Schefflera house plant dying - what to do??

tealordJanuary 14, 2012

Hello all,

This is my first post on this forum, and I'm very happy to have found such a nice community.

I am actually quite desperately looking for some advice on how to prevent my schefflera house plant, which has been gradually deteriorating, from dying completely, and hopefully get it back to its beautiful self asap.

I upped some pictures of the plant in different stages of (un)health (over the past few weeks), please have a look at to get an impression (the first four pictures are from today, the rest from about a month back).

To summarize the story:

- bought the plant about 4 months ago, here in Norway

- put her in the living room in a place that gets good sunlight in summer but much less in winter (in winter, Norway is pretty dark and the sun doesn't come up high enough to really shine through the window)

- she was great for about 2 months, then started having brown leaves and dropping them at a gradually increasing pace

- when we took her small plastic pot (with holes) out from the bigger ceramic pot, we realized that she'd been standing in a very moist pot (we had filled it with these very dry stone-type of things initially, but apparently watered too much in the first 2 months so some of that water was permanently sitting right under the plastic pot, in close contact with the plant) ... so we took out all the water and the stone thingies, and replaced those with a new batch of dry ones, then shifted to a watering scheme of 0,5 to 1 liter per 2 weeks

- nothing improved after 1 month, more and more leaves dropping

- then we realized we had actually never given her nutrition, so went out and bought some nutrition "sticks" (best description I can give), which we proceeded to bury a few of between the middle of the pot and the edges (as per the instructions on the package)

- this is two weeks ago now and still no improvement. The plant looks like she's about to die, some stems already went brown and just one green stem left with some semi-healthy leaves, but they also seem to be getting worse.

What do you think is the cause of this problem? Lack of sunlight after all? We were told that this plant should survive the Norwegian winter just fine though ...

Anything you think we can do to help her out? We really love this plant and felt a connection with her from the beginning, so any advice would be dearly appreciated.

Please post to let me know if you need any more information to be able to say something about the situation.

Many thanks in advance for your time and help,


Here is a link that might be useful: pictures of the plant

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hi, Tea - almost certainly the issue originates with the roots, and it's very likely one of the root rot fungal infections has set in. The lack of light won't do anything to help things if recovery is in the plants future, so realistically that's a hindrance to a light-loving plant like a scheff.

I would depot; bare root; prune all roots that are compromised back to sound tissue with a sharp tool (sterilizing with alcohol or bleach between cuts would be good practice); repot into a fresh, free-draining soil mixture (can you get 'Seramis' there?); water to keep soil just damp until the plant recovers; then start a watering program that includes flushing the soil whenever you water and then allowing the soil to become quite (almost completely) dry before watering again. Schefflera tolerates this treatment very well.

We can talk more about fertilizing, if you wish, after the plant is back on its feet.


    Bookmark   January 14, 2012 at 4:09PM
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Yup, root rot. Follow Al's advice.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 11:48AM
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Thanks very much for the quick replies, guys. Just googled a bit more info about root rot and very happy to know how to get going now. One thing that I am wondering about, however:

Two out of three trunks of the plant have gone brown over the past 2 months (mostly last couple of weeks), and one trunk is still a relatively healthy-looking green. Are the brown trunks a sign of a "dead" or "so severely sick that it needs extra treatment" situation? I am wondering whether it is safe to repot all three trunks in the same pot or if I should keep them separate for a while.

Fantastic if you can chime in soon, I am hoping to repot tonight (Europe time) because I don't have much time during the week and I feel like there is no time to lose with this lovely plant...

Thanks again for the great help so far!!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 2:01PM
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TeaLord, scrape a small vertical patch of skin/bark off of the brown trunks, near the base: what does the tissue underneath look like? Whitish-green = healthy for now & you should trim of just before it stops. Any other color = whack that trunk off.


