Why Are My Schefflera Leaves Curling? (And how to Fix It)


Indoor potted schefflera or umbrella tree leaves showing curling symptom

Have you noticed your Schefflera leaves curling? There could be a few reasons that your leaves are starting to look dry, color-changing, and curling. 

I’ve noticed this happening in my plant and learned exactly what to look for to revive it!

The most likely reason would be it is underwatered or overwatered. Make sure the plant is in a well-draining pot and water once the top half-inch of soil is dry. The other reason would be incorrect light conditions. Schefflera plants like medium lighting make sure to put it near a well-lit window but not directly in the window. 

If you’re struggling with the same plant issues, you’re in luck because I’m going to help you fix it. 

Causes of Schefflera Leaves Curling

Now, I will walk you through the possible causes and then how to fix them so that you can implement them right away.

Underwatering

Underwatering your plant causes the soil and your plant to dry out. Without water, the leaves of your Schefflera will start to look dry and curl. They will feel dry and crispy to the touch. 

You can test to see if your plant needs water a few ways. The easiest way is to stick your finger straight down into the dirt of the plant. If you do not feel any moisture then your plant needs to be watered. 

How to Fix

Watering your plant more frequently can help the soil from drying out. If you are unsure how much to water your plant you can bottom water it.

If the plant has a drainage hole in the bottom you can set it in a shallow high sided dish and pour water to cover the bottom of the dish. The soil and the plant will only “drink” up what it needs.

After an hour dump out any water remaining in the dish. If your pot does not have a drainage hole in the bottom then watering it from the top would be the best solution. 

Overfeeding with Fertilizer

Fertilizer can help your plant grow if used correctly but if you use too much or use it too often it can stop the growth of your plant.

It can burn the leaves and cause them to shrivel and die. You might also notice the top of your soil looks like it has a film or crust on top of it. This is a sign that you may have overfed your plant with too much fertilizer. 

How to Fix

Make sure you are using a water-soluble fertilizer for indoor plants and follow the instructions on how to mix the ratios correctly. Or you can use a time-release fertilizer for indoor plants, they look like little sticks. 

If your Schefflera is in low to medium light you will want to fertilize it every three months. If it is in more direct sunlight then you would want to fertilize your Schefflera every two months.

If you suspect you have recently overfed your plant make sure it is in a well-draining pot and over the next few days you will want to run water through your plant.

You do not want it to sit in water but to fully run out of your pot like you are rinsing the soil from excess fertilizer.

If it still seems to be suffering from overfeeding you can go as far as repotting with new soil. Just be sure to rinse the roots well before putting them into a new pot with fresh soil.

Lack of Nutrition

If your plant isn’t receiving enough Calcium (Ca) the top leaves will be small and irregular shaped because Calcium brings nutrients from the roots to the leaves.

Boron pairs with Calcium to bring nutrients to the plant and without it, you will see yellow-spotted leaves.

Lack of Zinc will stop your plant from growing stems and start to yellow. Without these nutrients, you will start to see yellowing and curling leaves.

How to Fix

To make sure your Schefflera is growing properly be sure to provide it with adequate fertilization during its peak growing time, which is April through September.

You can fertilize up to every other week for optimal growth but at least do it once a month during peak growing times and every two to three months during the off-season. 

Temperature Stress

Schefflera plants like temperatures between 60-80°F (15-26°C) (Source: Clemson University). They do not grow well as outdoor plants if you live in an area where temperatures go below 60°F (15°C).

You can risk freezing your plant by leaving it out in lower temperatures in the winter.

If temperatures in your area stay above 80°F (26°C) you risk dehydrating your plant because transpiration increases which will cause the leaves to dry out and curl. 

How to Fix

Make sure to bring any outdoor Schefflera plants indoors when temperatures drop below 60°F (26°C) to prevent any damage. Do the same thing for days when temperatures soar above 80°F. 

If your Schefflera has been exposed to high temperatures and is dehydrated bring it inside. Trim away any brown crispy leaves and stems.

Then thoroughly saturate the soil, making sure it has proper drainage so excess water can drain. 

Root Rot from Overwatering

Root rot happens when the roots sit in too much water or overly moist soil for a long period of time. It can also happen if the plant is not in well-draining soil. 

Overwatering causes the leaves to curl because the roots can no longer move nutrients to the leaves and they curl in an attempt to keep the nutrients they already have inside. 

How to Fix

Make sure when potting your Schefflera that you do not compact the soil too much. You want the soil to loosely fill your pot.

Compacted soil can make it difficult for soil to drain properly. Also do not allow plants to sit in water for too long and make sure that the pot has drainage holes. 

If you suspect your plant is suffering with root rot you’ll want to repot it in fresh dry soil.

You will also need to remove the rotted roots by cutting them off of the plant before you repot it. 

Water Quality

The water quality in your home can affect your Schefflera plant’s health. Your plant can be sensitive to tap water because it contains salt, chlorine and fluoride.

They can damage plants by causing the tips of the leaves to brown and by damaging its roots.

These minerals can build up in soil preventing proper nutrition and causing the leaves of your plant to curl. 

How to Fix

If you can, try to water your Schefflera with collected rainwater. Rainwater is best for plants because it’s what they would receive in their natural environments.

If not possible, then water with distilled or filtered water since they contain fewer chemicals than tap water.  

