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Dying House Plant

Question:

We moved to a new house and inherited the attached plant. Not sure what it is (what is it??), but we have been taking care of it as we do our other house plants. We water it weekly, feed it (MiracleGro) once per month, have it in a roomy pot, keep it in an indirect, sunny spot, etc.

It was vibrant and thriving until we repotted it about two months ago, keeping its roots in tact, and mixing some of the old soil with a bunch of new soil.

For about three weeks now, it seems to be dying. Leaves fall off every day and on some leaves, there is a brown edging to them that we’ve not noticed before. We love our house plants, but are true amateurs (don’t even know what this plant is), and would love to save this plant.

Answer::

The photo is of poor quality, but I am quite sure your plant is a Schefflera.

Providing extra room for a plant’s roots is a very common misunderstanding of indoor potted plants. Unnecessary repotting is by far the most common reason for plant problems. As you indicated, your plant was thriving until you repotted two months ago. A plant that is doing well should not be repotted or otherwise forced to undergo any significant changes.

Repotting means using a larger pot and adding more soil. That soil is like a sponge that absorbs extra water and keeps the roots too moist for too long and the roots then rot, which is fatal. In addition, most folks do not repot properly and often inadvertently damage many tiny root-hairs that do most of the work for the plant.

If you left the original rootball intact when you repotted, then I suggest you carefully undo the repotting. Carefully remove the extra soil outside the original rootball. Then, put the original rootball back into its original pot or one that is the same size and has drain holes. The goal is to get things back to the way they were before you repotted and the plant was thriving.

Scheffleras do best when placed in front of windows that are uncovered throughout the day. Allow the top quarter of the soil to dry out before watering. Don’t water by a calendar schedule. Fertilizer is not medicine and is intended only for healthy plants that are growing vigorously. So stop fertilizing until your Schefflera has completely recovered.