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Schefflera Amate: A Beautiful “Jurassic Park” Houseplant

Want to bring a bit of Jurassic Park into your home? The Schefflera Amate with it's bold, glossy foliage will do the trick. It's a tough & easy houseplant which needs some room to grow & spread.

Schefflera Amate: This Big, Bold & Beautiful Houseplant Screams Jurassic Park

If you want an easy, fast-growing plant that really makes a statement, then look no further. Schefflera Amate’s glossy, rich green leaves and impressive size are what make it so popular. Here’s how to care for this bold and beautiful houseplant known simply as Amate, or Umbrella Tree.

When I was an interior plantscaper many years ago, the predecessor (or parent) of this plant was known as Tupidanthus calyptratus, or in common speak, Umbrella Tree and/or Mallet Flower.

These days its name is Schefflera pueckleri and you can find it sold in the exterior trade along with the Schefflera actinophylla. They are very similar. Confusing but both get up to 40′ tall so best to have them growing outside otherwise they’ll take over your living room.

How to Care for Schefflera Amate

The Schefflera Amate was developed from tissue culture and has replaced the above monsters for interiors. Because of the more compact form, it’s much better suited to our indoor worlds. You don’t need to have an atrium to grow it. Think of it as the younger, shorter brother.  You can see it up close and personal in the video we shot in the greenhouses where the photos for our houseplant care book were taken.

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Here’s the Tupidanthus in the great outdoors here in Santa Barbara. A bit too vigorous for the average home!

Although Scheffleras love humidity, they are quite tolerant of the dry air our homes are notorious for having. The large glossy leaves, which resemble a hand with the fingers spread out, don’t seem to get as many brown tips as the leaves of other houseplants. Both indoors and outdoors, the Amates are great in containers.

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See what I mean? These ginormous leaves make a statement.

We did a video for you about these tropical rainforest beauties which you’ll find at the end of this post. Here’s what you need to know about the Schefflera Amate before you buy one and also what you need to do to keep it going strong:

Size

As a houseplant, it generally stays smaller than 10′ tall. This is not a narrow plant so make sure you have the space for it.

Light

Medium. Amates like it nice & bright but no direct, burning sun. They actually tolerate a lower light level than their predecessors the Tupidanthus’. Give them a spin every now & then because like all plants, they grow towards the light.

Watering

Also, like the majority of houseplants, average. They need well-drained soil & their leaves will turn black if overwatered & kept soaking wet. A good drink every 10-14 days should do it. I’m going to do a video & blog post soon about watering houseplants so stay tuned.

Fertilizer

I give most of my houseplants a light application of worm compost with a light layer of compost over that every spring. Easy does it – 1/4 to 1/2? layer of each for a larger sized houseplant. Read about my worm compost/compost feeding right here.

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The Amate in the grower’s greenhouse. The leaves will be cleaned off with water to shine them up before being sent out into the world.

Pruning

You can tip prune it twice a year to keep it size in check as it grows. Schefflera Amates can also be pruned hard if need be.

Propagation

By tip cuttings (the green stems) or by air layering.

Pests

Scale, mealy bug & spider mite. The Amates have been bred to be most resistant to mite.

I really like these plants and fortunately for you, they’re pretty easy to find. To learn more about Schefflera Amates and other fabulous houseplants, be sure to check out our book, Keep Your Houseplants Alive. This one will really give your home a tropical rainforest, jungle feel – look out for swinging monkeys!

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A hole was cut in the roof so this Schefflera (Tupidanthus) has room to grow. Actually, which came 1st, the plant or the building?

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A Schefflera hedge which is not looking its best due to our drought.

Here’s the video shot in a commercial greenhouse:

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47 comments:

  1. need more info. on how to care for my unbrella tree

  2. H Faye – These plants are relatively easy to care for if you have enough light. Of course they prefer more humidity than our homes provide. The basics you need to know are provided in this post. Nell

  3. I just got one because Ive decided to do just native plants of Florida or tropical weather in my yard. This one was recommended for being native, is that true?

