12 Interesting Facts About Dwarf Umbrella Tree

12 Interesting Facts About Dwarf Umbrella Tree

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The dwarf umbrella tree, also known by its scientific name Schefflera arboricola, is a popular houseplant known for its glossy green leaves that radiate outwards like — you guessed it — an umbrella. This hardy plant is easy to care for and brings an exotic, tropical feel to any space.

If you’re considering adding a dwarf umbrella tree to your home or are just curious to learn more, read on for 12 fascinating facts about this beloved houseplant!

1. It’s native to Taiwan

The dwarf umbrella tree hails from the island of Taiwan located in East Asia. It grows wild in the mountainous, humid, subtropical forests of southern Taiwan at elevations of 300 to 1,500 meters.

2. It purifies the air

Like many houseplants, the dwarf umbrella tree helps purify indoor air. As part of photosynthesis, it takes in carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. Its large, glossy leaves also absorb air pollutants like formaldehyde and benzene.

3. The “dwarf” name is misleading

The “dwarf” designation is a bit misleading. While called a dwarf, this versatile plant can reach heights of 3 to 10 feet indoors. It grows much larger, up to 40 feet tall, in outside tropical and subtropical environments.

Heptapleurum arboricola
Heptapleurum arboricola

4. It has an easy-to-care-for reputation

The dwarf umbrella tree has a reputation as being easy to grow. It adapts well to the indoor conditions of most homes and offices. It also tolerates low-light areas and occasional forgetful watering. This makes it a great choice for beginners.

5. Overwatering is its enemy

While adaptable, there is one growing condition that the dwarf umbrella tree hates: overwatering. Too much moisture around its roots causes root rot. To avoid, only water when the top several inches of soil become dry.

6. Pruning encourages bushiness

Left unpruned, dwarf umbrella trees grow tall and spindly as they reach for light. Regular pruning, by cutting back long stems behind leaf nodes, shapes the plant into a bushy, compact shape. Always sterilize pruning shears before making cuts.

7. Watch for spider mites

Spider mites are a common pest attracted to indoor plants. Watch for fine webbing and yellow speckled leaves, signs of an infestation. Isolate and treat affected plants before mites spread to others. Insecticidal soap or neem oil work well.

8. It has natural medicinal uses

In Taiwan, dwarf umbrella tree roots and leaves are used in traditional herbal medicines. Tea made from the leaves has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties.

9. The sap can irritate skin

The milky sap that seeps from cut stems and leaves contains chemicals called diterpenes. For sensitive individuals, skin contact with sap can cause rashes or skin irritation. Wear gloves when pruning.

10. Cats and dogs may show interest

Pet owners take note: cats and dogs may nibble on or chew leaves. The plant is only mildly toxic but ingesting leaves can cause drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. Keep plants out of paws’ reach.

11. It has symbolic meaning in feng shui

In the Chinese practice of feng shui, the umbrella shape and lush foliage of dwarf umbrella trees represent good health and prosperity. Use them in living and work spaces as lucky decor.

12. Many varieties exist

Over 100 named cultivars of the dwarf umbrella tree exist. While the green-leafed species is most common, variegated varieties have white-edged or yellow-splotched leaves. There are also dwarf, intermediate, and tree-sized varieties.

The dwarf umbrella tree’s tropical origins, air-cleaning abilities, and classic umbrella shape make it a go-to indoor plant for many homes and offices. Learning more about its growing needs, vulnerabilities, medicinal uses, and symbolic meaning gives light to why this versatile plant has stood the test of time.

When shopping for a dwarf umbrella tree, look for varieties like Schefflera arboricola ‘Gold Capella’, with its showy yellow-splotched leaves, or S. arboricola ‘Trinette’, a true dwarf cultivar that reaches just 2 feet high. Bring one of these beauties home and see why it earns its place among the most popular of all houseplants.


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