4 Simple Methods To Propagate Umbrella Plants | Schefflera

Umbrella plants (Schefflera actinophylla and arboricola) are very popular houseplants with tree-like growth habits and long, glossy leaves. In my opinion, no houseplant collection is complete without some type of Schefflera. But it’s also hard to stop at just one!

Propagation is a great way to either expand your collection or create new plants that can be gifted to fellow collectors. Some home gardeners even turn plant propagation into a bustling side business.

Learning how to propagate Umbrella Plants is not difficult and there are several techniques you can try. In this article, I’ll break down the best propagation methods for umbrella plants and offer some expert tips for timing and aftercare.

4 Methods For Propagating Umbrella Plants

One of the great things about Schefflera plants is that you can propagate them using a number of different methods. These species are excellent to experiment with if you’re new to houseplant propagation and want to try out various techniques.

Remember that a big benefit of vegetative propagation — i.e., rooting stem cutting, or layering — is the creation of an exact clone of the original plant. If your goal is to reproduce a unique cultivar or mutation in your Schefflera, then one of these methods is required.

1. Propagating From Seed

Some of the most popular houseplants aren’t worth growing from seed because their success rates are quite low. While Schefflera seeds are not foolproof, they are quite a bit easier to germinate and grow than most.

You will first need to get your hands on some viable Schefflera seeds. These can be ordered from a specialty supplier — you’re unlikely to find high-quality Schefflera seeds at your normal garden center. 

Schefflera seeds are more likely to germinate the fresher they are. Cornell University also recommends soaking the seeds in 140°F water for 12 hours prior to planting to increase the germination rate. Use approximately 4 times as much hot water as there are seeds in volume. 

Plant Schefflera seeds 1 inch deep in well-draining potting soil designed for houseplants. Water in the seeds and place them somewhere out of direct light. 

Seeds will germinate best in temperatures between 75 to 85°F. In my experience, Schefflera seeds generally take between 30 and 60 days to germinate. However, exact germination rates can vary between cultivars and in different growing conditions.

2. Propagating in Water From a Cutting

Moisture is technically the only thing required for a Schefflera stem cutting to produce new roots. So it’s entirely possible to propagate an umbrella plant by placing a fresh cutting in a glass of water.

Select a clear container like a mason jar or regular drinking glass to propagate your Schefflera cutting. I recommend using distilled water or tap water that has sat out for 24 hours to allow any chemicals to evaporate. Fill the container so that the end of the cutting is fully submerged. 

Water propagation is extremely satisfying since you can actually see new roots grow. Change out the water every 2 weeks or as needed to keep it clean.

If everything goes according to plan, your Schefflera cutting will show signs of growth within about 6 weeks. You can transplant your new umbrella plant to a soil-filled container once substantial root and top growth have occurred.

3. Propagation in Soil From a Cutting

The most straightforward — and, I’m willing to bet, most common — way to propagate Schefflera is by placing stem cuttings in potting soil. Out of all the methods I’ve shared here, this one usually achieves the best results on a consistent basis.

Use a small pot (about 6 inches across) for each cutting. You can also root several cuttings in a single large container if desired.

Place the bottom 2 inches of each cutting into the soil. Applying a rooting hormone powder to the cut ends can improve the odds of successful propagation. 

Keep cuttings in a warm, moderately lit location. Water the soil as needed to prevent the cuttings from drying out. Remember that small containers tend to dry out very quickly.

As with water propagation, this method will take several weeks to show progress. Give your cuttings a few weeks to start rooting before checking for growth. In addition to root development, you should also see new top growth. 

Pruning away smaller sprouts may encourage the cuttings to branch out more early on. Transplant your new umbrella plants to larger containers when they outgrow their original ones.

