A few more qustions on how to prune a scheffler (umbrella plant).
Thank you so much for your previous posts, help and suggestions.
I have just a couple more questions:
I am so afraid that I may kill the plant if not pruned correctly. When I lop off the top, should I cut it right above a leave/branch spout or the "segment" line above the branch? What happens to the exposed cut? Should I put the pruned off top in potting soil or suspend in water to get it to start roots?
Many thanks again,
Close your eyes and cut! The cut end will heal over by itself. The cut piece can be rooted in water or in damp potting mix. If it's long enough you could even cut the cut piece into several others. 3-4" pieces are good.
I have 2 umbrella plants. One has totally green leaf, and the other has Green and pale yellow. As I am new to these plants I would appreciate some advice.
Both plants are 5' tall and stand in pots in our conservatory ( which can get up to 36'C with the doors closed in the summer). Now both plants are releasing a very sticky type of sap from the leaves. Is this normal or is there some underlying issue that I need to attend to?
Rainman73: I have two very large Scheff's planted in my yard and have rooted cuttings from them a couple of times over the years. You will need to make sure you are cutting hardwood. I have found if it is soft new growth it doesn't root, it just rots. I have never had luck rooting this particular plant in water but there are a few different kinds of Scheff's so maybe what you have would do okay rooting that way. I always just put it in potting soil to root. Here's a picture of my Monster in the backyard: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/161029/ They seem to be pretty hardy plants! I just recently cut one all the way to the ground that was too close to the house and we were concerned that the root system would crack the foundation. My husband dug it up and planted it out by the fence in the backyard away from the house. It has already sprouted new leaves.
I also have a couple of the Schefflera 'Trinette' (the variegated leaf form) in containers on my deck.
Del: I agree with Tommyr2006, I would check your plants for aphids: http://www.ext.vt.edu/departments/entomology/factsheets/gaph... They produce a sticky sap that gets all over everything. Spraying with an insecticidal soap will control them but you will have to spray more than once to be sure you get any newly hatched eggs.
Rainman73: I have a monster Schefflera in my office (east-facing window). I've trimmed it (okay, hacked it) two to four times, and it's still thriving! I can't tell anymore where I hacked it; cut ends heal quickly and thoroughly. I don't think you can really kill this plant. I stuck my trimmings in a bucket which I stuck on my patio, and they rooted like crazy. I've read elsewhere here that you can stick the trimmings in soil, without waiting for them to root, and they will take off. Good luck!
I have a 9ft Schefflera house plant. It has two main trunks, one is about 9ft with about 5 ft of woody trunk and rest green. The other one is about 8ft with about 4 ft of woody trunk. Question:
-If I cut off the taller one at the 4 ft point, will the remaining heal and then branch off from the cut off point? or it will just heal and stay short.
-can I root the cutted? it would have about 1ft of wood, rest all green and lots of leaves.
Once you terminate a leader (cut the top off of a stem growing vertically) you have permanently eliminated the ability for that stem to elongate. You would need to train another branch to vertical growth if you want the tree to grow taller, and any secondary branch near the top of the tree will willingly take over the duties of leader. If the tree is currently growing with good vitality, you can cut back hard (virtually anywhere you want), though it would have been better if you'd done it in Jun or Jul. I think though, given your zone and that you still have lots of good growing weather ahead of you before winter, you should be fine. The tree will respond in a few weeks by back-budding. You respond to the back-budding by keeping the branches that occur where they are wanted, and rubbing off those in spots less appealing. Whenever you have a plant with 2 trunks, the one with the thicker trunk should be the taller tree (referred to as the mother tree). The subordinate tree with the smaller trunk (the daughter tree) will look best in the composition if it is about 2/3 the height of the dominant tree.
You can root the tip cuttings by sticking them in rinsed perlite, or screened Turface or NAPA floor-dry. Internodal cuttings can either be stuck or 3" chunks can be laid on the soil where they will root if you tent & keep the surrounding humidity high - bright light but no direct sun.
okay I must be doing something wrong...mine is still only about 8" including the pot...are they just slow growers or do I need to repot it in a bigger pot to get it to grow? how often should I water it?
I have had it a almost a year...I bought it as a plant..it gets alot of sun...and I have fertilized it about once a month with some diluted miracle grow...I thought the variegation was pretty...I had to have someone identify it because it didn't have a tag at the nursery...it came in a little pot so i put it in a bigger one...here is a picture
It looks like it's either being over-watered or the level of soluble salts (from fertilizer and irrigation water) in the soil is too high. I can't tell what kind of pot it's in, but it looks like it might be one of those that are self-watering. I would also consider a different pot if that is the case. Moving your plant into a soil that drains well & adopting a fertilizer regimen that is favorable would bring your plant around in short order.
its dry as a bone...soil is 1/2 potting soil and 1/2 coir...the brown leaves which I have since taken off was cause my kids got a little wild with the weed killer and it was windy...have a couple of them that took a small hit...as for the pot no it's not a self waterer..I have to put a tray under it or water goes straight through...as for the water I use rainwater collected in barrels outside because I cannot afford the water bill to feed all the plants. If I have to water them by myself it takes almost 4 hours start to finish
Jeepers - it would have been helpful to note that the plant had been dosed with a herbicide, instead of allowing us to think the necrotic leaves were symptomatic of an ongoing cultural issue, don't you agree?
The potting soil you cut by 50% was almost certainly limed with dolomite to bring the pH up and to supply Ca and Mg. The pH of coir is very high to be used in container media at such a high %, and often coir is very high in soluble salts. Add to that, the normal upward creep in soil pH over the last year and it's not out of the question that a high soil solution pH + a high TDS (total dissolved solids) is causing nutritional deficiencies on multiple fronts. Also, there is probably an inadequate supply of Ca in the soil because you doubled it's volume by adding the coir, it's a year old, there was probably almost no residual fraction to begin with, there is none in the rainwater, and none in the MG fertilizer. Since there is also no Mg in the MG fertilizer, and Mg is about 125X more soluble than the small amount of Ca in the soil, that fraction of Mg that was included in the original potting soil a year ago is probably long gone; so, you're almost certainly seeing deficiencies of both secondary macro-nutrients Ca and Mg. All of the above is why your plant is not growing - it can't. (Search 'Liebig's Law of the Minimum' for an explanation.)
I'll go back to what I said originally - getting your plant into a suitable soil and adopting a suitable fertilizer program will get it straightened around quickly, but that requires a little faith in what I'm telling you. I can help if you want me to. If not, I wish you success in getting your plant straightened out.
I would greatly appreciate your help...I forgot about the herbicide until i went in the other room to mess with a fern that also got dosed...just please bear in mind..I can grow things...but I was never taught what anything at all was called...I don't know anything at all about what you just said...I feel like a kindergardner amongst PHD's. My grandfather simply gave me a passion for growing things and just said play with it til it works or dies and if it works repeat it, if it dies try again...so that's what I've been doing but obviously something is not working with this plant so please help me
OK. Here is what I will do for you. I'll send you a bag of the soil that I make/use - enough for more than one plant. The soil will be radically different than what you're used to growing in, but I promise it will help you move at least 1 giant step forward in your ability to keep your plants happy. That may seem like a rash statement on its face, but I have helped enough people to allow me some degree of confidence, so please withhold judgment until you've given things a try. You mentioned money is tight, so I won't charge you anything at all for the soil. If you want to send postage, that's fine, if not, that's ok too. I'll also include some Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 fertilizer that I want you to use. It has ALL the necessary nutrients in the right proportions, and it will make life easier for you. If you will contact me via D-mail and give me your address, I'll send the soil out on Mon. After you receive it, let me know & I'll give you more direction. ... sound like a plan?
What made me want to do this is your mentioning you have a passion for growing that was instilled in you by your grandfather. It sort of struck a chord with me.
I did not have a good childhood and my mother's selection of men was to say the least questionable...my only good memories are of my grandfather and I in the garden...I was the only grandkid allowed in...I remember all the poppies and him haveing a secret spot in between the house and the shed where he worked all winter so that violets would bloom on my birthday (Feb. 25), it was so warm in that spot that kittens hid in it...I also remember in the summers him waking me up at 1 am to go see the moonflowers...I miss him very much. I want to pass that on to my own children now but it would be helpful if I knew all te other stuff that goes with it not just the "magic" he showed me. So I will follow your instructions without judgement
Glad I found this site and I've never posted a comment on the internet before, hope I do this right. One of my colleagues was maintaining a huge schefflera at work, she unfortunately passed away and the plant was untended for many months. When I saw it, it was bone dry and had tilted sideways to reach light. I had a friend with a big truck bring it home, stood it up and it's about 11' high. Looked fabulous for the first few months and now something is wrong. The leaves are turning brown, curling, dropping off. I see small black specks on the undersides of the leaves, look like iron filings, obviously some sort of pestilence. I've sprayed with GardenSafe, swabbed the leaves with soap and water (standing on a ladder), it just gets worse. Can I cut back the plant to about 5' or so, below the infected areas? The lower leaves seem OK (plus I can reach them without endangering my life if they prove to be infected too). Thanks. Oh, the plant is indoors but I'm in northern California about 90 miles from San Francisco if that's important.
