Australian Umbrella Tree: Classification, Distribution, Description, Ecological Significance, and, Care for Umbrella Plants

Australian Umbrella Tree: Classification, Distribution, Description, Ecological Significance, and, Care for Umbrella Plants


A Member of the Araliaceae family of trees, Heptapleurum actinophyllum was formerly known as Schefflera actinophylla. Schefflera is an epiphyte in the genus. The tropics and subtropics are home to a large number of Schefflera species, which number over 650. The Schefflera looks a lot like an exotic, 25-foot-tall plant umbrella thanks to its huge, palmately complex, lustrous leaves perched atop its numerous, thin, naked trunks. Schefflera gives any landscape usage, from patio pots to interiorscapes to covered outdoor areas, a tropical feel. Schefflera will expand quickly to form a dense windbreak or screen for property lines and is capable of growing to a height of 40 feet. In the summer, trees that are growing in full sunlight will bloom, with an odd arrangement of tiny blooms on three-foot-diameter, rigid terminal clusters. These clusters, which are held above the foliage, are organized like the tentacles of an octopus or the ribs of an inverted umbrella. After the crimson blooms, half-inch reddish-purple fruits appear. Several Schefflera species’ leaves and bark are used as diuretics and cough remedies. The treatment of asthma, liver disorders, rheumatism, arthritis, sprains, fractures, stomach ache, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, migraine, and general tonic is among the ethnomedical uses of Schefflera (Ragasa et al., 2005). Caffeoyl acids, quercetin glycoside, and oleanolic acid glycoside are the primary components of S. venulosa extract, which promotes blood circulation and guards against cerebral and heart vascular disorders (Purohith et al., 1991).

Schefflera actinophylla


Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Apiales

Family: Araliaceae

Genus: Heptapleurum

Species: H. actinophyllum

Scientific Name: Heptapleurum actinophyllum

Common Name(s): Australian umbrella tree, Queensland umbrella tree, Octopus tree, and Amate.

Origin: Northern Australia, New Guinea, Java


Native to Java, New Guinea, and northern Queensland in Australia, it became weedy when transplanted to southern Queensland (Austin 1996). Florida’s Monroe, Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Brevard, Collier, and Pinellas counties currently report 28 recognized natural areas (EPPC 1996). Naturalized populations in Pinellas, Palm Beach, Broward, Dade, and Monroe counties provided the material for the herbarium (Wunderlin et al. 1995).


1. A 12-meter (40-foot) tall evergreen tree with a single or several trunks and greenish bark. Tree up to 45 feet tall, occasionally epiphytic, and capable of suffocating host trees. Branching at the base and sparsely above.

2. The leaves are palmately compound, alternating, and have petioles up to 61 cm (2 ft) long. The leaflets are glossy, light green, oblanceolate, and up to 30 cm (12 in) long, with whole margins (or sparsely toothed when young).

3. A huge, red, spectacular inflorescence with flowers that are 25 mm (1 in) across is formed at the stem tips above the foliage by dense clusters of flowers.

4. Fruit is a spherical, meaty, purplish-black drupe that is 7 mm (1/4 in) in diameter.

5. leaves with radial compounding. From the 2 ft long petioles’ tip, 5–18 leaflets that can reach a length of 1 ft shoot forth.

6. Red flowers in close clusters are held in inflorescences with radially oriented floral stems at the terminals.

7. Blooms between March and October, and peaks in September.

8. Spherical fruits with a 0.25-inch diameter, bright red colour that is present for the majority of the year starting in the spring and that eventually turn dark purple or black have a resemblance to an octopus’ tentacles. Recently, fruits have been utilized to make lei.

Ecological Significance

A typical indoor plant that grows outdoors in central and southern Florida to the size of a tree and produces enormous amounts of seeds (Maxwell 1984). Introduced to Florida landscaping around 1927, and observed in southern Florida as escaping cultivation in the late 1970s, often growing as seedlings in the boots of cabbage palms in the manner of strangler figs (Morton 1976). 1982 records in Pinellas County mention the escape (Wunderlin). A range of habitats, including cypress strands, sand pine scrub, beach dunes in full sun, and hammocks in deep shadow, are now where it has become naturalized and is expanding (Thayer 1998). Invading threatened scrub habitat remnants, where it is shading out listed rare flora like the endangered scrub pinweed of Florida, Lechua cernua Sm (D. F. Austin, Florida Atlantic University, and K. C. Burks, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, personal observations). Extremely invasive, growing on both rocks and trees in the undisturbed tropical hardwood hammocks of Dade County (R. Hammer, Miami-Dade County Natural Resources Department, 1996 personal communication). challenging to control (Thayer 1998).

