Umbrella tree

(Question)

Hi, I have an umbrella tree that is 5 years old. I keep it in a cool sunroom during the winter and in the backyard during the summer. It is very tall, about 7 or 8 feet. There are leaves from the base all the way to the top. This past summer some brown bumps appeared on all the leaves in the middle section. I removed them once or twice–they kept coming back. Finally I cut off all the leaves that had the bumps. So now the tree looks awful, with a bald patch in the mid-section. The remaining leaves are fine–no bumps. My question is, can I cut the trunk just above the bottom section, and leave the bottom as its own plant. Then, cut somewhere on the trunk higher up, if there is a chance to grow new roots for the top section? I attach a picture in case this is confusing. Basically I want to sever the tree in order to make two plants, but I don’t know if the top part will “take” or die if it is removed from the tree. Thanks so much for any advice!!

(Answer)

Thank you for your inquiry. There are a number of ways to propagate an umbrella tree, Schefflera spp. Air layering is one way but the easiest is cuttings.  The most common style of stem cutting is tip cutting which includes the actively growing tip. Tip cuttings can be from the main  or side shoot of the plant. A tip cutting is usually comprised of the tip bud and a length of stem that covers 2-3 nodes (point of leaf attachment). Make sure to strip the lower leaves. Plant the cutting is moist soil-less mix, making sure to  keep the cuttings moist but not too wet. Bottom heat and rooting hormones will help but is not necessary. Tip cuttings can be done anytime for spring -fall and require 15-40 days until root formation.

The brown bumps that were visible on  your schefflera plant could be scale; you were correct in removing these infected leaves. Scale are tiny sucking insects ( less than 1/8 inch long) that hide under a shell that serves as a shield. Usually by the time that they are noticed, they have developed a hard waxy shell and are exuding a sticky substance called honeydew, which one may notice on the floor or other surfaces near the plant.   If the scale is caught early before it develops it’s protective shield, minor scale can be manually removed with a soft toothbrush or by  spraying the plant with insecticidal soap. This treatment will need to be repeated until the scale are eradicated.

Once scale have formed the hard shells, insecticidal soap will probably not be effective. You can try suffocating the scale with horticultural oil, available at any nursery or plant store. Repeated applications may be necessary with heavy infestations and should be targeted when the crawlers are most active. Make sure to isolate the plant to prevent the spread of scale to other plants.

For further information on this nasty insect please refer to the following websites:

www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7408.html

www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/pests-and-problems/insects/scale/scale-indoors.aspx

Good Luck!