Obviously, the first thing you need to do is identify any pests & treat appropriately. Most common are scale, spider mites, and mealybugs.
Scheffs tolerate very hard pruning as long as they are growing with a reasonable amount of vitality, so use the plants health as a guide to how hard you should prune. If the plant was robust, you could cut it back to a foot high if you wanted to, and in a couple of weeks it would happily push a new flush of growth from the profuse back-budding that follows hard pruning in robust plants.
Trina - Unpot your plants and rinse all the old soil from their roots. I use water under pressure from a Dramm nozzle, but a fine high-pressure, fine spray from the hose will be fine. Try not to break any more roots than necessary, but you needn't take any great pains. Remove any dark/rotted/limp/slimy roots so there is nothing left but viable tissue. Add a wick to the drain hole and repot into the soil I sent you, using a semi-sharp dowel (a 1/4 or 5/16 dowel sharpened in a pencil sharpener works well) or other fine tool that won't damage the roots to settle/poke soil around and into the rootage. Soak the soil thoroughly (the water will seem to run straight through the soil very quickly) & keep the plant in a very bright spot, but out of full sun.
After 10 days (you'll probably need to water a couple of times during that period), use the fertilizer I sent (Foliage-Pro 9-3-6) to make a solution consisting of 1 tbsp of the fertilizer + 1/4 tsp Epsom salts in a gallon of water, and fertigate (water, aka irrigate + fertilize = fertigate) with that solution & move the plant to a sunny window.
The Epsom salts are because there is CaSO4 (gypsum) in the soil as a Ca source instead of dolomitic lime to keep the pH down, and a ratio between Ca:Mg that highly favors Ca needs a little Mg to keep the ratio favorable and prevent an antagonistic deficiency of Mg.
I'm sure your plant will reward you with more robust growth, but don't expect too much immediately. Your plant is preparing itself for a winter rest now & will be reluctant to grow much until the vernal equinox, but at least we can expect it to remain healthy over the long winter.
Use the extra soil for other plants. Try it on a succulent or two, too. I'm certain that once you get used to it, you'll like it enough to want to make it on your own. It's actually less expensive than bagged soils like MG et al.
I'm so impressed. Thank you so much for such a quick response. The plant is very vigorous and I'd love to save the top part if possible. Only the leaves appear infected. Of course you can't diagnose via the internet but I looked up the possibilities you thought of and the infestation isn't scale, mites or mealybugs. We have a nursery in town. Would it make sense to take a few infected leaves to the nursery and see if they recognize the problem? This is an agricultural area and the nurseries deal with the vineyards and orchards. Would a place like that know about houseplants? Thanks again. (I'd put the infected leaves in a ziplock bag! Probably double it.)
Yes. The soil will work very well for the crotons because they like lots of moisture but do tolerate their roots being in a saturated soil very well. Ideally though, you would still use a 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer for them, but one that derives all of its N from urea instead of nitrates. The FP I sent derives only about 40% of it's N from urea, so it will be less acidic than something like MG 24-8-16 soluble granules or 12-4-8 liquid. One of those two fertilizers would be my choice for crotons. Follow the same repotting directions.
Please be sure to let me know how you fare after you have things squared away ... and if you need help locating the ingredients if/when you decide to start making your own soil.
Thanks, Tapla. Again, know you can't diagnose from 1000 miles away. Just wondering if this makes sense: I think the plant has two problems. The infestation may be whiteflies. I looked at a lot of gross pictures and that one fits best (except none of my other plants seem infected). The other is, I may not have done the plant any favors by standing it upright. It has only one main branch and it's very thin. The crown is 11' high, there are no other leaves until about 3' from the base. I'm wondering if it's just having trouble hoisting water way up there. The lower leaves look great. I'm so reluctant to cut it back but that would be the remedy. Then I can treat the top as a cutting as you suggest assuming I can get rid of the infestation. May I send a photo formatted for email?
'Yes' on the photo. You can post here, or D-mail me and I'll send you my addy.
Normally, plants are bursting with their highest level of energy at this time of year - as they get ready for a winter's rest, but it's possible that the energy reserves in your plant may be very low because of the infestation - hard for me to know over the net, but just a cursory glance at your plant would reveal it's state of vitality. I mention this because how much energy is stored in the tissues of the cutting has a direct relationship to the likelihood of the cutting(s) rooting and how fast they root, so probable success at this point is uncertain. Let's look at a picture - but there is no harm in trying. There are some other ways of rooting new scheffs we can talk about, too.
It's not an issue of the plant not being able to move water/nutrients to the canopy because it's too tall. Scheffs are genetically programmed/constructed to efficiently move water much higher than that, though there are fungal diseases that can clog sieve tubes & other water transport mechanisms in plants and compromise water movement.
Treat the white-fly at 1 week intervals with an insecticidal soap solution, being sure to coat all surfaces with the mixture. I have other suggestions that we can discuss off forum related to insects and things fungal if you are interested. You might also check any buds with a magnifying glass for thrips - something I forgot to mention upthread.
that's awesome Al...I appreciate it this so much...someone just sent me 8 different cuttings of crotons...I will probably need them I.D. later...but I will have a lovely collection..I just love the colors...I did just repot the schefflera so we will see I hope it does grow...it was frustrating looking a plant that seems very healthy it just wasn't growing!
Al, I am very interested in what you put in your potting medium. I hate the stuff aimed at home users, like MG. Pro mixes are okay for short term, and mixing my own, I am never sure about fertilization and traces. Some of the best growth I've seen was a mixture of a ProMix, perlite, and a bit of local clay just broken into chunks, not completely ground up, and some this and that (whatever was laying around). I have been amending MG or speedling mixes to improve drainage lately, but am always open to learning about soil. Also, is this your general purpose or do you use it for specific groups. Thanks for all you are doing here, I am getting smarter just soaking this up :)
I was wondering about the use of composted manure (horse, after a good bake outside) Has anyone tried that?
When I say this, there is no bragging or ego trip stuff in it, but I really can make things soo easy that you almost don't even need to know anything about plant husbandry. The reason I can say that and still have my feet firmly on the ground is because hundreds of other people that have gained a better understanding of soils and tried the highly aerated and structurally stable soils I grow in say the same thing. It took me a long time before I would say that, even though all those others were freely saying it. It just felt like I was blowing my own horn. If you're having trouble now, and are willing to go to the effort of finding the proper ingredients to make the soil in the pic upthread and follow some simple nutritional guidelines, I'm sure you'll be well pleased.
I'll be back soon. I'm going to go see if I have a thread on this or the houseplant forum where we can be more on topic. If I do, I'll probably leave a link.
I have had my Schefflera for about a month and a half now and the leaves keep turning black and dropping off. I thought it was because of it being in a new home and it would recover but now I don't know if I watered it to much, not enough light or both. Any help?
Tapla, please help, not sure if this will get to you or how to contact you by I googled this question and found your blog with some others on here. I have a Schefflera plant, it was given to me by two really good friends in honor of my Mom. I was told by someone I had to throw it in the dumpster after they saw it. I can not bear to do that. They said it would infect all the plants in my house. 1st is that true? I have only had it for around 8 months it was doing well in a sunroom where I would come over to my Dad's and water it. It was getting cold out there and my Dad was not heating it for the winter so I took it inside, it started dropping sticky stuff on the carpet and my sister n law took it back out to the sunroom. There for the last 2 weeks it stayed with no heat while we had our coldest temperatures of the year. I found it today all limped over. I also noticed it had white spots that looked like dust or powder all on the leaves and even the limbs. Is there anything I can do? Can I cut it back or spray it? Please help or if anyone sees this. I am new on the computer and am not sure how I will even know if someone responds. Thanks Lisa
This is a hard one. With most tropicals, and to a great extent, how sudden the onset of chill is can be key in determining the extent of chill injury. IOW, a scheff growing happily at 70* that is suddenly to subjected to 40* temperatures (from a move to another room or similar) is likely to suffer greater damage than a plant that is gradually exposed over a week or two to temperatures as low as freezing.
From your email, it also sounds like your plant has an infestation of mealybug or scale. No one can tell you if your plant will make it, but here is what I would do.
Remove all the leaves that have collapsed. If you determine the plant has scale/mealybug, mechanically remove as many as you can, then spritz the plant liberally with a 50/50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and water. Keep the plant where temps are above 65*, and in very bright light - isolated is best, to protect your other plants. Make absolutely sure you do not water until the soil feels dry to the touch at the drain hole.
Wait to see if the plant pushes new growth. If it does, let me know and I'll help you off forum to get rid of the bug infestation. I can also help you with the pruning. At this time, resist advice to cut the plant back, because scheffs carry on a good deal of photosynthesis in the green stem tissue, and you need everything green the plant has (to make food) to assist in its recovery.