  4. Hi Fernando – The Schefflera are native to to tropical rainforests, mainly the state of Queensland in Australia. I believe the amate is native to there also. Nell

  5. My plant is close to six foot tall almost reaching the ceiling. There are two trees in the pot. Not real bushy. How do I trim it back to make it a little fuller, instead taller. I got it, the plant was 2 foot tall

  6. Hi Doris – Scheffleras respond well to a good pruning & now a great time to do it. Many sure your pruners are clean & sharp. Take the stems down as far as you want (at least a foot or 2) & make diagonal cuts about an inch above a growth node. Hope that helps! Nell

  7. Hi Nell,
    We had a really healthy Schefflera a mate but have just returned from holidays and it’s lost half it’s leaves. The younger leaves have pale rounded spots on them and the older ones falling off are soft brown on the tips.
    We are in Perth, Western Australia and the plant is kept under the patio but receives plenty of light . It is winter here so temps dip down to on average 10 degrees at night.
    I suspect cold and possible overwatering as being the causes of leaf browning but am not sure of the spotted leaves?
    Can you suggest possible causes and also remedies??
    Much appreciated!
    Julie

  8. Hi Julie – Greetings to you in Australia from Arizona! It sounds like damping off (the new growth is especially susceptible to it) which is caused by a fungus. The main cause is too much water especially in times where humidity is on the high side. If this is what it is, just know that Scheffleras are very sensitive to sprays so the best things to do are keep the plant on the drier side (especially in the cooler months) & keep the foliage dry because this is what keeps the disease from manifesting &/or spreading. Hope that helps! Nell

  9. Thanks Nell! Yes that makes sense – I think our lovely neighbours may have loved it a little too much while we were away

  10. HI Julie love the info. Any risks to pets with this beautiful plant?

  11. Hi Jennifer – Yes, this is a beautiful plant. According to the ASPCA site, it’s considered to be toxic & causes oral irritation to both cats & dogs. I have 2 kitties & fortunately they leave plants alone. Nell

  12. Hi Nell, some of the leaves on my Schefflera plant turned brown last summer while I was away and hubby over watered it (all my plants were sitting in water when I got home :O like he forgot to water for several weeks and then overcompensated the watering the day before my return). It seems to be under control again and giving me some nice new growth but the browned leaves will never turn green again, should I cut the entire branch off (these were the maturest of the branches) that had browned leaf tips or just cut the section of each leaf that’s browned? Also, whats the best soil for this plant?

  13. Hi Eman – The best mix for this plant is a rich potting soil (not planting mix or garden soil) which drains well. I use a good quality organic potting soil for my indoor plants. I also add in a little worm castings & compost because I don’t use fertilizers. Yes, the browned leaves will never turn green again. How you prune it depends on how you want it to look in the future. If there are no leaves on the branches, then you can cut them off. Nell

  14. My plant has sal circular orangy dots… I don’t see any moving bugs but think that the spots are multiplying.

  15. Sally – Sounds like it could be leaf spot, which is a fungal disease. Nell

  16. I live in Florida and transplanted a potted Schefflera two years ago.. It is now over 10 feet tall. Last week tons of leaves turned light brown and dropped. I haven’t had this problem before, it has just grown and grown. Why would this happen all of a sudden with no apparent change?

  17. Hi Karen – Brown leaves on plants are common & there could be many causes. As the plant grows & the crown gets larger, it shades the underside of the plant causing lots of leaves to brown & fall off. Or, it could be too dry because the plant is getting potbound. Any sudden change in temps, environment or watering can do that too. Hope that helps, Nell

  18. Nell,
    Thanks for all the info!! My Amata recently starting looking
    G a bit off. All the lower leaves are slowly turning yellow and slowly falling off and leaves higher up in the plant are starting to be “wavy” around the edges…what can be causing this?

