How to Make Your Schflerra Fuller (& Other Pruning Tips)

Scheffleras are popular houseplants.  And with good reason.

These easy-care plants are lush and tropical with unique looking leaves. They can grow quite tall. In fact, outdoors Scheffleras can reach heights of up to 40 ft or more.

But, because they’re fast growers, Schaefflers can easily become overgrown or grow tall and scraggly. 

And if you’re like most plant parents, this won’t do. You’ll want your Schefflera to be shapely. 

So let’s explore how to keep your Schefflera looking round and full.

How to Make Your Schefflera Fuller

If left on its own, a Schefflera can grow scraggly or misshapen. Branches and leaves may stick out all over the place, or the plant may look tall and sparse.

Neither is an attractive picture. And either way, you’ll want to tame that beast and encourage it to grow into a more balanced look.

Why a Schefflera Becomes Leggy

Before we dive into shaping up your Schefflera, let’s look at why it’s leggy in the first place.

When a plant is “leggy”, it means the plant’s main stalk or trunk is long, but the leaves or stems are sparse and spaced far apart.

There could be a few reasons why your Schefflera is leggy.

Leggy Schefflera stem.

First, a Schefflera can have a single trunk with individual leaf stalks running from that trunk. Or it can have smaller stems branching from the trunk. And those smaller stems each have multiple leaf stalks.

If your Schefflera is a single trunk variety, then it’s going to grow taller and narrower in general. This may be one reason your Schefflera doesn’t look as full.

Insufficient light is another cause of legginess.  A Schefflera likes bright, indirect light.  When it sits in too dark a space, the leaves may thin and stretch toward the light.

Scheffleras like to be slightly rootbound. But, if the pot is too small your Schefflera may become overly rootbound. In this case, the plant becomes leggy because it can’t get enough nutrients.

To learn more about caring for your Schefflera, take a look my the guide on Schefflera care. You’ll find it useful. 

What to Do if Your Schefflera Is Overgrown or Leggy

The primary way to correct an overgrown or leggy Schefflera is to prune your plant. 

When the main stem of your Schefflera grows tall it means the stalk has what’s called apical dominance. In other words, this single stalk grows more strongly than any side stems. To break the apical dominance, you need to prune that stalk.

Several Schefflera leaf nodes extending from a single trunk.

Doing so encourages your Schefflera to become bushier. 

Although pruning is not a requirement of Schefflera care, it’s something you’ll need to do to keep your plant looking shapely and manageable.

If the outer leaves are thriving, but the inner stalks are bare, pruning those outer leaves will help the inner ones.  

When your plant grows out of control, light has difficulty reaching the inner stalks. And poor light means poor leaf production. By trimming those out leaves, you’ll get more light onto those bare branches.

Tip: Rotate your plant on a regular basis so all sides have an opportunity to face the light. I turn my plant on a monthly basis.

When to Prune

In general, it’s best to prune in late winter or early spring. Especially if your Schefflera is outdoors. They do their heaviest growing in the summer.

However, as a houseplant, you can prune your Schefflera at any time.

If you’re noticing your plant’s becoming leggy or overgrown, it’s time to start pruning. In fact, you can begin a pruning schedule shortly after you bring your plant home. A Schefflera can take aggressive pruning. 

However, hold off on pruning if your plant seems in distress, such as if it’s looking poorly, or it’s developed spots on its leaves

You don’t want the additional stress of pruning placed on your already stressed plant. Find the reason for the plant’s illness first before you start randomly snipping away.

General Tips for Pruning Your Schefflera

1.     Have a Plan.  

Before you begin pruning, have a plan in place. Decide how you want your Schefflera to look and where you want new branches to spring from.

By strategically pruning your plant, you can encourage it to grow outwards, instead of upwards, making for a denser, rounder shape. And you can keep its height manageable.

Determine if your Schefflera has one main stalk or several branching stalks. The current shape of your Schefflera will influence where you’ll make your cuts. 

2.    Make Sure Your Plant’s Healthy

Your Schefflera leaves should be green and glossy and the trunks firm and upright. 

As I said earlier, if your plant is not healthy, hold off on pruning.

3.     Use the Right Equipment

Always use a clean, sharp instrument, whether pruners or scissors.  Using dull pruners can damage the plant’s stalk. And dirty instruments can carry disease. 

To learn about pruners, take a look at my article on the different types of pruners.

How to Prune Your Schefflera

Start by trimming any branches or stems that look unhealthy, leggy, dead, or dying.

Then, move on to the tallest stalks. By cutting those tall trunks, you’ll break that apical dominance and encourage the plant to grow outwards.

Decide how far down the stalk you want to trim. Then make a cut just above the closest node. The node is where a leaf sprouts. 

If the main branch is quite tall with little or leggy leaf growth, don’t be afraid to cut that stalk way back to 3 – 6 inches in height. It may seem drastic, but this will ultimately help your Schefflera grow a fuller head of leaves.

And if it’s horribly overgrown, trim all the branches down, leaving a few nodes on each one. This will give your plant a fresh start.

If the inner stalks aren’t getting enough light because the plant is overgrown, trim the outer leaves to allow more light into those inner spots.

To help your Schefflera grow in a certain direction, you can notch the main stem.  To do this, you’ll take out a tiny pie-shaped piece from the stalk. 

A Schefflera can sprout from any node. So put your notch just above the node where you want your Schefflera to sprout from. In a few weeks, a new branch will form just below the notch.

New Schefflera develops a new branch just below the pruned area of the main stem.

Once the new branch forms, you can cut the stalk above the new branch. 

In this manner, you’ll help train your Scheffler to branch out at a certain height or direction.

To keep your Schefflera looking full all over, vary your cuts so you’re trimming or notching at the bottom, middle and top.

What to Do With Your Schefflera Cuttings

Now that you have several cuttings, you might be wondering what to do with them.  

One thing you don’t want to do is throw them out! 

Instead, use them to propagate your plant.

As long as the cutting has one or more nodes on it, you can place that cutting into moist soil or water. After a few weeks, it will develop roots.

To give your Schefflera a fuller appearance, place one or two cuttings back into the same pot. This is especially effective with tall, thinner varieties. I’ve done this with my Schefflera. 

A Schefflera is a very forgiving plant so don’t be afraid to have fun and experiment with him.

Final Thoughts

  • Scheffleras are fast growing plants and can easily become overgrown or scraggly.
  • Pruning your Schefflera will keep it looking full and round.
  • Scheffleras can take aggressive pruning.
  • Cuttings can be used for propagation.
  • Consider repotting a cutting into the same pot to keep your Schefflera looking full.

If you’ve enjoyed this article on how to make your Schefflera fuller, feel free to share it.


Hi! My name is Angela Carr. I started this site to share my love for plants and gardening. My aim is to provide my readers with easy tips and tricks on plant care, fun facts, and encouragement for the new plant owner or anyone questioning the colour of their thumb!

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