How to trim a hawaiian umbrella bonsai tree

Care guide for Hawaiian umbrella (Schefflera arboricola)


The Dwarf Umbrella Bonsai can be kept inside the house all the year round. Ideal temperatures are 18° C to 22° C / 65° F to 72° F. Schefflera Bonsai can tolerate low humidity and dim light but they grow much better and produce smaller leaves if they get much light. The temperature should not fall below 10° C / 50° F. If the windows are opened for ventilation in winter, take care that the tree is not exposed to cold draught.


The Hawaiian umbrella Bonsai likes a moist soil which must not dry out. In winter it should be watered more cautiously, but if the tree is placed above a heating device, take good care that the rootball does not dry out. Continue reading about watering Bonsai trees.


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Use liquid fertilizer every week from spring to autumn and once a month in winter, regarding the dosing instruction. During summer you can also use solid organic fertilizer.

Pruning and wiring

Dwarf Umbrella Bonsai trees can be developed well with thoughtful pruning. A new shoot will point in the same direction like the leaf that is located directly below the cut, growing from its axil.  Very healthy trees can be defoliated and at the same time the tips of the twigs shout be cut off. This results in lots of new shoots, increasing ramification and smaller leaves. The Dwarf Umbrella Tree produces no hard wood and their trunks and branches are likely to snap when you try to bend them too strongly. Younger shoots are more flexible and can be wired and shaped with less risk of breaking them. Continue reading about pruning Bonsai trees.


Repot every second year in spring. Be careful with the fleshy roots which break easily. Use a standard soil mix. Continue reading about repotting Bonsai trees.


The Dwarf Umbrella Tree can be propagated from seeds and cuttings. Cuttings will root in soil or even in a glass of water.

Pests and diseases

The tree is not often attacked by insects. Scale can occasionally occur. In that case use a specific oil-based insecticide. For more detailed information on these techniques, check out our Bonsai tree care section.

Hawaiian umbrella bonsai tree

Leaves of the Hawaiian umbrella

Schefflera bonsai

Hawaiian umbrella forest bonsai

The Dwarf Umbrella tree is a tropical tree which is native to Australia, but it is also very common in Southeast Asia. In nature it is an evergreen shrub with thin trunks without much ramification. A characteristic feature is the shape of the compound, radially arranged leaves which sit on long petioles. Scheffleras produce no hard wood and no rough bark. Wiring is not a promising technique for this species, but with constant pruning some taper and ramification can be achieved. Aerial roots can add to the character of the Dwarf Umbrella bonsai tree. If you need help identifying your tree, take a look at our Bonsai tree identification guide.

Hawaiian Umbrella Care

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General Background:

Native to subtropical regions, this small robust plant is often cultivated as a rock bonsai because it develops mangrove like roots. The Hawaiian Umbrella Tree comes in a dwarf version that makes a beautiful bonsai. In fact, this particular Bonsai tree is probably one of the easiest to grow and maintain, making it perfect for beginners. 

Trees Features:

Glossy green leaves are delicately divided and upright umbels produce orange-red to black berries. The leaves are miniature and shaped like umbrellas, which together, form a beautiful, green, and dense canopy. The truck is relatively thin and does not branch out into a crown as some other tropical plants do and prolific root growth is interesting and very attractive.


The Dwarf Hawaiian Umbrella Tree is a subtropical plant, and desires temperatures between 64 and 71 degrees. Because this plant craves warmth, it can be placed near a heat source and should never be in temps below 59 degrees. As long as the weather is above 59 degree, it will enjoy outside vacations in the full sun as long as you are gradual about introducing it to the outdoors to prevent leaf burn. Once temperatures go down in the autumn, be sure to bring it back indoors to keep it warm.


Keep indoors in a very bright window. The more light this Bonsai receives, the smaller the leaves will be and the more compact its stalk will be. If the location is not bright enough, the stalks will become leggy, and unsuited for the look desired in Bonsai.


Water this plant as little as possible without letting the soil dry out in order to maintain root health while developing short internodes and small leaves. When you do water, allow enough water so it actually runs out of the container’s drain holes preventing salt build up. A humidity tray is a great way to increase humidity which will encourage air roots. These shallow trays are filled with small stones and have water in the bottom of the tray. Make sure the water does not reach the bottom of the Bonsai pot to prevent root rot. As the water evaporates, it creates an appropriate level of humidity mimicking its natural environment.


