Why is my Schefflera dying? Causes and Solutions

Last Updated: May 27, 2022

Known for their unique umbrella-like leaves, Schefflera are becoming more and more popular in the houseplant world. They tend to be easy to take care of and don’t require much space in your home compared to some other houseplants. However, you might find that your Schefflera is starting to show worrying signs such as loss of leaves, brown or yellowing leaves, lack of growth of drooping leaves. There are a few reasons why your Schefflera may be dying, the most common of which are; overwatering, underwatering, transplant shock, a sudden change in environment or pest infestation.

Overwatering can cause your Schefflera to die

Schefflera are pretty hardy plants and won’t die suddenly if you overwater them once in a while. However, consistent overwatering will mean they start to lose their leaves and their roots will start to rot. Schefflera need to be watered no more than twice a week in the hottest months of the year, and less frequently in autumn and winter.

Consistent overwatering will lead to root rot which is very harmful to your Schefflera and might be why it’s dying. It will cause the plant to become unstable, the individual leaves will droop and eventually fall off completely as your Schefflera will not be able to get nutrients from the soil to maintain healthy leaves or new growth.

If you think that you may have overwatered your Schefflera it is best to replace the soil straight away rather than just sit and wait for it to dry up over time. Be careful when removing the soil from the roots as you don’t want to cause any further damage.

Make sure to check the moisture in the soil before you water your Schefflera. There are two really easy ways to make sure that it definitely needs water. First check the moisture at the top of the soil, if it is still damp then wait a few days before watering again. You can also lift up your Schefflera to check the weight of the plant before and after watering. You will then start to be able to gauge how heavy the soil is when it is in need of water. Handle your Schefflera gently when picking it up to prevent any leaves from breaking away from the main stem.

Drainage issues might be why your Schefflera is dying

Sometimes it may not be your watering schedule that is causing your Schefflera to lose its leaves, but the poor draining of the soil and pot. You can very easily increase the amount of drainage in your Schefflera by mixing in a small amount of perlite, this will make it far easier for water to flow through and out of the drainage holes of your pots (you should also check to make sure your pots have drainage holes). Another easy step is to add a few small stones or pebbles to bottom of your pots, this helps in making sure that the drainage holes are never blocked by soil or any loose debris.

Although clay or terracotta pots can be a little bit more expensive or breakable, their upsides are much more than just the aesthetic. The clay they’re made of is permeable which means that some of the water in your soil can evaporate through the sides of the pot. This isn’t the case for the plastic pots that most use, which instead hold in all of that moisture. So sometimes it is worth investing a little more to make sure that the roots of your Schefflera are not sitting in too much moisture.

A dying Schefflera can indicate underwatering

Like overwatering, too little water can also be harmful to your Schefflera. Although it won’t die on you suddenly if you forget to water it every once in a while, or make it go a little longer without water whilst you are on holiday, consistent underwatering will start to have an impact on your Schefflera’s health. If you notice that you Schefflera is losing some of its lower leaves, it may be due to underwatering, as it prioritises new healthy growth over its older leaves.

Stick a finger in the top few centimetres of the soil to check the moisture. You can also try lifting your Schefflera as we mentioned earlier to see it if feels particularly light. If you find that your Schefflera feels very dry, water it a little every other day for a week. Your first instinct might be to give it loads of water straight away but this can actually be harmful to your Schefflera if the soil goes from one extreme to the other. Instead, you want to reintroduce frequent watering for a week or two and this should solve the problem.

Not enough light might be causing your Schefflera to die

Schefflera plants like bright, indirect light and if they spend too long in a shady spot, they may start to drop some of their lower leaves. Make sure you place them somewhere they receive several hours of bright light. They shouldn’t be directly next to a window, as direct light will cause other issues for your Schefflera, so it is about finding the right balance.

You might also need to think about moving your Schefflera around depending on the seasons. In the winter months, when the sun isn’t as strong (and out for less of the day) it might be necessary to move your plant a little closer to the window to make use of the limited sunlight as best as possible.

It may also be transplant shock

Just like humans, Schefflera plants can get a little stressed out when they move home. In their case moving home is moving to a new, bigger pot. Signs such as drooping or falling leaves after repotting are totally normal. It may take a few days for the signs to appear but in the right environment, with the right care, it should only take a few weeks for your Schefflera to get used to the new pot and get back to normal. Keep an eye on your Schefflera after repotting to make sure that the signs do not continue for too long.

A change in environment could be why your Schefflera is dying

Your Schefflera may also show signs of stress if it has been moved to a new spot in your home. A sudden change in light conditions or temperature causes your Schefflera to go into shock. If your plant is still receiving enough light, and the temperature change is not too extreme, then it should settle into its new home nicely after a few weeks. If you have moved home, the bumps it may have encountered in the process might have also caused a few leaves to drop but it shouldn’t be anything to worry about long term.

A dying Schefflera can also indicate pests

A slightly less common reason why your Schefflera may be dying is a pest infestation. It can happen that pests such as mealybugs, spider mites and scale insects take hold of your Schefflera.

If you find pests on your Schefflera we recommend giving the whole plant a shower. Keep the shower pressure quite low so as to avoid any damage to the delicate stems. Alternatively, wash down each leaf with soapy warm water and replace all of the soil to get rid of the pests. You should also treat your rubber plant with an organic insecticide to fight the infestation.

Make sure to check over your other plants in the room to see if any other plants have pests. Keep your Schefflera (and other infected plants) a good distance away from any of your other houseplants as you don’t want the pests to spread.

Reviving your dying Schefflera shouldn’t be too difficult if you have caught the warning signs early. Make sure to take immediate action once you have diagnosed the problem. If you are struggling to figure out what is causing your Schefflera to die, swapping out the soil and regulating your watering schedule is a good place to start. In the meantime, you might also choose to propagate parts of your Schefflera to grow new plants from the healthy sections of your plant.

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