Ask a Question forum: umbrella schefflera leaves changing & falling off

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Edinburgh
heymoon
Jan 31, 2018 3:54 AM CST
Hello

I wondered if anyone could offer me any advice. I found this plant next to a skip about 6 years ago and took it home. We named him Skippy. When I found the plant it was basically a long stem with a pom pom of leaves at the top. I repotted it and and new growth took place at the bottom of the plant, and the top kept growing too.

I've always watered it fairly evenly, not too much and never letting it dry out too much either, our flat has quite good light too.

Recently the plant has started to change and sadly many leaves are falling from the top section. The lighter leaves change colour before they drop, turning a sort of murky brown colour from the inside near the vein. (See picture). The stem of the leaf becomes weak and they just fall off on their own or with the slightest touch. Eventually when all leaves are gone the whole stem falls off.

The plant is still growing from the top and bottom so I don't think the top section is completely dead even though this is where the leaves are falling from.

Is there anything I can do to save the plant, or is it best to now remove the top section to allow the bottom half of the plant the best chance to grow? It has always looked like two separate plants and though I'd hoped the middle section would fill out as the bottom part grew, with so many leaves falling from the top I don't know if this will happen.

I really want to save Skippy! Has anyone seen this type of leaf change before and can shed some light?

The only real thing that changed recently was that I tied the main stem of the plant to a bamboo cane with string to hold the plant more upright and moved it to a different area in the room. Also quite a few months ago now I cleaned the older leaves to remove some dust. I haven't repotted it in a couple of years.

I look forward to hearing from you, thank you for reading.

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Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
My dogs love me; some people don't.
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greene
Jan 31, 2018 4:39 AM CST
heymoon said:

...The only real thing that changed recently...moved it to a different area in the room.

...quite a few months ago now I cleaned the older leaves to remove some dust.


Welcome!
First of all, I love the name Skippy for a plant found near a skip; very cute. Thumbs up

Did you start to see the leaves falling off shortly after moving the plant to the new location?

What did you use to clean the leaves?

Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~"Leaf of Faith"
Edinburgh
heymoon
Jan 31, 2018 4:53 AM CST
Hello and thank you for
Your message! Smiling I cleaned the leaves just with water on a cloth and yes I suppose the leaves did start to fall around the time I moved it, maybe also they were starting to change before this however....
It does seem like the top section is struggling to survive, perhaps to do with the growth below it and then the fact there is such a bare section between both parts of the plants? Not sure what the best thing to do is.....



greene said:

Welcome!
First of all, I love the name Skippy for a plant found near a skip; very cute. Thumbs up

Did you start to see the leaves falling off shortly after moving the plant to the new location?

What did you use to clean the leaves?



Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
My dogs love me; some people don't.
Deer Bookworm Keeper of Poultry Vermiculture Garden Ideas: Master Level Region: Georgia
Plant Identifier Rabbit Keeper Composter Garden Sages Native Plants and Wildflowers Herbs
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greene
Jan 31, 2018 6:07 AM CST
Okay, good that you cleaned with only water.

When a plant is moved to a new/different location in the house, we like to think the location makes no difference to the plant, but Schefflera may take a while to adjust to the new location.
There may be a subtle difference between the two locations; perhaps farther from the window light, too close to a neat duct/vent; there may be a draft/cold air, etc. These small differences can have an effect and the plant needs to make an adjustment. Either that or the plant needs to be returned to the former location.

Yes, you can prune away the top of the plant, no problem.

We have a Houseplant Forum here on NGA . Check out the threads and see what others are saying about your type of plant:
https://garden.org/forums/view...

I'm not any kind of expert. One of the folks I like to ask is @WillC; he is a professional working with indoor plants and will give you good advice.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Jan 31, 2018 4:08 PM CST
Thank you for the reference, Greene. I tip my hat to you. I'm not sure I have a definitive answer, but I do have some things for heymoon to consider.

I agree with Greene that light could be the problem. Your Schefflera arboricola should be within a few feet of a moderately sunny window. The light change may be insignificant to you, but could make a big difference to the plant.

Watering may also be a problem. It may be that your plant needs more water now than it once did because it has added lots of leaves at the base. Whatever watering routine you used before might not now be appropriate. I suggest watering it as soon as the top half inch of soil feels dry.

It is very hard to see detail in photos, but the leaf discoloration is somewhat reminiscent of spider mite damage. I am not at sure this is the case, but you should check it out especially since spider mites prefer tender new growth near the top of plants. Perhaps the dust you wiped away was really spider mites.

