Hawaiian Shef, brown leaf spots

Polly381(5/6)October 17, 2012

I just noticed my Hawaiian Schefflera has big brown spots on some of the leaves. Does anyone have suggestions?

Thanks

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I've often found that symptoms of over-watering and poor root health manifest themselves in areas of lighter variegation, which is probably the cause here - especially if you can eliminate anything you might have sprayed on your plant as the possible cause.

Al

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 3:46PM
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Polly381(5/6)

I did give it a soap spray when I brought it in. hmmm maybe i didnt rinse well enough. Do you have any suggestions. Also I noticed roots comming out of the bottom. It was transplanted into a larger pot, new soil in the spring. But the summer was very wet. I put 2 wicks in, hopefully that will help with the moisture. OR should I replace the soil with a better mix.
Thanks

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 4:14PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Scheffs are tough and forgiving plants, so, unless you determine you have rot issues in the root system, I think you could easily get through the winter w/o repotting or replacing the soil.

I actually think it's better to water in sips and flush the soil a few times over the winter, or take some steps that allow you to water properly, than it would be to repot now. For me, I would make the tipping point whether the plant has root rot or not. Repot and take care of the rot issues if 'yes' - take the necessary steps to minimize water retention and get it through the winter if 'no'.

How strong was the soap spray & what kind of soap - you did rinse it though - yes?

Al

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 4:25PM
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Polly381(5/6)

I used ivory, probably didnt rinse well enough.
I guess I will pull it from the pot tomorrow and see if it has root rot
thanks

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 4:40PM
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tropicbreezent

Schefflera in nature often grow as epiphytes or lithophytes, they're a lot like Ficus (although not as big). But they like a lot of air around their roots and the roots like to spread out and explore. They can also take a fair bit of drying out.

Soap is alkaline which doesn't go so well with plants from a rainforest environment where everything tends to be more acidic. I'd say that could be the cause of the damage to the leaves.

A large Schefflera growing in an even larger tree.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 6:27PM
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Polly381(5/6)

Thanks Tropic, so do you think I should give it a good rinse?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 7:30PM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

I would never use soap on plants! Whats all that about?

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 5:19AM
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tropicbreezent

I'd definitely rinse well. Sometimes people use soap/detergent in homemade insecticides. However, it's there in very small quantities and only to make oils/fats disperse better in water. But I can't see any benefit from using just soap itself.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 8:43AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Potassium fatty acid soaps are widely and safely used to control a wide variety of mostly soft bodied insect pests - mealybug, thrips, spider mites, aphids, and whitefly among them, as well as several other pests more difficult to control in their adult phase. The advantage in using these soaps comes in the form of the havoc they wreak on cell membranes, essentially destroying the membrane, which allows the cells' liquid content to leak from the cells, causing death by dehydration. Additionally, certain types of soaps can be beneficial in treating fungal diseases, like powdery mildew, botrytis, fungal leaf spot, and others.

I mentioned the fact that it looked like something phytotoxic might possibly have been sprayed on the leaves more in passing than as what I considered to be the likely suspect, and Polly's having added that she rinsed well after the application adds additional support to the idea the cause originates in the rhizosphere (root zone). I'd concentrate on that thought and consider fixing anything that might be limiting the plant from below the soil line as my primary focus. Still, next time I have the urge to apply a soap, I'd be sure it was one of the soaps specially formulated for use on plants as a topical insecticide.

Al

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 6:16PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

..... and I'd try it on a few leaves before committing to a wholesale app that covers the entire plant. [Woulda been a good time for an 'edit' feature.] ;-)

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 9:04PM
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Polly381(5/6)

HI Al
The use of ivory soap & water is used as a wash for plants, sprayed on to get rid of any insects that might be hanging out before bringing them into the house . Many horticulturist speakers have suggested this at garden club meetings
However I did say, I probably DID NOT rinse well enough, for reasons I don't care to go into.

The soil is very wet from being outside, we had 2 months of straight rain. I removed all the diseased leaves and put it closer to the window to try to dry it out.I also placed a wick in the bottom of the pot. I haven't seen any more of the diseased leaves. But I am going to remove it from the pot and take a look at the roots.But first I want to go to Lowe's. I cant seem to find most of the ingredients you suggest so I thought I want to be prepared to add something to aerate the soil. I was thinking of using orchid mix & perlite.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 9:23PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Sorry - I misread that you rinsed well, but if you rinsed at all, it's less likely a phytotoxic reaction to the soap than an issue with the roots, but it could still be related to the soap.

