Is this from low humidity?

Davenport, IA

I got several house plants from someone that wanted to get them out of his home. I'm a newbie to houseplants for the most part, though I have been aquiring as many as possible this winter season, trying to keep my normally deep winter depression at bay. It's been great having somethign like this to do, and the house looks great with all of the new life in it.

Anyway, this is one of the new plants I got from this person, it's about 6.5 ft tall. A Schefflera, I believe.

It's a pretty healthy looking plant, last night I washed all the dust of from the leaves with a wet rag.

There are two problems with it that I can see. One is that it has these large dark blotches, only on the uppermost leaves. Are they from low humity? Lack of light maybe?

Thumbnail by jewelsbyshari
Davenport, IA

The spots are kind of flexible on some leaves, and crispy on others.

The other problem that I can see with this plant is that there are a few stunted leaves, shown in the photo below.

I appreciate any and all help, I have been reading this forum for about a month, and really appreciate all of the information you all have shared.


Thumbnail by jewelsbyshari
Davenport, IA

I just wanted to add..

All of the plants I got from this person had VERY dry soil. It wasn't caked into the pots very hard, pretty airy and loose, actually. His house (I was in it when I went to get the plants) was not very well lit, and the air felt relatively dry there as well. I'm in eastern Iowa, and it's pretty cold out, so we are dealing with heated home conditions.

I don't believe he fertilized the plants much, if at all.

As far as potential issues, one plant has spider mites on it, but I've gone over them carefully, and see no other evidence of pests. This plant was not the spider mite plant.

Thanks again.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

The blotchy brown spots on leaves look more like cold injury than anything - maybe exposed to rapid chilling when you transported the plants from their former home? Plants don't need to be exposed to freezing temps to experience chill injury; it can occur at temperatures as high as 45* if the temperature drop from, say 70*, is sudden. The rapid change causes phenolic compounds to leak from cells into the spaces between cells, resulting in symptoms like those manifest in your plant. My second guess would be that you might be looking at evidence of photo-oxidation (sunburn), but the brown blotches would have been preceded by grey or silvery coloring very soon after over-exposure to sun, before they turned brown. It's possible you might not have taken note of the initial chance in coloration. Did you move the plants into direct sunlight after bringing them home? it doesn't appear as though the brown blotches are disease or insect related, and I'd doubt it would be anything cultural other than what I mentioned unless you are severely over-watering.

The misshapen leaves are almost certainly related to a nutritional deficiency. My first guess would be calcium, and that squares with the fact that it is occurring in new leaves, indicating it's one of the immobile nutrients. If it's not calcium, it's one of the other immobile nutrients, which points to a micro-nutrient deficiency - zinc very often causes misshapen foliage in schefflera.

I can help you get the plant back on track if you're willing to follow instructions & go about it systematically?


One of my scheffs:

Thumbnail by tapla
Davenport, IA

Al, your's is beautiful.

We did move it in the cold, however I just got the plant yesterday, and the spots were already there. Hopefully it doesn't happen with more of the leaves, I imagine I will need to just cut off the entire leaf when it gets too unslightly.

I do want to know how to fix it's problems, however I am pretty limited with what I currently have on hand. I have miracle-gro watering can singles.I havent used any on my plants in 6 weeks or more, just tap water. I will be able to get to a store later on this week and get supplies.

Here is a photo of the full plant. It's about 6.5 ft tall by 4ft wide. It's currently 'potted' in one of those big plastic buckets with the nylon rope handles. No drainage.

Al, thank you for your time.

Edited to add - We did lose a few leaves and broke a couple of segments when transporting it, however it has not dropped any leaves on it's own yet. Thanks again.

This message was edited Jan 22, 2012 7:14 PM

Thumbnail by jewelsbyshari
Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

"NO DRAINAGE" sends up lots of warning flags. I mentioned the possibility of severe over-watering, which is VERY easy to do in a pot with no drainage. More later - we need a plan, but I'm late for work. In the meanwhile - did you read the sticky thread at the top of this forum?


Davenport, IA

Al - Yes I read the thread almost a month ago. I have yet to get the ingredients for the gritty mix, and as I have read you use a very fast draining mixture. Is it the same mix? Also, I know it needs to be in something for drainage, but is this something that I should do right now, not being in the growing season? Im very squeemish about the idea of repotting this right now.. I have a group of dracaena marginata that I need to repot also, however I lack confidence with the idea of repotting the trees for some reason.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

I can ease you mind a little by saying winter and early spring is not a good time for repotting (as opposed to potting up) houseplants, other than winter growers (short day plants). Also, repotting isn't a bugbear worthy of your angst - not that tough. ;-)

I really think you should figure out how to drain that container though - and very soon. It could easily be why the plant has suddenly started to show it's unhappiness. If not, you can almost rely on it as a source of future unhappiness, due either to over-watering or the build-up of salts that must accompany a container w/o a drain.

I do use the gritty mix for all my houseplants, but the 5:1:1 mix, made from pine bark, peat, and perlite, works very well too. It's important to realize that I'm pushing a concept, rather than a recipe. The recipes are just the best way I've found of implementing the concept, but there are other ingredients you could use. The key is getting rid of that constantly or even sometimes saturated layer of soil that works so hard against root health and root function.

I would melt a hole through the bottom of the pot at the edge & tip the pot steeply, with the hole at the bottom, and wait for it to stop draining. Then, don't water until a wood dowel stuck deep into the pot comes out clean/dry.

At another forum site, I wrote the following because someone had asked if Scott's Premium Soil was a 'good' choice. You may find it pertinent, and I think I'll add it to the sticky thread as a post.

Is Soil X a Good Soil?

