There are a lot of impressively large plant genera out there, but Schefflera (shef-LER-uh) makes for some stiff competition for most impressive.
With a native range spanning Africa, Asia, and the Southwest Pacific, this genus has more than 600 species, making them half of all the plants in the Araliaceae family.
Of course, not every species is grown as a houseplant. The most well known are the umbrella plant and dwarf umbrella trees (Schefflera actinophylla and Schefflera arboricola (dwarf Schefflera), respectively).
With individual species ranging in height from 13′ to 33’ feet, these plants have wonderful, often variegated foliage and can be fast growers when planted outdoors.
One issue growers have run into, however, is with propagation.
While not difficult to propagate overall, some methods may take more skill and patience than others.
How Do You Propagate Schefflera Plants?
There are essentially four ways to propagate any Schefflera: air layering, stem cuttings (via soil or water), and from seed.
While some methods are easier than others, mastering a few simple steps will give you a much better chance of success in each option.
Preparation and Timing
No matter which method you use, a little preparation can make a big difference.
When to Propagate
Spring into early summer is the best time for propagation, as you’ll want to give your schefflera time to establish before winter sets in.
Always be sure to sterilize and sharpen any tools prior to use.
Rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol works great, and it’s a good idea to dip your tools between each cut to ensure you don’t accidentally spread disease.
Speaking of disease, you’ll want to examine your schefflera for signs of illness, including infections or pest infestation of spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, and scale insects.
These should be dealt with prior to harvesting seeds or clippings when possible, and any branches or leaves you plant to use must be healthy or the new plant may not survive.
Soil and Water
With all of these methods, you will want to make sure you use room temperature distilled water or natural rainwater, as tap water may reduce your chances of success.
For all methods, you will want to make sure any potting soil used is rich, loamy, and well-draining; with a slightly acidic pH.
Adding some organic compost and perlite or lava stone to an orchid mix can make for a great starter soil.
A Good Spot
Make sure your plantlets or seedlings have a spot with bright, indirect sunlight, no drafts or big temperature shifts, and where they won’t be disturbed.
This method can be a lot of fun, but it also requires a steady hand.
It works especially well on plants that are top-heavy.
Begin by finding a healthy, flexible stem and remove a ring of bark approximately 1” inch wide.
You may choose to either bend the branch so that the cut area is buried or use plastic wrap.
In the latter case, fill the plastic with moist sphagnum moss and carefully wrap it around the cut area to make it airtight.
Whether you use a pot or plastic, be sure to keep the medium moist.
After a few weeks, roots will form where the cut was made.
Once the roots are approximately 1” inch long, you can cut the limb just below the new root line and transplant it to a pot or outdoors.
This method is great for when you’ve just done some light pruning, but be warned that not all plants will want to reproduce this way.
As this can depend on either the specific species or simply the temperament of the particular plant, this should not be your go-to method.
You will want healthy leaves approximately 4 to 6” inches long, cut at the base of the petiole.
Stick the base of the petiole approximately ½” inch deep into a small pot or planting tray of soil.
Keep the soil slightly moist (you may wish to use a clear plastic bag to create a humidity tent during this time) while the plantlet takes root, which will generally take about 3 months.
Stem Cuttings (Soil)
There are a few ways to harvest cuttings, but the following method is one of the easiest.
Note that stem cuttings tend to be the preferred method of propagating a schefflera due to its low risk of mutations or failure.
Choose a stem and cut it with a sharp knife or hand pruners at a 45° degree angle, making sure the cutting is at least 6” inches long. When taking several cuttings wrap the ends of the cuttings in a damp paper towel.
Remove all but the top 4 to 5 leaves and dip the base in rooting hormone powder.
Next, plant the base into a pot of slightly damp soil and cover it with a clear plastic bag to keep high humidity in and retain soil moisture.
Dampen the soil as needed and give the plantlet a gentle tug after 4 to 6 weeks have passed.
If the plantlet has rooted, it will resist and you may remove the bag and treat it as a regular plant.
If the plant gives no resistance after 6 weeks, it is likely a dud and may be discarded.
Stem Cuttings (Water)
This process is almost identical to soil propagation, only you’re using a transparent container and filling it with water so that the bottom ½” inch or so of the stem is submerged.
The plantlet may stay vertical by resting its leaves on the container rim, or you may choose to use string or some other material to prop it up.
As with the soil method, it will take about a month for the roots to form, the big difference being you won’t need to worry about humility and can watch the roots grow.
Be sure to top up the water as needed and change it whenever it starts to look cloudy.
Once the roots are 1” inch long, you can transplant your new Schefflera to its permanent home.
Perhaps the least popular method, seeds can produce mutations and aren’t always viable.
However, harvesting fresh seeds can greatly improve your chances and there’s a certain satisfaction of seeing what sprouts.
The seeds will need to soak for at least 12 hours in hot water (a paper towel sitting in a jar lid with 140° degrees Fahrenheit water can greatly speed up the germination process).
Sow the seeds into a nursery tray with a thin layer of soil underneath and cover with an amount roughly equal to twice the size of the seed.
Keep the soil slightly damp while the seeds germinate, which usually takes 2 to 3 months.
The seedlings may be transplanted into pots once they are about 2” inches tall.