Need to improve Schefflera care

oneleafJune 24, 2011

So after a year of learning and using the Gritty Mix, I find that my Schefflera is the only plant that seems to still be in less-than-stellar condition.

I have an Alocasia Polly and Hoya in a north-east facing window in the Gritty Mix and both are doing great and continue to flourish a year after repotting (I repotted and root pruned the Alocasia a second time this spring and it is doing even better now).

I have a Fiddleleaf Fig in an east-facing window that is doing fantastic and pushing out mad growth after a root prune and top prune.

However, my Schefflera (in South facing window with partial shade from curtain) has had the following issues. Here is the timeline:

- July: bought at Lowes (braided tree-like Schefflera) and grew new shoots like crazy for the first month.

- August: bare-rooted and root pruned and went into Gritty Mix. Growth stopped as it recovered from root-prune.

- August - early Sept: battled Mealybugs with Neem treatment.

- late-Sept thru October: plant did great, growing new shoots everyday.

- November thru March: Growth slowed and halfway through winter, started dropping leaves. By March, probably 1/2 or more of the leaves had dropped and became quite pathetic-looking.

- March: noticed sticky leaves and possibly scale, so treated it with Neem and alcohol.

- April-May, started growing new shoots.

- end-of-May: started taking it outdoors to shady areas but it quickly started dropping leaves. I brought it back inside. For the next 3 weeks. growth stopped completely and started dropping leaves like crazy again!

- early June until now: growing new shoots again and seems to be doing great!

As you can see, my Schefflera is going through tons of ups and downs. It is in the Gritty Mix with 1/8 to 1/4 tsp FP at each watering and a flush every month. I water very liberally (half gallon with a lot of water draining out the drain hole). I wait until it is quite dry before I water, so water maybe once every 5-6 days.

Any idea what i can do to improve my Schefflera care strategy? Thanks so much!

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

From your description, it seems that all of the periods of reduced growth are associated with the normal winter slow-down and insect infestations. If there are periods of robust growth followed by periods of reduced growth, it's difficult to logically pin the problem on the soil, because that doesn't change; so it makes more sense to look at other cultural influences.

I would move it outdoors into dappled or open shade for a week & then move into full sun during a cloudy period and just wait. Even if you lose foliage, it will be followed closely by replacement leaves that will emerge acclimated to brighter light.

You didn't say to what volume of water you're adding the FP - I'll assume a gallon. If you move the plant outdoors & flush with each watering - that's fine for a solution strength; but you should prolly reduce the dosage if you're only flushing monthly.

Significant numbers of scale & mealybug on any plant are going to make trouble, so it's pretty important that you develop a strategy to keep them in check to enjoy the best vitality. Let me know if you need help with that.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 11:49PM
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Thanks Al!
Right now nighttime temps are still below 50. (weird summer so far). Do you think i should wait to bring it out?

Do i need to do preventative neem treatment on this plant?

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 12:15PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I'd wait to bring it out until night temps are reliably above 55*, but I wouldn't panic if there was a night here & there that was cooler.

You CAN use neem prophylactically if you wish, and you can expect good results if you reapply at 2-3 week intervals. Pure, cold-pressed oils like that packaged by Dyna-Gro are going to have the highest azadirachtin content, which is where the real benefit comes from. If you DO find yourself battling insects or anything fungal, Bayer makes an over the counter 3 in 1 product that includes imidacloprid (a systemic insecticide for non-food plants), tebuconazol (a systemic fungicide), and a miticide. It is an extremely effective tool that will serve you well against most insects with sucking/rasping mouth parts, as well as things fungal. It's approved for use on houseplants, but it should be sprayed outdoors only. As always, read the label carefully and follow directions. If you do decide to purchase this product, don't get the package that attaches to your hose - buy the concentrate & use in a spritzer or small spray tank.


    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 9:21PM
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