Q: We have an umbrella plant that reaches to about 5 inches below the ceiling. The branches are about a quarter-inch in diameter. Can I trim them without harming the plant?
— Chuck Hugi, Stow
A: Umbrella plant, or schefflera, can be cut back pretty severely, but wait till the growing season starts in spring, according to Houseplants for Dummies by Larry Hodgson and the editors of the National Gardening Association. Cut the stalks just above a bud or a node, which is a bump on the stem from which the leaves emerge.
Straggly stalks with few leaves can even be cut back to 3 or 4 inches above the soil to encourage fuller growth, says Ron Smith, a horticulturist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service. Once you’ve cut them back, make sure the plant gets plenty of light. Schefflera looks best if it gets about 12 hours of light a day from either sunlight or plant lights.
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