Schefflera too leggy!

kongulo(7)April 12, 2011


I have been peeping in here for such a long time, always find really great info! Now I have a problem though that I can't find answers to :)

I have a single stem Schefflera.

I think it's an Arboricola. Pics are included. (When I got it the leaves were green and pale yellow, now they are mostly dark green. Don't know exactly why)

I got it cheap in a kind of plant supermarket in November, I think. It was long and leggy when I got it. For the first month it just withered away, leaves browning and falling off. I realized I was watering it too much! So I stopped. The top had lost all it's leaves, so I cut it off. I've been waiting and waiting and finally! With the spring sun this week it's really happy and started growing new leaves where I cut at it! But, I would really like it to bush up a bit. Right now it's just one long stem with 5 old leaves and 2 tiny new ones at the top!

(From dirt to new growth the plant is about 10-12 inches high.)

Do you guys have any advice?

For example; what happens if I cut off a leaf?

Will it only get new growth if I cut at the stem?

Here are pics:

This is the plant in all its glory, ahemm:

And here's a closeup of the new growth. Yay!

Thaaank yooouu in advance!

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I don't think removing a leaf will induce it to bud along the stem, in fact you might even damage the latent bud "hiding" under the petiole if you yank the leaf off.

I tried for quite some time just pinching the top off of mine & it ended up 6' tall with no branching. I cut about 18" off the top last summer & got a nice branch coming on right at the base, another 2 about midway up, plus the branching off the top like yours.

If you're feeling patient - it's hard, I know! - give it the best summer ever: lots of light, food & etc so the new growth will get going (you might even see some budding along the stem. they start pretty small, so keep a close eye!), and let it go through the summer. Then, in late summer, you can cut about 1/3 of the total height off, root the top - then plant it in the same pot for bushiness - and the remaining 2/3 of stem should back-bud out for you!

I'm going to take another foot or so off the top of mine in late August....

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 12:16AM
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I should have wrote:
cut about 1/3 off of the height that exists now - the height below the new growth, not the "total" height - at the end of the summer.

Depending on how tall the new growth is at that point, you could also slice the very top off of it, too, for more back-budding (assuming the plant is in good health).

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 1:21AM
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Thank you gravyboots!

Well, patience is usually not my virtue so I was hoping for the quick way out. Hihi. I will give it total peace and sun for the next months and see how it goes :)

Buuuut. Maybe I did start complaining a bit too soon! I got out my magnifying glass, and there seems to be something happening along the stem!

I guess it's "just" new leaves, but yay! That means it's happy!

Look, there's three of these, they're all where old leaves fell off, so that's why I guess it's new leaves?:

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 12:21PM
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PS. I think these started some time ago, maybe 2-3 months, except they started out as kind of vague bumps so I wasn't sure if anything was happening - although I did wonder. Then nothing happened for such a long time that I came to the conclusion that I was imagining things.

The new leaves on the top have grown about a 100x faster than these guys!

Hmmm. Exciting!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 12:29PM
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Kongulo, I would not be surprised if that area above the leaf scar became another branch... they do seem to start really slow, but take off eventually!

Not sure what you do for food, but your Scheff would probably appreciate a little topdressing of compost or worm castings if you're into that, or some fertilizer if that's more your inclination. I'm new to fertilizing, but there's info elsewhere in this site, particularly in the soil threads.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 8:05PM
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Personally, I'd stay away from adding compost or worm castings. They don't offer much for containerized plants, as they are slow to break down, and will plug up your potting mix. They don't contain the essential micronutrients that your plants need. My success with my schefflera became greatly increased when I switched to Al's 5-1-1 potting mix, and started using Foliage Pro 9-3-6, at 1/4 tsp per gallon at EVERY watering. Mine also sits just on the edge of a south window, so it gets lots of sun. It grows like mad, and has excellent variegation. I agree you must actually cut the branches to get back budding, not just pinch out new growth. Pinching out puts girth on the lower parts, but doesn't stimulate back budding. What direction is the window facing that you have this fella sitting by?? If it's north, it's probably not enough light to retain variegation, so you may want to move it somewhere brighter.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 9:30PM
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Gravyboots, I hope so! If they are branches, then I am getting 3 of them!

About the food, I'm not advanced in these matters. I live in a small apartment and am always moving so I like to keep things simple.

Actually just before the new leaves emerged I started giving it a tiny bit of organic seaweed fertilizer regularly (once or twice a week or so). All my plants love it, also herbs, seedlings, cuttings, all of them. So that's the only thing I use.

Joe. Thank you for the tips although they sound a bit outlandish to me as I live in a place where one can't find a variety of anything. I mean it. All the shops, whatever you are looking for have the same 1-3 brands of almost everything. I don't complain, I like it simple. Hihi.

The plant is actually placed in a corner window facing south and west, but winter is VERY dark around here. However, the days are really getting longer and longer now and soon there will be light all night! I will have to see how my Schefflera feels about that!

Maybe I will give it new soil, and I will definitely keep on fertilizing it regularly. This fertilizer is nice because you can give as much or as little as you want as often as you like and it won't harm the plant.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 2:09PM
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The new buds should definately be new branches not just a new set of leaves.
I have my variegated scheff that has several buds just like that and the bottom set is branches. I cut mine back all the time and get new branches. Scheffs are known to be single branched and don't branch out like other plants, cutting them back is the only way I know of to get them to branch out.
I even just broke off a couple sets of leaves because single leaves had fallen off and they have buds for new branches with the new top growth as well.
The newer sets of leaves will start out with 4 or 5 and gradually increase to 7-9 so don't worry about that.
Give it lots of light but be careful after June with the hot sun in summer the leaves can burn...they will turn an off white color.
You said light all must be way up in the arctic region? Spring would be a good time to repot or at least give it a top dressing of fresh soil. But...with it been stressed recently and just recovering you might want to wait a year before disturbing the roots. It seems to be doing ok now.

Search this forum for Schefflera you should find numerous threads on advice for their care.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 8:58PM
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I forgot to add, once you give it more light, the sets of leaves will be closer together. The more elongated and further they are apart is because of lack of light.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 9:00PM
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Wow, thank you gobluedjm! This makes me very happy!

And yes, I'm just under the arctic circle, 64 degrees north!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 9:45AM
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