Only 1/2 of a schefflera remaining...

greenintrigueMarch 6, 2010

4 years ago, I adopted this schefflera from a bank lobby where it sat for many years without being pruned or ever rotated. As such, what I really have is 1/2 of a schefflera since all of the branches on one side have been lost one way or another. I've pruned it lightly over the last 4 years, but I was wondering if I could cut down into the bare stump that sits in the center of all the branches to stimulate new growth. I've cut into it a little bit, but, so far, it's still totally dead. I'm afraid if i cut too far, I'm going to lose what's supporting the other branches. My only other option is to start hacking off branches, but I'm afraid that will only result in a fuller 1/2 tree.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

they're a little blurry, but you get the idea...

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 10:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Candidly: Your tree is growing under severe stress & needs a radical makeover. From the lack of branch extension, small leaves, and lack of interior foliage, I would say it's also very root-bound. Appearance is secondary right now, but can also be addressed. If you want a plan to follow that will have your plant coming back strong by Aug, let me know; but I can say with a good degree of confidence that if you only maintain the status quo, or simply pot up, the tree will continue to decline.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 10:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your "candid" response! Yes, please tell me more about what you would recommend for this poor plant. Just to fill you in a little more on the poor thing: Although it did live in a bank lobby for several years, when I was finally able to get a hold of it, I actually retrieved it from the front lawn of one of that bank's lenders (my mother's co-worker). It had been removed from it's pot, roots completely exposed (no soil), and was laying on its side under the high noon sun! So, it was "re-potted" at that point, or potted, anyway, and hasn't been repotted since. Then, 2 years ago, it was exposed to sub-zero temperatures for about 15 mins when it was left outside by movers in the dead of winter. After that, it dropped ALL of its foliage which did not return until late spring. So, needless to say, its been through a lot, and it breaks my heart to think that I'm currently inflicting more stress! What do you recommend?

I included a few more photos, hopefully to aid in the diagnostics process. Top left may give you a better idea of whether or not it's root bound - the pot is 17'' wide at the rim. Top right is new growth! haha. (trying to be optimistic) The two bottom pictures pose another concern...there are various stems and/or leaves that are seemingly turning woody, but never on the undersides...could this be over-exposure to the sun? All such "wounds" are on the older foliage, and there was a time when I did move it outside, not knowing any better, which did scorch some of the leaves. Could this being scarring?

Thanks again for all your help! I am it for the long haul, so, by any means necessary, I want to save this plant!


    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 3:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I'm not sure what the corky looking patches at the base of the leaflets and the main petiole are.

If this was my tree, I would try to build up it's energy reserves until mid-June, then cut it back hard. By hard, I mean cut the unsightly knot of what looks like 6 branches completely off. If the plant has a good amount of stored energy, it will back-bud profusely.

The steps and timetable:

* Flush the soil thoroughly. To do this, saturate the soil with room temp water and wait 10-15 minutes, then pour (or use the sink spray hose) a volume of water equal to about that of the container through the soil several times - maybe 5-6 times total. This will flush any accumulating salts from the soil.

* Tilt the container at a 45* angle & wait for it to stop draining, then depot the plant and set it on newspaper over night. This will pull the excess water from the soil mass and prevent root rot from occurring as a result of saturated soil. In the AM, put the plant back in the same pot and top off with soil.

* The next time the plant needs water, fertilize with a half strength dose of any soluble 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer. Dyna-Gro's Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 is a superb fertilizer for your houseplants. I use it in everything. MG, Schultz, Peter's also make 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers in the 24-8-16 that are easier to find, and they are good choices, too.

* Site the plant in the best light you can provide, and try to keep soil temps above 60-65*.

* Do not water until you think the soil is extremely dry, but not completely dry. Test for moisture deep in the pot by using a long dowel a little thicker than a pencil, and sharpened in a pencil sharpener. If it comes out of the soil damp, withhold water until it's dry. Alternately, feel the soil at a drain hole and withhold water until the soil feels dry there. This plant tolerates dry conditions very well.

* As soon as night temps are reliably above 55*, move the plant outdoors and gradually acclimate to full sun. We don't care what it does to the foliage because it will all come off.

* The radical part comes in late June when you cut the trunk off just below that cluster of bar branches. Then, depot the tree and saw the bottom 2/3 of the roots off with a pruning saw. After that, you'll bare-root the tree, prune some more roots and repot. I'll help you through that when it's time to do it.

This was in my driveway one day when I got home

so I assembled some tools and reduced it to this

another look

Then, I pulled it out of the pot and removed most of the roots, like this

then I bare-rooted it

and repotted it in the gritty mix (same pot)

where in a couple of weeks, it started back-budding like this

I posted these pics a few years ago, and a guy saw them. He contacted me in a panic because his fiance had entrusted her prize scheff to him while she was out of the country, and he killed it. He thought I might be able to tell him how to go about resurrecting it, but I explained there is only one degree of dead.

To shorten the story, I ended up offering this plant to him, and shipped it to NY. She was very pleased because the plant ended up being very attractive. I still get picture updates and offer instructions on how to keep it looking nice.

One of mine at the office - about 10 years old


    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 6:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oh my! I am so excited! Will get started first thing tomorrow. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and to inspire. I can't wait to post future updates!


    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 12:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, late June is on its way...I think I'm ready to hack off the top and do some root pruning. I moved it outside about 3 weeks ago, it hasn't been fully acclimated to direct sun yet, I have it under an overhang. I've also been fertilizing it every 2 weeks. Any pointers to help me get started?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 3:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Is it responding well to being outside & being watered properly? Can you take a picture as close to the first one you posted above as possible? I need to get an idea of how much back-budding is going on & how far back it would be prudent to cut.