Use and Management

Schefflera may thrive in either full sun or moderate shade on a range of well-drained soils, but it must have full sun to bloom. Rich, wet soil in a place with full sun is ideal for a tree’s optimal growth. However, if allowed adequate overhead area to expand, plants will require very little trimming. This easily-grown tree has high leaf drop, which makes for a grueling chore. To produce multi-level masses of foliage, trees may be topped as desired. Since the lower parts of the trunks gradually lose all of their leaves, this can be a good situation. The tree is occasionally mishandled by being planted too close to a building, although this happens far too frequently. It has become a native plant in some areas of south Florida and is now listed as an alien pest plant.

How to Grow and Take Care of Umbrella Plants

This plant can easily grow to be among your home’s tallest plants if given the right care. Within one growing season, you could have a very tall plant due to how quickly it grows. Although umbrella plants thrive in bright, indirect light, they can usually take direct indoor light; in medium to low light, however, they will just grow more slowly and become lanky. In general, humidity is not a problem, but if the air is excessively dry, plants may be more vulnerable to pests like scale and spider mites.

The ideal temperature range for umbrella plants inside is 55°F to 75°F (13°C to 24°C). USDA zones 10-11 allow for year-round outdoor cultivation. Check local regulations before planting outside as the aggressively growing Schefflera actinophylla is regarded as an invasive species in Florida and Hawaii.

Care and Planting

Like the majority of houseplants, umbrella plants require proper drainage to prevent death by root rot from excessive moisture in the soil. Plant in a drainage-hole-equipped container with a peat-moss-based potting mix, if possible. Repot in the spring every year.

When the potting mix’s top dries up, water thoroughly, wait for the soil to dry, then water once more. In terms of watering, umbrella plants are adaptable, however, they are more tolerant to dry soil than excessive moisture. After watering, empty the drainage saucer since they dislike having wet feet.

Although umbrella plants don’t require regular fertilizer, you can feed your plant a basic, diluted plant fertilizer once a month in the summer to encourage faster development. Wipe the leaves down with a moist cloth or sponge to keep them free of dust.

Scheffleras that become overgrown or lanky can be cut back. To promote a fuller, bushier plant, pinch growth tips.

Don’t expect flowers indoors; outdoor plants may even bloom in warm, humid climates.

How to Propagate

Cut a stem close to the plant’s base with clean shears to propagate it. Place the end in a small container of potting soil after dipping it in the rooting hormone. Place water in indirect, bright light. Maintaining the pot at warm temperatures, between 65°F and 75°F (18°C and 24°C), as well as maintaining humidity will assist speed up rooting. Additionally, some people claim that rooting stems in water before planting them in soil works well.

Since these plants develop so quickly, you’ll likely need to prune the plant to keep it in the desired form and size. Even if you prune an umbrella plant severely and remove a significant portion of the plant, it will swiftly recover and come back fuller than it did before. This is an excellent method for making a sluggish plant lusher and more attractive.Every three to four years after reaching maturity, an umbrella plant will require repotting. It’s time to repot when the roots begin to extend through the drainage holes in the pot. Because of this plant’s height, a rather large pot should be used, and Umbrella plants should always be repotted in the spring.

You can propagate a plant by taking cuttings from an established one. To aid in the new growth’s germination, these cuttings ought to be at least two inches long. Ensure that the developing plant’s tip is not buried in the ground. If the cuttings don’t take, you can alternatively cultivate these plants from seeds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Is Schefflera a good indoor plant?

Ans: Yes

Question: Does Schefflera like sun or shade?

Ans: with partial to full shade or even full sun 

Question: How long does an umbrella plant live?

Ans: They live between 20 and 25 years,

Question: How big do Schefflera plants get?

Ans: They grow to 8 feet or more in height.

Question: Does Schefflera clean the air?

Ans: Yes

Question: Are Schefflera plants easy to care for?

Ans: Yes

Question: Is Schefflera Poisoning to the cat?

Ans: Yes

Question: Is Schefflera Poisoning to Humans?

Ans: Yes

Question: Is Schefflera Poisoning to Dogs?

Ans: Yes

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