Schefflera actinophylla loosing healthy green leaves

OliveralJune 16, 2014


My Schefflera actinophylla is starting to die, I don't understand.

I have this plant since 2006.

It has the same exact amount of light, It is not over-watered, it is not under-watered, I gave her, from time to time natural fertilizer.

It was perfect for 8 years.

But now, nothing has change (same spot) and it's start losing leaves, a lot of them (30 in a month).

The leaves all look perfect when they hit the ground. They are all green, firm, with no apparent problems.

I'm stuck.

Since the last two years, we were fighting some thrips problem, but for the last 4 months, I can't find any.

Anyone have any idea ?

This post was edited by Oliveral on Mon, Jun 16, 14 at 20:35

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The thrips infestation was indicative of the declining health of the plant. It has to do with the condition of the roots, Id say. They are likely crowded. I would recommend up-potting if you haven't in a while. That would give it a temporary boost.

Some might recommend a root prune, but i know little about it myself, so I can't advise you.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 9:29PM
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If the medium hasn't been changed in that time all the organic matter would have decomposed. That makes the remaining soil become compacted and heavy.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 7:23AM
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Lauraeli and Tropicbreezent are right, I think! Your plant would probably love to have some fresh soil.

Even if you don't want to repot the plant, just top dressing the soil by adding a fresh layer of new potting soil to the top of the old stuff will usually help.

Whatever way you decide to apply it, some fresh soil would certainly do no harm.

Another problem which sometimes occurs in older plants is a buildup of salts in the soil. This can be from tap water or fertilisers.
Whatever the cause, putting your plant in the shower and letting tepid water run through the pot for about ten minutes will help.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 8:32AM
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Thank for the answer.

I repotted the plant last year, so I'm not sure if it's really the problem.

I will look at the roots today to see if there's something wrong.

i will also put it under the shower for 10 minutes to remove any fertilizer salt.

Just yesterday it lost 10 more leaves. It look like the problem is accelerating.

This post was edited by Oliveral on Tue, Jun 17, 14 at 9:27

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 9:21AM
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That's the old soil theory busted then.

Can you show us a picture of the plant?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 9:30AM
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First picture

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 10:02AM
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Back of it

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 10:03AM
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It still look good, but lost about 25% of it's size in one month.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 10:04AM
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that pot is too small for it. the bigger it gets the more water/fertilizer it needs. since you've had it for a long time and it's in good shape, i assume you now how much water it needs. but just the same - it likes being moist. perhaps, it's using all the water too fast, so you need to water more frequently?
accumulation of salts is very likely.
flushing (shower) will be good for both dissolving extra salts and hydrating it. you can do it sev times in a row - once a week instead of just watering.
as far as thrips go: depends what kind. if it's greenhouse thrips they get young foliage mostly - you need to trim all young shoots. it has little or nothing to do with roots.
i'v had an infestation of greenhouse thrips recently , brought by a new plant - they just just spread, irregardless of medium/age of plants. very hard to control. systemic is the only solution. but only young foliage is effected, it won't cause leaves dropping like you describe.
what kind of fertiliser you are using? npk ratio? how often how much. this is a very greedy plant. it needs quite a bit.
and finally how and into what you repotted it and how often do you water? in the 2nd pic i see stems of leaves drooping - that happens when plant cannot take enough water.
when you pull it out to peek at the roots - take a pic for us to see.
this tree in general needs reg pruning to keep it bushy.
i see sev trunks, but the main has never been pruned?
i'd chop off the top 8" of main trunk and root it. even in water is ok. or you can air-layer it too.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 10:29AM
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(sorry for potato quality picture)

Oh God!

there is almost no roots.

I carefully removed it from the pot, and still, this is only what left of the root.

There was no insect in the soil.

Some of them were rotten, but I don't understand I keep this plant much more dry than wet.

For fertilizer I use normal 20-20-20 and also sometime some hen manure 4-6-8. To be honest, I only give it fertilizer once every 5-6 month.

But I used a lot of insecticidal soap --Bug-B-Gon) (to kill the thrips) during the last year, maybe there is a soap accumulation in the soil.

Do I need to use fertilizer to boost root production ?

And I also agree, thrips is not the problem, it just caused some problem on new leaves.

