Some plants are best represented by one or two species, or (in the case of pothos) a plant that isn’t even part of the genus.
When it comes to the 600 to 900 species of Schefflera (shef-LER-uh), the umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla) and its cousin the dwarf umbrella tree (Schefflera arboricola) tend to rule the roost.
These fast-growing members of the Araliaceae family can quickly outgrow their containers and are known to be moderate feeders, so repotting these houseplants every three years (or when they become rootbound) is important.
In some cases, it’s also the perfect excuse to take these trees, which can range in height from 13′ to 33’ feet or higher, to the garden where they’ll be able to reach for the sky.
How Do You Repot or Transplant Schefflera Plants?
Repotting Schefflera plants can be a painless process if you prepare ahead of time.
The following steps will help ensure the process goes off without any incident.
When to Repot?
Late winter to early spring prior to any new growth tends to be the best time for repotting (and maintenance in general).
You will want to repot your umbrella plant when the tree becomes rootbound, which is usually evidenced by roots poking out of the drainage holes.
You may also need to repot in the event of root rot, at which point the emergency repotting may occur at any point in the year.
Note that you should repot every 3 years even if the plant isn’t rootbound to give it some fresh soil.
You will need a few tools, as repotting a Schefflera is part of a bigger care regimen.
Thus, you should grab a sharp knife and either isopropyl or rubbing alcohol for sterilizing.
In the case of a root-bound plant, you may also need to grab a butter knife and will need a new pot one size larger if keeping it potted.
For larger plants, don’t be afraid to ask for a second or third pair of hands to help with the process.
You may also want to transplant the day after watering to help ensure the soil is nice and loose.
Preparing the Soil
Any tropical potting soil mix will work, although richer ones such as African violet or orchid mixes can provide a healthy boost.
You may need to amend the soil with perlite and an organic component, such as peat moss, sphagnum moss, coco coir, or organic compost.
Remember that this plant likes slight acidity, so when using a base potting mix, check to make sure the pH level is between 6.0 and 6.5
If transplanting your Schefflera outdoors, you will want to till and amend the soil ahead of time.
One of the best things you can do for any plant that needs good drainage is to add a substrate layer of gravel or coarse sand at the bottom of your hole.
Thi8s creates a buffer zone that will hold any excess rainwater away from your plant’s roots until the ground can absorb it.
Schefflera actually enjoys a clay component in the soil, but you shouldn’t use straight clay soils as they will compact too easily.
Instead, mix in some perlite and a decent amount of organic compost when tilling to ensure the plant will get everything it needs.
Orchid bark is another good choice for organic matter, as it stores some water but also prevents the soil from compacting.
Preparing the Plant
Plants don’t like to be shifted from their soil and will suffer some degree of transplant shock as a result.
Having everything ready ahead of time can help reduce the amount of stress your plant goes through, but you will also need to give it a physical to ensure it’s not sick.
Check for any signs of pests infestation – spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, scale insects – or disease on leaves and stems around mid-winter. Address those problems immediately with Neem Oil sprays or drenches so the plant will have a clean bill of health when it comes time to transplant it.
You may also choose to prune the plant at the time of repotting, although it’s best not to do an overly aggressive trim at this time if you want your Schefflera to make a quick recovery.
Removing the Plant
Once you have everything you need, it’s time to get the plant out of its old container.
Carefully tip the pot and slide your plant out.
You may need to use a butter knife to gently loosen the soil away from the pot edge if the plant is rootbound.
Examine the roots, gently shaking or knocking away old soil and looking for signs of rot or damage.
Using the sharper knife, carefully trim off any roots that need it, remembering to sterilize after each cut.
Give the Schefflera a test fit in the pot to see how far down it sits.
For every inch of the base of the plant site below the rim, you’ll need an inch of substrate.
You may wish to put a bottom layer of pebbles in before adding soil if you’re worried about drainage issues.
Finally, add a base layer of soil equal to the amount still needed for your plant to sit at the proper height.
Lower your dwarf Schefflera into the pot on top of the substrate layer.
Make sure the plant stays upright (a good excuse to have some help present), reach into the pot, and adjust the roots to be more evenly distributed around the available space.
Once satisfied, begin adding soil into the pot until the top level is ½ to ⅔” inches below the rim.
Follow this up with a slow watering to help the soil settle and give the plant a little recovery drink, stopping when you see the water begin to seep from the drainage hole.
For outdoor planting, the steps are identical, although you won’t have the benefit of seeing when the soil is properly saturated, so use your best judgment.
Scheffleras can take a couple of days to show signs of transplant shock and will need a couple of weeks to fully recover.
During this time, avoid moving or feeding the plant and make sure it’s getting plenty of bright, indirect sunlight.
In most cases, your plant will begin showing fresh growth after about a month and will be recovered enough to move around and/or go back to its normal feeding schedule.