I think any discussion on this topic must largely center around the word "GOOD", and we can broaden the term 'good' so it also includes 'quality' or 'suitable', as in 'a quality or suitable soil'.
How do we determine if soil A or soil B is a good soil? and before we do that, we'd better decide if we are going to look at it from the plant's perspective or from the grower's perspective, because often there is a considerable amount of conflict to be found in the overlap - so much so that one can often be mutually exclusive of the other.

We know that grower A isn't happy unless he is squeezing every bit of potential from his plants, and grower Z isn't happy unless he can water his plants before leaving on a 2-week jaunt and still have a weeks worth of not having to water when he returns. Everyone else is somewhere between A and Z; with B, D, F, H, J, L, N, P, R, T, V, X, and Y either classically ignorant (it just means they're not aware there is a difference) or they understand but don't care.

I said all that to illustrate the futility in trying to establish any sort of standard as to what makes a good soil from the grower's perspective; but lets change our focus from the pointless to the possible.

We're only interested in the comparative degrees of good and better here. It would be presumptive to label any soil "best". 'Best I've found' or 'best I've used' CAN be useful for comparative purposes, but let's tackle 'good', then move on to 'better', and finally see what we can do about qualifying these descriptors so they can apply to all growers.

I would like to think that everyone would prefer to use a soil that can be described as 'good' from the plant's perspective. How do we determine what a plant wants? Surprisingly, we can use %s established by truly scientific studies that are widely accepted in the greenhouse and nursery trades to determine if a soil is good or not good - from the plant's perspective. Rather than use confusing numbers that mean nothing to the hobby grower, I can suggest that our standard for a good soil should be, at a minimum, that you can water that soil properly. That means, that at any time during the growth cycle, you can water your plantings to beyond the point of saturation (so excess water is draining from the pot) without the fear of root rot or compromised root function or metabolism due to (take your pick) too much water or too little air in the root zone.

I think it's very reasonable to withhold the comparative basic descriptor, 'GOOD', from soils that can't be watered properly without compromising root function, or worse. I also think anyone wishing to make the case from the plant's perspective that a soil that can't be watered to beyond saturation w/o compromising root health can be called 'good', is fighting UP logic hill.

So I contend that 'good' soils are soils we can water correctly, that is we can flush the soil when we water, without concern for compromising root health/function/metabolism/. If you ask yourself, "Can I water correctly if I use this soil?" and the answer is 'NO' ..... it's not a good soil ..... for the reasons stated above.

Can you water correctly using most of the bagged soils readily available? 'NO' I don't think I need to point to a conclusion.

What about 'BETTER'? Can we determine what might make a better soil? Yes, we can. If we start with a soil that meets the minimum standard of 'good', and improve either the physical and/or chemical properties of that soil, or make it last longer, then we have 'better'. Even if we cannot agree on how low we wish to set the bar for what constitutes 'good', we should be able to agree that any soil that reduces excess water retention, increases aeration, ensures increased potential for optimal root health, and lasts longer than soils that only meet some one's individual (and arbitrary) standard of 'good', is a 'better' soil.

All houseplants, unless grown from seed, have the genetic potential to be beautiful specimens. It's easy to say, and easy to see the absolute truth in the idea that if you give a plant everything it wants it will flourish and grow; after all, plants are programmed to grow just that way. Our growing skills are defined by our ability to give plants what they want. The better we are at it, the better our plants will grow. But we all know it's not that easy. Lifetimes are spent in careful study trying to determine just exactly what it is that plants want, to make them grow best.

Since this is a soil discussion, let's see what the plant wants from its soil. The plant wants a soil that contains in available form all the essential nutrients, in the ratio in at which the plant uses them, at a concentration high enough to prevent deficiencies yet low enough to make it easy to take up water (and the nutrients dissolved in the water). First and foremost, the plant wants a container soil that is evenly damp, not wet. Giving a plant what it wants, to flourish and grow, doesn't include a soil that is half soggy for a week before aeration returns to the entire soil mass, even if you only water in small sips. Plants might do 'ok' in some soils, but to actually flourish, like they are genetically programmed to do, they would need to be unencumbered by wet, soggy soils.

We become better growers by improving our ability to reduce the effects of or eliminate limiting factors, by clearing out those things that stand in the way of the plant reaching its genetic potential. Even if we are able to make every other factor that influences plant growth absolutely perfect, it could not make up for a substandard soil. For a plant to grow to its potential, every factor has to be perfect, including the soil. We'll never manage it, but the good news is that as we get closer, our plants will get better and better. It's that one little factor that we willingly or unwittingly overlook that limits us in our ability and our plants in their potential.

A 2-bit plant in a $10 soil has a future full of potential, where a $10 plant in a 2-bit soil has only a future filled with limitations. ~ Al


Davenport, IA

I'm going to have my hunny lift it up and drill several small holes in.the bottom of the bucket and then set it on some rocks in a large saucer of some sort. I'll go ahead and water it (after it stops draining) and then come back after 10-15 minutes, and then water it again, so that water flows aout the bottom, about 20% of the total I put in? Also I need to know if I should go ahead and fertilize with the MG that I have which is 24-8-16.

I have another question, regarding fertilizer.. when using the gritty mix, which will need watered every few days, from my understanding, do you add fertilizer with every watering or just once every so many waterings?

Thank you, Al.

This message was edited Jan 23, 2012 4:42 PM

Davenport, IA

We did drill holes in the tub and no liquid came out. I noticed that some leaves were dull, even after wiping them all off, and today, found spider mites. I've sprayed it down with 50/50 water/rubbing alcohol mix now to knock them down until I get my mitts on some neem oil, which I'll be ordering. I did finally have to cut a few leaves off, looks like I'll need to take a few more off yet, before this is over with.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Ok - keep after it - weekly with the water/alcohol and 3 apps, 1 every every 2 wks with the neem; then - as needed.


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