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My parents have had this plant probably around 15-20 years now, during which it has spent its time slowly growing upwards while the bottom leaves drop off and don't regrow. It's traditionally been kept indoors during winter and moved to an enclosed atrium during the summer, the latter of which may have encouraged the upwards growth.

Anyway, this past year they did not move it into the atrium as it has too unwieldy to move, and also to attempt to remove the suspected atrium's upwards encouragement.

So the basic questions are

  1. What is this plant?
  2. Is there a way to encourage it to regrow lower leaves / stop only growing upwards?
  3. If not, can a cutting be taken to start fresh? And if so, what would discourage this type of growth pattern?

It does look like theres another issue here - new leaves being curled/withered - but I think that's a symptom of lack of direct sunlight due to its incessant need to grow upwards.

Tall plant
This image was taken from above the plant from the stairs.

  • possible duplicate of What is this South Florida tree? – kevinsky Oct 19 '14 at 23:17
  • Didn't cv. The other question only asks for id, while this one additionally asks about specific care needs that weren't present in the other. – J. Musser Oct 20 '14 at 10:42
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This is a Scheffelera actinophylla, the botanical name for umbrella tree, a species of evergreen tree native to northern Australia which is a common house plant.

See this answer for a complete description and how to prune it.

The reason it looks so spindly is due to low light levels over an extended period of time. This plant will do well in unobstructed east or south east windows. West or south windows can be hot and encourage spider mites.

I don't recommend taking cuttings as the plant is weak, better to cut back and grow under better light.

  • Thanks for the help. So I can basically chop off all remaining leaves and the entire trunk (say down to 3ft) and it should be able to survive that and regrow from the cut point? That's certainly what I would call hardy! – Affine Oct 20 '14 at 18:24
  • Yes, that's it. An application of dilute fertilizer (20-20-20) would help – kevinsky Oct 20 '14 at 19:54
  • @Affine And remember to move to a brighter location if you want decent looking growth – J. Musser Oct 21 '14 at 18:58

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