amount of vitality, so use the plants health as a guide to how hard you should prune. If the plant was robust, you could cut it back to a foot high if you wanted to, and in a couple of weeks it would happily push a new flush of growth from the profuse back-budding that follows hard pruning in robust plants.

Al

Canton,IL &Dent Coun, MO(Zone 5b)

Al I got your box and I sent you a dmail

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Trina - Unpot your plants and rinse all the old soil from their roots. I use water under pressure from a Dramm nozzle, but a fine high-pressure, fine spray from the hose will be fine. Try not to break any more roots than necessary, but you needn't take any great pains. Remove any dark/rotted/limp/slimy roots so there is nothing left but viable tissue. Add a wick to the drain hole and repot into the soil I sent you, using a semi-sharp dowel (a 1/4 or 5/16 dowel sharpened in a pencil sharpener works well) or other fine tool that won't damage the roots to settle/poke soil around and into the rootage. Soak the soil thoroughly (the water will seem to run straight through the soil very quickly) & keep the plant in a very bright spot, but out of full sun.

After 10 days (you'll probably need to water a couple of times during that period), use the fertilizer I sent (Foliage-Pro 9-3-6) to make a solution consisting of 1 tbsp of the fertilizer + 1/4 tsp Epsom salts in a gallon of water, and fertigate (water, aka irrigate + fertilize = fertigate) with that solution & move the plant to a sunny window.

The Epsom salts are because there is CaSO4 (gypsum) in the soil as a Ca source instead of dolomitic lime to keep the pH down, and a ratio between Ca:Mg that highly favors Ca needs a little Mg to keep the ratio favorable and prevent an antagonistic deficiency of Mg.

I'm sure your plant will reward you with more robust growth, but don't expect too much immediately. Your plant is preparing itself for a winter rest now & will be reluctant to grow much until the vernal equinox, but at least we can expect it to remain healthy over the long winter.

Use the extra soil for other plants. Try it on a succulent or two, too. I'm certain that once you get used to it, you'll like it enough to want to make it on your own. It's actually less expensive than bagged soils like MG et al.

Good luck.

Al

Thumbnail by tapla
Cloverdale, CA(Zone 15)

I'm so impressed. Thank you so much for such a quick response. The plant is very vigorous and I'd love to save the top part if possible. Only the leaves appear infected. Of course you can't diagnose via the internet but I looked up the possibilities you thought of and the infestation isn't scale, mites or mealybugs. We have a nursery in town. Would it make sense to take a few infected leaves to the nursery and see if they recognize the problem? This is an agricultural area and the nurseries deal with the vineyards and orchards. Would a place like that know about houseplants? Thanks again. (I'd put the infected leaves in a ziplock bag! Probably double it.)

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

That is considerate of you (the baggie). I'm sure they would be more likely to want to help you if you handled it that way.

Are you thinking of treating the top as a cutting ..... or perhaps air layering it?

Al

Canton,IL &Dent Coun, MO(Zone 5b)

Thank you AL...I wrote all that down so I couldn't forget. will this work for my crotons?

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Yes. The soil will work very well for the crotons because they like lots of moisture but do tolerate their roots being in a saturated soil very well. Ideally though, you would still use a 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer for them, but one that derives all of its N from urea instead of nitrates. The FP I sent derives only about 40% of it's N from urea, so it will be less acidic than something like MG 24-8-16 soluble granules or 12-4-8 liquid. One of those two fertilizers would be my choice for crotons. Follow the same repotting directions.

Please be sure to let me know how you fare after you have things squared away ..... and if you need help locating the ingredients if/when you decide to start making your own soil.

Take care.

Al

Cloverdale, CA(Zone 15)

Thanks, Tapla. Again, know you can't diagnose from 1000 miles away. Just wondering if this makes sense: I think the plant has two problems. The infestation may be whiteflies. I looked at a lot of gross pictures and that one fits best (except none of my other plants seem infected). The other is, I may not have done the plant any favors by standing it upright. It has only one main branch and it's very thin. The crown is 11' high, there are no other leaves until about 3' from the base. I'm wondering if it's just having trouble hoisting water way up there. The lower leaves look great. I'm so reluctant to cut it back but that would be the remedy. Then I can treat the top as a cutting as you suggest assuming I can get rid of the infestation. May I send a photo formatted for email?

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

'Yes' on the photo. You can post here, or D-mail me and I'll send you my addy.

