The Schefflera plant is commonly known as the umbrella plant. This is a common indoor plant found in homes before of its lovely looks.
But if you happen to notice your schefflera leaves turning black, it is cause for alarm.
This is not normal. And it is important to take immediate action since the plants leaves are telling you that something is wrong.
Why are your schefflera leaves turning black? The most common cause of black leaves on schefflera are diseases and pests. But often, this starts with patches and not the entire foliage turning black.
Similarly, environmental factors can also cause this including cold temperature/stress, lack of humidity, insufficient light and overwatering.
Causes of Schefflera Leaves Turning Black
Below are the different causes of schefflera leaves turning black. Because there are several potential reasons, it is important to narrow down the most likely reason for the problem.
This way, once you identify it, you’ll be able to properly treat the issue.
Schefflera leaves turning black can be a result of lack of humidity.
The plant is a tropical plant. As such, it prefers high humidity. And it is happiest if you keep humidity at 60% and above.
However, the schefflera or umbrella plant is also known for being able to tolerate average room humidity.
So, in in most cases, it does well indoors without any need for you to intervene.
But in case you notice your umbrella plant leaves turning black, it is always worth a quick check in whether humidity is too low in your home.
Lack of humidity will not only cause schefflera leaves to turn black, eventually they will fall off as well.
The reason is that low humidity will cause the cells in the leaves to lose more water via transpiration. If this persists, the leaves will eventually dry up and die.
How to Fix It
Check the humidity in your home. More specifically, check the humidity around the plant.
The simplest way to do this is to use a hygrometer. I like the digital ones since they automatically give you the humidity level in the screen.
If you notice that humidity is below 40%, try increasing humidity to see if the schefflera leaves stop turning black.
The simplest way to increase humidity around the plant is to mist it.
Note that it takes a while for this to take effect. And you have to repeat it every few days since its effects are temporary.
If you prefer a more hands-off technique, go with a pebble tray or humidity tray.
Of course, you can always invest in a humidifier.
But I only suggest doing so if you have many tropical plants that need that extra humidity.
Light plays a very important role in keeping the schefflera plant healthy. It also needs light to grow because that’s what supplies the raw material it needs for photosynthesis.
And one of the byproducts of photosynthesis is chlorophyll.
This is what keeps leaves green. It is also the compound in leaves that allow them to absorb light from the sun or grow lights to support the plant’s growth.
Thus, lack of lack not only negatively affects the growth of the schefflera.
It also causes leaves to wilt and get discolored.
Therefore, if you keep the plant in a dim location or a dark corner, you may see the leaves turn yellow, brown and then black before falling off.
How to Fix It
To avoid schefflera leaves turning black due to lack of light, make sure to place the plant in a well-lit location.
Ideally, position the plant somewhere it receives medium to bright indirect sunlight. It needs at least 4 or more hours of natural light daily to grow optimally.
Avoid leaving in low light locations.
Also, keep it away from very strong light as well as too much direct sunlight.
The plant cannot tolerate more than 1-3 hours of direct sun. So, I highly suggest placing it in a spot where the sun’s rays never touch the plant.
This way, you don’t have the move the plant as the sunshine moves across your home.
Note that you can also use artificial lights if you don’t get enough natural sunlight into your home. This also helps a lot during winter when there’s significantly less sunshine.
That said, if you go with fluorescent light, make sure you give the plant at least 12-15 hours of exposure daily.
It needs this amount to be equivalent to natural light.
Overwatering is usually a bad thing for houseplants. And the Schefflera is no exception.
Unfortunately, it is easy to overwater the plant since many home gardeners are very generous when it comes to feeding and watering.
As such, this can lead to leaf discoloration.
And past a certain stage, you’ll see the schefflera leaves turn black then drop off.
How to Fix It
Make sure to never overwater the schefflera plant.
It only needs watering once every 10 days on average. Although, I prefer feeling the soil to know when to water the plant.
If you like watering your houseplants regularly, make sure to wait at least until the top 2 inches of soil has completely dried before adding more water.
This will prevent you from watering the plant too often.
Once you see the leaves change color to yellow or brown, it usually means there’s a watering problem.
Similarly, avoid letting the soil stay wet and mucky. The plant hates this.
On the other hand, if you’re more conservative and want to make sure you never end up overwatering your schefflera, wait until the top half of the soil is dry.
This is a great level to shoot for since the roots still get the moisture they need. But at the same time, you give yourself a good amount of leeway to avoid watering the plant too frequently.
One of the most serious consequences of overwatering is root rot.
Unfortunately, this is a very dangerous one because it can eventually kill your schefflera is not detected early enough.
Root rot occurs due to overwatering, insufficient drainage and waterlogged soil.
In all of these issues, the excess amount of water pushes out all the oxygen from the air pockets in the soil. In their place, water fills in.
As a result, the roots don’t get enough oxygen to breathe.
What make people don’t know is that roots need a balance of water and oxygen to thrive.
So, when the roots end up swimming in lots of water unable to get oxygen, then end up suffocating. And if this persists for long periods of time, the roots die.
