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8 Causes of Brown Spots on Schefflera Leaves (And Solutions)

One of the most harrowing experiences is discovering brown spots on the glossy leaves of your Schefflera.

They not only affect the plant’s aesthetics, but they can also put its health in jeopardy. So what could be the cause of your umbrella plant’s distress?

Fungal leaf spots and root rot are the most common causes of brown spots on Schefflera leaves. Remove excessively spotted leaves and apply an appropriate fungicide. Increase air circulation, avoid overwatering and avoid splashing leaves as preventative measures. Overexposure to direct sunlight, pest infestation, and physiological disorders are all possible causes.

Now I’ll go over how to identify and treat each of the causes.

What Causes Brown Spots on Schefflera?

[1] Fungal Leaf Spots

Schefflera Fungal Leaf Spots
Schefflera Fungal Leaf Spots

If your Schefflera has relatively large dark brown spots, they’re most likely fungal leaf spots. Commonly caused by the fungus Alternaria Panax, these spots form on top of leaves and may have a yellow halo.

Alternaria leaf spot disease usually affects mature leaves closer to the ground or near the crown of the Schefflera. The fungus thrives in warm, humid environments, so it’s likely to strike in early spring.

It often manifests first as small brown spots frequently edged in yellow. They will then expand and bleed into one another to form large, irregular dark brown spots. In some instances, these spots may cut out a target-like ring pattern.

Overcrowding your houseplants may encourage the entry of Alternaria leaf spots, as the fungus spores spread via poor handling of plants, garden tools, splashing water, and irrigation.

In addition, the fungus that causes the disease may re-infect your plants yearly because the spores are preserved in plant debris.

Poor air circulation and overwatering may also play a role in the emergence or spreading of fungal leaf spots. That’s because the fungi thrive in environments that experience prolonged bouts of dampness.

As the fungal disease advances, the spots may coalesce, and the whole leaves may turn brown or yellow and scorched.

Holes on Leaves Due to Fungal Disease
Holes on Leaves Due to Fungal Disease

The center of areas may also die off and drop, leaving shot-holes behind. In severe cases, the Alternaria spot disease may spread to the stems and other parts of Schefflera.

In the end, the heavily-affected leaves will start curling up, then wither and fall off.

How to Manage and Control Schefflera Fungal Leaf Spots

Remove and destroy infected leaves and plant materials immediately.

Early in the spring, use a commercial copper-containing fungicide to help control, stop, or prevent Alternaria leaf spots from developing. (Check the latest price on Amazon here)

Good sanitation and preventive measures can also help, which include the following:

  • Remove and throw away any leaves, debris, and dead plants that have fallen on the soil surface.
  • Pruning off the older leaves so that the air can get through.
  • Spreading out your houseplants.
  • Avoid overwatering and splattering water on the leaves.

 [2] Bacterial Leaf Spots

Bacterial Leaf Spots on Schefflera Leaves
Bacterial Leaf Spots on Schefflera Leaves

Suppose your Schefflera has irregular brown spots on the backsides of the leaves. In that case, bacterial leaf spot disease is most likely to blame.

This bacterial disease is caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris pv. hederae. Pathogens are typically spread via transplants and poor irrigation practices.

The first signs of Xanthomonas leaf spot are dull gray water-soaked lesions on older and lower foliage.

Small, corky, irregular spots on the downsides of the leaves may also appear. However, they may develop across the vegetation.

As the bacterial disease progresses, these lesions will turn into brown spots. The browning of these spots is accelerated by high humidity and temperatures. They can also grow to a diameter of one-fourth of an inch.

The mature Xanthomanas leaf spots are typically tan or light brown in the center, with a yellow halo.

If the humidity level is too low, the spots will die and fall in, leaving shot holes on the leaves. In addition, the bacterial leaf problem may cause the leaves to turn yellow or completely brown before falling off the Schefflera.

Your Schefflera may succumb to bacterial disease if not treated promptly.

