Issue: February 21, 2004

Propagating a shefflera


A friend asked a question about propagating the Dwarf Schefflera - she called it an Arbicola (sic). Can she take a cutting and root it, or is there some other preferred method?


The search for the answer to your question led me on a merry chase through the names of the schefflera. The name has been changed from Schefflera arboricola to Heptapleurum arboricola. Other scheffleras have had their name changed to Brassaia in the event you to search the Internet as well. You will find this plant referred to as Schefflera arboricola, Brassaia arboricola, and as Heptapleurum arboricola. There's an even greater number of common names applied to the plant.

Even the recommendations for propagation varied. In general, the answer is that it may be propagated from seeds (if you can get them), by cuttings, and by layering. Commercially, propagation by cuttings is the preferred method. For homeowners, the layering process may give the best chance for success. Seeds seemed to be the least favored method.

If cuttings are used, some sources recommend the basal portion of each cutting as the preferred plant portion; others prefer cuttings from higher on the stem. In both cases, application of rooting hormones (available at nurseries and garden centers) can increase the chance of success and speed development of roots on the cuttings. High humidity and bright (not direct) light are also important. The cuttings should be placed into a good potting soil after the rooting hormone is applied to the cut base of the cutting. To prevent rubbing the hormone off the cutting, pre-form the holes into which the cuttings will be placed, then gently firm the potting soil around the stem.

If only one new plant (or a few) is desired, greater success may be obtained by layering. Wound a stem by scaring or scratching the green epidermal covering, but don't remove the stem from the parent plant. Apply the rooting hormone to the region of the wound, and then bend the stem so that it can be buried in potting soil in an adjacent pot. If the stem cannot be bent low enough to put it into a pot with potting soil while it is still attached to the parent plant, try "air layering". Wrap the wounded hormone-treated portion of the stem with moist, fibrous sphagnum moss, then enclose it in a plastic wrap to prevent drying. In a few months new roots will have formed, and you can severe the new plant from its parent and then pot it in its own pot with a good potting soil.

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

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