Pruning Schefflera: How To Prune, Trim, Shape Umbrella Trees

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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 trees) tend to steal the show and are both popular indoor plants and outdoors.

Potted variegated dwarf ScheffleraPin

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 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 before 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 new shoots 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 tropical plant besides foliage.

Check the entire plant for signs of pests infestation or disease, especially mealybugs, aphids, spider mites, thrips, and scale insects.

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.

If you see discolored or yellow leaves with brown spots, you need to address these problems too, as it can signal root rot. It could be due to a lack of nutrients or overwatering.

You will also want to check the container if you have an indoor plant.

It’s also important to check if your Schefflera has a single stem or several stems, as they influence how you go about pruning your 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.

Don’t forget to wear gloves, as Schefflera plants contain harmful calcium oxalate crystals in their sap. 

Making the Cuts

Once everything’s ready, it’s time to start cutting.

Cut an upright stem just above a growth node where leaves have sprouted using sharp pruning shears or scissors.

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

Dwarf umbrella trees can handle some seriously aggressive pruning, which might be necessary if you’ve allowed the plant to grow wild or had insufficient food or sunlight for too long.

In such cases, the main stem of smaller plants can be pruned back to 6” inches above the potting soil, at which point they 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.

Ensure your area receives bright indirect light.

Final Notes

Pruning your Schefflera annually can help control its size and shape and 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.

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