Houseplants forum: Help keeping this tree alive!

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shadowdream
Jul 5, 2018 4:39 PM CST
Hi everyone, I could use a little expertise here.
We've had this tree for ages. My husband's family had it many years before we got married, and we've been married 18 years. We live in Michigan, and have a lower level apartment that doesn't get a lot of light, so it lives outside from late spring until the middle of the fall, then comes in for the winter. It thrives when we do this. Well, this year, for the first time, a squirrel has decided it's delicious! It has been stripping the leaves off the tree so now it only has mostly the top leaves left.
With only the top leaves left, most of the leaves are taller than my back window now.

Firstly, what kind of tree is this? (It was a rescue from outside of an office, thrown out and practically frozen to death, so we have no idea) And secondly, what course of action should I take to make sure it survives and thrives again. When we bring it in for the winter, if we don't cut it back, we lose a lot of the top leaves, so I'm figuring with most of the lower leaves gone, it's on shaky ground.

Also, any ideas for when/if we put it back outside to protect it from squirrels?

Thanks!!

Thumb of 2018-07-05/shadowdream/d36551

Name: Gene Staver
Portage WI 53901 (Zone 5a)
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gasrocks
Jul 5, 2018 4:48 PM CST
Welcome. First I say cut it back a lot. Second, if I had a tree that old and that special to me and was hurting for light year 'round, I would invest in some artificial lights. The new LED strips have a lot of potential. Gene

shadowdream
Jul 5, 2018 5:13 PM CST
Thank you! We do have an artificial light for it, above and off to the side. It's just not *quite* enough for it.

How do we go about cutting it back safely if there aren't leaves very far down?
Name: Lin
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!
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plantladylin
Jul 5, 2018 5:19 PM CST
Hi shadowdream, Welcome!

I can't see the leaves clearly but your tree reminds me somewhat of Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla) which grow in full sun as a landscape tree here in Florida. Years ago, I grew a couple as container plants but they got so big, so fast that I ended up planting them in the ground. Grown as an indoor plant, the Schefflera needs as much light as possible. You can prune it to keep at a desired height and new branches will appear just below the cut stem.

I've never heard of Squirrels eating the leaves so I can't advise on that.


If not Umbrella Tree, another possibility is Money Tree (Pachira aquatica)

~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot! ~



shadowdream
Jul 5, 2018 5:26 PM CST
It's an umbrella tree for sure! Thanks! Smiling I'll post a closer picture of the leaves when I get back home later tonight.
I think they like the sap. They're biting off the leaves and letting them fall. I think it's one particular squirrel.
So it doesn't have to have any leaves left where I cut it off? That's good to know! Thank you!
More light and some careful chopping coming up.
Name: Lin
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
Image
plantladylin
Jul 5, 2018 5:29 PM CST
Interesting, the sap contains Calcium oxylates which can cause numbness and vomiting in dogs and cats ... maybe it doesn't bother squirrels? I've seen squirrels climb Schefflera trees but I've never known them to bite the leaves.
~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot! ~


Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Jul 5, 2018 5:31 PM CST
Lin has correctly identified it as a Schefflera.

I think the squirrel did you a favor by forcing you to prune it back, as it should have been long ago. Once the stems have been shortened severely, it will look terrible, but new growth will emerge and it will be low enough that it should get adequate light where it is located in the photo.

I think the best solution to the squirrel problem is to leave your Schefflera inside year-round. It has enough light indoors, so why not just leave it there and let it adapt to that one location?
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

shadowdream
Jul 6, 2018 1:50 AM CST
Thank you so much for your input everyone! I really appreciate it. Gardening is not my forte, so I appreciate info from the experts. If you ever need baking advice, I'm your woman, haha.

It's always greenest and happiest after summering outside, that's why we tend to put it out for the summer (plus the open space in the living room is nice for a while. haha). By the end of winter, it's pretty yellow. But we'll look into better lighting for the winter time, and prune it way back.

Should we prune all the stems at once?
Thanks again!
Name: Gene Staver
Portage WI 53901 (Zone 5a)
Herbs Annuals Hummingbirder Butterflies Garden Photography Cactus and Succulents
Birds Cat Lover Houseplants Garden Sages
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gasrocks
Jul 6, 2018 7:46 AM CST
Some plants will take a severe pruning better than others. I do not know about your tree. General rule for pruning plants if unknown: cut them down to 1/3 their size. I'd go 1/2 size. You can always prune more later. Gene
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Jul 6, 2018 8:42 AM CST
I suggest pruning back all of the stems except maybe the shortest one so you have a little green left after pruning. I agree with Gene about cutting back to half to a third.

The reason your leaves turn yellow during the winter is because they were grown and adapted to the more intense outdoor light during the previous summer. You have enough light inside that new growth that comes in will be adapted to that reduced light level and stay that way year round, unless you force it to re-adapt twice every year.

I understand the seductiveness of lots of healthy new growth that comes in when a plant is moved outside in summer. But it often comes with a price as the plant is forced to adapt twice every year when it is relocated.
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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