  19. Hi Yatti – You’re most welcome! I usually answer questions in regards to people watering their houseplants too much, but in your case, it sounds like you’re not watering enough. The yellow leaves & curling edges are a sign of that. I’m not sure how much you’re watering it, but you want to make sure to do it thoroughly so the water reaches the roots. Hope that helps, Nell

  20. Help!
    I am not much of gardener, we only have a few house plants that have survived the abuse of my wife. We do have one plant that was given to us for our wending 40 years ago. It was very small when we got it, maybe eight inches tall. The plant has moved with all over the country with us and has survived. Neat less to say it has a special meany to us, we call it the marriage plant. After some research the leave structure seam to indicate it is a Schefflera. It is now eight feet tall, it has to stems one is about 3-4 inch diam. the other one about 1-2 inches. The plant has hit the ceiling and curved backwards down to get sunlight. Its size has become unmanageable and I would like to prune it back but I am so afraid to kill it if i do! If pruning a good idea. It probably should have been prune many years agar. If i prune it how far back can i cut down?

  21. I have a 40+ year old scheff that is in a pot due to frequent moves. Its just about too heavy to move again, and it needs to. Do you know how much root can be trimmed before it will feel shocked?
    Thanks,

  22. Hi – I’ve trimmed the roots of an older Schefflera arboricola but the plant was only 7′ tall. I did light pruning, nothing to extensive. I’m not sure how big your root ball is so I can’t really tell you. I would do the root pruning at least a month before you move the plant. Nell

  23. Hi Leo – Scheffleras take pruning really well & you can also air layer it. Take it down at least 2′ below the ceiling, assuming there’s foliage below. It’s best to do this closer to spring. Nell

  24. My housemate bought a schefflera plant a couple of months ago but neglected it (didn’t water it) and left in her dark room. Now all of the leaves have fallen off and the few branches that are left as brown and bendy. The main stem is still ok though, i don’t think the plant is dead. Any ideas on how to bring it back to life?

  25. Hi Kiara – It may or may not come back. Cut off the bendy part & give the plant as much light as possible. These are medium to high light plants. Water thoroughly, if you haven’t already. Feed it in late spring if it’s coming back. Nell

  26. Barbara Buchanan

    I just got an Amate but it has kind of rippled leaves unlike the other Scheffleras I have seen in the past. Is this a new variety?

    Barbara
    Garland, TX

  27. Hi Barbara – The Amate do tend to have a bit of wave to their leaves. The S. Actinophyllas had a little different leaf. There’s a realtively new variety of S. arboricola called “Dazzle” which does have a wavy leaf. Nell

  28. Hi,
    I just got a schefflera plant from my mother which is 40+ years old. There is only one stem that is about five feet tall and then turns drastically to one side for another few feet. It is at the point that all the leaves are facing the side and the plant keeps wanting to fall.
    I’d like to prune it so that it sprouts just at the bend but am unsure how to go about it.
    Any advice would be wonderful!

  29. Hi Sheila – I assume you have a Tupidanthus because they were the predecessors to the amate. You can give the canes a good prune. Make a clean cut, at an angle, where you desire on the can. New sprouts will appear. Nell

  30. Nell:

    The strangest thing is happening with my Schefflera Amate Soleil- it hasn’t grown at all in the 3 months I’ve had it. It’s only about 12″-15″ tall from soil level. It is in a bright room with no direct sunlight, plenty of warmth and humidity, water every 10-14 days, well-draining soil. I transplanted it from the 7″ pot it came in about 2 weeks ago, to a somewhat larger, deeper pot about 10″ diameter. All leaves are glossy and green, with no sign of any illness whatsoever. But despite all signs pointing to a healthy plant, there has been no new growth whatsoever- not even a single leaf. It has not gained in size. It has not lost any leaves. I fertilized it once with a diluted liquid fertilizer, after wetting the soil down. Do you have any suggestions for me on how to make this stubborn little plant get off its butt and start growing? Thanks in advance!!

  31. Hi Celeste – The Soleil is such a pretty Schefflera; I love the foliage on this one. Most houseplants cqn be a little slow to grow when you 1st bring them home. After all, they’ve been hanging out in a cozy greenhouse with all the conditions that they love. There are a couple of reasons which come to mind: it’s only been 3 months so it could just be going through adjustment as I just said or the light is too low. Plants rest in the winter & start to grow in spring – hence spring growth. You should see some action then! Nell

  32. I have a 10-year-old Schefflera amate in a pot indoors by a window. All of the leaves droop down, none fan out. Do you have suggestions for what causes that? All are green and look healthy but the appearance is off with everything drooping.

