House Plants/Umbrella Tree
QUESTION: I purchased an umbrella tree (Dwarf Schefflera (S. arboricola) ) last year from one of our local stores (September). It is about 5' to 5 1/2'feet tall, leaves are a medium green. It did well in the Fall, Winter & Spring - no problems. I water it every other week, it is close (but not in front) to an East facing window and is in a big pot (14 inches tall and about 40 inches in circumference). About a month ago it started dropping green leaves, first only a couple but now quite a few. 95% of the leaves are good, green leaves. I have not changed anything (location, watering etc...). I really like this plant and do not want to lose it. Do you have any suggestions?
ANSWER: Hi Marilyne,
Most plants do shed some older leaves as they add new growth. This is a normal part of the growth cycle and is not a cause for concern as long as the plant is adding approximately as many new leaves as it is losing old ones. If this is not the case, then you need to check the available light and your watering routine.
Schefflera arboricolas need lots of bright indirect light all day long. In your case, it can be placed a few feet back from the east window, but not off to the side. Or it can be located just a bit off to the side, but not more than a couple of feet away. The window should be completely uncovered throughout the daylight hours and there shouldn't be any outside window overhangs or shade trees blocking the morning light.
When properly potted and in good light, Arboricolas typically need a weekly watering. However, yours is in a large pot so less frequent watering may be appropriate. In any case, allow the top quarter of the soil to dry out before adding just enough water so that it has reaches that level of dryness again in about one week.
Fertilizer, misting and repotting will not help so resist any advice that suggests those options.
I have written articles on Schefflera care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at wcreed@HorticulturalHelp.com. I have also written an indoor plant care book in a PDF format that I can sell you if you contact me at my email address.
Please let me know if any of this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.
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Horticultural Help, NYC
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---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you for your prompt answer Mr. Creed. Just to clarify... the Umbrella Tree is not replacing the green leaves that it is dropping, only a few new leaves have appeared. I am also puzzled why the tree did well from September 2012 through most of May 2013. I wonder if in the Summer it needs more light (growing season)or a little fertilizer. I am also wondering if the air conditioning has had some effect on it. (I have closed the closest vent to the plant). Anyhow the amount of leaves that it is losing is excessive and I am afraid that it will soon be bare.
It often takes several months or more before inadequate light and/or improper watering start to show their effects. This time lag is more so if the light and watering are off by a relatively small amount.
The loss of leaves you described does not reveal the precise cause, but it is either a light or watering problem. A 5% loss of foliage is not indicative of a major problem. I do recommend that if possible you try to improve the light (not because it is summer but because it needs more light year round) and also adjust your watering routine as I suggested originally. That said, it will take a while before any adjustments start to show their effects. Patience is required.
Fertilizer will not help in any case. Unless the AC is blowing directly onto the plant, that is not a factor.