Ask a Question forum→Is this umbrella plant dying?

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Cumbernauld
Lynnda
Jun 15, 2020 12:11 PM CST
Hi- I'm a novice at keeping houseplants, recently bought this plant (around 8 weeks ago) online, the pot has decent sized stones at the bottom for drainage and I don't think I've been overwatering (1-2 times per week) - this is where it sits, next to my kitchen window but after the last watering, the leaves have started to wilt & go brown. Have I overwatered it or is it likely to be insect problem? I have no clue and don't want to kill my first plant! Please help
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Name: one-eye-luke US.Vet.
Texas (Zone 8a)
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oneeyeluke
Jun 16, 2020 12:07 AM CST
Too much water and Its planted too deep, so remove an inch of soil off the top and allow the top inch to dry before watering again. Do you have good drainage holes in the container?
NOT A EXPERT! Just a grow worm! I never met a plant I didn’t love.✌
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Jun 16, 2020 10:34 AM CST
Welcome! Your S.Arboricola did not need to be repotted and it was not done correctly. Plants should always be kept in pots with drain holes. Adding "drainage material" to the bottom of pots is an outdated and discredited practice that is commonly done with not very good results.

You are watering too frequently and depending on how much you are giving it each time, water may be collecting at the bottom of the pot where it is out of sight. Your plant is at high risk for the roots suffocating from too much water and not enough oxygen.

When you repotted, how much of the original soil did you remove? What kind of potting soil dod did you use?
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
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Contact me directly at [email protected]
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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Jun 16, 2020 12:33 PM CST
If that container has no drain holes, then it is rotting the roots. Then being unable to drink water, it will manifest the problem visually on the drying out leaves.

I do not have a problem with the size of the container, but if that container has no drain holes, then it i will be slow demise for your plant. If that container has drain holes but you blocked the drain holes with rocks, then it will create a higher perched water table inside so it will make dry out time too long than needed for your plant.

It is a different story, if that plant is being grown outdoors where there is more airflow and sunlight to help dry out the plant. But indoors, with lesser light it will take time for it to dry out, so it is easy to compromise the root zone if kept too moist than needed.

If that container has drain holes, and I see you seem to have a nice balcony there, I would consider bringing the plant outdoors. I do not know which country your city is in, if it is heading into summer time on your side it will love much more light right now.

So to your question, is your plant dying...maybe, but if you can improve drainage then it will have better chances of recovery. Also do not try to apply fertilizers, it will not help the plant at this time since it is in stress.
[Last edited by tarev - Jun 16, 2020 1:08 PM (+)]
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Cumbernauld
Lynnda
Jun 16, 2020 1:07 PM CST
All of these comments are incredibly useful. I live in central Scotland so not much of a summer! Our weather currently is around 18degrees Celsius, with rain pretty much once a week. So the plant arrived in a basic plastic pot with drainage and I made the mistake of taking it out of that pot, and moving into this slightly larger decorative pot with zero drainage holes (so adding the stones was my attempt at creating some space for drainage). Useful to know that stones for drainage are no good- thank you! I kept all the soil it arrived in but placed additional bagged compost - the bag said seed and cutting compost (I have a feeling this is another major error now- please be kind!). I added a bit of compost on top of the rocks, at the bottom of the pot, then the plant with all its original soil, then added more compost at the top. The plant soil doesn't seem to have 'mixed' with the compost- so if this stuff is really bad, I think I can leave most of it behind and salvage most of the original soil? If I switch to a pot with drainage, should I just use that alone instead of using a drainage pot inside a decorative pot? And of course I will not plant as deep! I can absolutely move it outside to let it dry out too- how long should I do this? Thank you for your kindness and expertise- u may have saved this plants life just in time!
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Jun 16, 2020 1:20 PM CST
Hi Lyndda, since it rains too often there, and if you do plan to bring it outdoors, do not use a cache pot. It will be too easy to overlook the excess water accumulating at the base. Just use a low tray so you can easily tip it over if there is a pool of water. But always, the main plant must by in a container with drain holes.