I Repotted it in some tropical plant potting soil I found at my local plant store.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 11:02AM
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I find that plants that are unhealthy are targetted more by bugs, regardless of the type of bug. Thrips like new growth, yes, but I have only seen the bad infestations on plants that were already stressed in some way. It's too bad about your roots. I would expect you will continue to lose leaves until the roots recover. But i would flush the soil. Then give it some time to regrow. it doesnt need fertilizer to grow roots. The leaves will fuel root growth. Fertilizer is more likely to harm the roots. And keep it a bit on the dry side to encourage root growth.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 1:40PM
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by pot volume - did you have roots in half of the pot?
or was it the root-ball from original pot-size ? like they did not grow after the repot of last year?
what often happens with very old root-ball - it is so dry that it sheds water, so the new soil around it gets wet, but where the roots are - is dry.
did you remove some old soil? did you put it in the same pot? what's in this new tropical mix? can you give us an idea? is it soilless for containers? or just labeled 'potting mix' - those often are too heavy and need addition of perlite.
do not fertilize until you see new growth. you need to make sure the soil accepts water - since it's very difficult to remove the old stone-like soil from the very middle - you'll need to either soak the pot in the bucket or water in the sink - pouring water sev times thru and testing the middle with a skewer to make sure it's moist.
i would not use hen manure - there's too much chance of pathogens. you need to feed regularly - at least monthly. is 20-20-20 time release granules or liquid?
since the plant has few roots - can you put it in a large dry-cleaners bag? it will help to keep humidity high and lessen the leaf drop until it roots. it should root within a month.
this plant does not like to be dry. you need to monitor soil-moisture levels. when it's healthy it should take lots of water in summer, somewhat less in winter.
it's an outdoors tree for most part, so when they say it's drought tolerant, they talk about inground trees. in the container you should not let it more then 1/3 dry when it's growing.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 1:47PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Plants and the conditions they grow in are both dynamic, so something ALWAYS changes. Nothing stays the same, even from one day to the next.

Your plant is wilting because the remaining roots that still function are unable to move enough water to the top of the plant to sustain the canopy. As a consequence, the plant responds by shedding what it can't support. Unfortunately, the shedding process can't be reversed, and there is no way to determine how far along it is on a leaf by leaf basis.

Lots of people bring me plants to rehab. If I had your plant to work on, I would reduce both trunks by about half (making sure there were at least 2-3 green leaves on each trunk. I'd rinse ALL the old soil off and prune ALL rotted roots back to healthy tissue, then dust the roots with flowers of sulfur and pot into a soil that ensures you won't have this problem all over again.

Soil choice and a hand too heavy on the watering can is what brought you to this point. Adding even a large measure of perlite to what you're presently using won't get you to the point where you should be when it comes to soils. Your soil is appropriate if you can water it to beyond the point of saturation, so you're flushing accumulating salts out of the soil when you water, without having to worry about what you just discovered - root rot and a prolonged period of depressed root function that forces you into revival mode if you want to save the plant.

If you can't water to beyond saturation w/o worrying, there is no question your plant is dealing with significant limitations stemming from soil choice.

Understanding how water behaves in soils and its effects on root health, and by extension the health of the entire organism, is probably the largest step forward a container gardener can take at any one time. If you're interested in more guidance, let me know and I'll help you through it.


    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 6:15PM
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If this was my plant, I would wash the old soil off those roots, cut off the dead/rotten roots and repot the plant in nice, new quality potting mix.
I wouldn't give any fertiliser until the tree starts growing again.
I also would be careful to keep the soil moist, but not wet.
I would keep the plant out of direct sun, but in a bright place.

If the plant started wilting, I would mist it a few times a day with plain water or put it somewhere humid, like a brightly lit bathroom, and I would cut off some of the leaves.

Best of luck to you and your Schefflera!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 6:56PM
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Thank everyone for the help

Based on everyone recommendation this is what I will do

Remove it from the old soil, remove all the soil on the root by cleaning it in a water bucket.

Look for rotten root, cut them

Put sulfur on the roots.

Buy high quality tropical soil design for potting.

Keep the soil moist.

Give fertilizer when other leaves start growing.

Give it love.

Is that it ?

Thank again

By the way, the name of the plant is Belzile.

It's the first plant I got. I really love her (I'm a french Canadian, so it's a she).

Now I have over 30 different plants in the house, but this one is really unique.

This post was edited by Oliveral on Wed, Jun 18, 14 at 9:27

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 9:19AM
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