With more than 600 different species of Schefflera (shef-LER-uh) out there, it’s easy to find one that best suits you.
However, Schefflera houseplants (umbrella tree) tend to steal the show and are both popular indoor plants and outdoors.
With its sibling the dwarf umbrella plant (Schefflera arboricola), these perennial members of the Araliaceae family create a wonderful canopy of variegated glory.
To keep your Schefflera looking its best, it’s important to prune it or give an occasional trimming.
This is especially true when these rapid growers get a little too big, too leggy, too fast or if they’re been ill recently.
Tips on How to Prune Schefflera Plants
Pruning a Schefflera plant is quite easy and can be the difference between a sickly, scraggly plant and a showstopper with a bushy shape.
Here are some simple tips to get the most out of each pruning session.
When to Prune
While it’s possible to prune dwarf Schefflera at almost any time of year, late winter or early spring prior to the emergence of new growth is generally best.
Not only does this encourage plenty of new growth in spring, but it allows you to gather seeds or cuttings for Schefflera propagation.
Count the Stalks
Schefflera can have a single trunk, but they’re more likely to have multiple stems.
These stems start off tightly packed but will spread out as the plant gets taller.
The stem count will affect how your plant grows, with one stem being tall and thin like a tree, and multiple stems being denser and shrub-like.
You’ll always want to work with these shapes in mind so the plant continues to develop properly.
Related: Is Schefflera Plant Poisonous?
Play Some Chess
Planning several prunings ahead can save a lot of headaches later on.
Think about what kind of habit you’d prefer and plan your cuts in a way that encourages that growth.
Scheffleras have numerous leaf nodes along their stems from which new leaves will sprout.
Spend a moment to consider which nodes you’ll be pruning at and how that will affect the number of leaves and direction of growth.
This is a very important step, as it can be easy to get carried away and prune too many leaves at once.
Perform a Physical
Pruning can be very beneficial but can also take a lot out of your plant besides foliage.
Check the entire plant for signs of pests infestation or disease.
These though generally be treated first, although that might not be possible for some problems.
Look for damaged leaves and stems that will need to be removed and adjust your pruning plan to account for these necessary cuts.
You will also want to check the container if you have an indoor plant.
Make sure it isn’t root-bound and that the soil is still in good condition.
If you need to repot into a bigger pot or perform a soil change, do so prior to pruning and ensure the plant has had a drink before you get started.
This may also be a good time to check root health if you’re uprooting the plant.
Any damaged or diseased roots can be pruned away with a sharp, sterile knife prior to replanting.
Prep Your Tools
Gather up the tools you plan to use, such as bypass pruning shears or a sharp knife, and make sure they’re all sharp and clean.
You will also want to have some isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol on-hand to sterilize your tools before, between, and after cuts.
You will also want to have a container or bag on-hand to dispose of any Schefflera cuttings you don’t plan to use.
Any diseased limbs should be carefully placed into an airtight bag for safe disposal and to prevent cross-contamination.
Making the Cuts
Once everything’s ready, it’s time to start cutting.
Make the cut just above a growth node where leaves have sprouted.
This can not only help reduce the overall height but will encourage the plant to fill out.
Pruning horizontal branches, in the same manner, can help control the plant’s width.
Dealing with an Extremely Straggly Plant
Schefflera can handle some seriously aggressive pruning, and this might be necessary if you’ve allowed the plant to grow wild or it had insufficient food or sunlight for too long.
In such cases, the stems of smaller plants can be pruned back to 6” inches above the soil, at which point it will grow back fuller.
Be sure if the cause was malnutrition that you give the plant fresh soil, food, and/or better lighting conditions or you’ll just end up with a straggly plant again.
Pruning your Schefflera annually can not only help control its size and shape, but it can encourage healthier growth and even provide you with some leaf or stem cuttings for propagation.
Due to its hearty nature, a Schefflera will generally bounce back after a few pruning accidents, but you still want to try to plan ahead.
In some cases, pruning away diseased limbs can save your plant’s life, but never try to propagate even healthy-looking stems if the plant has an incurable disease that spreads quickly to the whole plant, as they may be carriers.