Too Much Direct Sunlight

Direct sunlight can be too harsh for your plant and begin to dry it out. Dehydrating the plant from direct sun can cause the leaves to become dry and begin to curl due to lack of water. 

How to Fix

Schefflera plants prefer medium light. The Schefflera plant likes to have a good amount of light but not directly shining on it.

A good spot would be near a window that receives a lot of light but does not put it directly in that window.

Place it a few feet away from the window. They can grow in a shadier spot that only receives sunlight for part of the day too. 

Lack of Light

If your Schefflera is in low light conditions the leaves will begin to curl down. The lack of sunlight causes it to have improper nutrition and it no longer has the strength to build strong leaves and they curl instead of being flat. 

How to Fix

Place your Schefflera near a bright window. Make sure it receives plenty of sunlight from the window but do not sit it directly into the window.

If it is currently in a semi-shaded location move it closer to the light source or to a part of your home that receives morning sun. 

Diseases

The two most common diseases for the Schefflera plant are leaf blight and leaf spots (Source: University of Florida).

They both present with small black spots on the leaves that grow rapidly and kill the leaf. Both are caused by the plant being overly wet for a long period of time making it easy to get bacterial or fungal diseases.

Leaf blight is a bacterial disease that causes small black water-soaked spots on the leaves. It will eventually cause leaf loss and will decrease the appearance of the entire plant.

Fungal leaf spots can also occur as large black water-soaked spots on the stems of the plant. Both affect the entire plant, unlike root rot which starts from the bottom and spreads outward. 

How to Fix

If you notice any of the key signs of disease follow these steps:

  • Prune away any dying or damaged leaves and stems
  • Remove your plant from its current pot. 
  • Use a new pot or sanitize a previously used pot.
  • Make sure to use new soil as to not transfer the disease
  • Remove as much soil from the roots before repotting

Make sure to use proper watering techniques to prevent further damage. Sanitize or dispose of any pots or soil exposed to the disease so it doesn’t spread.

Read another article on why Schefflera leaves turning black and some easy solutions to fix it.

Insect Infestation

The most common pests are aphids, gnats, mites and mealybugs. Each can cause significant damage to the plant.

Aphids can go unnoticed until a moldy appearance is noticed on the plant. Gnats are very noticeable because they fly and may leave the plant to fly elsewhere in your home.

Mealybugs appear on leaves and stems. They give your plant a white fluffy appearance. And mites may give your plant the appearance of spider webs. 

How to Fix

Pay attention to your plants when you water them by giving a quick inspection under leaves for any pests.

If found the first step would be to rinse all of the insects off of the plant. If it is an infestation you can use neem oil to treat the plant. Just follow the directions on the packaging. 

Low Humidity

Low humidity causes leaf curling because it begins to dry the plant out too fast.

The Schefflera will lose too much water through its leaves and will not be able to pull more from the roots so it will curl its leaves to prevent excess moisture loss. Schefflera plants like environments with humidity above 50%. 

How to Fix

Keep Schefflera plants away from air vents and drafty areas in your home to prevent drying out.

You can also set your plant on a tray of pebbles filled with water to keep the humidity around it.

And try misting your Schefflera with a spray bottle of water daily to keep it moist and prevent leaf curling. You can also add a humidifier to your home to increase the humidity above 50%. 

Leaves Curling After Repotting

When you repot your Schefflera the leaves might curl. The roots are adjusting to the changes and may not be able to take in enough nutrients and water.

How to Fix

Water thoroughly a few days before you’re going to repot so you’re starting with the best nutrition. Repot and then give your Schefflera time to adjust to its new pot and establish a new root system.

Only lightly water after repotting to prevent leaf curling due to overwatering since the roots can’t properly use all of the water right away.  

How to Prevent Schefflera Leaves Curling

  • Set up a good watering schedule and always check the top soil to make sure it is dry before watering. This will prevent under and over watering. 
  • Keep your Schefflera in a well lit window but not in the window to prevent too much direct sunlight.
  • Use rainwater or filtered water to prevent nutrient build up in the soil.
  • Keep humidity above 50% or add in humidity increasing techniques 
  • Give it time to reestablish its root system after repotting
  1. Why does my soil look crusty?

Soil can look like it has a crust on it when it has been overfertilized. To prevent overfertilization make sure to follow the package instructions for indoor plants and dilute them with water to the proper ratios.

Do not fertilize too frequently, to prevent the build-up in the soil. In the spring and summer, you can fertilize your Schefflera as often as every other week. During colder weather, fertilize every few months instead. 

  1. Why are my Schefflera leaves dry and turning brown?

Underwatering can cause leaves to look dry, crispy, begin to curl and turn brown. Water your Schefflera when the top soil is dry and create a water routine to prevent underwatering.

When the humidity in your home is below 50% it can also cause leaves to become dry and turn brown. Increase the humidity in your home by adding a humidifier or misting your Schefflera plant daily with water.

  1. What’s causing black spots on my Schefflera leaves?

Black spots can be caused by a bacterial or fungal disease. You will need to repot your Schefflera plant.

You need a sanitized pot, fresh clean soil and to remove all of the affected leaves and soil from the plant. After repotting, follow a proper watering schedule to prevent the further spread of disease.  

Arifur Rahman

I'm the owner of gardenforindoor.com. After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I'm serving as a civil service officer at the Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh. I started Garden For Indoor to make your indoor gardening journey easy and enjoyable.

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