Feed every four weeks with a low nitrogen liquid Bonsai fertilizer. Too much nitrogen will lead to large leaves.

Pruning / Training:

When new shoots have reached a desired length, remove their tips. Also, remove large leaves, but leave leaf stalks as they will fall of themselves. Older trees will develop what are called “air roots” if the humidity is high enough which lends to their exotic appearance. Wiring is possible while shoots are still somewhat green, but care must be taken to not injure the bark. They are not ideal for training into traditional Japanese forms, but they can be made into informal uprights. Most often they are trained into multiple trunk or forest groups. This plants mangrove like roots are beautifully showcased by styling in dramatic air-root and the stunning root-over-rock style which became popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A rock cling is designed similarly to an exposed root, but requires a rock foundation for the roots to wrap around and under. A rock cling bonsai in a shallow pot is a perfect symbol of yin and yang depicting the eternal quality of the universe.

Insects / Pests:

Keep leaves free from dust and inspect regularly for pests or fungus. Taking good care of your bonsai’s hygiene will go a long way in preventing insects and diseases. Unfortunately, the Hawaiian Umbrella Tree is prone to both disease and insects. Therefore, you should inspect your tree several times a week to look for problems. Ensuring good drainage and never letting your plant sit in water will keep it free from rot and fungus. And in a circumstance of infestation, most cases indicate that a good spray of the trunk is all you need to keep the tree clean and healthy. Yellow leaves, sticky leaves, off color leaves and/or spider webs indicate insect problems. Most types of insect infestations can be controlled with a harmless solution of 1 tsp dish soap to 1 quart lukewarm water; Spray the entire plant down with mixture to create run-off, repeat as needed.


Seed propagation is best suited for the Umbrella Tree—sow in a mixture of bonsai soil or loam, peat moss and sand at equal ratios immediately after obtaining the seeds at a temperature of about 68 to 86 degrees. Cover the seeds with sand or soil. These seeds germinate quickly.


Repot and vigorously prune the roots every two years in the spring, being sure to remove all the large leaves.

Additional Comments:

Keep in mind that all parts of the Hawaiian Umbrella Tree are poisonous if ingested. Therefore, you always want to keep the plant out of reach of pets and children and try not to get its sap on your skin.. 

DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Bonsai Outlet. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. Happy bonsai gardening.

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Pruning for bonsai

Pruning for bonsai

Without a doubt, the most important method of shaping a bonsai is regular pruning. Essentially, there are two types of pruning: maintenance pruning to maintain and refine the existing shape of the bonsai, and structural pruning, which involves cutting the tree more radically to create the basic structure and style of the tree.

Before going into a more detailed discussion of both methods, it would be useful to get acquainted with some general patterns of tree growth. This will help us understand how to most effectively prune bonsai.

Trees have a natural tendency to grow with the crowns (and to a lesser extent the tips of the branches) called apical dominance. This natural mechanism ensures the growth of the tree in height, preventing it from being shaded by neighboring trees. As a result of the distribution of growth energy in favor of the top and tips of the branches, the branches inside the crown and at the bottom of the tree gradually die off, while the branches at the top of the tree grow especially quickly. Both of these phenomena are undesirable for bonsai design.

Understanding this pattern of tree growth helps to use pruning as a method to counteract apical dominance. As a result of more radical pruning of the top and ends of the branches of the tree, it redistributes energy in favor of the inner and lower parts of the crown.

Bonsai maintenance pruning

Bonsai maintenance pruning

The purpose of bonsai maintenance pruning, as the name suggests, is to maintain and refine the crown shape of the tree. As stated above, trees grow primarily at the top and ends of their branches, so it is important to regularly prune these areas of active growth in order to encourage growth within the canopy.

Timing of Bonsai Pruning

Maintenance pruning can be done throughout the growing season.

Maintenance Pruning Features

As mentioned above, maintenance pruning is necessary to maintain the overall shape of the tree canopy by simply trimming with bonsai shears or regular pruning shears branches/shoots that have stretched out beyond the intended size and shape of the canopy. Using a good bonsai tool makes this job much easier. Don't be afraid to prune your bonsai! Regular pruning at the top of the tree and along the canopy edge is especially important in order to make it more evenly distribute growth energy and provide dense branching.