Normally, plants are bursting with their highest level of energy at this time of year - as they get ready for a winter's rest, but it's possible that the energy reserves in your plant may be very low because of the infestation - hard for me to know over the net, but just a cursory glance at your plant would reveal it's state of vitality. I mention this because how much energy is stored in the tissues of the cutting has a direct relationship to the likelihood of the cutting(s) rooting and how fast they root, so probable success at this point is uncertain. Let's look at a picture - but there is no harm in trying. There are some other ways of rooting new scheffs we can talk about, too.

It's not an issue of the plant not being able to move water/nutrients to the canopy because it's too tall. Scheffs are genetically programmed/constructed to efficiently move water much higher than that, though there are fungal diseases that can clog sieve tubes & other water transport mechanisms in plants and compromise water movement.

Treat the white-fly at 1 week intervals with an insecticidal soap solution, being sure to coat all surfaces with the mixture. I have other suggestions that we can discuss off forum related to insects and things fungal if you are interested. You might also check any buds with a magnifying glass for thrips - something I forgot to mention upthread.

Al

Canton,IL &Dent Coun, MO(Zone 5b)

that's awesome Al....I appreciate it this so much...someone just sent me 8 different cuttings of crotons...I will probably need them I.D. later....but I will have a lovely collection..I just love the colors....I did just repot the schefflera so we will see I hope it does grow...it was frustrating looking a plant that seems very healthy it just wasn't growing!

zone 6a, KY

Al, I am very interested in what you put in your potting medium. I hate the stuff aimed at home users, like MG. Pro mixes are okay for short term, and mixing my own, I am never sure about fertilization and traces. Some of the best growth I've seen was a mixture of a ProMix, perlite, and a bit of local clay just broken into chunks, not completely ground up, and some this and that (whatever was laying around). I have been amending MG or speedling mixes to improve drainage lately, but am always open to learning about soil. Also, is this your general purpose or do you use it for specific groups. Thanks for all you are doing here, I am getting smarter just soaking this up :)

I was wondering about the use of composted manure (horse, after a good bake outside) Has anyone tried that?

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

When I say this, there is no bragging or ego trip stuff in it, but I really can make things soo easy that you almost don't even need to know anything about plant husbandry. The reason I can say that and still have my feet firmly on the ground is because hundreds of other people that have gained a better understanding of soils and tried the highly aerated and structurally stable soils I grow in say the same thing. It took me a long time before I would say that, even though all those others were freely saying it. It just felt like I was blowing my own horn. If you're having trouble now, and are willing to go to the effort of finding the proper ingredients to make the soil in the pic upthread and follow some simple nutritional guidelines, I'm sure you'll be well pleased.

I'll be back soon. I'm going to go see if I have a thread on this or the houseplant forum where we can be more on topic. If I do, I'll probably leave a link.

Al

zone 6a, KY

I am curious and wonder what it would do with aroids who like a fairly aerobic mix. And orchids? You got me curious :).

Oakhurst, CA

I have had my Schefflera for about a month and a half now and the leaves keep turning black and dropping off. I thought it was because of it being in a new home and it would recover but now I don't know if I watered it to much, not enough light or both. Any help?
C

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

For asking/posting soil questions - try this thread in the Houseplants Forum:

http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/796311/

Al

Hendersonville, TN

Tapla, please help, not sure if this will get to you or how to contact you by I googled this question and found your blog with some others on here. I have a Schefflera plant, it was given to me by two really good friends in honor of my Mom. I was told by someone I had to throw it in the dumpster after they saw it. I can not bear to do that. They said it would infect all the plants in my house. 1st is that true? I have only had it for around 8 months it was doing well in a sunroom where I would come over to my Dad's and water it. It was getting cold out there and my Dad was not heating it for the winter so I took it inside, it started dropping sticky stuff on the carpet and my sister n law took it back out to the sunroom. There for the last 2 weeks it stayed with no heat while we had our coldest temperatures of the year. I found it today all limped over. I also noticed it had white spots that looked like dust or powder all on the leaves and even the limbs. Is there anything I can do? Can I cut it back or spray it? Please help or if anyone sees this. I am new on the computer and am not sure how I will even know if someone responds. Thanks Lisa

Thumbnail by lisamichelle
Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

This is a hard one. With most tropicals, and to a great extent, how sudden the onset of chill is can be key in determining the extent of chill injury. IOW, a scheff growing happily at 70* that is suddenly to subjected to 40* temperatures (from a move to another room or similar) is likely to suffer greater damage than a plant that is gradually exposed over a week or two to temperatures as low as freezing.

