Why does my Schefflera have curling leaves?

Last Updated: November 30, 2022

If you notice that your Schefflera’s leaves have begun curling then this is signaling that something isn’t quite right. Luckily, we imagine you’ll be very pleased to know that this is often one of the first signs of unhappiness. This means that if there are no other visible symptoms on your plant, you’ve likely caught the issue early or the issue isn’t so serious that it could kill your plant. 

In this article, we will go over the most common causes of curling leaves on a Schefflera so that you can get straight to diagnosing and treating the problem. We will also share our tips on what to change in order to prevent the problem from rearing its ugly head again in future.

Underwatering is a common cause of curling leaves

Our first port of call when diagnosing curling leaves on most plants actually is underwatering. The reason for this is that it’s one of the mechanisms that plants use to reduce moisture lost through their leaves.

Schefflera plants won’t all of a sudden start dying if you forget to water them on the odd occasion but over time, consistent underwatering will start to have noticeable repercussions.

Underwatering can take several forms as it can mean you’ve just forgotten to water your Schefflera entirely over the past few weeks or months or it can mean that you are just giving your plant too little water and over time this has built up to cause a problem. 

If your plant just has curling leaves then it could be that you have found the issue pretty early but other signs of underwatering can include brown dry leaves, drooping stems or small/stagnant growth. 

Before you go and drown your Schefflera with water to hopefully fix the issue, you need to be sure that this is the cause. To confirm the diagnosis, take your Schefflera out of its pot to check how much moisture (if any) is in the potting mix. You also want to check over the roots now you’ve taken your plant out of its pot to see if they are crispy and shrivelled. 

Once you have determined that your Schefflera is suffering from a lack of water, slowly reintroduce water to your plant rather than drowning it. Any dramatic and sudden changes in their environment can cause them to go into shock so water your Schefflera a little bit once a day for about a week.

Hotspots and heat stress could be to blame

If your Schefflera is growing close to the window during summer or is near to any radiators, heaters or heating vents then it might be heat stress that is causing the leaves to curl. Plants use curling leaves as one of their mechanisms to fight against moisture loss which is what happens when the intense heat begins to dry out the leaves. 

Whilst the initial symptom is often curling leaves, you might also spot them turning crispy and brown if the issue progresses. 

Diagnosing this problem can be pretty simple and we recommend using a thermometer to establish whether temperature fluctuations are to blame. They’ll also help you spot any changes in temperature before they start impacting your plants and you can use them to detect cold drafts too so are a great investment for any plant parent.

Too much direct sunlight could be the problem

Intense, direct sunlight can also cause curling leaves on a Schefflera. If this is the case then they tend to start curling inwards. 

Though a lack of light can also cause several issues for them, they don’t do well in harsh direct sunlight at all as it can dry out the leaves and cause scorched patches. 

If you think that direct sunlight is the cause of the curling leaves on your Schefflera, move your plant to a slightly shadier spot in your home. If you are unsure how much light your plant is getting throughout the day/year, it can be useful to use a light meter to keep track of how the light level fluctuates throughout the day and across the seasons.

If the problem has progressed beyond curling leaves and has started to cause burnt patches across your plant then we recommend removing any severely affected leaves. You can keep leaves on which just have a small yellow patch but you don’t want your plant wasting energy on dying or dead leaves.

Curling leaves can also be caused by low light

As well as harsh light, really low light levels can also have a similar impact on your Schefflera and cause curling leaves. However, the way in which they curl often differs with low light and you might see them starting to curl downwards and look quite limp.

Alongside this, you may also notice slow, small, stagnant or leggy growth as these are all symptoms caused by a lack of sunlight as well. 

Whilst this is more common in winter, it can also happen in summer if your plant is growing in the corner of a dark room so monitor your plant’s environment to diagnose the issue. 

The easiest way to solve the issue is to of course move your plant to a sunnier spot in your home but if this isn’t possible then you’ll need to invest in a grow light. These are great at pulling your plants through the dark winter months and can also be useful if you are thinking about propagating any of your plants too! 

Those are the most common reasons why Schefflera plants can begin to develop curling leaves. It can be a little bit of a tricky issue to diagnose because there are quite a few subtle problems that can all have a similar impact on your plant.

This is why we recommend going through each one whilst inspecting your plant and its environment to best figure out what is causing the curling leaves. Then as soon as you’ve made the diagnosis, it’s crucial to start treating the issue to prevent it from causing more long-term, irreversible damage. 

To learn more about how to keep your plant thriving, check out our Schefflera care guide.

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