Unlike deciduous trees, coniferous shoots are often pinched by hand. If the needles are cut with scissors, then the tips will turn brown at the place of trimming. To prevent this from happening, pinch the young shoot with the thumb and forefinger of one hand and gently pull the tip of the shoot with the other hand. In the weakest point of the articulation of the scales, the needles will break off, but then the tip will not turn brown.

Another method of bonsai pruning is defoliation, which involves removing leaves from deciduous trees in the summer to force the tree to release new leaves. This method ultimately leads to a reduction in the size of the leaf plate and increased branching.

Structural bonsai pruning

It is often necessary to cut large branches to give the tree the intended shape. Deciding which branches to keep and which to remove can be difficult, not only because of the irreversibility of this action, but also because it depends on the visualization of the future appearance of the tree. Before continuing on with bonsai pruning techniques, you may want to take a look at our bonsai step by step blog post for examples of structural bonsai pruning by an experienced bonsaiist.

Timing of structural pruning

In general, the best time to structure bonsai is early spring or late autumn (before or after the growing season). This question can be clarified in the section on types of trees. For example, pruning time for ficus is different from pruning time for juniper.

Structural pruning process

Place the tree on the table at eye level. First of all, remove all unwanted dry branches. After that, inspect your tree very carefully to decide which branches do not fit into your chosen design and should be removed. Here are a few tips on how to do this, however, determining the future design of your tree is a creative process that doesn't necessarily fit into the "rules". The section on bonsai styles can help you, as well as the articles on our blog about the gradual formation of bonsai.

Some basic principles:

  • If two branches are at the same height, keep one of them and remove the other.
  • Remove vertically growing branches if they are too thick to bend.
  • Cut branches with unnatural twists and turns.
  • Remove branches obstructing the front of the trunk, especially at the bottom of the trunk.
  • Cut off the disproportionately thick branches of the top of the tree, as the top branches of the bonsai should be thinner than the bottom ones

Pruning thick branches leaves ugly scars on the tree, but special concave nippers can significantly reduce damage to the tissues of the tree, because after their use a small depression is left on the trunk.

A healthy tree should tolerate removal of up to 1/3 of the crown without adverse effects. Sometimes it is recommended to remove the corresponding part of the root system after structural pruning. However, most experts agree on the need for only one stressful operation at any given time (or even per year). This means that after structural pruning, replanting is delayed until the tree is fully restored.

Finally, it is advisable to cover large sections with a special paste sold in most (online) bonsai shops. The paste protects wounds from infection and accelerates its healing. Using a good tool makes the trimming and healing process much easier.

Trimming and shaping Bonsai

Without a doubt, the most important way to stimulate the growth of your bonsai is regular trimming of the crown and branches. There are 2 main ways to shear a bonsai - regular trimming to maintain the existing shape and a more radical method - shearing to create the style and initial shape of the bonsai.

Before learning both techniques thoroughly, it is important to first understand the general information about tree growth. This knowledge will help us cut bonsai in the most efficient way.

Trees have a natural tendency to grow upwards, which is called "apical dominance". This mechanism is a defense mechanism for the tree that helps the plant avoid being shaded by other trees in the forest.

When the top and side branches grow effectively, the inner and bottom branches usually die, while the top branches grow disproportionately. This feature of the tree's natural growth is highly undesirable when growing bonsai. But understanding this fact gives us the opportunity to correctly trim the bonsai to give it the correct (desirable) shape

Prevention of the apical dominance factor is achieved by carefully trimming the top and side branches of the plant, thus forcing the plant to redistribute the growth of the inner and lower parts of the crown.

The main purpose of trimming is to shape and maintain the shape of the tree, so it is important to trim the top and sides regularly to encourage growth of the inner parts of the tree.

Bonsai maintenance

When to do it?

Trimming bonsai can be done throughout the entire growth period of the plant.

How to do it?

As stated above, bonsai shearing is necessary when the shape of the tree needs to be maintained. To do this, simply trim the branches/shoots that have grown over the desired bonsai shape using scissors. Don't be afraid to trim your bonsai; it is important, especially for the top and outer parts of the tree, to trim regularly to make the tree grow more evenly and for the tree to develop denser foliage.

Unlike deciduous trees, coniferous bonsai do not need to be trimmed, but plucked with your fingers. If you use conifer bonsai scissors, brown needles will form at the cut points. To avoid this, hold the top of the shoot between your fingers and pull gently, the shoot will break off at its weakest point and the brown tips will not appear.

