University of FloridaSolutions for Your Life

Download PDF
Publication #ENH743

Schefflera actinophylla: Schefflera1

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, Andrew K. Koeser, Deborah R. Hilbert, and Drew C. McLean2

Introduction

The large, palmately compound, shiny leaves sit atop the multiple, thin, bare trunks of schefflera, creating much the impression of an exotic, 25-foot tall plant-umbrella. Schefflera lends a tropical effect to any landscape use, from patio containers to interiorscapes to protected outdoor locations. Capable of reaching 40 feet in height, schefflera will grow rapidly to create a dense windbreak or screen for property lines. When grown in full sun, trees will produce flowers during the summer, an unusual arrangement of small blooms on three-foot-diameter, stiff terminal clusters. These clusters are held above the foliage and are arranged like the ribs of an inverted umbrella, or like the tentacles of an octopus. The red blooms are followed by reddish-purple, half-inch fruits.

Figure 1. 

Full Form—Schefflera actinophylla: schefflera


Credit:

R.A. Howard. ©Smithsonian Institution. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, Richard A. Howard Photograph Collection. United States, HI, Oahu


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Schefflera actinophylla

Pronunciation: shef-LEER-uh ack-tin-oh-FILL-uh

Common name(s): schefflera, Queensland umbrella-tree

Family: Araliaceae

USDA hardiness zones: 10A through 11 (Figure 2)

Origin: native to Queensland, Australia

Invasive potential: invasive and not recommended (Central and South); not considered a problem species at this time, may be recommended (North)

Uses: indoors

Figure 2. 

Range


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Description

Height: 30 to 40 feet

Spread: 10 to 15 feet

Crown uniformity: irregular

Crown shape: upright/erect

Crown density: moderate

Growth rate: fast

Texture: coarse

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate

Leaf type: palmately compound; made up of 5 to 18 sets of leaflets

Leaf margin: entire, undulate

Leaf shape: elliptic (oval), oblong

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen

Leaf blade length: leaflets are 3 ½ to 12 inches

Leaf color: dark green and shiny on top, paler green underneath

Fall color: no color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Leaf—Schefflera actinophylla: schefflera


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: bright red

Flower characteristics: showy; emerges in clusters on 2'–4’ long racemes

Flowering: Summer

Figure 4. 

Flower—Schefflera actinophylla: schefflera


Credit:

W. L. Wagner ©National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Fruit

Fruit shape: round

Fruit length: ½ inch

Fruit covering: fleshy drupe

Fruit color: purplish-red

Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/branches: branches don't droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; no thorns

Bark: greenish or gray, and smooth

Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure

Breakage: susceptible to breakage

Current year twig color: green

Current year twig thickness: thick, very thick

Wood specific gravity: unknown

Figure 5. 

Bark—Schefflera actinophylla: schefflera


Credit:

Gitta Hasing


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Culture

Light requirement: full sun to partial shade

Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; slightly alkaline; acidic; well-drained

Drought tolerance: moderate

Aerosol salt tolerance: low

Other

Roots: can form large surface roots

Winter interest: no

Outstanding tree: no

Ozone sensitivity: unknown

Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown

Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

Schefflera will grow in full sun or partial shade on a wide variety of well-drained soils but require full sun to flower. Trees will display their best growth on rich, moist soil in a full sun location. There is significant leaf drop on this easily-grown tree creating quite a racking job, but plants will require very little pruning if given enough overhead space to develop. Trees may be topped as desired to create multi-level masses of foliage. This may be desirable since the lower portions of the trunks lose all their foliage over time. Sometimes the tree is used as a house plant, but it is too often misused by planting it too close to a building.

It has naturalized in some parts of south Florida and has been placed on a list of exotic pest plants.

Propagation is by seeds, cuttings, or layers.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases of major concern. Scales and sooty mold are a minor problem. Trees used indoors are susceptible to infestations of spider mites.

References

Koeser, A. K., Hasing, G., Friedman, M. H., and Irving, R. B. 2015. Trees: North & Central Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Koeser, A.K., Friedman, M.H., Hasing, G., Finley, H., Schelb, J. 2017. Trees: South Florida and the Keys. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH743, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2018. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department; Ryan W. Klein, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department; Andrew K. Koeser, assistant professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Deborah R. Hilbert, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; and Drew C. McLean, biological scientist, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.