Schefflera, commonly known as the umbrella plant, is among many people’s favorite houseplants due to the tropical vibe it lends to landscapes and living spaces. These plants are also easy to grow and do not require a lot of space in your room or garden.
However, it is not uncommon for the umbrella plant to develop drooping leaves, especially under the care of neglectful owners. And, even with the proper care, you may still find your plant drooping in certain circumstances.
If you are puzzled as to why your Schefflera is looking sad, read on to learn about the possible causes and the appropriate solutions!
Why is my umbrella plant drooping?
Drooping leaves is a sign of a distressed plant. This phenomenon is often observed in umbrella plants struggling with water issues. For example, long-term neglect and sparse watering can severely dehydrate the plant as it transpires moisture through its foliage faster than its roots can absorb from the dry soil. As the leaves and stems lose their water content, the plant loses its turgidity as well, making it challenging to stay upright. This, in turn, results in wilting and drooping of the umbrella plant’s leaves.
Overwatering can also cause the umbrella plant to droop. In this case, the excessive water in the soil severely damages the roots to the extent that they can no longer support the plant. This condition is known as root rot, and is a very common plant killer.
Several external factors can also contribute to plant stress, such as cold drafts, dry air, lack of sunlight, and transplant shock. Unlike overwatering, these issues can be easily resolved once addressed immediately. In most cases, correcting your care routine and providing your plant with the ideal growing conditions should suffice to fix its droopy appearance.
How to fix a drooping umbrella plant
As mentioned, drooping and wilting of your umbrella plant’s leaves can be caused by one of several underlying issues, each of which might require a different solution. So, before applying a possible fix, make sure that you understand your plant’s problem so that you can address it appropriately.
How do you perk up a drooping umbrella plant?
Below, we have listed some tips to fix your umbrella’s drooping leaves, depending on the issue at hand. Go ahead and review each cause so that, hopefully, you will find the right solution to revive your plant!
1. Drooping due to underwatering
By now, you are probably aware that the stems and roots of your umbrella plant help keep it upright. The water content of the leaves is also responsible for their plump and bushy appearance. So, when your plant starts drooping or wilting, this is indicative of a lack of water!
Although the Schefflera is highly tolerant of dry soil, it will not live for too long if the drought conditions persist.
- Plants need water – even those that are drought-resistant. Watering your umbrella plant once every one or two weeks should be enough to keep it happy.
- If the soil is extremely dry, give your plant a good soak. However, be careful of overwatering it! Umbrella plants do not like to soak their roots in soggy soil for too long.
2. Drooping due to overwatering
Overwatering can hurt your umbrella plant in many ways! First, the delicate roots exposed to waterlogged soil will start to decompose and cut off the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the plant.
Second, fungal and bacterial pathogens can then exploit your plant’s compromised health: as it weakens, bacteria and fungal spores will begin to reproduce rapidly. Without a healthy root system, it is impossible for the plant to defend itself and recover. Unfortunately, in most cases, plants struggling with severe root rot might never recover at all.
What does an overwatered umbrella plant look like?
On the outside, the most obvious signs of an overwatered umbrella plant include browning or yellowing of the leaves, drooping or wilting, and soft, mushy stems. However, these symptoms can also be confused with other plant issues, so the best way to check for overwatering is to unpot the plant and inspect the roots – do they look dark and mushy? If so, then overwatering is probably the culprit!
- Avoid watering your plant when the soil feels wet – this is the golden rule! Check the soil before watering by inserting your finger into it. This way, you should be able to feel if the soil is ready for watering.
- We highly recommend watering your plant in the morning so that it has enough time to dry throughout the day. Watering at night might seem a convenient option for busy plant owners, but this habit can leave the soil wet for longer periods. The moist conditions combined with the low night-time temperatures create a perfect environment for bacterial and fungal growth!
3. Drooping caused by hot or cold drafts
Schefflera thrives between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and temperatures cooler than 60 degrees Fahrenheit will likely result in unwanted leaf damage.
- If you are growing your umbrella plants indoors, then exposure to cold drafts should not pose much threat to your plant, but avoid placing it near an open area or window during the cold seasons.
- Keep your plant away from vents, fireplaces, or other heat sources.