Thanks so much AI
Thank you Al for responding. I love each one of my plants and to me they are like my little children that need us to take care of them. I feel like each one has a life of sorts of its own. It saddens me to know end that this particular one was so beautiful when it arrived. I unfortunately watered it while I was still at my Dad's rescuing the plant. It was completely dry though. I unfortunately cut way back for easier transport and thought it would help fight off the disease and have less of a chance to get on the rest of the plants. How far away do I need to keep them apart? Does it travel by air? Does it only affect this type of plant? How does it spread? Does it have to touch the other plants? I did spray it with a can of ortho/orthonex which was for systemic protection from insects, diseases, and mites it said. It also said for use on roses, flowers, and shrubs. It also said not to use on house plants. I read that after I had read some where on line that this is what i needed and since I had a very old can of it I thought I would try. This was all done before I sent the note for help. I was kinda in a panic state and thought it was going to be to late. I checked my email I had registered for this site to see if there was a response and should of checked here I thought it might work like face book and alert you. By the way all of the leaves are drooping so I should cut them all off and leave only the stems (whats left) ? It sounds like now it is really hopeless but maybe. I do have a cutting that looked like it did not have much of the white stuff on it at all. I did not spray it, however it is in a cup of water as I thought maybe I could use it to restart a new plant. It is just part of what was the top. Thanks again it was so nice of you to respond. You sounded like you were the big time expert on here when I read some of the entrys. Sorry I singled you out but I needed the best.
Hi, Lisa - Your confidence in me is flattering, but your appraisal is much too kind. Thank you.
How the insect or disease spreads varies widely with the problem, so it's important to know what you're dealing with. E.g., the life cycles of the various scale species differ somewhat, but a generalized life cycle is as follows. The eggs are laid beneath the wax ovisacs, or beneath the adult female. Eggs generally hatch in 1 to 3 weeks. The newly hatched nymphs, commonly called crawlers) move around the plant until they find a suitable feeding site. Wind, watering equipment, your hands or shirtsleeves may also transport crawlers to new hosts. Nymphs insert their straw-like mouth parts into the plant and begin to feed and grow. Also, the males of many species develop wings as adults and fly to other plants to locate mates.
If you remove the leaves, cut through the petiole near where the leaf is attached. Pulling leaves off can damage latent buds. The old portion of the petiole will drop off on its own.
I probably wouldn't have chosen Orthene as the insecticide of choice (not good to use it on indoor material), but now that it's done, I can say that it is an effective remedy for most pests with sucking/rasping mouth parts, and it works better on woody plants than some of the other systemics commonly used. I hope others don't follow suit. I'm not chiding you - just trying to keep everyone safe. ;o)
Maybe you could better describe the 'white stuff'. It would be nice to know it it's fungal or insect related.
Scheffs are, genetically, very tough plants. Perhaps you'll get lucky and it will come back from some of the more lignified (woody) and cold-resistant tissues, which often happens. If you have other questions, I'll try my best to answer them, as long as Rainman doesn't object. ;o)
Just a quick note on over pruning the Schefflera. It's impossible!
I put ours outside for some fresh air for a couple of days. When I went bring it back in, I discovered every leaf and some of the branch tips were gone. Deer love Schefflera!
I thought it was dead and left it there where it got water from the sprinkler system and in about a month it started sprouting new buds and leaves. It is now seven feet wide, 6 feet tall, and beautiful. Time for a real prune.
Same thing with an orange and grapefruit tree. The Orange tree was right down to the nub, and the grapefruit was stripped bare. In both cases I thought the plants was a goner. Nope
TC - it's a single stemmed planting that has been heavily pruned back each summer for many years. This causes it to break back hard (back-bud) and produce many branches that just keep presenting additional pruning/pinching opportunities.
I have three stemmed plantings in one pot. They are growing fast. I need to transplant them. In my old office, there was no natural light and the plants seemed to reach for the artificial light source. My new offices has two windows, one on the Southside and one on the east side. I've noticed more growth since the move. They have quite a bit of foliage at the top, but long trunks. How do I prune them to start the process of getting them to back-bud? They average 2 1/2 feet in height each.
Move them outside when night temps are reliably above 50-55* and let them gain some strength (energy reserves). Shortly after Father's Day, cut them back to within a few inches from the soil line. They will back-bud profusely. It might be appropriate to repot/root-prune at that time as well. Use the cuttings to start new plants at that time if you wish.
I live in San Diego, CA and have schefflera planted in my yard that has become overgrown. It stands about 15' tall and is at least that wide, and has 13 trunks. I have read in previous posts that now is the time to prune it, and that making the cuts anywhere on the trunk is ok as the cuts heal quickly. However, I'm still concerned about goofing this up. We want the plant to remain "bushy", but not so tall and not so wide. To get an 8' tall by 8' wide plant, where should we cut? While some of the trunks are easy to identify as growing out of other trunks, I cannot pick out the "mother" trunk. Could there be more than one? I have added a photo that shows the trunks.
I'd appreciate any recommendations before this thing becomes any more unruly!
Great pictures,Al,and what lovely plants,I never would have guessed you could get an Umbrella tree to look like those,the ones I see are always just one tall single stem,thats what mine are like,I will have to take some pictures of them.They don't look too bad when they are small,just having the one stem,but as they grow taller,they begin to look a bit ridiculous,is there still time to cut mine back this year,or should I wait?.Thanks.
Yes you're probably right on the lack of light,but because of its height its difficult to situate,once I cut it back I can find a better place,and it does need repotting,but I was scared if I repotted it,it would take off somewhere into the roof space,lol,should I repot,or just change some of the compost?.its in an 8" pot.Thanks.
I would go for broke & cut off the bottom half of the roots, bare-root it, and repot into a good soil - preferably one with lots of conifer bark in it - if you can find it there. The soil is the key to root health & root health is the key to a healthy plant.
Thanks for the link Al,interesting information,I didn't realise you could really prune them as hard as that.
I'm sure I will be able to get hold of the pine bark from a decent garden centre,but it may not be incorporated into the compost,so what percent do you recommend I mix in the compost?.Thanks for your help.
5 parts pine bark fines
1 part sphagnum peat or compost
1 part perlite
1 tbsp dolomitic (garden) lime per gallon (4 L.) of soil
The bark should look like what you see at 3,6, and 9. The added porosity and superior drainage of bark-based soils makes a significant difference in your plants ability to grow at/to its genetic potential, and makes that easier for you to achieve while providing a much wider margin for grower error.
Thanks for your help Al,I will copy all that down,next step,visit to the garden centre,I'm sure my umbrella tree will be much improved. Forgot to comment on the lovely Bonsai in your earlier post.Thanks again.
The info you have posted is invaluable. Thanks so much for your feedback. I have a Schefflera that is doing fantastic. It is now my favorite plant. It has some little white/gray mushrooms that sprout from the soil every couple of days and I prompty pick them off. I am wondering if I should repot it with fresh soil just to be safe.
Is your recipe (5 parts pine bark fines, 1 part sphagnum peat or compost, 1 part perlite, 1 tbsp dolomitic lime per gallon of soil) for potting mix a good starting point for any Schefflera houseplant?
I wouldn't repot because there are 'mushrooms' in the soil, but I would repot if the plant was root-bound or the soil wasn't appropriate - especially if it was water-retentive. Mushrooms are just the fruiting bodies of various fungi. That you see them popping up in your soil means nothing more than conditions are right for them to 'fruit'. The fungi would still be present in the soil, going about their work, even if you saw no evidence of the mushrooms. Plants are in contact with thousands of species of fungi every day. They even form directly beneficial relationships with many of them, and others benefit indirectly by their contribution to the mineral soil food web. Their benefit in containers is not nearly as significant as it is in mineral soils. Only a few present an issue when it comes to plant health/vitality, so fret not! ;o)
You described the 5:1:1 mix, which is a much better choice for houseplants than peat/compost/coir-based soils, but I still use the gritty mix for all my houseplants and other long term plantings. Either works well; the gritty mix just works better, longer.
Glad the mushrooms are unlikely a problem! I will hold off on repotting until next year since the soil seems to drain well. It dries out within a week and I give it a very thorough watering every weekend outside.
I did a search for your gritty mix and will try to locate the materials before next year's repotting (which will likely consist of several plants). Thanks so much!
I decided after a month of close attention on the watering that the soil was holding too much moisture. Even in the summer, with vigorous growth (you can see new leaves every other day), it was still quite wet after 8 days or so. In order to let it get dry, I'd be watering every other week at most.
So I repotted it and did a full on root prune. Sawed half the roots off, removed as much of the old soil as possible and trimmed the remaining roots. Really had to get aggressive on the roots to get rid of the soil! But as suspected, the center was still very wet after a week since watering.
Put it into a Gritty Mix and gave it a thorough watering with about 8 gallons of water. It is fast draining alright as the water just went right through it without having to slow down my watering!
Looking forward to seeing how this Schefflera does. I know this is not the best time to repot, but I thought I'd do it now rather than later considering the inappropriate soil. I'm guessing I will be needing to water every few days now.
