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Umbrella Tree Leaf Drop » Indoor Plant Consultant | New York, NY | (917) 887-8601

Umbrella Tree Leaf Drop

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Question:
Recently, I was put in charge of finding and buying two plants for the office that I work in.  I decided to go with the umbrella tree plant because I read on the internet that it was easier than other plants to care for and since I have never been good at taking care of plants, I thought it would be best to go with a more forgiving plant.

We have two umbrella tree plants; they are sizeable with large leaves.  I have been caring for them based on the instructions that I found on the internet (letting the top couple inches of soil dry out before giving it lots of water).  I can’t do anything to control the temperature or the light in the office.  We have a small space and both plants are in the only places they would fit.  We do have bright office lights and a wall of east-facing windows, but cubicle walls block most of the plants.

My issue is that both plants are losing leaves fairly quickly.  I just picked up four this morning.  Some of them will turn dark brown and fall off, other with look normal when they fall off.  I am getting new leaves at the top of the plants, but overall, both plants are not looking healthy.  Is there anything I can do to help these poor plants?

I should add that it has been about five months that they’ve been in the office.

Answer:
I have long been fighting the quality of information on plant care found on the internet. At best, it is over-broad and misleading. At worst, it is absolutely inaccurate and wrong.

Your Schefflera can be an easy plant but only IF you have enough light, which you don’t; IF you water properly which you may not be; and IF the roots were left undisturbed and not repotted. Otherwise, it is a very difficult plant that can fall apart rather badly.

Let’s start with light because without proper light, nothing else you do for a plant will matter. When selecting a plant the first consideration has to be  a good match between the available light and the light requirements of the particular plant species. The location you described is dependent almost exclusively on artificial light. Scheffleras need more than bright artificial light and that is the primary reason yours is starting to deteriorate. A low light plant such as Dracaena ‘Lisa’ would have been a much better choice for you but you wouldn’t know that from researching the internet. Unless you can move your Schefflera to a location right in front of the east-facing windows, then it will continue to slowly decline.

You didn’t mention how your Schefflera is potted, but if it was repotted, then there is a high risk of over watering. Without details on the potting, I cannot properly advise you on watering. If you are able to relocate the plant and can post a photo of it here or email it to me at my address below, then I can better advise you on proper watering.

Just to finish my rant: if you need plants for your office it is best to get information from a local interior landscaping professional.