Schefflera arboricola (syn.Heptapleurum arboricolum), is also known as the Hawaiian umbrella tree ... sometimes just scheflera bonsai or arboricola bonsai. They are all the same plant.
It is one of the most popular types of bonsai trees for use as indoor bonsai. They’re easy to grow and difficult to kill!
Arboricola bonsai is not easily shaped in traditional Japanese styles. Because of this, many bonsai artists do not consider this a good bonsai subject.
You can see examples of the “canopy style” on this page. This form has become popular for many tropical trees.
Dale Cochoy, is a well-known bonsai potter from Hartville, Ohio. In addition to making pottery, Dale creates bonsai.
He protects this schefflera arboricola bonsai, from the winter snows in a light set-up in his basement. (Along with a number of his other tropical bonsai.)
“This bonsai was started from two single trunk dwarf scheffs (2
gallon size) that I purchased from Walmart about 20 years ago. It is
approximately 48” across and 24” tall.” - Andy Graham
It is rare to see a Schefflera arboricola with the refinement detail of this one ... there's even space for the 'birds to fly through.'
Andy lives in “far south Texas (250 miles south of San Antonio.") He has the advantage of sub-tropical weather which encourages rampant growth for this plant - including aerial roots.
He has little concern about cold weather. It's a good thing, because it would be difficult to do the 'dance-of-the-tropicals' with this arboricola. It is definitely a "two-man bonsai" tree.
Because the arboricola is a tropical plant and loves heat and humidity, the perfect conditions to encourage aerial roots are difficult to duplicate indoors.
Although some people have gone to great lengths to try, the schefflera rarely develops aerial roots as a house plant. Sometimes they seem to get started and then stop.
The person most associated with types of bonsai trees created from the Schefflera arboricola is David Fukumoto.
On a visit to Hawaii in 2009, my things-to-do list included a visit to meet David and see his nursery. On the way to the Volcanoes National Park, it’s just a short side trip. David is a charming, creative, outgoing man with a passion! It was raining when we arrived and David met us with umbrellas to give the grand tour!
The tree shown here is the Fuku Bonsai logo (one of his first.) It was on display the day I arrived. David began selling and shipping small plants in lava rock, using the larger leaf Schefflera (Brassaia), back in the 1960s.
He later discovered how much better the small leaf variety Schefflera arboricola was and introduced it as the “True Indoor Bonsai” in the 80s. (No wonder we so often hear it call the Hawaiian umbrella tree.)
This photo is a good example of the type of experimenting done at Fuku Bonsai. Root over driftwood and lava rock can be quite stunning. David is also working with 'Ron' on doing something called “Sushi Bonsai.” If you're an arboricola bonsai fan, you have to see this page. It involves using aluminum foil wraps around driftwood forms covered in sphagnum moss.
This tropical plant is considered a good “house plant” because of its adaptability to low light. However, dwarf Schefflera bonsai need high light to keep a compact shape.
The care basically consists of bright light, keep moist – not too wet. Trim frequently - especially new growth, sprouts where you don’t want them and even be selective with how many aerial roots you keep.
The leaves are compound, with relatively smaller leaflets. In the tropics, remove all the leaves once a year in the spring or early summer, place your tree in the sun to encourage the new leaves to come in smaller.
Outdoors, arboricola is pretty much care free when it comes to pests. This is a tropical plant and schefflera bonsai need winter protection. Indoors, watch for scale and aphids (typical indoor bonsai pests.)
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Know the basics? Ready for more? Watch these amazing Colin Lewis bonsai class videos.
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