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Plant Diseases/Umbrella plant shedding/ dying


Hi i moved in november and since my long suffering umbrella plant has been wildly shedding and top leaves are still not fully opening. I repotted it to deal withpotential  root bounding. Ive fed it and still it sheds. It sits half way across alovely light room so its in no drafts. Any advice? Thanks

Dear Dee, You could actually be experiencing one of several problems with this plant.  To clarify, there are two main plants that are referred to as "umbrella plants".  One is the Schefflera and the other is a Cyperus plant.  I think you are referring to the Cyperus one that looks like a grassy type plant, since you mention the top leaves not fully opening.  However, these tips will also work for Schefflera.  These plants need a fairly bright amount of light to open the leaves and you might need to move it closer to the window.  Ideally, they would be facing a west or south window, as these will give it the most light, but not direct light as this will cause scorching.  I suspect the real culprit here, however, may be a water issue.  When you have an indoor plant, these plants are place with a saucer or decorative pot under them.  When the plants are watered, any excess water will drain into the saucer.  Although it seems reasonable to assume that the plant will take in the runoff water later, the excess water actually suffocates the roots and doesn't allow for enough air into the soil.  Make sure that any water left in the saucer is disposed of immediately.  If the saucer is dirty or slimy, wash or replace it.  Also, if you have a white crusty ring around the top inside of your pot, then it has excess salt buildup.  Scrub off the white buildup, and flush the pot thoroughly with water, allow to drain well, and then replace it inside.  You could be underwatering but that is rarely the case.  So give the plant more light, remove any excess water and keep saucer and pot rim clean.  One other possibility to your problem would be a bug infestation.  These plants are likely to get either spider mites or scale, but rarely anything else.  To check for scale, look for any bumpy areas along the stem or up near the top.  These suck the juices out of the plant and cause it not to develop fully.  To fix this, spray with either a lightweight horticultural oil (not cooking oil), or spray with NEEM.  You will need to spray several times a few days apart, and you will know they scale is dead when a moderate stream of water shakes them loose.  To check for spider mites, take a leaf and shake or tap it against a white sheet of paper.  Does anything fall off?  Is anything moving?  If so, you have spider mites, which can be cured by spraying with NEEM.  Incidentally, if you draw a line around the mite with an ink pen, it can't cross the line for at least several minutes.  If you draw a circle with an opening, it will walk around the inside until it finds the opening.  Anyway, I do hope that these tips have helped you locate the source of the problem.  If not, please let me know, and I'm sure that I can help you.  Good luck, Melissa

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Melissa Johnston


Plant diseases, landscaping, tropical plants, roses, herbs, plant care, grafting, horticulture, plant identification, anything about plants I can likely answer.


35 years experience in various plant businesses, 1984 Certified Texas Master Gardener.

Master Gardener Association of Texas charter member

none as of yet, but I have a plant q&a book I am in process of submitting.

Magna cum laude graduate of Texas A&M, 1978

Awards and Honors
Plant growing awards, highest grade for Texas Master Gardener graduates.

Past/Present Clients
Past member of and was very highly rated. Owned landscape company in the past, Almost Paradise, and was very successful despite little equipment, no help, and no advertising. Lived well for two years until 9/11.

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