Control and Management of Bacterial Leaf Problems in Schefflera

Xanthomonas leaf spot disease is almost impossible to curb when it has become a full-blown infection. What’s worse, there is no known cure for the disease.

Early control, combined with preventive measures and good sanitation, are your best bet:

  • Purchase Schefflera disease-free plants.
  • Consider using deep mulch – I frequently use organic mulching materials such as newspaper, grass cuttings, etc.
  • You should stop using overhead irrigation.
  • Reduce the spread of bacterial pathogens by improving ventilation and lowering humidity levels.
  • Remove and dispose of heavily infected foliage and other plant parts safely.
  • Use a copper-based fungicide spray in the early spring as a preventive measure.
  • You may have to throw out your infected Schefflera entirely.

[3] Root Rot of Schefflera Due to Overly Damp Conditions

Yes, Schefflera is a moist-loving tropical beauty. Too much water, however, will cause the soil to become soggy and eventually kill the roots.

Also, root rot will appear because of the decreased ability to absorb nutrients, causing your plant to become malnourished.

Root rot is the most likely cause of brown spots on Schefflera leaves trimmed yellow. Even if the soil’s surface appears dry, the root ball may be surrounded by a soggy or waterlogged medium.

If this is the case, the brown spots will continue to appear even if you adjust the temperature, humidity, light, and other favorable growth conditions.

  • Brown spots on the leaves will eventually cause them to turn yellow, wither, and die.
  • Your Schefflera will look stunted and sad.
  • Instead of glistening white roots, you’ll find dark brown or black roots that are mushy or spongy.
  • The Schefflera’s roots and base may emit a rotting odor.
  • On the soil surface, you may notice mildew or mold growth.
  • The soil takes too long to dry out or does not dry out at all.

How to Fix Root Rot in Schefflera

Look for signs of poor drainage in your Schefflera:

  • Does the pot have enough drainage holes?
  • Is the potting medium loose and well-draining?
  • Is the pot itself allowing for proper drainage?

Any of these problems must be addressed right away.

The next step is to repot your Schefflera. Here’s how it works:

  • Remove your Schefflera from its container and gently separate the roots.
  • Excess soil should be washed away.
  • Remove any roots that have been affected by the rot disease.
  • Fungicide or hydrogen peroxide should be used to treat the problem.
  • Using a sterile pruning tool, remove the affected foliage.
  • Repot in a rich, fresh, moist, and well-draining growing medium. It should be slightly acidic (pH 6.0-6.5)
  • Make sure the growing conditions are optimal.

[4] Overexposure to Direct Sunlight is scalding the Schefflera Foliage

If the top leaves have ivory white or brown spots, sunscald or sunburn is the most likely cause.

Your umbrella plant has probably been exposed to too much direct sunlight. I wonder if it’s on the sill of a window with southern exposure.

These brown spots will most likely appear during the most humid and hot summer or early spring.

This is especially true if you move it quickly outside without making a slow transition.

Overheating leaves can cause them to blister or burn. Dark brown spots will appear as a result of the damage. In addition, the leaves may turn brown at the edges or dry out and become crunchy.

How to Fix

Early detection and treatment of sun scalding are critical. It’s best to remove any scorched or brown-spotted leaves, as they’re unlikely to revert to green.

Place your Schefflera in a shady spot away from the sun. When it’s hot outside, you should move it away from your windows that face south and west.

Protect your Schefflera plant from sunburn by covering it with a shade cloth.

[5] Frost Damage

Because Schefflera is a tropical plant, it cannot withstand frost, snow, or temperatures below 60°F (15°C).

When your plant has frost damage combined with underwatering, you’ll notice widespread brown spotting, and the leaves will fall off quickly.

Aside from defoliation, other signs of frost damage include:

  • Tender and young growths appear distorted or puckered early in the frost damage.
  • Following this, large brown spots will appear on both new and old foliage.
  • Due to frost damage, the bark of your umbrella tree may begin to crack or peel.
  • Schefflera develops a yellowish hue.