Some soaps are good choices for use on plants, but generally speaking, dish washing detergents are poor choices - not because they are totally devoid of any impact on insect populations, they ARE somewhat effective at killing bugs, but the same chemicals that dissolve waxes and organic compounds that insects depend on for life, also act on cuticular waxes and can damage foliage in a wide variety of plants. Also, since they are generally less effective than soaps purposed for their insecticidal properties, they need to be used much more frequently, which increases their phytotoxic effect. Your horticulturalists might have been justified in the idea these plants can and do kill certain insect pests, but I would label them remiss in the fact they left you with the notion there wasn't a considerable downside to be taken into account. As horticulturalists, they should have known and recommended some of the safe, easily found, inexpensive products specifically formulated as insecticides for use on plant material - like horticultural oils and soaps.

You're likely on the right track in looking toward the root issue, and even if you're not, there is only gain to be found in ensuring an environment that appeals to roots. It's not always easy to find bark when you're in a pinch. Where do you live? How large is your plant?

Al

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 10:07PM
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Polly381(5/6)

Hi Al
I am in NE PA, the plant is about 3ft tall from top of soil to top of plant.
Its propped up so it can wick so it might look taller.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 8:50AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hey - pretty plant! It must have liked its summer outdoors, and you couldn't have taken off TOO much damaged foliage - it LOOKS too good. ;-)

Was all the foliage you removed typical of the leaf you pictured above - damaged only in the areas with less pigment? (Sunburn? Chlorophyll is natures sunscreen for plants, so tissue with less or no chlorophyll burn much easier than green tissue.) Your plant doesn't show any issues related to root problems NOW, but how much foliage did you really remove?

My experience has been that symptoms of phytotoxicity due to topical sprays usually occur where the vehicle collected & dried, which would concentrate the chemicals it was carrying as the drying progressed. It's doubtful the soapy water collected dead center in the middle of the leaf? It would probably be an easier call if the plant wasn't variegated, because the lighter areas of variegation always seem to be the first affected by several issues, over-watering and phytotoxic reactions among them.

Prolly no need to 'muse' it to death. Your plant looks good NOW. I'd say that if the condition continues, look to the roots (too wet) for the answer. Keep the plant on the dry side & if the problem doesn't recur, it was almost certainly the soap. One thing that might complicate the plan is that scheffs often shed foliage after being brought in. Fortunately (I suppose) if that occurs and the plant hasn't been soggy, symptoms won't be similar so you should still be able to keep everything straight - not that it is now. ;-)

Al

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 1:08PM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Ive had similar when a hot drink has accidentally splashed on a plant. Nice scheff by the way!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 3:16PM
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Polly381(5/6)

Hi Al
it was only a few leaves. I try to be proactive and keep and eye on them. BTW It wasnt dish soap, it was ivory hand soap. Like I said, its VERY WET from to much rain. I decided I am going to get it out of the wet soil because its in a plastic pot and it may not dry out before it rots. Tomorrow will be the day. I will let you know how it turns out. IF they have clay pots to fit on sale, I will buy one. They are so darn expensive for this size.
Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 3:46PM
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Polly381(5/6)

Thanks Larry, Lets hope it stays that way.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 3:47PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

OK - dishsoap .... hand soap .... laundry soap .... none are generally appropriate for use on plant material. Some oil soaps, like Murphy's and Castile soaps, are easier on plants, but I still only use them strictly as emulsifiers to help keep the neem oil I'd be using in solution. If I want to use a soap solution as an insecticide, I'd look to something like Safers, Concern, M-pede, or Olympic Insecticidal Soap.

Taking it out of the pot and setting the root/soil mass on a paper bag/newspapers/old towel will remove virtually all perched water from the soil almost immediately.

Keep us posted. Good luck!

Al

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 5:37PM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Theres that perched water again! I keep thinking of a budgerigar!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 6:46PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Try dancing girls.

Al

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 10:42PM
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