The top section is in no way detracting from the lower section, so that is not a reason to prune it back. That said, you may want to prune it back so that you can eliminate the pole and have a shorter, more compact plant. That is a matter of personal taste. Left alone, the taller stem will continue to grow taller and it will never replace lost lower leaves. At some point, it will have to be pruned back.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Sally
central Maryland
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sallyg
Feb 2, 2018 7:37 AM CST
It's done great to have all that growth at the bottom. (Skippy!! Hurray! so cute)
if it seems the top is where the leaves are falling from, my choice would be to bag and cut that off, just in case it really is mites. and proceed from there with a really nice, shorter plant. With the advice above, and seeing you've done well by it to this point, you will be right on track.
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
Edinburgh
heymoon
Feb 2, 2018 8:29 AM CST
Hello, thank you very much for your advice. I appreciate it very much and for massing me onto @WillC ... Smiling


greene said:Okay, good that you cleaned with only water.

When a plant is moved to a new/different location in the house, we like to think the location makes no difference to the plant, but Schefflera may take a while to adjust to the new location.
There may be a subtle difference between the two locations; perhaps farther from the window light, too close to a neat duct/vent; there may be a draft/cold air, etc. These small differences can have an effect and the plant needs to make an adjustment. Either that or the plant needs to be returned to the former location.

Yes, you can prune away the top of the plant, no problem.

We have a Houseplant Forum here on NGA . Check out the threads and see what others are saying about your type of plant:
https://garden.org/forums/view...

I'm not any kind of expert. One of the folks I like to ask is @WillC; he is a professional working with indoor plants and will give you good advice.


Edinburgh
heymoon
Feb 2, 2018 8:38 AM CST
Hello @WillC thank you so much for your advice. I will try moving Skippy back to a more sunny spot again and upping the watering slightly. I will look closer for signs of spider mites, though I'm pretty sure the old leaves I cleaned were just dusty. The fact that most of the leaves that have fallen have a murky brown patch in the middle does seem strange though, so maybe on closer inspection I may see some sign of insect or damage.

If I were to cut off the top section of the plant, is there a way to reroot this so that it still might be able to grow as a separate plant?, as it seems a shame to just cut it off and dispose of it while there is still new growth taking place at the top.

I noticed today also that the roots have grown out the bottom of the plant pot, so I think it might be time to repot the plant to give it more space to grow?

All the best and thanks again for taking the time to offer advice! Thumbs up

WillC said:Thank you for the reference, Greene. I tip my hat to you. I'm not sure I have a definitive answer, but I do have some things for heymoon to consider.

I agree with Greene that light could be the problem. Your Schefflera arboricola should be within a few feet of a moderately sunny window. The light change may be insignificant to you, but could make a big difference to the plant.

Watering may also be a problem. It may be that your plant needs more water now than it once did because it has added lots of leaves at the base. Whatever watering routine you used before might not now be appropriate. I suggest watering it as soon as the top half inch of soil feels dry.

It is very hard to see detail in photos, but the leaf discoloration is somewhat reminiscent of spider mite damage. I am not at sure this is the case, but you should check it out especially since spider mites prefer tender new growth near the top of plants. Perhaps the dust you wiped away was really spider mites.

The top section is in no way detracting from the lower section, so that is not a reason to prune it back. That said, you may want to prune it back so that you can eliminate the pole and have a shorter, more compact plant. That is a matter of personal taste. Left alone, the taller stem will continue to grow taller and it will never replace lost lower leaves. At some point, it will have to be pruned back.


Edinburgh
heymoon
Feb 2, 2018 8:42 AM CST
Hello @sallyg thank you for your message. yeah I thought it was great that Skippy had all that new growth at the bottom section as when we found the plant it really did look like a long stalk with some leaves at the top! I think I will consider taking the top section off if in some way it might give the bottom section a bit more chance. I really like all the variegated leaves! :-)

sallyg said:It's done great to have all that growth at the bottom. (Skippy!! Hurray! so cute)
if it seems the top is where the leaves are falling from, my choice would be to bag and cut that off, just in case it really is mites. and proceed from there with a really nice, shorter plant. With the advice above, and seeing you've done well by it to this point, you will be right on track.


Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
Image
WillC
Feb 2, 2018 10:21 AM CST
You could try propagating the top stem in water or in damp soil, but given the size of the stem, the odds are against success. A better, but more complicated way to propagate the top is by air-layering.

To air-layer, remove the outer green layer of the stem about 4-6 inches below the lowest leaves. Leave a strip of bare stem about an inch wide all around the stem. Then, cover the bare section with damp sphagnum moss and wrap that with clear plastic and seal it tightly around the stem. In 1 - 2 months, new roots will develop from the wounded portion and start to fill the sphagnum moss. Wait at least that long before unsealing the plastic and taking a look to see if there are roots growing throughout the sphagnum moss. If so, then cut off the stem just below the rooted section and plant it in a small pot filled with a peat-based potting mix. You can then cut back the remaining stem so that it is shorter the lower stem growth. It may produce new growth just below where you make the pruning cut.

I know this is a bit complicated, but it is the surest method for successfully propagating larger, thicker stems. The worst that happens is that roots fail to develop and the wound heals over and you are right back where you started; nothing lost.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

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