Schefflera Arboricola is Dying – Scale/Mealybugs?

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Question:
Schefflera arboricola is shedding a lot of leaves. The leaves turn yellow and fall, a few a day. The plant was doing well for almost a year then suddenly started dying. The leaves are semi sticky for some reason as well. The soil seems to always be very dry no matter how much or little or often I water it.

Answer:
The stickiness is a sign of either scale insects or mealybugs. The former appear as slightly raised bumps usually along the vein on the undersides of leaves. Mealybugs appear as tiny bits of soft white fuzz. Both are closely related, suck on the sap and secrete the sticky substance called honeydew. Both are treated in the same manner and that requires a very thorough spraying.

Mix 1 part isopropyl alcohol with 5 parts of water and add a squirt of liquid soap. Be sure to spray all leaf and stem surfaces thoroughly until all surfaces are literally dripping wet. This is a messy task, but is usually effective if you are truly thorough with your spraying and one treatment is usually sufficient. The common practice of applying alcohol with a Q-tip is not effective because it misses the ones you can’t see. To be safe, you should check your plant weekly to see if the pests return.

Are you really sure the soil is dry soon after you water it thoroughly? If so, then it may be because when soil gets completely dried out even once, it becomes hard and almost water repellent, much like a dry sponge. To re-wet very dry soil, allow the plant pot to sit in a saucer or bowl filled with water for an hour or two. The soil will wick the water up through the drain holes in the pot. Once the soil has been re-wetted, you can resume watering normally as long as you don’t allow it to get completely dried out.

Finally, make sure your Arboricola is getting enough light. It should be within a couple of feet of a sunny window that is completely uncovered throughout the day.