4. Air Layering

Layering encourages root development from stems while they are still attached to the parent plant. There are two types of layering that can be used on Schefflera:

  • Soil layering involves bending down and burying a piece of the stem in potting soil
  • Air layering involves wrapping part of a stem with damp sphagnum moss and plastic

The Royal Horticultural Society recommends air layering as ideal for larger plants, whose branches can’t be easily bent down to the soil. Soil layering is my preferred method for small or flexible plants.

With either method, you’ll need to cut away a ring of bark with a clean, sharp blade. This wound should be made just below the leaves of a lower stem. Rooting hormone powder can be applied to the area if desired.

The main benefit of layering versus any other propagation method is that the offshoot still has access to moisture and nutrition from the parent plant during the rooting process. Once the treated stem has developed roots of its own, you can sever its connection to the original Schefflera and plant it in a pot of its own.

How To Take A Cutting – Step by Step

Starting with a healthy cutting that contains several nodes is often the secret to successful propagation. Nodes are sections of the stem where growth emerges, such as new leaves. If your Schefflera cutting lacks nodes, it won’t be able to continue growing after taking root.

Here’s how to properly take an umbrella plant cutting for propagation:

  1. Inspect your mature Schefflera plant for signs of illness or disease. Only take cuttings from healthy plants.
  2. Select a lower stem with several sets of leaves growing from it. Cut the stem with clean, sharp shears, being careful not to cut into the plant’s main “trunk.”
  3. Remove all but 4 or 5 sets of leaves from the cutting. Remove the lowermost leaves first.
  4. (Optional) Dampen the stem’s cut end and dip it in rooting hormone powder.
  5. Place your Schefflera cutting in a clean cup of water or potting soil to the root.

Best Time To Umbrella Plants

If you’re planning to propagate Schefflera from a stem cutting, I recommend doing so in late winter. This is the best time to do any type of pruning and will ensure the new plant has the entire coming growing season to recover and put on size.

Propagation via seeds or layering can be done at any time. The most important thing when starting Schefflera from seed is to plant the seeds as soon as possible (germination rates quickly drop the older the seeds become). 

Caring for Schefflera After Propagation

Your newly propagated Schefflera will require very similar care to the original plant. Staying on top of things like light exposure, temperature, and ambient humidity will improve the odds of successful root development and encourage faster growth overall.

Light

Umbrella plants grow best in bright, indirect light. An ideal location would be a well-lit window that doesn’t let in direct rays of the sun. Schefflera grown outdoors should be kept in partial shade to prevent sun damage.

Note that new propagations may be more sensitive to intense sunlight than established plants, so take care when choosing a location for fresh cuttings. You can gradually increase new plants’ sun exposure as they mature, especially if top growth appears pale or leggy.

Temperature & Humidity

Schefflera are tropical plants that need ample heat and humidity to survive. For the best results, they require temperatures between 60 and 75°F and around 60% ambient humidity.

These needs are sometimes hard to meet in the typical household environment, particularly during winter. I highly recommend keeping young seedlings or cuttings in an indoor greenhouse to prevent moisture loss. You can even create a simple DIY setup by covering new plants with plastic bags to trap warmth and moisture during the first couple of weeks.

Soil

Schefflera prefers standard potting soil that is loose and well-draining. A high amount of organic matter is also super beneficial. If you encounter issues with waterlogging, a bit of coarse sand or perlite can be added to the base soil to improve drainage.

Watering 

Umbrella plants are susceptible to overwatering. It’s often best to let the soil almost completely dry out between waterings. 

Your Schefflera will naturally need more frequent watering during the warm growing season. Cut back on watering during winter dormancy to avoid root rot and related problems.

Fertilizing

While Schefflera responds better to frequent feeding than many popular houseplants, be careful not to overwhelm new cuttings or seedlings. Give propagated plants time to establish a root system before introducing fertilizer.

Actively growing Schefflera can be fed as often as every 2 weeks during the growing season. I prefer to use a balanced liquid fertilizer for houseplants. However, you can also apply 1 or 2 doses of slow-release granules per season.

FAQ How To Propagate Umbrella Plants

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.