The plants I've tried in the gritty mix with no gypsum or Epsom salts are all doing well, so I would try the FP alone. Just in case others are thinking the same applies to their fertilizer ... FP 9-3-6 has both Ca and Mg in a favorable ratio; whereas most soluble fertilizers (MG, Peter's, Schultz, others) contain neither element. Your plants need Ca and Mg to grow normally, so please be sure they are getting these elements - ALL of the essential elements, actually.
Sorry about the mealybug infestation. Neem oil works well when you combine it with ... Here's the recipe:
To 1 pint of hot water, add 1 tsp cold-pressed neem oil (I use Dyna-Gro's product. The cold pressing doesn't diminish the effects of the most important ingredient [azadirachtin], like steam and solvent extraction methods do) and a few drops of Murphy's Oil Soap (or dishsoap). Shake well and add 1 pint of rubbing alcohol. If you don't use the alcohol, add a pint of room temp water in its stead, but the alcohol provides the instant knockdown the oil doesn't. Spritz/spray until leaf surfaces are wet, bottom and top, being sure to also hit leaf axils. Shake very often while using to keep it emulsified. Use all you mix or dump it out - start with fresh next time. Spray at 2 week intervals until the problem is gone.
Is 50/50 rubbing alc/water OK while I wait to order the Neem Oil? The infestation is not too bad. Would a healthy plant be able to fight it off or is mealy bugs something that needs diligent removal methods?
The alcohol/water is pretty effective as a topical, but it only kills those bugs it contacts, which is why the alcohol Q-tip method so often suggested is so ineffective - it only gets the few you can see, while hundreds of crawlers go unchecked to turn into adults and breed another day. Be sure to spray all surfaces - and add a few drops of dishsoap to the spray.
The likelihood of a plant sustaining insect attack, is dramatically affected by the plants state of vitality. It takes energy for a plant to resist insects, and the by-products of an active metabolism. When plants are stressed and weak(ened), insects often take advantage of their compromised defenses.
From an old post:
When insects attack (sounds like it would make a good TV show) ;o) ... plants mount a number of genetically encoded responses to wounding, ALL of which require energy allocation. In plant cells, there are genes that control proteins functioning in actual defense, sending defense signals/ chemical messengers, altering metabolism, controlling cellular maintenance, and regulating photosynthesis - and many more genes of unknown function. In short, plant energy reallocation is prioritized in the plant's own defense, & other things, like every day metabolism and photosynthesis are put on the back burner.
When wounding occurs (insect attack) there is a "wound response" that occurs both at the site of injury as well as distally (in other plant parts away from the wound). Plants can even differentiate between the wounds of a pin and those of insects, and react in different fashion to the "attack". Without getting more technical, the plant produces various anti-feedants, anti-metabolites, and toxins that make the insects feel pretty unwelcome - as long as the plant is in good vitality, which means growing strongly, or has high energy reserves - IOW, as long as the plant is in good health. The speed with which the response occurs, and the effectiveness of the defense response are also both energy driven, so it should be no surprise that plants grown indoors under constant stress are highly susceptible to insect marauders.
If you want to keep the bugs away - it sort of goes w/o saying that your first line of defense should not be to reach for a systemic or other harsh poison, but to keep your plants growing with as much vitality as possible as a preventive measure, which is a cultural - not a chemical thing. When problems do arise, first use an innocuous remedy, like the alcohol/water - or hort oils, neem oil ...
The next day I found a few more mealies, so I did another alcohol/water spray (and added some liquid soap) and did it more thoroughly this time (over and under and in between and everywhere!). This morning, I checked and it seems to be doing OK now and I do see some new growth. I will keep an eye on it but it looks like the plant is still healthy.
Is it normal for a repotted plant to be suddenly so vulnerable to attack?
Also, thanks for confirmation that you are using FP without gypsum/epsom successfully. I am glad that things can be so simple. :) Most of the places I saw that carry gypsum have huge bags.
The good thing that came out of the mealy infestation is that it led me to prune a lot of the leaves that had heavier infestation, and the plant looks better now!
If you noticed an infestation of any kind soon after repotting, it's very probable that whatever little beastie that's causing you fits was firmly entrenched before the repot. The repot can temporarily stall a plant while it recovers from the work, but then you can expect it to take off and grow with much better vitality than if you'd left it to it's root-bound plight. The key is to keep your plants growing with good vitality at all times. Repotting BEFORE the plant is weakened by decline keeps the plants defenses strong and helps keep bugs at bay.
Pruning the leaves isn't the answer to eliminating an infestation. That just removes the evidence you can see. For every little scale bump or puff of mealybug cotton you cansee, there could be dozens of crawlers/larvae you can't see. Keep after 'em with the neem oil & you'll have them under control after a few applications.
Can cut these plants down to the ground and they will come back with many heads...may need to thin them out. Do not like to be over watered...if the soil is damp do not add more water. 90% of indoor plants die from too much watering
Stella is correct, but in many more northerly parts of the US, timing of a hard chop like that is a consideration. Confirming what she said about drought tolerance: I'm almost abusive of these plants in that I sometimes let them set for a week or more after the soil feels dry, with no problems at all.
I did the Neem oil a few days ago. WOW that was stinky. :)
I have not seen any infestation since the last alcohol treatment but as the Neem came in the mail, I thought I'd give it a once over. Hopefully the mealies are gone but i will do another treatment in a week and a half just for safe measure.
Still no new growth since the repot about 2 weeks ago. However, despite the mealies, the leaves seem to be in good shape. The plant looks beautiful. Once it starts to have some new growth I will start the fertilization again. Thanks again for all the advice!
Lol - remember that tree time is different from people time. Root growth precedes top growth, so your tree is just getting its feet under it. When the root system is 'confident' it can support new top growth, it will send chemical messengers that will stimulate the canopy. It won't push top growth it can't support, so just be patient. ;o)
Hello, I have adopted one of these from my old office. It had been surviving on tea, coffee and milk, so it stank of rotten milk, and it was also extremely root bound.
Since January when I kidnapped it, it has increased drastically in size, been repotted 2 times with the roots being blasted with a hose on its highest setting to get rid of as much of the old soil (and rotten milk) as possible.
It is now about 3ft wide by 5ft tall, and I have started to prune it to get into a better shape. My main concern are the roots. Its gone from an 8 inch pot, to 10 and now 15inches. The roots are now growing out this pot pretty quicky, and also to the surface (I understand this is because they can't get what they need?)
I've been seeing mention of root pruning, but nowhere seems to give an indication of just how much can be taken off the roots of one of these plants? I'm really worried about killing the thing.
I'm moving it to my office this week as it has outgrown my tiny kitchen, so I'm going to give it awhile to settle in.
When is the best time of year to tackle the roots, how ruthless can I be and how do I go about cutting it?
This is the first plant I have ever had that required more than watering every other month, so I'm completely out of my depth and would greatly appreciate any assistance!
You don't list your zone or where you live in your user info, which has an impact on when the best time to undertake radical work on indoor trees would be, but generally it's in the month before they would exhibit the most robust period of growth in their growth cycle./ For most, that would be early Jun to late Jul - maybe a week or two into Aug if you're far enough south, (or north, if you're south of the equator). ;o)
Schefflera tolerates heaps of indignity the size of mountains, but poor timing can leave the tree weakened for extended periods, which makes it more vulnerable to insects & disease, so if the roots are really tight, I would pot up again until you can do a full repot next year.
Here is what a (full) repot of a scheff looks like. There will be several pictures and some text to accompany them, so I'll note when the last pic is posted.
There's a story that goes with these pictures.
Once upon a time, a guy from church gave me a plant that he didn't know what to do with. It wasn't too healthy, and had grown way out of reasonable bounds. My intent was to rehab the plant & give it to someone else at church. It looked like this when I got it:
Somewhere, I have a pic of the plant as it was starting to back-bud, but I can't find it. What happened was pretty cool, though. I had been helping people with their trees on another site, and a guy that had been looking for help contacted me by email. He said that his fiance had entrusted him with her scheff while she was out of the country, and he had killed it. What he was actually hoping is that I could somehow help him resurrect it, but that wouldn't fly. What I suggested was that he check with her to see if the one I had would be an appropriate replacement, and if it was, I'd send it to him. After all, the pictures had been published on the other forum and the tree had some degree of notoriety. ;o)
Well anyway, I ended up shipping it off to New York or Boston, some place in the EAST, and a few weeks later I got a picture back of the plant just getting settled in its new home.
Not enough info to identify the insects, but in many cases being careful to water only as needed is very helpful. Scheffs tolerate extremely dry soils very well, so wait until a chopstick or wood dowel inserted deep into the soil comes out completely dry before watering. If you do, I bet the pests vanish.
I noticed that even after 2 or 3 days, my Schefflera in the gritty mix still feels a bit damp an inch below the soil. I thought the Gritty Mix may need daily or every other day watering, but is it normal for a plant like a Schefflera to only need a watering every 3-4 days or so even in a soil like the Gritty Mix?
