Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai Tree (Schefflera Arboricola): How To Grow And Plant Care

The vast majority of what is sold commercially as a bonsai tree needs to be outdoors to thrive, but there are some plants that are grown as bonsai that actually do better indoors. 

One popular plant that often thrives indoors is the Hawaiian umbrella or Schefflera arboricola.

This shrub is easy to grow, and it’s a favorite of many bonsai enthusiasts as it has beautiful leaves that look a little like an umbrella, distinctive roots, and the trunk that forms is thin but offers a unique silhouette that some growers look for.

Not sure if the Hawaiian umbrella bonsai tree is for you? Here’s everything you need to know.

At A Glance: The Schefflera Arboricola As A Bonsai Tree

The Hawaiian umbrella tree is usually grown as a houseplant as it cannot tolerate lower temperatures. Not only is it beautiful in its natural form, but it looks particularly striking as a bonsai tree.

It doesn’t need direct sunlight to thrive, and in fact, it does better in partial shade.

Most Schefflera arboricola specimens grown as bonsai trees reach about 12 inches tall and wide when mature, depending on the style the plant is trained into.

If this is too large, and you want something smaller, you can grow the dwarf schefflera as a bonsai tree instead.

If cared for properly, the Hawaiian umbrella bonsai tree can live for a hundred years or more.

Starting Off: How To Propagate A Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai

Unlike some species traditionally grown as bonsai trees, the Schefflera arboricola should be started from seed. 

You could take cuttings from an existing plant if you prefer, rooting them in soil or water.

There’s no particular benefit to growing them from cuttings (apart from the slightly speedier rate that the plant will grow to start with), as the Hawaiian umbrella plant does not flower, so it doesn’t need to be more mature from the get-go.

If you’d rather not wait, you could buy an established Hawaiian umbrella plant, and wire it into your desired bonsai shape instead, while it is still young.

How To Look After A Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai Tree

Sunlight And Position

Most people treat the Hawaiian umbrella tree as a houseplant, because it’s used to a tropical climate. 

Temperatures need to be between 65°F and 72°F for it to thrive, and you absolutely need to keep it away from drafts, as this will cause the plant to suffer. 

This plant won’t do well in direct sunlight, so keep it somewhere bright and indirect to prevent scorching.


General houseplant compost will do, as specially formulated bonsai soil tends to dry out quickly, and this is something that you want to avoid when it comes to a Hawaiian umbrella tree, even as a bonsai. 

Watering And Feeding A Schefflera Bonsai

The Hawaiian umbrella tree likes to stay on the moist side, so make sure that you water deeply, but allow the soil to mostly dry out in between watering.

You can feed a Hawaiian umbrella bonsai tree every four waters or so in the growing season, preferably with a weak-dose bonsai fertilizer. 

Pests And Diseases To Watch Out For

Most species typically grown as bonsai trees are fairly resilient, but unfortunately, the Hawaiian umbrella tree is not one of them. 

It is particularly important not to overwater this plant, as it is prone to root rot.

If you see leaves that have gone a strange color, or there’s a sticky residue on the foliage or soil, this usually means that there is a pest infestation. 

Pests you’re likely to see include spider mites, scale, and aphids, best treated topically with rubbing alcohol, or insecticides as a last resort.

You might even try buying their natural predators online from a specialist pest control retailer, and then putting the bonsai tree in an enclosed environment before releasing the predators to deal with the problem naturally. 

This is usually the next best method, as it doesn’t use harmful chemicals that could harm the plant itself.

When To Repot A Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai Tree

When you should repot your Hawaiian umbrella bonsai tree depends on the age of the plant as well as its growing conditions. 

As a general rule, you should repot every couple of years or so in the spring, pruning the roots at the same time, to keep the growth compact.

How To Prune A Schefflera Arboricola Bonsai

You can prune a Hawaiian umbrella bonsai tree pretty much at any time during the growing season, to the bonsai style you have in mind. 

It also helps that this plant is wired easily when the growth is young and flexible. Try not to wire older growth, as it will break more often than not.

Final Thoughts

The Hawaiian umbrella plant makes a striking bonsai tree, and it can be suitable enough for beginners, as it tolerates heavy pruning. You will have to be careful not to overwater it, however, as it’s a quick way to kill this plant.

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