    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 2:40PM
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I am so glad I found this site! I recently identified my Schefflera after two years of not knowing what it was or how to help it. Even the local nurdery didnt know. Anyway, see how the bottom of the stem is brown? Underneath is healthy green. But how can I cut that off? Its the Bottom of the only stem!! The other stem died after acting just as this one. The top of the plant is healthy and producing leaves but...well....look at it. Help me. What do I do to save it. It was my mothers. Is the pot too big? Do I need to take cutting to grow more "trunk" how to I get it to bud further down? How do i straighten the stem? Going crazy in NC

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 3:22PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Tealord, it's natural for the trunk to turn brown and hard as your tree ages.

Ashtash, it looks like the roots of your plant are staying too soggy too often. The advice from tapla in the other thread in which you asked about your plant should apply to your plant also.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 5:23PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I agree with the idea that you're over-watering, which deprives the plant of the oxygen it needs to grow normally, and in the end makes your plant very thirsty for the water it can't absorb because its root function is compromised. Your plant is very resilient, so you have that going for you. If I was setting up a plan for you, it would include getting the plant into an appropriate soil (one that allows you to water to beyond the saturation point w/o having to fear what you're experiencing now), moving the plant outdoors for the summer, and establishing a good water/fertilizer (fertigation) program. These are key elements in getting your plant back to growing at least close to what it's genetically capable of.

If you're willing to make the effort to gain a basic understanding of what plants need to grow well, I'll help you with some reading and specific advice ....


    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 3:50PM
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my Scheffleara was growing great and all of a sudden its now dying. I haven't doen anything different to it. I did notice these tiny little black bugs on the leaves and also some green things that kind of looked a little like seeds/eggs on the stems and leaves. can anybody help me. My plants stay outside on my front porch and I think they might have been over watered atone point due to all of the rain we have had. Please help!!!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 12:08PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Where do you live? The first step in managing pests is a proper ID. The first step in getting a plant back on the road to good health is reversing the decline by eliminating what's causing it. If you use a soil that makes over-watering something you'd have to work hard at, most of your problems will disappear.

A poor soil is one that forces you to control the volume) of water you apply per watering. A marginally passable soil is one that requires you to be cautious about how frequently you water. Soils best for your plants are those that allow you to water as much as you want whenever you think your plant needs it. Of course, even some of the best choices require that you operate within the limits of reason, but some soils make it virtually impossible to over-water most plants.

To turn your plant around, you probably need to get the insect issue cleared up and start working on your plant's foundation - the root system. If the roots aren't happy - ain't no part of the plant gonna be happy.

I'll leave a link to something that should help you. Hopefully, it will leave you with a good sense of what questions to ask after you're done.


Here is a link that might be useful: A growing overview for 1 click

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 2:09PM
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I have a similar plant dying scenerio except mine is my own fault, its starting to get warm so I thought I would let me schefflera get some sun outside. and then the next morning when I went outside it was super wilty.. I watered it and brought it in thinking that maybe it got frostbitten (i don't think it frosted but it was quite chilly that night) I will be very upset if he dies because I started him from a cutting two years ago and he was just starting to flourish.. Is there any way to save him??

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 1:39PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Plants that aren't accustomed to wide fluctuations in temps often experience "chill injury" during quick drops in temperature, even if the low temp experienced is well above freezing. Not surprisingly, chill injury closely resembles freeze injury.

All you can do is wait and see what happens. Frost damage and chill injury destroy tissues, so the injury isn't reversible. Woodier tissues are usually more resistant to cold, so it's possible that in time your plant will back-bud & resume growth. You should avoid adding any fertilizer, and especially avoid over-watering. The plant will go a LONG time between waterings in its current condition. Use a stick stuck deep in the soil as a tell, to determine if the plant actually needs a drink. If there is any sign of moisture, hold off for a while. Keep the plant in bright light and warm - avoid temps below 60-65* if possible.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 3:03PM
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So my plant, (above) is now starting to look super dead, should I cut the really bad parts as I patiently wait to see if it comes back?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:46PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If the leaves are obviously dead, no harm in removing them. If branches show any green, please wait to see if new growth erupts from them. Schefflera is pretty efficient at utilizing green tissues in immature branches as part of it's food making ability, so don't remove any green branches until you're sure the plant is back on track. Be sure not to over-water. Sorry if the plant doesn't make it, CP. Sometimes they get so cold they can't bounce back.


    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 4:47PM
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