It sort of depends on how vigorously the plant is growing, the size of the plant in relation to soil volume, and weather. People often feel though, that because water flows through the gritty mix almost as fast as you can pour it, it holds little water, but both the bark AND the Turface hold water internally. The result is good water retention w/o the soggy layer of soil at the bottom of the container that kills roots. Even my bonsai scheffs that have tiny volumes of soil compared to what you're growing in, get watered only every 3-5 days, except in mid summer when they are growing/transpiring like crazzy; then they get watered as needed.
If you can feel/detect moisture in the soil, the plant doesn't need water. The only exception I can think of to that guideline is a freshly repotted plant that has had a hard root pruning and was potted into a deep container. You have to water enough initially to be sure the soil roots are occupying is moist. If you have a shallow root system, occupying the top 1/3 of the soil, you should test for moisture there - not at the pot bottom; though in most cases there would be enough diffusion of moisture via vapor to supply the plant. Still, there is no sense in taking chances.
BTW - when a soil first feels dry to your touch, soil particles will still be at about 40-45% water retention. Most plants can still access water down to 30% water retention or less, so you have about a 10-15% cush, during which the plant can still extract moisture, even after the soil feels dry to you.
that is wonderful information and glad to know my watering frequency does not seem abnormal. It is growing slowly (there IS new growth since the repot! Just starting now.)
The Neem Oil has given the leaves a beautiful shine and kept the mealies at bay. I still saw a mealy the other day but I am giving the Neem a chance to do its thing which I understand can take some time.
I do test the top portion of the soil since the roots are newly pruned and only occupy 1/3 of the pot. I will wait until it feels dry before I water. Thanks again for the advice!
My schefflera is going gangbusters now. :)
Everyday the new shoots get bigger. Even with the reduced sunshine, it is going nuts just as it did back in July. I think it likes the gritty mix and the dyna-gro FP regimen!
I am doing 1/4 tsp per gallon of FP every week. Is this a good regimen throughout the year or should I be adjusting more or less depending on season?
I was surprised to read this from your post earlier in the thread:
"After 10 days (you'll probably need to water a couple of times during that period), use the fertilizer I sent (Foliage-Pro 9-3-6) to make a solution consisting of 1 tbsp of the fertilizer + 1/4 tsp Epsom salts in a gallon of water, and fertigate (water,
aka irrigate + fertilize = fertigate) with that solution & move the plant to a sunny window. "
Is that 1 TABLEspoon of the fertizer per gallon? The Dyna Gro bottle suggests 1 TEAspoons during growing season and 1/4 tsp maintenance.
Just curious if it is teaspoon or tablespoon.
So far, I am doing about 1/4 TEAspoons once a week for my Mass Cane, Fiddeleaf Fig, Hoyas, and Schefflera. Am I underfeeding?
So sorry - should have been tsp instead of tbsp. It probably wouldn't have hurt anything, though, with a fast soil. I use a 2-1/2 gallon mixing can to make my fertilizer solution. When plants are going well, I hold a tbsp over the can, fill it and overflow it by about a teaspoon and fertilize weekly. If your plants are in low light or are in a part of the growth cycle where they're pretty lethargic, using less is better. Good catch - thanks. ;o)
Any idea on what the brownish color is on my Schefflera's newer shoots? It is on the underside of the leaves but due to the transparent nature of new shoots, it is visible from the top. The plant seems very healthy and continues to grow shoots. I am still fighting mealies but doing the Neem treatment every week.
I have a plant I rescued from work. I live in Wyoming, MI so any info you can give me would be right in your neighborhood. The plant resembles the photo from Septmeber 14. I would like to make this plant a tree as opposed to a bush. I have cats and would like the plant to be fuller on top. Is this possible and where do I start. Do I have a chance if I start now (October) or will it be better to wait til spring?
Oneleaf - It doesn't look fungal or insect-related. My guess, especially because it's so common in scheffs, is oedema, which is caused by a physiological upset in the water balance in a plant. It occurs most often when the soil is wet/warm and the air cool/moist. You'll see these conditions most often during extended periods of cool, cloudy weather in fall and early spring. Falling air temperatures after a series of warm, muggy days provides ideal conditions for the problem. What happens is, the plant takes up water faster than it is lost through the leaves (transpiration). Water pressure literally builds up in foliage cells. At first, they swell and protrude from the leaf surface, eventually bursting. These swellings later turn tannish/brown and get sort of corky. If it affects enough of the leaf surface, so the leaf is actually using more energy than it can produce, the leaves will turn yellow and eventually abscise (be shed).
Remedial: A lighter hand on the watering can. Scheffs tolerate dry soil conditions very well, so wait until the soil feels completely dry before a thorough waterings. It won/t fix the currently blemished leaves, but should serve to keep it from continuing/happening again.
your assessment seems to match exactly the conditions. was warm and muggy for an extended period of time and then the temperature dropped considerably.
these blemished leaves did still grow and in fact, after some growth, the leaves don't look nearly as bad (since the leaves are larger relative to the brown spots).
I did notice with the falling temp that i am watering less but perhaps i can do it even less. The DE from Napa Auto seems to hold water for a long time. It seems i can get away with 1 watering per week with this Scheff.
Hi can you help, i got this umbrella plant from my nana's house after she died, She used to fix plants and she really liked these, I'd like to sort the main plant out and also take some cuttings if possible (more chances of something growing) can you help me by telling me what to do and how. (failing is not an option)
If you can put yourself on tree time & be patient, we can develop a long-term plan that will get your plant healthy again, AND allow you to make some new starts. How about showing me a picture of the pot so I can get an idea of its size, and a close-up of the soil surface?
Do you have access to fine pine bark there (dust to 10mm), or fine pumice/calcined DE/calcined clay that's around 3-4mm? I'm trying to see what sort of larger particulates you have that you can use to make a soil that is well-aerated & drains freely, which will make your efforts MUCH more productive.
I'm new. I've had success with plants in the past but typically not by any great knowledge of plants, just luck I think.
I'm attaching a photo and probably a second in the next post so you can see the plant.
I just picked up this plant from a craigslist listing with about 11 others.
This was apparently cut back but (in my opinion) poorly and I need to figure out how to make this fill out. I think from what I've read on this thread (awesome thread I might add) I should just cut the whole thing done and cut the roots...kind of like what you did in your multi photo example.
I have a couple of questions though:
How do I handle the portion of the plant that has rooted itself into the soil? (You can see it on the left hand side of the photos)You have a soil mix detailed above but I don't think it's the "gritty" mix. What is the gritty mix?
You state several times that there is an appropriate time for pruning but I'm not sure where to find the time periods for this. What is the best time for cutting back this plant in Maine (indoor plant)?
Can I propagate this plant? It looks like you just got rid of your cuttings? If propagation is an option, how?
Assuming that you can provide the gritty mix, how would this work with other plant types? What wouldn't it work for?
I really believe that most of these plants need repotting but they are all different types; spider, wandering jew, draecena, cactus, rubber tree (needing a lot of help), etc.
And I'm not sure how to find the best overall advice. Should I just replant them all in the mix and then work them one by one on this forum to figure out if I've done the right thing?
I was reading this thread when I decided to register and post my question. Al, if you could read my post and send a reply, I would greatly appreciate it! You seem to know what your talking about!! Thanks so much!
I got my umbrella plant three years ago. I know almost nothing about them, but I just water it and keep it in the sunlight. One of the trunks died off, but the other one is fine. I would like to know now to make the plant more full. The trunk is getting heavy and leaning a lot.----------------------
Maggie - If you're still around ...
Your plant looks like it does because it was grown for a LONG time under extremely low light conditions, producing stems that were too weak to support their own weight. The stems collapsed and the higher humidity near the soil stimulated the adventitious roots (aerial roots) you see that have rooted in the soil. If you want to, you can leave the aerial roots in the soil & sever the stem just above the first major bend. Stick the severed end into the soil and you'll have a second plant. You can then prune the other stems/branches to correct the weak stems/branches if you like, or simply prune the main stem about 4" above the soil line & be done with it.
You can probably propagate this plant easily by taking 2-3" cuttings of the parts you remove. They don't need leaves on them. Just lay the stem 'chunks flat on top of moist soil and press them into the soil just so they are half covered (like a log half submerged in water). You can make a pretty foolproof propagation chamber from a plastic milk jug. Let me know if you need more help here.
The key to returning your plant to good vitality lies in your ability to provide very bright light and a suitable soil/nutritional program. July is the best month for any serious work, like major top reductions and/or root pruning/repotting.
The 'gritty mix' is a soil I developed that is 2/3 inorganic. It drains very fast & doesn't hold perched water when made correctly. This is a huge benefit to the grower, making it much easier to grow healthy plants with unspoiled foliage, and providing the grower with a much wider margin for error.
The best o/a advice is often hard to find. It doesn't come from most books on 'how to grow houseplants', or someone who read a book on houseplants, or someone who's been growing for a long time & is still doing things the same way he/she did 20 years ago. It will come from someone who understands plant physiology as well as the sciences associated with plant husbandry, and also those who can think on their feet - by that, I mean not necessarily repeating bits & pieces of plant 'lore' gleaned from various sources that may or may not be reliable. In my experience, when we take plant knowledge as a whole - I'm guessing that 90% of it applies to virtually all plants, and 10% of it is species specific. This means (to me) that someone who is truly expert at growing one particular type of plant will understand how all plants work, and probably has 90% of the knowledge needed to help you over the rough spots.