4. Drooping due to low humidity
Low humidity can be problematic for certain plants, particularly during the colder months! Although your Schefflera will generally be fine with indoor humidity levels, it will not grow to its full potential if you keep it in conditions that are not as humid as its native habitat. Dry air can also cause an increased transpiration rate in plants which, in turn, leads to brown and crispy leaves.
- Try to increase the humidity level in your growing area if necessary, especially during the cold seasons. Remember that umbrella plants require about 75% humidity to really thrive. You can maintain this climate indoors with the help of a humidifier.
- Try placing your planter on top of a pebble tray filled with water. This should add some moisture to the air as the water evaporates.
- You can also mist the leaves when the air becomes too dry. Just be careful not to overdo it – keeping the leaves and soil wet for hours can attract fungal spores!
5. Drooping due to lack of sunlight
A sad-looking Schefflera could also mean that the plant is light-deprived. Umbrella plants require bright, diffused sunlight to maintain their bushy, green foliage; a lack of light for extended periods can inhibit food production through photosynthesis, essentially starving your plant to death.
- Your Schefflera needs sufficient sunlight to conduct physiological processes such as photosynthesis, so make sure that it enjoys some indirect sunlight for a few hours each day.
- Exposure to direct sunlight, however, can be bad for your umbrella plant! To avoid burning the leaves, make sure to keep it in an area with semi-shade or cover, such as near a window with curtains.
- Use artificial grow lights if you do not have a perfect spot for indirect sunlight exposure at home. Grow lights are also quite handy during the colder seasons when daylight hours are fewer.
6. Drooping caused by poor drainage
Using pots and soil with poor drainage can have similar consequences as overwatering. Since there is no outlet for the excess water to escape, it will pool at the bottom of the pot and drown the umbrella plant’s roots. Hence, even if you are not overwatering your plant, you might still kill it with the wrong pots and soil mix.
- To save your plant, remove it from its current pot and trim any roots that look soft or mushy. Then give the remaining roots a good wash and soak them in fungicide to kill the pathogens.
- Choose a new pot with lots of drainage holes. This will prevent water from pooling at the bottom of the pot.
- Make sure that you are using a well-draining soil mix. Avoid using clay or compact garden soil, as these tend to hold too much moisture.
7. Drooping after repotting
Drooping and wilting leaves is a normal reaction after a plant has been repotted. Plants generally do not like being transplanted or moved frequently to new locations. So, if you notice these symptoms in your umbrella plant and you have just repotted it, it should not be cause for any serious concern. Wait for your plant to acclimatize to its new home and its leaves should be back in shape after a few days.
- Repotting can be very stressful for a plant, so make sure that you do not do anything that might worsen the condition. For example, avoid pruning your plant after repotting it. Instead, wait a few weeks until the roots have re-established themselves.
- Give your plant the best care while it recovers: appropriate watering, lots of indirect sunlight, and the right growing conditions.
8. Drooping caused by pests
Pests suck the sap from your plant’s leaves to get their nutrition, leaving them looking droopy and lifeless. Some common enemies of umbrella plants are spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, and scales. Thankfully, there are solutions available to get rid of these hitchhiking creatures.
- Spray diluted neem oil on the leaves and stems, ensuring that every nook and cranny is covered. Let the solution stay there for up to three days, and repeat the application for a few weeks until all the pests are gone.
- If you see mealybugs on the leaves, grab a cotton bud dipped in isopropyl alcohol and use this to wipe the leaves.
- You can also use insecticidal soaps to eliminate these crawlers.
How do you revive a dying umbrella plant?
Reviving your dying umbrella plant can be tricky if you are not aware of the underlying issue. For example, yellowing or browning leaves might prompt some gardeners to water their plants more – but if the culprit is overwatering, this approach will only hasten your plant’s demise.
In most cases, reviving your umbrella plant is easier the earlier you can intervene.
Unfortunately, plants that are suffering from severe root rot or fungal diseases will have a lower chance of recovery. Hence, try to give your plant the best care from the outset, to prevent these issues from developing.
There are many possible reasons your umbrella plant may suddenly become limp or droopy. The most common causes include repotting shock, watering issues, root rot, lack of sunlight, and varying temperatures. If you catch the issues early and apply the solutions discussed in this guide, you should be able to return your plant to its full glory in a short space of time.
Image: istockphoto.com / nickkurzenko