Browning Leave On House Plant - Knowledgebase Question

Pittsburgh, PA
Question by stilchilln
June 20, 2001
My husband gave me a scheffelera plant recently
and it seems the tips of a few leaves are turning brown and curling up. I have it in a partial sunny area inside my home and always check to see if it needs water. Watering when it is needed. Or maybe am I over watering it?
I love the plant because it over 1 1/2' tall right now and just want to know what am I doing wrong and is there a way to prevent it from getting the brown curled up leaves. It is also in it's original pot didn't know if it needed to be transplanted yet and if so what is the best mix for it. I have seen a few that are really tall I just hope my plant will survive.
Please let me know what can be done. And I also have a lily plant and the leaves are browning too. And it doesn't seem to be growing.

Answer from NGA
June 20, 2001


There are different kinds of schefflera, and some naturally stay small, so we hope you have the large variety since that is what you want! Foliage browning can be caused by a number of things.

One is that the air is too dry and the plants suffer that low humidity. Grouping the plants together and using a humidifier or a pebble tray with water in it to raise the immediate area humidity level can help. Both winter heating and summer air conditioning limit humidity; drafts of any kind are also bad.

Another common cause is build up of salts in the potting soil. To counter this, make sure you are not overfertilizing and periodically, leach the soil. This means watering the plant until water pours out the bottom holes, allow it to drain for a bit and then repeating. This flushes out any build up in the soil.

If your plants have been in the same pots for several years they may need repotting with fresh soil. The old soil could be very compacted and this can cause foliage problems.

Plants in pots that are too small may wilt often and eventually show some foliage damage as a result. If your plants have grown a lot they may need repotting into larger pots.

If you repot, try to match the soil type and texture to the old kind. Spring to early summer is usually the best time to repot.

Under watering can also cause tip burn; most plants like an evenly moist soil but not a sopping wet one. Plants that are large in relation to their pot will need more water than newly potted plants. Do not allow water to accumulate in the saucer so the plant roots are sitting in saturated soil.

Overfertilizing can cause problems as well. Make sure you are not exceeding the label rates and decrease fertilizing in winter when their growth naturally slows due to reduced light levels.

Salts from a home water softener will damage plants, so do not use softened water.

Excess sun could cause some foliar problems, but in my experience it would be beyond just the tips. An ivy for instance can adapt to full sun if it is kept well watered.

Finally, insect pests can also cause browning. Inspect both the growing tips and the undersides of the leaves and the stems for signs of activity.

I hope this helps you trouble shoot.

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