University of FloridaSolutions for Your Life

Download PDF
Publication #ENH743

Schefflera actinophylla: Schefflera1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2

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. 

Middle-aged 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 (Fig. 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: According to the IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas (IFAS Invasive Plant Working Group 2008), Schefflera actinophylla is invasive and not recommended in the central and south zone in Florida. It is not considered a problem species and may be recommended in the north zone in Florida (counties listed by zone at: http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/assessment/pdfs/assess_counties.pdf)
Uses: indoors
Availability: not native to North America

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 (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: palmately compound
Leaf margin: entire, undulate
Leaf shape: elliptic (oval), oblong
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen
Leaf blade length: 8 to 12 inches, 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Foliage


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: red
Flower characteristics: showy

Figure 4. 

Flowers


Credit:

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


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Fruit

Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: purple, red
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches don't droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns
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

Culture

Light requirement: full sun, partial sun or partial shade
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; slightly alkaline; acidic; occasionally wet; 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.

Literature Cited

Fox, A.M., D.R. Gordon, J.A. Dusky, L. Tyson, and R.K. Stocker (2008) IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas: Status Assessment. Cited from the Internet (November 16, 2012), http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/assessment/pdfs/status_assessment.pdf

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH-743, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date November 1993. Revised February 2013. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, 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.