Apartment plants

Schefflera - Schefflera actinophylla

Schefflera - Schefflera actinophylla

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The schefflera

The schefflere are large shrubs or small trees of tropical origin, belonging to the araliaceae family, widely used in Italy as houseplants, due to their very elegant foliage and easy adaptability even in places not entirely suitable for their development. They produce thin erect, branched stems, which bear large palmate leaves, consisting of oval leaflets, of different sizes depending on the species, typically leathery and shiny, quite thick; in the botanical species the leaves are green, but there are many cultivars especially with variegated or striated foliage, which are generally more widespread as houseplants than the plain leaf species. In nature, in summer, from the apex of the stems, thin stems sprout, arranged in a sunburst pattern, which carry short petioles and small flowers, yellow or red, which develop into small berries of the same color. Unfortunately it is very unlikely that a Schefflera flourishes in the apartment, due to the low amount of light, the excessively dry climate and temperatures, which simulate a year without seasons; so the flowers remain a difficult dream for the Italian grower. There are only two species of Schefflera, three if we also include dyzigotheca elegantissima, which is often considered a Schefflera by many authors; also the two existing species have a controversial classification, and some botanists consider them belonging to different genera of araliacee.

Schefflera actinophylla

Also known by the synonym Brassaia actinophylla, in nature it develops in some areas of Australia, where it reaches the size of a large tree; in pot it usually remains at a height below two or three meters; the leaves are subdivided into thin leaflets, medium green, oval and slightly pointed; the leaves have a dull texture, and tend to grow down, folded down. The tree produces large inflorescences, up to two meters long, with red flowers and similarly colored berries, which contain fertile seeds. In most areas of the world's mild climate these schefflere are cultivated as garden plants, where they develop multiple trunks, and a very particular crown. In Italy they could find a place in the garden only in areas with warmer winters, on the coasts or on the larger islands.

Schefflera arboricola

Also known as Heptapleurum arboriculum, this species of Schefflera is what we typically find in Italian homes, as a botanical species, or in hybrid varieties with variegated leaves; develops a bushy and disordered shrub, characterized by erect stems, which start from several main trunks; as for all the schefflere, the leaves are palmate, they develop on long petioles, to which the oval leaflets develop to form a wide umbrella; the foliage is oval, dark green, with a waxy appearance. The flowers bloom in summer, but are hardly produced by plants grown in pots. This species of Schefflera is native to Taiwan, and in Europe is cultivated exclusively as a houseplant.

Grow the Schefflera

The schefflere are widespread, above all because they require little care, and even if neglected they hardly suffer irreparably; therefore, even a Schefflera cultivated with too much light, or too much water, hardly defunge, and is recoverable simply by changing the parameters of cultivation. In addition to this, they have a fairly rapid development, but in pot they tend to remain "dwarf", or to develop much less than the specimens that grow in the wild in the ground; therefore we are unlikely to be faced with specimens that are too large to be grown in the apartment. They are planted in quite large pots, with a good fresh, rich and very well drained soil, so as to avoid water stagnation; every year, at the end of winter, we will replace all the soil in the container, and eventually place the plant in a larger vessel, where this is necessary. They are placed in a very bright area, even directly exposed to sunlight, although possibly, the plants just bought in the nursery, will be moved to the sun gradually, to prevent the foliage being scalded by the warm rays; preferably, in summer it is advisable to keep the plant in partial shade, where it is not exposed to direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day. In the same way, as soon as the minimum temperatures are above 15-18 ° C, it is good to move the vase outdoors, in the garden or on the terrace, where the plant can enjoy better ventilation. Watering will be regular, from March to September, so as to avoid leaving the soil dry for a long time; every two weeks we add water to the fertilizer for green plants; in the cold months we water only sporadically. These plants are of tropical origin, therefore they do not like a dry climate, to see them always luxuriant, in winter and in full summer it is advisable to vaporize the foliage frequently, in order to increase the environmental humidity.

Propagate the schefflera

The schefflera in nature produces an infinity of small berries, which contain wound seeds in them; although these plants practically never flower if grown in pots, it is not difficult to find the seeds from well-toed seed dealers, especially in the various online stores of rare or particular tropical plants. The seeds are small; to sow them we prepare a seed bed with a mixture of sand and chopped peat, in equal parts, with which we will fill a tray with drain holes for water; we continue watering the mixture well, and then we place the seeds on the surface, covering them with a dusting of soil or with vermiculite, which will keep them moist but will also let the light pass. The sowing tray thus prepared should be kept at a minimum temperature of 15-18 ° C, and in a partially shaded position; every day we vaporize the surface, so as to keep the substratum always damp; the young seedlings will sprout over a few weeks.
In late spring, or in summer, we can also prepare cuttings, taking the tips of the branches, freeing them from the lower leaves and immersing them in a soil similar to that used for sowing; if we wish we can first sprinkle the lower part of the cutting with rooting hormone. It is advisable to try with small cuttings, but the schefflere usually germinate well from cuttings, so that it is quite easy to produce quite large specimens, taking cuttings made up of an internal branch of the plant, even 35-45 cm long.

