Return to Library Home Page

Scientific: Schefflera actinophylla (formerly Brassaia actinophylla and Tupidanthus calyptratus)
Common: Umbrella tree, octopus tree, amate
Family: Araliaceae
Origin: Native to tropical rainforests and gallery forests in Australia (eastern Queensland and the Northern Territory), New Guinea and Java.

Invasive Alert: Umbrella tree is an invasive plant, especially in Florida and Hawaii.

Pronounciation: Scha-FLIR-a ac-tin-oo-FIL-la

Hardiness zones
(13 with protection) 14-24
USDA (9 with protection) 10-11

Landscape Use: Umbrella tree is used as a container house plant through out the world. In Phoenix is can be used as a specimen tree for large outdoor atriums or common areas in shopping malls. In coastal southern California, umbrella tree is used as an outdoor specimen tree for a tropical effect.

Form & Character: Umbrella tree is strongly upright, clean and imposing tropical tree ranging from rank and open as an indoor house plant to thick, bold and luxurious as an outdoor specimen tree.

Growth Habit: Evergreen, herbaceous to woody, broadleaf perennial shrub or tree, moderate growth rate to 6- to 50-feet tall (depending on culture and use) with a somewhat less than equal spread.

Foliage/Texture: Thick and large, glaborous, palmately-compound leaves, up to 8 leaflets per leaf, leaflets drooping to 12-inches long, oblong with a prominent mid vein; coarse texture.

Flowers & Fruits: Flowers are bright red spikes of up to 20 clustered racemes that are each up to 6-feet long. Umbrella tree flowers are rarely seen in Phoenix, although they are quite common in southern California in outdoor growing sites during winter and spring months; fruits are rare.

Seasonal Color: None in Phoenix.

Temperature: Absolutely intolerant of winter freezing temperatures or summer temperatures above 110oF.

Light: In Phoenix, umbrella tree must be protected from full sunlight. It grows best in a filtered or screened sun exposures of at least 40% to 60% light exclusion to full shade; otherwise, it not only tolerates but in fact thrives full sun in coastal climates of southern California.

Soil: Umbrella tree grows best in a well-drained soil with a relatively high in organic matter content.

Watering: In Phoenix, regular waterings are needed to keep plants robust. Be weary of water quality as salt accumulations in soil caused by poor water quality can result in premature leaf drop and sometimes leaf marginal necrosis or burning.

Pruning: Pruning technique and frequency will largely depend on use.

Propagation: Softwood cuttings, stem air layering (very easy), seed.

Disease and Pests: Mealy bugs, spider mites, and scale are common problems when umbrella plant is grown in interior environments.

Additional comments: In Phoenix, this is a bold indoor container plant that can also grow very large large in indoor atriums. Umbrella tree is a stunning sopecimen tree in southern California, but in Phoenix it's a bit of an oddity.

Toxicoligal note: Contact with sap from umbrella tree may cause a dermatitis. Ingestion of foliage can be lethal caused by a extramedullary hematopoiesis in the spleen (Quam et al., 1985).

Quam, V. C., Schermeister, L. J., Tanner, N. S. 1985. Investigation for toxicity of a household plant - Australian umbrella tree (Brassaia actinophylla Endl.). N. D. Farm Res., 43: 15-17