Basic rules for shaping bonsai:

1. Give yourself time to think and observe the plant to determine the shape of your future tree. Do not immediately take scissors in your hands !!!

2. Try to create as low a bonsai as possible, the ideal proportions of the thickness of the trunk and the height of the tree is 1:7, for example, the diameter of the trunk is 2 cm, the height of the tree is 14 cm.

difficult to shape and direct. Leaving thinner branches gives the impression that the trunk is thicker.

4. The top should grow straight up

5. The side branches should grow straight to the sides. Thus, most of the trunk and branches will be visible.

6. The branches on the front of the bonsai must be removed, only small branches and shoots may remain on the upper part of the crown

7. Only the lower part of the crown may be bushy

8. The lower part of the trunk (about 1/3 of the plant) must be completely branchless

9. The main branch must grow as low as possible

10. Unnatural branches that cannot be guided with wire are best removed; It is also necessary to remove branches that grow opposite each other at the same height on the trunk or grow very close to each other

11. Viewed from above, the branches should be placed so as not to overlap

12. After trimming, the crown should look less "poorer" than the ideal state of the tree

13. Each cut/cut is an interference with the hormonal state plants, so after shaping (basic) bonsai haircuts, let the plant rest for at least 2 months.

14. Ficus and euphorbia ooze white matter at the cut sites. Its outflow can be stopped by a plentiful spray of clean water or a short (1 second) cauterization with a lighter.

Another method of bonsai shearing is to remove leaves from deciduous trees in summer to force the bonsai to release new leaves. This method quickly leads to a decrease in the size of the leaves and a sharp increase in the branching of the tree.

Basic Bonsai Forming

To give the bonsai its basic shape, you have to decide which branches you keep and which you need to remove completely or partially.


Early spring or late autumn is the right time to give the basic shape to the tree (before or after the growth period of the plant).

Bonsai is a miniature tree. The different forms that we give to it, we copy from nature (see the Bonsai Classification section). Sometimes it is necessary to give shape to create a bonsai from a plant or to maintain the character of an existing bonsai. Trimming the crown and guiding the branches with wire are the most important steps in maintaining a perfect bonsai shape. The growth of different types of indoor bonsai is different and some of them, such as ligistrum, need to be cut very often. But unlike him, the podocarpus must be cut once a year. Indoor bonsai are sheared, wired and transplanted at any time of the year, but the best time for any intervention is March or April. It is necessary to do a basic haircut of the crown after transplantation and maintenance regular haircuts during the growing season. It is necessary to use scissors, a special nail file or a knife. For the safety of the plant, we seal large areas of cuts with a special paste for bonsai.

Cutting shoots and leaves

It is necessary to leave the kidneys only where the branch should grow, it is better to remove the rest. To maintain the correct shape, it is best to always prune new shoots. Thus, the tree will be healthier and stronger. The crown will receive more air, light, while continuing to give new shoots.

The first leaf on the branch after cutting shows the direction of growth of the new shoot. This property is used by the Chinese "cut and let grow" method. You should always remember this when cutting. We constantly cut off new shoots that grow above the crown with scissors or pinch off with our nails. You can use tweezers. On bonsai with small leaves, we cut new shoots along the contour of the crown or “cloud” of the branch.

Large-leaf bonsai, such as ficuses, we cut 2-3 leaves deeper than the crown. If the bonsai has outgrown its desired shape, we can prune it radically (cut it clean, right down to thick branches) in the spring-summer period (a period with enough light). This manipulation should never be done in winter and you should not pluck the leaves, it is better to cut them. The best way is when it is possible to place the tree afterwards in a garden or on a balcony in a well-lit area.

The correct way to prune large dry and old branches is to cut them deep, to the very bark, leaving the stem smooth and covering the cut with special bonsai paste. After using this method, after a while the bark will tighten and the place of scars will not be visible.

To change the shape of the stem, branches or to create a bonsai, the method of wrapping the stem or branches with wire is used. The wire is left for the necessary time to fix the desired direction of growth of the branch or trunk. In some cases (eg trees with very soft stems) weights are sometimes used to change the direction of growth.


After the basic formation of the trunk, a new top will be formed from one of the branches of the tree. If it does not grow vertically upwards, we can fix it in the required direction with a wire. After shortening the top to 3-5 buds after the last branch, we get the required height of the tree.

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