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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.
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.
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.
THE SCHEFFLERA IN BRIEF
|Family, genus, species||Araliaceae, gen. Brassaia|
|Type of plant||Perennial;|
|Habit||shrubby, arboreal or climbing|
|Use||From vase, from apartment;|
|Height at maturity||Up to 3 meters|
|Growth rate||From normal to fast|
|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 moisture||From drained to slightly damp|
|Propagation||Talea or layering|
THE SCHEFFLERA CALENDAR
|repotting||End of winter|
|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.
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.
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.
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.