A genus of flowering plants belonging to the Araliaceae family, the Schefflera is a popular houseplant more commonly known as the umbrella tree.
There are hundreds of varieties of Schefflera, some are full-grown trees, others are dwarf trees, shrubs, or vines.
They have a quite unique appearance, lacking articulated pedicles, armaments, or compound leaves, and instead, have a rather exotic look, ranging from shades of purple and green to beautiful variegated foliage.
It is their combination of strange traits and beauty that makes them a favorite houseplant around the world.
A robust plant that can withstand quite a bit more than many standard houseplants, the umbrella tree is, however, not immune to leaf drop.
Below, we discuss in detail exactly what causes Schefflera leaf drop and how to remedy these common issues.
Why Does Schefflera Leaf Drop Happen?
Among the top factors that induce high stress and leaf drop with Schefflera are poor lighting, overwatering, underwatering, pests, dense soil, high levels of humidity and drafts. Also, moving your Schefflera to a new location or repotting it might cause its leaves to drop.
9 Common Problems and Methods for Solving Schefflera Leaf Drop
1. Improper Watering (and Root Rot)
The most common issue that’s responsible for causing Schefflera leaf drop is problems with its watering regiment. Excessive leaf drop and blackened leaves are the best indicator that your plant is suffering from improper watering.
Preferring moderately moist soil, umbrella trees are much happier with a semi-dry medium than an overwatered and soggy one as over-saturated soil can lead to root rot.
Avoid this simple problem by watering your umbrella plant only when the top inch or so of soil is completely dry. If, however, black leaves have already appeared, you may need to remove rotten roots and repot the plant in new soil.
2. Lack of Proper Light
Thinning out of leaves, and spindly new growth, in addition to leaf drop, is a sign that your umbrella tree lacks proper lighting.
Another indicator that your plant isn’t getting enough light is when it begins losing its normal color(s) and turning solid green.
An easy fix, Schefflera prefers bright but indirect sunlight. That means morning and afternoon light are the perfect rays for it to bask in.
If it’s an outdoor plant, make sure that it has some shade in the middle of the day, because too much bright light will only perpetuate its leaf drop issue.
3. Excessive Fertilizing
Schefflera plants are light feeders, so they don’t require much fertilizer. Further, excessive use of fertilizer is a sure way to cause leaf drop.
If your plant is otherwise healthy, with no obvious signs for why it may be dropping leaves, overfertilization is a very likely culprit.
A quick fix for overfertilizing your Schefflera is to flush and drain your plant’s soil. In extreme cases, the best course of action is to carefully re-pot your plant rather than simply flushing it.
Be mindful that your plant may also suffer from under fertilization, but the signs are a bit different. When undernourished, new growth will be smaller and lighter than normal in addition to the plant dropping its older leaves.
4. Exposure to Cold Temperatures
Tropical plants by nature, Schefflera do not do well in temperatures lower than 50F. Leaf drop is a common reaction to exposure to colder temperatures than they are comfortable with.
All-green species, however, rather than variegated and other special varieties, are known to tolerate a few degrees less than the common temperatures they thrive in.
The solution for leaf drop due to exposure to cold temperatures is simple: take your plants inside before it gets too cold for them. Also, do your best to keep their environment between 60F and 80F to avoid further stress and leaf drop.
5. Being Moved (or Repotted)
Moving or repotting your umbrella plant is another common factor that can cause leaf drop to occur.
Avoid moving your plant around too much, especially when you first get it. Likewise, when you first bring it home, give it time to acclimate to the environment before you re-pot it.
As the seasons change, be sure to adjust its position to protect it from excessive light and severe temperatures.
6. Constant Drafts
Placing Schefflera too close to windows and doors that expose them to constant drafts, especially cold ones, can cause major leaf drop.
Likewise, for outdoor umbrella plants, make sure that they are protected from too much airflow by placing them near something that breaks the wind.
7. Too Much Humidity
A tropical plant, umbrella trees can handle a bit of dry air, but too little humidity will almost always eventually induce leaf drop.
Even more, if your plant is already suffering from one or more issues that cause leaf drop, a dry environment may intensify the symptoms.
Thankfully, this issue is also an easy fix.
The easiest solution is setting up a humidifier near the plant (if it is indoors). If the plant is outdoors, try grouping it closely with other plants, as this tends to increase humidity levels (this trick also works to raise humidity indoors).
8. Compacted Soil
Schefflera needs well-draining soil, whether it is outside in the garden or potted. Dense and compacted soil is one of the leading reasons for leaf drop in the species.
Compacted soil is also one of the easier issues to fix, or to avoid altogether. Take care when potting or repotting your umbrella plant, making sure to use the highest-quality potting soil possible.
Adding a small amount of perlite to the mix also helps prevent compacted soil from occurring.
Umbrella trees are pretty resistant to most domestic insects, due to their tropical origins, but they are not completely immune.
Spider mites are the most common insects that set up on these plants and infest them, especially in dry conditions.
The best way to prevent or solve the issue is by checking the leaves of the plant regularly and removing the ones that insects are making their homes on.
The underside of the leaves is a favorite hiding place, so don’t forget to check there!
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.