After a while, they rot.
Rotten roots don’t function anymore. What’s worse is that as long as the overwatered situation keeps happening, more and more roots will end up rotting eventually.
When too many roots have rotted, the remaining healthy roots won’t be able to absorb enough water and nutrients from the soil to support the entire plant.
As a result, the plant can die if root rot goes unchecked.
Rotten roots make your schefflera turn black.
While healthy roots look white, feel firm and flexible, rotten roots are black or brown in color and have a mushy texture. Plus, the stink!
Of course, root rot will also work its way up the stem and to the leaves.
As such, you’ll see schefflera leaves turning black after they’ve turned yellow and brown.
How to Fix It
There are 2 points to consider here.
One is preventing root rot. I prefer this since root rot is not always the easiest thing to fix. And the plant does not always get saved or recover.
To prevent root rot, avoid overwatering the plant.
Make sure to let the top few inches of soil dry first before adding more water. Also, make sure to use well-draining soil to avoid waterlogging.
And finally, use a pot with sufficient drainage holes to let any excess moisture exit the container.
The second is if the schefflera already has root rot.
The first signs of root rot you’ll likely notice are leaf discoloration. Leaves will either turn yellow or brown depending on the stage of overwatering or root rot it is in.
If you see this happening, check the soil.
Wet soil means you want to immediately check the roots for potential rotting.
Dry soil means the lack of water is likely the culprit for the leaf discoloration.
Once you unpot the plant, it is easy to tell whether there’s root rot. You’ll almost immediately smell it. And if there are rotten roots, you’ll need to prune them.
But only prune the black roots. Don’t cut off any healthy roots as you’ll want as many of them as possible to help the plant recover.
Then repot the plant into fresh, dry soil.
Schefflera leaves turning black is a rare occurrence.
That’s because it is more likely for people to overwater the plant than underwater it.
However, it can happen.
This is especially true for very busy individuals or if you happen to go out of town for long periods at a time.
In general, the schefflera likes moist soil.
And while overwatering is the more dangerous issue, allowing the plant to get dehydrated is likewise not a good thing.
This is harder to do though as the plant can better tolerate dryness.
Still, you don’t want to let the soil go bone dry. Just as importantly, don’t leave it completely dry for long periods of time.
This will cause the leaves to dry up, wilt and later turn black due to lack of water.
How to Fix It
The best way to avoid schefflera leaves turning black due to underwatering is never to let the soil go completely dry.
Checking the soil regularly is the best way to do this.
And you can do so by feeling the surface of the soil once a week.
If it feels very dry, try seeing how far down the soil is dry. A simple way to do this is to use a wooden stick.
For smaller schefflera, you can use wooden chopsticks.
Make sure the wooden stick is long enough to reach the bottom of the pot.
Just insert the stick into the soil and take it out. You’ll be able to see until where the soil is still moist by looking at the wet area of the wooden stick.
If it is past halfway down, it means it is time to water the plant.
Of course, you can likewise use a moisture meter as well.
Black Spots on Schefflera Leaves
Sometimes schefflera leaves turning black does not affect the entire leaf. Instead, you’ll see black spots on schefflera leaves.
This usually means a different cause.
In most cases, the first culprits to consider are diseases and pests.
Both can cause your schefflera leaves to develop black spots. However, within diseases and pests, it is also important to identify which specific pathogen or bug is causing the problem.
Doing so will let you fix the black spots.
When it comes to disease, black spots on schefflera leaves usually mean specific pathogens.
Thus, you want to look at Alternaria Leaf Spot, Black Sooty Mold and Bacterial Leaf Blight.
These 3 diseases are often the cause of the black spots.
Note that it is never a good idea to group the infections and consider them the same.
For example, there are many different leaf spot infections. And each of them will have varying symptoms. So, if you’re looking for black spots on schefflera leaves, Alternaria Leaf Spot is likely the one.
Similarly, there are many different mold infections that affect plants. And this is likewise the case for blight.
This means it is important to be very specific with them.
Otherwise, you may end up using a different treatment.
Another reason for black spot on schefflera leaves are pests.
Here, you’re dealing with many of the common houseplant pests. These include aphids, scales, mites, mealybugs and fungus gnats.
All of these are very tiny. So, they may seem harmless especially if there are only a few of them.
However, don’t let this fool you.
That’s because these bugs will multiply very quickly.
They have short lifespans and lay many eggs at once. So, their number quickly increases.
Thus, it is important to eradicate them as soon as you see them. Once they develop into an infestation, it is much harder to get rid of not to mention it also takes longer to do so.
Here, neem oil via a spray is usually the best way to get rid of the pest problems.
If you don’t want to mix it yourself, get the pre-mixed sprays which are ready to use. They’ll cost a bit more. But you don’t have to dilute or make your own recipe.
If you have some experience, you can use concentrated neem oil.
But if you do, make sure to dilute the concentration enough. Neem oil is very potent and will damage the leaves of your plant and can eventually kill your plant as well if you use too high a concentration.