Hello all! I'm desperately seeking advice for my 15 year old schefflera...it's like a member of the family. I returned from a short vacation to find about 25 leaves with white patches, and brown/black spots. No leaves have dropped yet, and the spots are not mealies or powdery mildew. There were yellow mushrooms in the pot for about a month that I simply plucked out of the pot. Could this fungus have gone systemic? How do I cure the plant?
Thanks for any and all advice!
If it was my plant: I would move it outdoors and spray all leaf & stem surfaces with Bayer 3-in-1 Insect/Disease/Mite Control. After the spray dries, you can move it back inside & retreat again in 2 weeks. This should take care of pretty much anything that might be wrong on the disease/insect front.
Then, I would assess how well I am (you are) at providing cultural conditions that are are least limiting. Particularly, I would assess the soil quality and condition, along with root issues and root congestion. In your area, you can still tackle this operation (a complete repot) and expect the plant to regain enough energy to sail through the winter. A complete repot means bare-rooting and removing a LOT of the useless roots to rejuvenate the plant (literally) and make room for the small feeder roots that are the real workhorses. Potting up will not accomplish this - will only allow the plant to grow a little closer to normally for a short while - something most growers believe to be a "growth spurt" but is in effect simply proof that previous cultural conditions were severely limiting the plants ability to grow normally.
You can see how I treated the scheff above, and I do this regularly to several dozen tropical trees yearly. To me, it's just business as usual, but I understand it's scary stuff if you've never done it before. If you can gather the determination, I'll help you through it. You'll be quite surprised at how your tree responds.
FWIW - I'm putting myself out on a limb here by assuming your tree is badly in need of a repot and the accompanying root work. I'm making that assumption because 99% of the plants I help with ARE in that condition. This is a long thread, and I'm not going to read through it to see if I've posted the following, but here is an illustration that uses a graduated scale to draw delineation between the practice of potting up vs repotting:
I have spent literally thousands of hours digging around in root-balls of trees (let's allow that trees means any woody plant material with tree-like roots) - tropical/subtropical trees, temperate trees collected from the wild and temperate nursery stock. The wild collected trees are a challenge, usually for their lack of roots close to the trunk, and have stories of their own. The nursery stock is probably the closest examples to what most of your trees are like below the soil line, so I'll offer my thoughts for you to consider or discard as you find fitting.
I've purchased many trees from nurseries that have been containerized for long periods. Our bonsai club, just this summer, invited a visiting artist to conduct a workshop on mugo pines. The nursery (a huge operation) where we have our meetings happened to have purchased several thousand of the mugos somewhere around 10 - 12 years ago and they had been potted-up into continually larger containers ever since. Why relate these uninteresting snippets? In the cases of material that has been progressively potted-up only, large perennial roots occupied nearly the entire volume of the container, plant vitality was in severe decline, and soil in the original root-ball had become so hard that in some cases a chisel was required to remove it.
In plants that are potted-up, rootage becomes entangled. As root diameters increase, portions of roots constrict flow of water and nutrients through other roots, much the same as in the case of girdling or encircling roots on trees grown in-ground. The ratio of fine, feeder roots to more lignified and perennial roots becomes skewed to favor the larger, and practically speaking, useless roots.
Initial symptoms of poor root conditions are progressive diminishing of branch extension and reduced vitality. As rootage becomes continually compressed and restricted, branch extension stops and individual branches might die as water/nutrient translocation is further compromised. Foliage quality may not (important to understand) indicate the tree is struggling until the condition is severe, but if you observe your trees carefully, you will find them increasingly unable to cope with stressful conditions - too much/little water, heat, sun, etc. Trees that are operating under conditions of stress that has progressed to strain, will usually be diagnosed in the end as suffering from attack by insects or other bio-agents while the underlying cause goes unnoticed.
I want to mention that I draw distinct delineation between simply potting up and repotting. Potting up temporarily offers room for fine rootage to grow and do the necessary work of water/nutrient uptake, but these new roots soon lignify, while rootage in the old root mass continues to grow and become increasingly restrictive. The larger and larger containers required for potting-up & the difficulty in handling them also makes us increasingly reluctant to undertake even potting-up, let alone undertake the task of repotting/root-pruning which grows increasingly difficult with each up-potting.
So we are clear on terminology, potting up simply involves moving the plant with its root mass and soil intact, or nearly so, to a larger container and filling in around the root/soil mass with additional soil. Repotting, on the other hand, includes the removal of all or part of the soil and the pruning of roots, with an eye to removing the largest roots, as well as those that would be considered defective. Examples are roots that are dead, those growing back toward the center of the root mass, encircling, girdling or j-hooked roots, and otherwise damaged roots.
I often explain the effects of repotting vs potting up like this:
Let's rate growth/vitality potential on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best. We're going to say that trees in containers can only achieve a growth/vitality rating of 9, due to the somewhat limiting effects of container culture. Lets also imagine that for every year a tree goes w/o repotting or potting up, its measure of growth/vitality slips by 1 number, That is to say you pot a tree and the first year it grows at a level of 9, the next year, an 8, the next year a 7. Lets also imagine we're going to go 3 years between repotting or potting up.
Here's what happens to the tree you repot/root prune:
year 1: 9
year 2: 8
year 3: 7
year 1: 9
year 2: 8
year 3: 7
year 1: 9
year 2: 8
year 3: 7
You can see that a full repotting and root pruning returns the plant to its full potential within the limits of other cultural influences for as long as you care to repot/root prune.
Looking now at how woody plants respond to only potting up:
year 1: 9
year 2: 8
year 3: 7
year 1: 8
year 2: 7
year 3: 6
year 1: 7
year 2: 6
year 3: 5
year 1: 6
year 2: 5
year 3: 4
year 1: 5
year 2: 4
year 3: 3
year 1: 4
year 2: 3
year 3: 2
year 1: 3
year 2: 2
year 3: 1
This is a fairly accurate illustration of the influence tight roots have on a woody plant's growth/vitality. You might think of it for a moment in the context of the longevity of bonsai trees vs the life expectancy of most trees grown as houseplants, the difference between 4 years and 400 years, lying primarily in how the roots are treated.
Dear Al - I have received quite an education this morning while reading this thread. I have known all summer that my umbrella tree was going to need re-potting. Thanks to your excellent teaching skills I feel confident that I can accomplish this task this coming week. I am going to go outside and take a picture of the plant and return and let you advise me of the best way to go with it. I hope that you are available to help one more lost soul. My plant will soon be thirty years old, is probably about seven foot tall and one of my aims would be to propogate as many new plants as possible at some point.
Will return in a bit and am really looking forward to both my plant and myself benefitting from your expertise with this particular plant. Thank you for the help that you have already been to me.
Okay, back with pictures. I won't be offended if you tell me that I need to re-take the pictures because I didn't realize when taking these that so much green was going to show up and make it hard to get a good look at the plants themselves. I had forgotten that I actually have two of these plants.
As you can see, both have developed areas that I now know are from reaching for the sun with the stalk being quite long at the bottom of the tallest one. The smaller of the plants has a bare spot about midway up which is all stalk too.
If you are able to tell from the following pictures, what would your plan of action be? Thanks Al.
Not trying to dodge any effort, I think the course you need to take is pretty well outlined above, starting with my posts on 9/14/10. I think timing is a little off though. A fell repotting would have been better for you from mid-Jun to early Aug. Have the plants been kept outdoors? How much time do you have until night temps start regularly dipping below 50*? If you do a repot now, would you be willing to move them in and outdoors as temperatures allow until temperatures no longer allow?
It might be better to wait, if you think the plants are in no immediate jeopardy of dying, until next Jun, & then jump right on it. That would give you plenty of time to gather the ingredients to make (if you're up for it) a good soil and go about things in a leisurely yet still organized way.
You could also cut the bottom 1/3 of the roots off with a pruning saw & score the sides of the root mass with a utility knife, then return the plant to the same (or even better - a slightly larger) pot, making up for lost roots and soil with a fresh soil similar to what they're in now. This will give them what appears to be a 'boost', but what will actually be the result of you easing the limiting effect that tight roots have on growth and vitality somewhat, and allowing the plant to grow at something a little closer to its genetic potential.
We can never make plants grow at anything greater than the genetic potential with which they are programmed. All we can do is try to minimize the effects of the cultural limitations that pull the plant up short of this potential. Poor soils, poor light, poor nutritional supplementation, plus a host of other cultural influences need to be made as close to perfect as possible if we are to expect our plants to perform at anywhere near their potential.
This last wasn't necessarily aimed at you or anyone in particular. I added it simply because I had the opportunity, and because it's a good thing to understand that when we simply 'pot up', the improved growth and vitality we see soon after isn't a growth spurt. We've simply partially reduced the limiting effects of tight roots so the plant is able to temporarily grow a little closer to it's potential. Had we been diligent in properly repotting the plant on a regular basis, it would have already been growing at or near its potential (within the limits of other potentially limiting cultural factors) all along and the change in growth rate/vitality at repot time would be less apparent.
