Comprising approximately half of the Araliaceae family, Schefflera has over 600 species hailing from Africa, Asia, and the islands in the Southwest Pacific region.
But despite how many different plants there are, the umbrella plant has similar shrub or tree-like habits and shares a lot of the same care needs.
This also extends to propagating Schefflera, which may be done with seeds or air layering, but is most commonly performed via cuttings.
How to Start Schefflera Plants from Cuttings
Stem and leaf cuttings tend to be the most popular propagation methods. They produce new plants of the mother plant and are generally easier to do than other methods.
Of these, stem cuttings are somewhat easier, but leaf cuttings can be done in larger numbers.
Gathering Your Cuttings
The best time to gather leaf or stem cuttings is in late winter when you go to prune your Schefflera houseplant using sharp, sterile tools.
Leaves should be 4 to 6” inches long and be cut at the base of the petiole (leaf stem) with a sharp, sterile knife at a 45° degree angle.
For stem cuttings, choose the same angle and cut just above a growth node using a sharp knife or bypass pruning shears (avoid other types of garden shears that pinch the stem instead of making a clean cut).
In both cases, you will want to make sure your cuttings are from healthy stems and are free of infestations like Schefflera mealybug.
The Propagation Soil For A Dwarf Umbrella Tree
Your Schefflera loves a rich, loamy, well-drained soil. It’s generally a good idea to get a quality orchid or African violet mix and amend with some organic compost and perlite.
However, for starting off the cuttings, you can start with the basic potting mix and save any amendments for when they get their first transplant.
Make sure the soil is slightly damp prior to planting.
Water and Sun
These two factors are very important to the success of your cuttings.
For water, you will want to avoid tap water, which contains harsh chemicals and mineral salts that may damage or retard the developing root system.
Natural rainwater is best, but distilled water (sometimes called baby water) is a good second choice.
Make sure the water you use is always room temperature to avoid shocking the plantlet.
As for light, your Schefflera arboricola cuttings will need to be located somewhere with bright, indirect light.
Even though these plants can often thrive in artificial lighting, this isn’t ideal for a plantlet trying to root.
Likewise, direct sunlight can scorch the plant and cause the soil to dry out quickly.
Propagating with Leaf Cuttings
Leaves can be a little more picky than stem cuttings, but can be rooted in nursery flats, so you can do several at once.
This is important to keep in mind because some species can be more difficult than others to propagate in this manner, and success may also come down to the temperament of the individual plant.
Dip the tip of the petiole in rooting hormone and plant it ½” inch deep in your chosen container.
You will want to take a clear plastic bag, such as a Ziplock freezer bag, and form a tent over the leaf to help keep moisture in.
Moisten the soil as needed, making sure it doesn’t get too wet or too dry.
It typically takes 3 months for a leaf to take root, after which time you can transplant your umbrella tree to a pot.
Propagating with Dwarf Schefflera From Stem Cuttings
There are two general methods for preparing stem cuttings. A popular (but more confusing) method is to get your clippings and cut each leaf in half horizontally, then wrap the stem in a damp paper towel.
The easier method (and the one we recommend) is to simply remove all but the top 4 to 5 leaves, then dip the cut end in rooting hormone.
Plant the cutting in a small pot of soil (with drainage holes) and cover it with a clear plastic bag.
As with the leaf cuttings, you’ll want to check the soil frequently and keep it slightly moist.
After about 4 to 6 weeks, give the plantlet a gentle tug.
If there’s no new growth or resistance at this point, the cutting is a dud.
However, if you feel a little resistance, that means roots are developing and it’s safe to transplant them to a more permanent home.
Water Propagation of Stem Cuttings
This method is identical to soil propagation up until it’s time to stick the stem in a medium.
In this case, you’ll be using a clear jar or glass (mason jars work wonders) filled with water.
Place the stem so that the leaves are holding it up on the rim or use some string or sticks to support the plant and keep it vertical.
The bottom of the stem should be submerged by a good ½” to an inch.
You won’t need to tent these plants, but it is important to keep an eye on the water level and top up as needed.
You should also do a full water change whenever it starts to look cloudy.
The plantlet will be ready to transplant to a container or outdoors once the roots are 1” inch long (2” inches for the garden).