How to Fix Frost Damage

If your Schefflera drops too many leaves, try moving it outside in the spring. Thoroughly water it.

  • Avoid exposing your Schefflera to frost or cold drafts.
  • Maintain soil temperatures above 65°F (18°C).
  • Apply a micronutrient mix containing zinc, copper, manganese, and iron to your Schefflera. (I prefer this one from Amazon.)

[6] Brown Spots are Caused by Pest Damage

Scale Insect on Schefflera Leaves
Scale Insect on Schefflera Leaves

Pests rarely bother Schefflera, but aphids, scales, and spider mites can be especially troublesome for indoor plants.

They enjoy sucking out the sap and leaving damaged holes and brown spots on the foliage.

You most likely have an aphid infestation if you see honeydew excretion that results in black sooty mold.

Due to malnutrition, affected foliage may turn yellow and even drop off. Another common symptom of an aphid infestation is the distortion of new growth.

If your Schefflera is planted outside, it may be vulnerable to other pests such as spider mites, mealybugs, fungus gnats, and scale insects.

In addition, brown spots and sooty mold will appear due to their infestations.

How to Treat Pests on Schefflera

You’ll need to use a q-tip soaked in alcohol to remove each one. Reduce the population as much as possible by removing as many as possible.

Pruning infested areas or using the q-tip method are both viable options. Systemic treatment is the best way to deal with other issues. 

Scale insects have a hard shell, making spray-type products ineffective against them. They ingest it as they feed on the plant with a systemic product.

Aphids are the most common Schefflera bugs, so treat them with neem oil or insecticidal soap.

Most bugs should be easily dislodged with a strong blast of lukewarm water. For this, choose a non-drafty location outside or inside the showers.

You may need chemical pesticides every week if you have a significant infestation. 

[7] Underwatering

Another possible cause of brown spots on your umbrella plant is underwatering. Your Schefflera’s transpiration and respiration increase as the days get longer, causing it to use and expel more water.

In addition to increasing the likelihood of your plant drowned, rising soil temperatures can also speed up the soil drying process. As a result, the browning of the leaf tips is a sign of dehydration.

Other common signs of underwatering include:

  • Dry brown spots on leaves
  • Yellowing of older foliage
  • Stunted growth

Underwatering is often down to negligence, intense sunlight, or an overcrowded pot (i.e., your Schefflera has become root-bound).

How to Fix an Underwatered Schefflera

It’s a no-brainer: Soak your Schefflera in warm water. Then, ensure to water your plant thoroughly until you see water dripping from the drainage holes.

With any luck, your Schefflera will return to normal in a few days. Otherwise, you may want to consider moving up a container size.

[8] Too Much Harsh Chemicals in Soil Due to Over Fertilizing or Tap Water

Your plant’s brown spots may also be caused by a buildup of toxic chemicals like soluble salts, chlorine, fluoride, and more.

By damaging the roots, these harsh chemicals reduce the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients and water.

Some of these chemicals are phototoxic, resulting in leaf damage and brown spots on the leaves.

Excessive fertilizer is to blame if salt scabs appear on the soil’s surface. In addition, chlorine or fluoride buildup in the tap water can cause brown spots on the foliage, especially on the tips and edges.

How to Fix

  • Flush irrigate your Schefflera to get rid of excess soluble salts and minerals.
  • Stop fertilizing.
  • Avoid tap water – instead, irrigate using rainwater or distilled water.

How to Treat Brown Spots on Schefflera Leaves

The correct way to treat brown spots on Schefflera leaves is to identify the underlying cause. In general, the following measures should be beneficial:

  • Treat Root Rot and Other Diseases
  • Let The Soil Dry Out Between Waterings
  • Water Using Distilled Or Rain Water
  • Get Rid of Plant Pests
  • Trim Off the Rotten Roots and Repot
  • Adjust The Care Practices