I have a schefflera that has been growing in a pot for many years that is getting too tall for inside my house. Can I plant it outside?

Schefflera actinophylla, commonly called Queensland umbrella tree, is a tropical plant that is completely hardy only in sheltered spots in USDA Zone 9B and above. It is commonly seen in southern Florida landscapes and the occasional specimen may be spotted in protected locations within downtown Houston and Galveston. In the rest of our area, they may be treated as a perennial in sheltered spots, usually growing rapidly for a few years before getting zapped back to ground level when winter temperatures hit the low 20s. Depending on the timing and severity of the freeze, they may sprout back from the roots. The same can be said for its close cousin Schefflera arboricola, which is shrubby versus tree-like. Both can be grown in full sun to shade with average moisture. There are over 900 species of Schefflera found in warm temperate and tropical regions throughout the world, and plant hunters are bringing some into cultivation that may thrive in our climate. Right now, only a few are readily available through mail order from specialty nurseries. The one most commonly found is Schefflera delavayi, from mountainous regions of southern China and Vietnam, which can grow up to 20 feet tall. It has the typical “umbrella” leaf arrangement of the genus, with leaflets that are soft, matte green in color and attractively notched. Give it light shade and well-drained soil that does not get too wet during our hot summer season. Ironically, our climate may actually be a little on the warm side for it!

Darrin Duling is the director of Mercer Botanic Gardens in Humble. Send your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Darrin Duling
Author: Darrin DulingEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I am the director of Mercer Botanic Gardens located at 22306 Aldine Westfield Road in Humble. I hold The Royal Horticultural Society of England certificate of training, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, diploma of horticulture and a Master of Science degree in plant taxonomy from the University of Reading, England. I have worked in botanic gardens in England, Thailand, Florida and New York, and was sole proprietor of Duling Designs LLC, a landscape design/consultation business in Greenwich, Conn. My botanical explorations have taken me to Brazil, Brunei, Sabah, Singapore, Thailand, Peru and other exotic destinations.

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