Hi Al - Thanks for getting back with me so quickly. I have read the entire thread and was especially interested in the re-potting in which you cut off the bottom two thirds of the roots and things and potted in fresh soil and a larger pot. So you believe it is too late in the year to re-pot unless I want to bring the plant indoors each evening? I was hoping to have at least another month of very warm temperatures before bringing my houseplants back in the house. I may do as you suggested and let the two plants go another winter as they have been because other than the bare stalks in some places, they seem to be very happy.
You provided excellent information in the thread and when I decide to do something, I will certainly come back and print off a copy of your directions. Thank you for your time and effort that has gone in to educating the masses.
If you think you have a month where you can leave the plant outdoors to recover, or that you can move the plant in and out as temps fluctuate above/below 55* (especially at night) then you can do it now and expect the plant to be recovered to the point where it won't be too susceptible to insect predation and disease over the winter. The bio-compounds that make up the defense mechanisms a plant uses to thwart insects and disease are by-products of the plants metabolic rate and state of vitality, so we want to avoid doing anything that significantly weakens a plant too close to fall or winter.
Also, thank you for the very kind words - they are much appreciated.
Can someone answer a few questions for me? I have a 5 year old scheff "Helen" whom I miraculously managed not to kill. I never knew they could be pruned until recently when my husband and I were discussing where we were going to place her when we brought her back in for the winter, as she summers outside, and has gotten too large for her winter spot.
Her "mother" branch is about 4-5' (heavily leaned over??) from the floor and of that prob. 3' of woodsy branch with approximately 3 daughter branches (I am not home with her now). She is currently in a pot about 36" across and is very wide. I want her to be full, but tall and somewhat narrow as my winter sunlight area is not that large. So my questions are:
1. When should I prune her? If not now, how well do they travel and/or take to moving around a lot? I could take her to one of my offices, but I am hardly ever there, or can move her around inside my home, but she is SO large my husband would prolly throw a hissy and his back out.
2. Can I prune IN (to take some leaves off) vs. DOWN?
3. What is the best method to plant cuttings?
3. Can I stake the branch thatís leaning as a temp measure?
Thanks for any and all help. I have only ever kept a violet and this schefflera alive and don't want to ruin my record with Helen!
1) You can do minor pruning whenever you have a sharp pair of pruners in your hand, but any radical pruning, which the plant tolerates quite well when healthy, should only be undertaken when the plant IS healthy & is best done in the month before its most robust growth begins, which for you would be any time in June.
2) They aren't particularly sensitive to being resited, but as it is with a high % of woody houseplants plants, might shed some foliage. This is particularly true if they are mover from bright to darker, but the reciprocal can also be true. There is a limit on a leaf's ability to adapt to light. Example: Give light levels numeric values from 1-10 with 1 being very low light. A leaf that emerges under light levels of - say 6, might only be able to adapt to light levels of from 4 or 5 to 8 w/o the plant shedding them. Foliage is generally more able to adapt to increasing light levels than decreasing levels.
I think you're describing 'thinning'. You can thin, but remember that your plant is going into a period where it will lose a considerable amount of its energy reserves (winter), and that removing foliage now inhibits the plants ability to make food (less photosynthesizing surface area). Also, thinning is much more effective in summer when light is better able to penetrate into the tree's center. Thinning and tip pruning after you move the tree outdoors and it has gained energy from the improved conditions magnifies the benefits of thinning by helping the tree to back-bud much more profusely.
3) Cuttings from healthy parent material and taken using a VERY sharp and sterile tool strike faster and at a higher % than those from weak trees. Take 6" cuttings with some of last years wood. Leave 1 or 2 leaves on the cuttings. If you leave 2 leaves, cut the leaflets in half across veins before sticking in a VERY porous medium. A medium that doesn't support any perched water is best. I often use screened and rinsed perlite to root in. Avoid rooting in potting soil. You need to make sure the proximal end (bottom) of the cutting is not covered by a film of water as that can inhibit gas exchange and O2's availability to the cutting.
Alternately, you can take 2-3" inter-nodal branch cuttings (with or without leaves) and lay them on top of the surface of a fast draining potting soil and press them into the soil lightly. Think of how a log looks in the water before a log rolling contest (partially submerged) and you've 'got it'.. Split a gallon milk jug in half so the top can be reunited with the bottom. Put the cuttings on top of soil held in the bottom half & then put the top back on with the cap off. Put this in very bright light, but not direct sun. All should root if the parent material was healthy. See picture below, even though I wasn't using the bottom half in this case.
4) Yes, you can stake this plant if you wish, but if it needs staking it also needs more light or some additional dedication to pruning. I'm not saying that to be critical of you, Ferir. I'm just being the plant's advocate & looking at things from other than the grower's perspective. I understand that to a lot of beginners, pruning & what you can achieve through its practice is something of a mystery.
The biggest favor you can do yourself & the plant would be to gain an understanding of how important soil choice is to your success, the plants level of vitality, and the ease/difficulty with which achieving and maintaining that level of vitality.
Let me know if you wish to discuss anything in more detail.
In regards to plant health, let me see if I have this correct: The plant shouldn't be leaning as that indicates it is either a) not getting a proper amount of light (could it get too much light if I don't rotate it enough?) or b) the foliage is too heavy and weighing it down. Are there any other options to this?
It sounds as if I should not cut her this winter even for light thinning, but can I stake her and lightly bind her up in some type of light netting (from a nursery) if that would mean I am able to place her in a stronger light source until time for heavy pruning? Or would this limit the light getting to the center too much? I have noticed leaves dropping more in the early winter and again early spring, when I move the plant inside or out, sounds like maybe my winter light source may not be as adequate as I thought.
As for the heavy pruning in June, it sounds like I need to do a mix of thinning and cutting, but I am still confused on where to cut so that I continue to get height. Somewhere above I read that cutting the "mother" branch will stunt that upward growth. Or am I putting the cart before the horse on this, as I first need to get it stand up?
I will not be offended by your advocacy of Helen, as my very first indoor greenery was a FAKE ficus which I still managed to kill (literally, leaves would fall off indiscriminately). And FYI, the kids and I named her as a joke to kind of foster feelings towards her so we wouldn't kill her by lack of care, and it took and now she IS part of our family, so no offense will be taken and any help and advice is appreciated. My goal is to creat plants off of her so that when the kids have their own place (too soon now) they can take their own plant with them that they helped start.
Ok, so now I have made it home and really looked at the branches. I didn't realize they branched out so close to the soil. Is this where I would decide which to cut and which to keep to bring it more inside the pot? Also, it could be from heaviness, but all of the largest branches are growing away from the sun but the leaves are pointing towards the sun, if this helps any.
Maybe I should have been more clear. Plants can lean toward a light source because a growth regulator that causes cellular elongation tends to concentrate on the side of the plant away from the light source, so in that respect a plant can lean toward the light. In plants that are normally upright growers but come to be unable to support their own weight, insufficient light is almost always causal. Blaming the weight of the foliage for a normally upright plant being unable to support itself is a little like blaming a tortoise's aerodynamics for its inability to overtake the hare. Low light causes long internodes due to what I just briefly described, but it also reduces the rate of cell division. This is important because reduced cell division means the plant cannot produce as many layers of cells in the cambium to thicken stems & branches. So basically, long & thin = a reduced ability for the plant to support its own weight = droopy stems & branches.
Schefflera will grow in full sun outdoors (I have all mine in full sun all summer long), so they will certainly tolerate full sun in front of a window ... as long as you have air movement to disturb the boundary layer. This is the layer of air surrounding foliage. It's usually not the sun that damages plants in front of a window, it's the heat that arises from passive solar gain. Disrupting the boundary layer allows the heat to dissipate, but remember that air movement (a fan) is important if you put your plants in full sun indoors.
Schefflera is a very tolerant plant, genetically very vigorous, & will handle most of what you throw at it. It seems like heresy to tell you you can pretty much do what you want with this plant & worry about fixing it later, but it's pretty true. If you want to stake it or bind it up in a mesh for the sake of appearance, go ahead. What's going to be important is what you do in the summer months immediately prior to any serious work. Weak trees respond poorly to stress, while trees in good vitality pretty much take it in stride. The formula for success involves: A) Getting the tree outdoors and in full sun in early summer, as soon as night temps are reliably above 55*, or move the plant in and out as dictated by temps. B) Getting the tree repotted (a FULL repot, including bare rooting and root pruning) and into a free-draining soil. If you are serious about acquiring a skillset that allows you to grow almost any plant well, we need to talk about soil choice because it is a pivotal issue. C) learning how to water and again - adopting a soil that ALLOWS you to water correctly. In most cases, from-the-bag peat-based soils will NOT allow you to water properly without risking root rot. These soils are FAR more difficult to grow in and steal most of your margin for error in the areas of watering & fertilizing. D) Adopting a good, regular nutrient supplementation program. 3:1:2 ratio soluble fertilizers come closest (almost exactly) to supplying nutrients at the ratio in which plants use them. This is a very big plus not well understood by most hobby growers. It allows you to supply nutrients at the lowest concentration possible w/o nutrient deficiencies. This is key in helping the plant absorb water (and the nutrients dissolved in the water) and eliminates the primary cause of spoiled (ratty looking) foliage, which is a high level of solubles in the soil solution.