Pests and diseases

In spring the tender buds are often colonized by aphids and ants; the damage caused by these insects could also be negligible, if it were not that in the long run, the honeydew emitted by the aphids causes the proliferation of fumaggini: greyish molds that disfigure the foliage; It is therefore important to eradicate the aphids, already when we see only a few dozen, and before they invade the plant. There are dozens of insecticides against aphids, even biological ones, to be used without problems even at home; in any case, it is convenient to use these products when the plant is moved outdoors, in the spring. Remember that it is generally advisable to wait at least a couple of weeks before repeating an insecticide treatment. The schefflere also bear cultivation conditions not entirely similar to those found in nature, without suffering damage; it happens, however, that our schefflera suddenly begins to lose much of the foliage; in these cases it means that the climate or watering is actually becoming too different from what the plant likes. It is therefore convenient, before thinking of insects or diseases of some kind, to try to slightly change the cultivation practices: watering frequencies are reduced (or increased), the quantity of light received by the plant is reduced (or increased), yes provides (or suspends) fertilizer. Usually, the plant tends to recover on its own within a couple of weeks. A typical characteristic of the schefflere are the large leaves, which have an opaque upper page, which to the touch is waxy; on the microscopic asperities that cover the leaves dust, atmospheric dust, grease are deposited, so that periodically it is necessary to clean up the foliage, or the plant is no longer able to carry out gaseous exchanges with the outside, and beyond this, with the passage of the months, the leaves tend to become increasingly ugly. For this reason, in addition to cleaning the leaves every 3-5 months with a damp cloth, if possible in the spring it is advisable to take a real shower for the entire plant, using the garden spray, or even letting the spring rains hit leaves.

Schefflera exhibition

It is a tolerant plant: in fact it supports well the low-light positions reacting only with a slowdown in growth. To have luxuriant specimens it is instead advisable to have a very bright exposure, near a window to the south or west. We emphasize that the direct sun can cause burns on the leaf blade: it is therefore good, especially in summer, to shield the glass with light curtains. Of course during the summer it is possible to move the vase outside, in a position that respects the previous recommendations.

Family, genus, species Araliaceae, gen. Brassaia
Type of plant Perennial;
Foliage persistent
Habit shrubby, arboreal or climbing
Use From vase, from apartment;
Height at maturity Up to 3 meters
Growth rate From normal to fast
Maintenance Easy
Water needs Medium-high
Minimum temperature 10 ° C
Ideal temperature in the vegetative period 16-25 ° C
Exposure Very bright, tolerates shade; no direct sun
Ground 1/3 vegetable fiber, 1/3 peat, 1/3 sand; well drained
Fertilizer Every 15 days, for green plants
soil pH subacido
Soil moisture From drained to slightly damp
Environmental humidity high
Propagation Talea or layering

repotting End of winter
Pruning Autumn
Talea From June to September
Root from aerial root All the year
Vegetative rest Also absent; winter


The Schefflera comes from the rainforests of Asia and Oceania. It therefore requires a temperate-warm and humid climate. The minimum temperature that tolerates is 10-12 ° C, but risks a foliar drop. To get a good growth, in all seasons, it will be good to stay between 16 and 22 ° C. It is also essential to maintain high environmental humidity. Especially in winter (due to the radiators turned on) the air in our apartments becomes very dry. We help our plants with sprays or using humidifiers. These practices can however be useful throughout the year, reminding us that the humidity rate must increase proportionally with the temperatures.

Substrate and repottings of the Schefflera

The Schefflere do not require annual repotting. Usually it is sufficient to intervene at the end of winter, in alternate years, increasing the diameter of the container by 2-4 cm. The ideal compote must be sub-acid and rich, but it must guarantee excellent drainage. We can obtain a good product by mixing fibrous soil (such as that for terrestrial orchids), peat or earth with leaves and coarse sand, in equal parts. We also treat the drainage layer on the bottom in particular.

Schefflera irrigation

We give water only when the soil is dry for at least 2/3 of its depth and we always avoid the use of saucers. Leaf vaporisations are very important. Every two weeks it is good to clean the leaves with a damp cloth. For all purposes we always use demineralized water or with little limestone. We avoid the use of leaf polishes which, in the long run, create deleterious layers on the leaf blade.
If the plant is in a poorly heated room in winter, we irrigate sporadically, only to prevent the earthen bread from drying out completely; slightly darkening the room may help to induce a slight vegetative rest.


It is necessary only when the temperatures are constantly between 16 and 25 ° C. We also avoid using it in the year following repotting, because the plant will already be fed by the new substrate. It is advisable to intervene every 15 days administering a balanced fertilizer for green plants. Anyway, granular or soluble products to be used by foliar vaporization are also suitable.


It is not strictly necessary. It may be interesting to give the specimen, especially if young, a more shrubby habit by cutting off the top of the stems and stimulating the branching. You can operate in the same way when it exceeds 1 m in height, cutting even very low (especially if it appears bare at the base). We act preferably in the fall.

Species and variety of Schefflera

The genus includes about 150 species and 900 varieties.
Schefflera actinophylla
It is by far the most common species in our homes. It is especially appreciated for the beautiful broad leaves, formed by a variable number of leaflets: 3 in very young individuals that over time will become 5 and finally 7. They are very shiny and bright green. It has a fast growth and can even reach a total height of 2 meters. It exists also in numerous cultivars, peculiar especially for the different coloring of the foliage. We report in particular "Varied" which has some totally white leaves and "Dalton" which presents them instead sprayed with lighter green and yellow.
Schefflera arboricola
It is among the most impressive in cultivation since it can reach 3 meters in height, although, usually, it is wider than high. It has leaves divided into seven leaflets, all born directly on the main stem. Here are some interesting cultivars:
Charlotte With foliage sprinkled with lighter green and white
Melania ivory foliage
Trinettawhite and cream variegated foliage
Gold Capella foliage with green and yellow stripes
Geisha Girl, dark green leaves and more rounded than in the species
Renate whose leaflets have the apex engraved
Very elegant Schefflera
Also called false aralia or Dizygotheca elegantissima. It has very particular foliage and in a wide chromatic range: bronze, dark green or even green with red stripes. The individual leaves appear finely carved and rise on different stems. Each is subdivided into a dozen elongated and narrow leaflets. The whole has a very light and elegant appearance, hence the scientific name of the plant.


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