You'll prolly be able to put it back in the same pot. You'll need a saw to cut off the bottom of the roots, something sharp to prune with, a hose with an attachment you can use to help you blast the soil off the roots and keep the3 roots from drying out as you work on them (important), a dowel rod sharpened in a pencil sharpener or chopstick to help you remove the soil from the roots. Have your soil all made & ready to go. I'll wait for the pic & then we can get started. ;o)


    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 11:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hello again! Sorry for the delayed response! I left the country for a bit, but did not think about the fact that I would be gone for a couple weeks before leaving my last post.

Here's an updated picture - I moved at the beginning of June, and I don't know how pleased the scheff was to go on its first car the back of a pickup. However, despite minor foliage casualties, it didn't seem too bothered.
The second picture that I posted shows what might be evidence of a plant that is root bound. There are two places (both on higher branches) where I have found aerial roots to be growing.

Thanks so much for your time, I'm anxiously waiting for the prognosis!


    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 2:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

All my scheffs are pushing aerial roots because of the high humidity - it's normal, though I think we concluded your plant needed repotting & root-pruning anyway?

It's a good time to get after it, but where did you move to? Still in WI? I ask because I'd like to consider how long a recovery period the tree will have following the work. You'll want to do it ASAP.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 4:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes, I'm still in Wisconsin - in the same town, actually. I'm 25 years old and still renting, but this is the first move I've made in almost 4 years. So, the climate is still mid-western WI.
The humidity has been atrocious here as well, but yes, root-pruning was mentioned earlier.
Thanks for the quick reply


    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 6:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

How about if you read through this thread
and then come back with all your questions. Your treatment of the roots needn't be as radical as shown in the thread I linked to, though the plant would tolerate it well.

It would be great if you could find a bag of pine bark fines & some perlite so you can mix a soil more appropriate than most commercially prepared soils from a bag, but I'll leave that decision up to you.

BTW, Late June/early July is repot time for all of MY ficus, scheffs, other tropicals, and I'll be finishing the last of about 50-60 repots this weekend.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 10:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Oops - forgive me, please? The above was supposed to be destined to appear on another thread - please disregard.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 3:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Haha, no worries. Any thoughts on the recovery period? And...should i be looking for pine bark fines and perlite as well? :)

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 11:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Not being snotty/bossy here at all, but you should be thinking about getting this done quickly. The best time to repot is past, but there is still ample time for the plant to recover & gain strength for the winter, which is hard on most of our houseplants because of low light and, frequently, salt accumulation.

Expect back-budding within 2 weeks. You can actually do the chop now (recommend it) & move the plant directly into full sun until you're able to do the repot.


    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 10:18AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
studio ak

What is this and what should I do? My tree may be a bit leggy. Can I lop off a foot or so?

    Bookmark   4 hours ago
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

They sometimes grow as epiphytes or semi-epiphytes so it's not that unusual for them to put out aerial roots. It could have been a bit of damage to the trunk that started them off there. But it looks like the atmosphere is a bit dry for them. If the humidity was increased those roots should grow down to the soil. That could make a novel effect. Otherwise, they can take hard pruning and the offcuts can be used as cutting for more plants.

    Bookmark   3 hours ago
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The plant was wounded in that area (maybe by the re-rod) or something else caused an area of cambium to die. A number of adventitious roots were stimulated to form and grow from undifferentiated meristematic or callus tissue at/ surrounding the wound site.

Root over rock schefflera composition:

You can cut the plant back as hard as you like, but it would be much better if you waited on the plant to put some reserve energy in the bank before you cut it back, like maybe until Father's Day or so. Getting the plant outdoors for a few weeks before you cut it back will also significantly add to the enthusiasm of the plant's response.

My plan would be:

Repot it in mid-Jun (repotting is a process that includes root pruning and a complete change of soil. It ensures much greater opportunity for the plant to realize its genetic potential where potting up ensures limitations), making sure you are repotting into a soil you can water properly (to beyond the point of saturation - so you're flushing accumulating dissolved solids [salts] from the soil when you water) without your having to worry about the soil remaining soggy so long it limits root function and impacts root health).

Cut it back as hard as you'd like, AFTER the plant resumes normal growth (probably around the 4th of July.


    Bookmark   3 hours ago
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Fiddle Leaf Ficus brown edges, lighter color veins
I have the Fiddle Leaf Ficus for 2 years now. It was...
How to make this fiddle leaf branch out.
This is a fiddle leaf that I wanted to buy on Craigslist....
Zebra cactus update - still not looking great?
Ok, so I first posted at the end of January about my...
How to introduce houseplants to outside and should i worry bout rodent
I got a lot of house plants in the last 9 months. I...
Has anybody seen the micro ZZ Plant "Zamicro"?
They are a smaller amd more compact cultivar of the...
Sponsored Products
Chelsea Home Jeremiah Pie Safe - 465-008
$899.99 | Hayneedle
Eglo Lamps Rebell 16 in. 1-Light Aluminum Table Lamp 89066A
$64.78 | Home Depot
ELK Lighting Natural Rope 63011-2 Semi Flush - 15W in. - Aged Bronze - 63011-2
$338.00 | Hayneedle
Area Rug: Renaissance Salsa 3' x 5'
Home Depot
Runner: Northern Territory Black 2' 7" x 7' 10"
$98.97 | Home Depot
Darya Rugs Oushak, Gold, 8'3" x 10'1" M1770-43
Darya Rugs
Clean Satin Nickel LED Three Light Bath Fixture with Acid Etched Opal Glass
$185.00 | Bellacor
Tay Tay Chrome One-Light Halogen Wall Sconce with Cocoon Glass
$175.50 | Bellacor
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™