To review: a highly aerated soil that allows you to flush the soil of accumulating salts each time you water w/o risking root rot, coupled with a fertilizer that allows you to fertilize at low levels of fertility w/o inducing deficiencies is 90% of what it takes to easily maintain plants that remain in good health and look good.
I think you are putting the cart before the horse to some degree, and I don't want to confuse you with too much information, but about "cutting the mother branch": The growth hormone that stops the plant from getting bushy and prevents side branches from growing (auxin) is produced in the very tip of each branch (called the apical meristem). Removing that growing tip terminates extension of that branch permanently - it can never again grow longer. Additionally, if you remove that tip another growth hormone (cytokinin) 'takes over' and makes new branches grow in some of the crotches of the leaves still left on the branch, or from dormant buds above old leaf bundle scars (above attachment sites of old leaves). This simple balance between the two hormones/growth regulators is the basis for all pruning. If you understand the relationship you can reliably predict the plant's response and plan accordingly.
That's all for now. The Tigers are putting a hurting on the Rangers (so far) Go Tigers!
I also have a schefflera that I believe needs pruining. It was give to me about 3 years ago and was a large full plant at that time. It has done well and is growing. The front is about 3 1/2 ft tall and still rather full. The back is around 4 1/2 ft but is very leggy with leaves mostly on the ends of the stalks. I was thinking pruning it might help it to fill our more. Is this correct thinking? If so, when can I prune it and how is the best way to prune it?
So.. Say you don't like the way the plant has grown and you want to prune it to soil level and "start over". Do you leave a couple of these old leaf scars above soil level for new growth to come from? Repeatedly cutting it very short after it grows some makes the 'cane' thicker at soil level so it will support more top growth? I have one I left for dead outside in the fall. It's been a pretty mild winter, so I think I'm going to bring it in, cut it way back, and see what happens. May be interesting. In the past I have hated these plants because I can never get them to grow right. My big one has bugs and my smaller one has leaves dropping. At least my expectations for the one already dead one are pretty much already nill. Haha.
I have an Umbrella Tree plant that I have had for almost thirty years. It too has grown very long stems with the foliage at the top. I kind of butchered it last fall when bringing it back inside after being outdoors all summer. I have many starts of the plant from dividing some of the stems in to three or four inch pieces. Not sure how they will do in the future, but has been lots of fun watching them over the past few months. It is always very thrilling to see greenery growing out of the stalks.
Anyway...I love this plant even though it would never win any awards for beauty or health.
EC - your thinking is correct, but you should avoid repotting and hard pruning in winter and early spring. The plant will recover much faster and back-bud much more profusely if you get the plant as healthy as possible by taking advantage of the longer days and warm temps. Many people either don't give any consideration to the plant's energy energy cycle, or think that spring is the best time to repot, when it's actually best to repot almost all houseplants in early summer. I always suggest repotting (as opposed to potting up), which includes bare-rooting and root pruning, should be done between Father's Day and the 4th of July when the plant is (should be) bursting with energy and has many days with strong light to recover before the winter slow-down.
J - When the plant is growing robustly and its energy tank topped off, you can cut it back to any point above the basal flare and it will quickly back-bud for you.
I inherited an umbrella plant from my mother and not sure how old it is; but know it is over 7 years old. When she had it at her old office someone took a lot of trimmings from it and now it is not sprouting from most of its branches. There are two branches that continue to grow and they are growing up and out. My question is, is there anything that I can do to help the other branches start to grow again or to get new branches to grow? There is about 3 feet of brown trunk and the rest are all green. I have attached a picture of what it looks like.
See the 'repotting story' that starts on 9/14/10 upthread. Your plant is a prime candidate for the same type of rejuvenation, and it would certainly help you achieve your goal. Let me know if you're froggish enough to jump ;-) ... and we'll work through it. You'd be planning toward doing the work around Father's Day, if that makes a difference.
Alright tapla, I may have jumped the gun a bit on repotting and pruning. Now the plant seems to be wilting away! The top of the trunk is very soft to the touch.
I was unable to find the powdered minals and foilage food around town, and am unable to order them on the internet -- I am broke. I have been using my fish tank water for watering my plants... up until I repotted, my schef seemed to love the water!
Where should I go from here? Should I repot with dirt? I will try to get a picture of my plant uploaded today.
Will be interesting to get some info on this. I have been very fortunate in what has occurred with my Schefflera. At then end of the summer last year when bringing the plant inside I noticed that it was really looking scraggly. Against my better judgement I decided I couldn't look at it in its condition for a year and prune at the proper time. I chopped that baby in every direction that it could be chopped. Since that time I have at least eight or ten pots of new Umbrella Trees, most which have surprisingly enough done quite well.
The better looking ones of the bunch have been gifted to special gardening friends, and some that I am still watching to see what they will do. The majority of the mother plant is still intact and now might be the appropriate time for me to see if there is more pruning and propogating I can do.
Thanks for posting in order to remind me that this along with a dozen more of my houseplants need attention soon and some maintenance done.
That was exactly what it was. I tried to upload the pictures, but for some reason the website would not let me. I unearthed the roots, and they were literally falling apart. I immediately repotted into some regular soil, for that is what I had on-hand, and am hoping for the best. Is there anything I can do to save this plant?
For general information, the bark I used for my first repot was small cedar chips bought at Walmart, with some vermiculite and spaghnum moss thrown in as well.
Well, a well-aerated and free draining soil would be a giant first step. Soil choice is probably the most critical decision you'll make when establishing a planting. Some will say light is most important, but poor light is easy to fix by simply moving the plant - soil NOT so easy.
I really think that an understanding of water/air relationships in soils and what impacts them is critical information for anyone with an interest in container gardening. Acquiring that understanding represents the largest step forward you can make at any one time in your pursuit of proficiency at container gardening.
Greetings all. I just found this site and just at the right time. From an episode of "Ask This Old House" last night, I've come to the conclusion that my 25+ year old "Shefflerazade" is suffering probably from Sooty Mold, and probably sourced from the white flies that buzz around. The hummingbirds catch a few, but not enough.
I noticed the blackening of the leave a year ago, but have thought it was freeze damage. But it didn't clear up over the summer, nor has it shed any of the affected leaves like would have expected. Schefflerazade grew way too big for the house, plus I don't have any good sunny, un-energy saving windows for her to sit in, so she's been outside for a few years and has grown great guns in response. Last summer's new growth is clean, while the cruddy black leaves remain. But she's too big even to get through the door now on the frosty nights like I used to, so she's out on the back, covered deck, up as close to the house as I can get. On the coldest nights, I set a little portable heater fan on a low warm setting to keep her from freezing. But she blackened last winter anyway. I was expecting more damage this winter, but now I think it may be the sooty mold, but I don't know. It doesn't wipe off.
I see now that I can cut the plant back ... way back if need be, and I assume every blackened leave needs to go. Do I need also to re-pot, blasting the roots clean like the bare-root example posted above? I don't want to traumatize the poor thing too much, if the bad stuff isn't affecting the roots.
Finally, what about timing? It's January here at the top of California, so we've got 2-3 more months of frost risk. What can or should I do now?
It would be nice to see a picture of the tree as it looks now. If it's still healthy enough, the tree can be cut back hard and repotted, even though that would best be done between Memorial Day - Father's Day. I would use whether or not the plant is likely to survive where it's sited now as the determining factor. A full repot would mean a considerable root reduction and a smaller pot, which would allow you to bring the plant back indoors until temps are more favorable. The plant will be in decline whenever soil temps are below 55-60*.
Examine what's missing in the basic care department. The largest strides you can make are going to center around the soil, your ability to water properly, and a healthy root system ... which brings you full circle to soil as the focal point. Once you get the soil right, fertilizing is a snap. Poor soils complicate significantly what needs to be done to keep a plant healthy. A quality soil makes it very easy to grow well. If, for example, you had a high quality soil you could water copiously and were willing to follow a few easy instructions - even without knowing WHY you're following them, you could be a better grower than 90% of hobby growers, even if they have a lot more experience than you. If you're using a poor soil, I could still help you learn how to deal with it and grow healthy plants, but it would be much more difficult and the learning curve much steeper.
Are you starting to get the idea that I place a very high value on a good soil?
Read the sticky thread at the top of this forum. Then, the information in this thread: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1299621/ probably represents the largest forward step a container gardener can take at any one time. It's about how water behaves in soils. If you're serious about wanting to grow well, you should make sure you have enough command of the information that you'll be able to make your soil work FOR you, instead of against you.
If you're interested in very specific advice let me know. Your plant isn't all that healthy, but it's not exactly circling the drain, either. It's a perfect candidate for a significant turn-around that will be well under way by mid-late summer, this year.