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House Plant
House Plant  
We moved to a new house and inherited the attached plant.  
Not sure what it is (what is it??), but we have been taking care of it as we do our other house plants.  
We water it weekly, feed it (MiracleGro) once per month, have it in a roomy pot, keep it in an indirect, sunny spot, etc.
It was vibrant and thriving until we re potted it about two months ago, keeping its roots in tact, and mixing some of the old soil with a bunch of new soil.  
For about three weeks now, it seems to be dying. Leaves fall off every day and on some leaves, there is a brown edging to them that we've not noticed before.
We love our house plants, but are true amateurs (don't even know what this plant is), and would love to save this plant.
Thank you.

ANSWER: Hi Cathy,

The photo is of poor quality, but I am quite sure your plant is a Schefflera.

Providing extra room for a plant's roots is a very common misunderstanding of indoor potted plants. Unnecessary repotting is by far the most common reason for plant problems. As you indicated, your plant was thriving until you repotted two months ago. A plant that is doing well should not be repotted or otherwise forced to undergo any significant changes.

Repotting means using a larger pot and adding more soil. That soil is like a sponge that absorbs extra water and keeps the roots too moist for too long and the roots then rot, which is fatal. In addition, most folks do not repot properly and often inadvertently damage many tiny root-hairs that do most of the work for the plant.

If you left the original rootball intact when you repotted, then I suggest you carefully undo the repotting. Carefully remove the extra soil outside the original rootball. Then, put the original rootball back into its original pot or one that is the same size and has drain holes. The goal is to get things back to the way they were before you repotted and the plant was thriving.

Scheffleras do best when placed in front of windows that are uncovered throughout the day. Allow the top quarter of the soil to dry out before watering. Don't water by a calendar schedule. Fertilizer is not medicine and is intended only for healthy plants that are growing vigorously. So stop fertilizing until your Schefflera has completely recovered.

I have written detailed articles on repotting and on Schefflera care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at 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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---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Your response is appreciated, detailed and helpful, but...we don't have the original pot, nor do we remember the size.  Is there any other remedy by keeping the plant in its current pot?

Thank you for being so prompt and thorough.

Hi Cathy,

You could unpot the plant, remove the excess soil as I described and then measure the original rootball. That would allow you to purchase the appropriate sized pot, but my guess is that you don't want to do that.

Your only other alternative is to allow the soil to dry out much deeper into the existing pot before adding any water. Without knowing just how much larger the existing pot is, it is hard for me to be very specific about how deep the soil must dry. I suggest removing any soil you added to the top surface of the original rootball, then allowing the top 2 inches below that to dry before adding water.


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Will Creed


I am the only expert in this category with professional hands-on experience and knowledge of all indoor plants. I can answer questions regarding light, water, fertilizer, repotting, pruning and humidity and temperature requirements. I can identify plant pests and provide information on safe, effective treatments. My answers are based on 35 years of professional experience and scientific research and are clear and easy to understand. I do NOT use search engines to find answers to your questions. If you read my previous posts here, you will get a good idea as to how thorough and professional my answers are.


I have over 35 years of professional indoor landscaping experience caring for plants in homes, offices, building lobbies, stores, restaurants, and other adverse environments. I have written extensively on the care of indoor plants, including a 260 page book. My specialties include Ficus trees, low light plants, repotting, pest control, and re-blooming holiday plants. Be sure to check my ratings and nominations to learn why I am the top-rated indoor plant expert. I am the only House Plant expert consistently ranked in the AllExperts Top 20.

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