From your email, it also sounds like your plant has an infestation of mealybug or scale. No one can tell you if your plant will make it, but here is what I would do.

Remove all the leaves that have collapsed. If you determine the plant has scale/mealybug, mechanically remove as many as you can, then spritz the plant liberally with a 50/50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and water. Keep the plant where temps are above 65*, and in very bright light - isolated is best, to protect your other plants. Make absolutely sure you do not water until the soil feels dry to the touch at the drain hole.

Wait to see if the plant pushes new growth. If it does, let me know and I'll help you off forum to get rid of the bug infestation. I can also help you with the pruning. At this time, resist advice to cut the plant back, because scheffs carry on a good deal of photosynthesis in the green stem tissue, and you need everything green the plant has (to make food) to assist in its recovery.

I sure do wish you well.

Al

Hendersonville, TN

Thanks so much AI
Al,
Thank you Al for responding. I love each one of my plants and to me they are like my little children that need us to take care of them. I feel like each one has a life of sorts of its own. It saddens me to know end that this particular one was so beautiful when it arrived. I unfortunately watered it while I was still at my Dad's rescuing the plant. It was completely dry though. I unfortunately cut way back for easier transport and thought it would help fight off the disease and have less of a chance to get on the rest of the plants. How far away do I need to keep them apart? Does it travel by air? Does it only affect this type of plant? How does it spread? Does it have to touch the other plants? I did spray it with a can of ortho/orthonex which was for systemic protection from insects, diseases, and mites it said. It also said for use on roses, flowers, and shrubs. It also said not to use on house plants. I read that after I had read some where on line that this is what i needed and since I had a very old can of it I thought I would try. This was all done before I sent the note for help. I was kinda in a panic state and thought it was going to be to late. I checked my email I had registered for this site to see if there was a response and should of checked here I thought it might work like face book and alert you. By the way all of the leaves are drooping so I should cut them all off and leave only the stems (whats left) ? It sounds like now it is really hopeless but maybe. I do have a cutting that looked like it did not have much of the white stuff on it at all. I did not spray it, however it is in a cup of water as I thought maybe I could use it to restart a new plant. It is just part of what was the top. Thanks again it was so nice of you to respond. You sounded like you were the big time expert on here when I read some of the entrys. Sorry I singled you out but I needed the best.

Sincerely Lisa

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Hi, Lisa - Your confidence in me is flattering, but your appraisal is much too kind. Thank you.

How the insect or disease spreads varies widely with the problem, so it's important to know what you're dealing with. E.g., the life cycles of the various scale species differ somewhat, but a generalized life cycle is as follows. The eggs are laid beneath the wax ovisacs, or beneath the adult female. Eggs generally hatch in 1 to 3 weeks. The newly hatched nymphs, commonly called crawlers) move around the plant until they find a suitable feeding site. Wind, watering equipment, your hands or shirtsleeves may also transport crawlers to new hosts. Nymphs insert their straw-like mouth parts into the plant and begin to feed and grow. Also, the males of many species develop wings as adults and fly to other plants to locate mates.

If you remove the leaves, cut through the petiole near where the leaf is attached. Pulling leaves off can damage latent buds. The old portion of the petiole will drop off on its own.

I probably wouldn't have chosen Orthene as the insecticide of choice (not good to use it on indoor material), but now that it's done, I can say that it is an effective remedy for most pests with sucking/rasping mouth parts, and it works better on woody plants than some of the other systemics commonly used. I hope others don't follow suit. I'm not chiding you - just trying to keep everyone safe. ;o)

Maybe you could better describe the 'white stuff'. It would be nice to know it it's fungal or insect related.

Scheffs are, genetically, very tough plants. Perhaps you'll get lucky and it will come back from some of the more lignified (woody) and cold-resistant tissues, which often happens. If you have other questions, I'll try my best to answer them, as long as Rainman doesn't object. ;o)

Al





Santa Rosa, CA

Just a quick note on over pruning the Schefflera. It's impossible!
I put ours outside for some fresh air for a couple of days. When I went bring it back in, I discovered every leaf and some of the branch tips were gone. Deer love Schefflera!
I thought it was dead and left it there where it got water from the sprinkler system and in about a month it started sprouting new buds and leaves. It is now seven feet wide, 6 feet tall, and beautiful. Time for a real prune.
Same thing with an orange and grapefruit tree. The Orange tree was right down to the nub, and the grapefruit was stripped bare. In both cases I thought the plants was a goner. Nope

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