Ask a Question forum→Unhappy Schefflera

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Name: TK
Ontario, Canada (Zone 6b)
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Macrocentra
Jun 1, 2020 10:54 AM CST
I have three Schefflera arboricolas. Two normal, one variegated. All live together on top of a shelf in front of a window that receives a few hours of bright indirect light earlier in the day. All three are potted in the same peat and sedge moss/sphagnum/vermiculite/perlite mix. All three pots have drainage. Two are around two feet tall, while one of the normals is around one foot. They receive room temperature water (left out for 24-48 hours), and are watered when the soil is almost dry, just enough to keep them lightly damp. They've all been doing well, but suddenly the variegated one started getting brown spots on it's leaves and has begun dropping them. Most of the leaves it drops have the brown spots, but it's started dropping healthy green leaves as well. The other two plants are still completely fine. I recently moved them away from the variegated in case the problem can spread to them.

Here's how the leaves normally look:
Thumb of 2020-06-01/Macrocentra/32d83b

Here's what's started happening:
Thumb of 2020-06-01/Macrocentra/3476a0
Thumb of 2020-06-01/Macrocentra/8fc983

I normally give the trees an occasional light mist with room temperature water because the house tends to get very dry. However, my central air system recently broke down and the house was incredibly hot and humid for a few days. The trees are on the upper floor, where the humidity was even higher. During this time, I did not mist them. I also put a small fan nearby to help keep the air moving (it wasn't pointed directly at any plants). The temperature and humidity has since gone back to normal, and I've refrained from any misting. I did just give it a water yesterday. The problem started right after the hot/humid spell, and has persisted over the last week and a half.

Any ideas on what might be going on, and what I can do to stop the problem?

Name: one-eye-luke US.Vet.
Texas (Zone 8a)
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oneeyeluke
Jun 2, 2020 1:11 AM CST
You need to let the soil dry more on the one with leaf drop and brown edges.
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
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WillC
Jun 2, 2020 8:30 AM CST
We cannot properly diagnose a plant problem from just its leaf symptoms or even if it is a serious problem.

Please post a photo of each of the plants you re concerned about. The photos should show the entire plant including its pot.

Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
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Name: TK
Ontario, Canada (Zone 6b)
Cactus and Succulents Sempervivums Bromeliad Tropicals Aroids Hibiscus
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Macrocentra
Jun 7, 2020 9:50 PM CST
Here we go.
I don't have the greatest camera quality, but hopefully these will help.

Thumb of 2020-06-08/Macrocentra/6969c3
Thumb of 2020-06-08/Macrocentra/80cab9
Thumb of 2020-06-08/Macrocentra/a82713
Thumb of 2020-06-08/Macrocentra/a9f8c1

It has about half the amount of leaves it had prior to this leaf-dropping episode.
I'm beginning to suspect it may be a soil problem. I used a fork to gently fluff the soil a bit, in case it had maybe compacted and wasn't draining efficiently. It's still dropping leaves, but nowhere near the frequency it previously was. It was dropping several a day and most of them were turning brown and a bit soft (leathery feeling). It doesn't seem to be developing brown spots as fast as it was either.

So... might be a soil issue. What are your thoughts?

Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Jun 8, 2020 8:56 AM CST
Yes, it is soil or root-related problem and possibly also light.

How long ago was it repotted? Were they originally in three separate pots and you combined them or were they always together in one pot?

When you repotted, how much of the original soil did you remove?

How deep into the soil does it get dry just before you water? About how often is that?

How far is the nearest window?

Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
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Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

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plantladylin
Jun 8, 2020 9:17 AM CST
I agree, your plant needs much higher light and there is likely an issue with the roots staying too wet. You noted that the pot has drainage holes but it appears to have one of those attached saucers, which (in my opinion) can be problematic by deterring air circulation at the root zone. Moisture may be building up at root level, causing suffocation and rot.
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Name: TK
Ontario, Canada (Zone 6b)
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Macrocentra
Jun 8, 2020 10:50 AM CST
I think it was the end of April when I repotted my three Scheffleras. I have a normal one in the same style of pot that's just a bit shorter, and it's been doing great. My other normal is in a smaller pot and is also doing well.

This particular tree was exactly as it was originally. I didn't combine or separate anything.

During repotting, I only removed any loose soil that was present. I didn't mess with the root ball. So just a small amount on the top and bottom, without disturbing the main root cluster. The soil was a similar mix as what I was repotting them to.

I let the top 2" of soil dry before I water. They usually get watered weekly, though we've been having another humid spell that's keeping everyone's soil damp for longer, so I've been spacing it out a little longer.
I generally try to keep the soil lightly damp, and they aren't heavily drenched when I water.

They sit on top of a shelf that's level with a south-facing windowsill. They're maybe about 2 feet from the glass.

There's no saucer on the pot. Those pots originally had a drainage plate on the inside, but I removed them. So they're just regular pots with the drainage holes I drilled into them.
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Jun 9, 2020 9:39 AM CST
Your plant is still reacting to the repotting that disturbed the roots, even minimally. The pot is larger than ideal and that increases the chances of the soil stay too damp around the roots for too long.

I suggest that you remove the soil you added to the top of the original rootball. That soil serves no purpose but may keep oxygen from penetrating more readily into the roots zone. After removing that excess soil, let the top half-inch of the remaining soil around the roots get dry to your touch before giving it enough water so it dries out similarly again in about a week.

You should see a gradual decline in the amount of leaf loss and more healthy new leaf growth as signs that it is recoverting.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: TK
Ontario, Canada (Zone 6b)
Cactus and Succulents Sempervivums Bromeliad Tropicals Aroids Hibiscus
Sedums Container Gardener
Image
Macrocentra
Jun 9, 2020 10:50 AM CST
Thank you! I appreciate the help.

I'll remove some of the excess soil immediately. Hopefully it recovers soon.
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Jun 9, 2020 2:51 PM CST
Be patient!
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

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