  33. Hi Scott – That’s common with all Scheffleras, not only the Amate. It can be due to a few reasons: too much water, too little water (although the leaves usually turn yellow 1st), &/or not enough light. Nell

  34. I have a schefflera that was a few inches tell when my sister gave it to me in 1978. It is now about 7 feet tall. I have moved it many times over the years, but this last move was in December, and my plant is looking sad and not just because of the move. I have never pruned it, ever, because it was so gorgeous. But not so now. It has three stems, but they have no leaves for a few feet — one goes two feet without a leave; the second goes four feet before it has leaves, and the third’s first leaves at at five feet. How should I prune my dear plant? Its leave are still green and spotless, but a bit droopy.

  35. Hi Mac – Scheffleras tend to get very leggy over time & benefit from a good pruning if that’s the case. You can cut the stems back to 6-12″ above the ground & new growth will eventually appear. It’s best to do this in spring or summer. Also, I like to cut the stems back at different heights so they don’t grow back like a blob. Rotate the plant as it’s growing so those stems get light all the way around. Nell

  36. Thanks, Nell, for the good advice. Unfortunately, we can’t wait until spring for the pruning. As it is, the plant has nowhere to be where it is not terribly crunched and in the way, and we cannot get settled into our new home. I’ll let you know how it goes. Mac

  37. Dear Nell

    Thanks for the informative site.

    I have a question about propagation:

    Is it possible to root a tip cutting in a glass of water, like done with the dwarf Scheffleras?

    Greetings from Denmark.

  38. Greetings to you in Denmark from Arizona. I’m glad you’re finding the site helpful. I’m not 100% sure about th rooting in water because I’ve never done it. I’ve always propagated the larger scheff (what was Tupidanthus now Amate) by air layering when it was getting too tall. I know the tip cuttings root in mix but not sure about water. If you try it & have success, please let us know! Nell

  39. Hi there!
    How do I keep my plant well drained when I water it? I only just got it a couple of weeks ago and I’ve noticed a leaf has some black spots on it!!

  40. Hi Megan – The soil mix need to be well drained – a heavy mix doesn’t drain well. Often times the mix a plant comes in is too wet & takes too long to dry out. Make sure the pot has at lease 1 drainage hole. Nell

  41. Hi again.

    Update: it is possible to root a 6-7 inch tip cutting in a glass of water.

  42. We’ve had a potted Schflerra Amate in our house for nearly 20 years…there are 2 trunks and it’s about 18 ft. tall (we a have vaulted ceiling). The problem is that there are only leaves on the top 3 ft or so and the rest is bare trunk. What can I do to encourage new growth along the trunks? It’s a healthy plant, but I don’t like the looks of it.

  43. PS: I read your response to Mac’s question, which sounds just like my problem…but can I replant the tops that I’ve cut off or do they just get thrown away?

  44. Hi Leslie – The thing to do is cut it back to encourage that lower growth. You could air layer the top portion & plant it at the base. Nell

  45. Leslie – Air layering is a great way to propagate these plants when they get too tall. Nell

  46. My Schefflera is about 4 ft tall. one main stalk branching into two and another stalk 6 inches from the soil. The plant is going to fall and break if I don’t cut back. I want to cut back and transplant the cuttings. Can I Just cut 2 stalks 2 feet up? I, obviously do not have a green thumb but also don’t want to kill it. I did cut the stalk a few years ago and literally put it in soil and that plant is now also 4 ft tall. Thinking I can’t kill it but want to learn how to properly cut the stalks to transplant and give away once established.
    Thanks,

  47. Hi – Scheffleras can benefit from a good pruning. 2′ of stalk can be fine. You can propagate via air layering or tip cuttings in a light mix – those are the ways I have experience with. Nell

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