It would be nice to add more perlite or pumice to your media to allow more airflow at the root zone. Between the two, perlite is lighter so it can easily float, so my preference is pumice.

18C is not bad temps during the daytime, but what is it like during night time on your side, what are your temps overnight? If it is lower than 10C at night, better to maintain your indoor growing, but position it nearer to a window. And still must use container with drain holes not blocked by rocks.
Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

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plantladylin
Jun 16, 2020 2:17 PM CST
Hi Lynnda, Welcome!

I agree regarding the potting of your Umbrella Tree (Schefflera arboricola 'Variegata') The container is really pretty but should be used only as a decorative cache pot to hide the plastic nursery pot. Many people don't realize that plants can happily grow and be happy in their original nursery pots for quite some time and will experience stress when the roots are disturbed during repotting.

The stones placed in the bottom of the pot will definitely cause issues and possibly the demise of the plant. It has to do with the water accumulating in the pebbles and soil. When water is unable to drain out of the pot, it settles in the pebbles at the bottom, with the moisture naturally climbing higher into the soil, raising the water table and allowing the soil to become soggy. The wet, soggy soil, depletes the roots of oxygen, causing rot. Even if a pot has drainage holes, it's never a good idea to place stones, pebbles, broken pottery, etc. beneath the soil because it hinders proper drainage.

If at all possible, I'd advise very gently removing the plant from the container without drainage holes and gently sitting it into a pot of the same size that does indeed have holes in the bottom. Give it warmth and bright light and it should recuperate just fine.
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Jun 17, 2020 7:45 AM CST
If you left the original rootball and soil intact, then you may be able to carefully undo the repotting that you did, removing the soil you added and recover the original rootball as it was. If so, it can then safely be put back into its original pot with drain holes.

Eliminating the excess soil around the original rootball will go a long way to helping the soil around the roots dry out appropriately.

Double-potting into the decorative planter is fine.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
[Last edited by WillC - Jun 17, 2020 9:51 AM (+)]
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Cumbernauld
Lynnda
Jun 17, 2020 8:50 AM CST
Thanks so much everyone- I got rid of the nursery pot (regrettably) so I'm now waiting on pots with drainage arriving to carefully repot (or undo my repotting if that makes sense). Our shops are still on lockdown in Scotland (different in England) so online delivery is the quickest way. While I'm waiting, I've removed the stones and excess soggy compost (that was indeed compacted at the bottom) so that the roots aren't subject to further harm. The original bulb and soil are intact- so hopefully that should survive for a couple of days till I can give it a decent drainage pot!

Have taken note on the importance of good drainage (the link to the proper name of the plant had info explaining this too) - so thanks for sharing that.

And based on our Scottish climate, I think I'll opt for giving a bit of outdoor sunlight during the day only (it does get cold at night here) until it starts to recover, and then aim to have it live indoors next to a window.

I will be sure to share a progress photo on here in a week or so, incase further interventions are needed.

Thanks again everyone- from 'sunny' Scotland 😀
Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
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plantladylin
Jun 17, 2020 8:54 AM CST
Look forward to hearing your progress!
~ I'm an old gal who still loves playing in the dirt!
~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot!


Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Jun 17, 2020 9:53 AM CST
If you move it outside, it must be protected from any direct outdoor sun that is much more intense than indoor sun and will scorch the leaves. Crossing Fingers!
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Cumbernauld
Lynnda
Jun 17, 2020 6:19 PM CST
Oh that's good to know. So not facing the sun directly, it not in the shade either?
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Jun 18, 2020 8:11 AM CST
If it is outside, it must be in the shade throughout the day so the sun rays do not fall directly on the plant at any time during the day.

Inside it can be close to a moderately sunny window.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Cumbernauld
Lynnda
Jun 19, 2020 4:50 AM CST
That's very useful- thank you

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