Why Are My Schefflera Leaves Curling? (Causes and Fixes)

Schefflera leaves curling are always an alarming thing for any gardener to see. It is something no one wants to see along with yellow, brown, dry or wilting leaves.

However, if you suddenly notice this happening to your beloved plant, it means something is off and that needs to be addressed.

The good news is leaf curl is usually easy to fix. And I’ll go through the different solutions below.

Why are my schefflera leaves curling? The most common cause is underwatering, warm climate, more light and fast evaporation. Lack of moisture and dryness will make leaves curl.

However, there are other reasons as well including overwatering which is something you need to be more careful about.

As such, always check the soil to verify whether the plant is under or overwatered. Allow the top 2-3 inches of soil to dry between waterings. Don’t let the plant go very dry. But also avoid overwatering it.

Causes of Schefflera Leaves Curling

In this section, I’ll go through the difference reasons that cause schefflera leaves curling.

Note that while there are a few of them listed below, in most cases only one of the issues will apply in any given moment.

So, the key is to narrow down the possible root cause by eliminating the others.

 

Lack of Water

Underwatering is often the most common cause of schefflera leaves curling.

In most cases, lack of water happens because you forget, you went out of town or have been very busy lately.

Schefflera need regular watering.

In most cases once a week works quite well. However, this frequency can increase during the hotter times of summer. And it will decrease when the weather gets cold in the winter.

That said if you do not water the plant for weeks at a time, it will end up underwatered.

This is when you’ll see schefflera leaves start curling.

Leaf curl is the plant’s response when it is trying to conserve water.

In this case, it knows it is low on water supply. And because the plant will keep losing moisture via transpiration it will curl its leaves.

Doing so will reduce the surface area of the leaves.

This means fewer pores on the leaves are open allowing water to escape and evaporate up into the air.

 

Solution

The good news is that you can solve schefflera leaves curling due to underwatering by giving the plant the moisture it needs.

If you notice that your schefflera is curling due to lack of water, then give the plant as soak.

But before you do, check the soil.

An underwatered schefflera will have very dry soil. If this is the case, you can water the plant.

However, if the soil is moist or wet, do not water the plant.

Wet or moist soil means that it is unlikely that underwatering the cause of the leaf curl.

Therefore, look for another possible culprit.

That said, if cause of the leaf curl is indeed lack of moisture, the best way to rehydrate your schefflera is to use bottom watering.

This will allow the soil to absorb moisture at its own pace.

Don’t forget to let the plant completely drain after if has gotten enough to drink.

 

Excess Fertilizer

Overfertilizing is another reason for schefflera leaves curling.

As with other plants, schefflera thrive when given fertilizer. This provides the plant with sufficient nutrients to grow and produce new leaves.

However, too much fertilizer is harmful for the plant.

That’s because commercial fertilizers contain salt. And salt is toxic to plants once there’s too much of it.

So, the more you feed your schefflera, you’re not only giving it more nutrients, you’re also causing more salt build up in the soil.

Too much salt accumulation will damage the roots and burn the leaves.

In the process, it results in schefflera leaves curling.

The fertilizer burn will keep harming the plant as long as you keep over feeding it.

 

Solution

Schefflera only need fertilizer when it is actively growing. Thus, only feed the plant during the warmer months of the year which are spring and summer.

During this time the plant will use up the nutrients you give it.

In contrast, don’t feed the plant during fall or winter as it takes a rest from all that growing.

If you feed the plant during these times, excess minerals and salts will just build up in the soil.

Just as importantly, only feed the plant once a month during its growing season. It does not need more than that.

On the other hand, if you notice a white crust developing on the surface of the soil, it means that that you’ve been overfeeding the plant.

Similarly, leaf curl and discoloration are other signs of too much fertilizer.

In this case, you can flush the soil with water.

To do so, run water through the soil for a few minutes. You can switch locations so different parts of the soil get flushed.

As the water drips down through the pot’s drainage holes, the excess minerals and salts will flow out with it.

This will help remove the accumulated salts in the soil.

A more aggressive solution to overfertilizing is to repot the plant in fresh soil. Make sure to remove any soil that sticks to the roots. You also want to rinse the roots to remove any remnants there before repotting.

 

Root Rot

Root rot is primarily caused by overwatering. This is a very serious problem that every gardener wants to avoid.

Why?

Root rot can kill your plant if you do not identify the problem early enough.

As such, it is very important to avoid such a situation if possible.

That said, root rot causes schefflera leaves curling because once enough roots die then rot, there will be fewer healthy roots to absorb moisture and nutrients from the soil.

As a result, the plant will not receive the same amount of water and nutrients it is used to.

The lack of water results in leaf curl.

Unfortunately, when there is root rot, curling leaves is the least of your problems. That’s because if too many of the roots rot, the plant will eventually deteriorate and die due to lack of sustenance.

 

Solution

Like other plants, schefflera need water to thrive. However, too much water can be fatal because it increases the risk of root rot.

As such, before you give the plant water, always check the soil.

Only water if the top 2-3 inches of soil has dried. I prefer to wait until the top half of the soil has dried between waterings.

But anywhere between these levels will work quite well.

Never water the plant when the soil is still moist or wet. By doing so, you increase the risk of overwatering.

That in turn increases the risk of root rot.

In addition to knowing when to water your schefflera, it is also important to make sure that there is sufficient soil and pot drainage.

Together, this will allow excess moisture to drain out so the soil will not end up waterlogged.

On the other hand, in case your schefflera already has root rot, it is important to fix the problem as soon as possible.

Here, you’ll need to unpot the plant then prune the rotten roots. After that, repot the plant in freshy, dry potting mix.

 

Hard Water or Highly Mineralized Water

Hard water or highly mineralized water means that there is a lot of excess chemicals in the water you use.

Because municipalities add chemicals like fluoride, salt, chlorine and others to our tap water, this can cause schefflera leaves curl as well.

In most cases, there won’t be any problems.

However, if your municipality happens to add more chemicals than usual, this can cause the side effects like leaf curl and discoloration.

That’s because excess salts will prevent the roots from absorbing enough moisture and nutrients from the soil. As a result, your schefflera’s leaves curl.

Similarly, the excess minerals will also damage the roots causing the leaves to turn brown.

 

Solution

Unfortunately, this is one of the harder things to diagnose.

That’s because we tend to check for all the others first. And it is more difficult to check the amount of chemicals our tap.

As such, when you’ve gone through the others on this list and still can’t figure out why the leaves are curling, check your tap.

You can call your local government to ask.

Or you can switch to rainwater, distilled water or filtered water for a while and see if the issue starts improving.

Another option is to keep using tap water.

But before you do, leave it out overnight at room temperature first. This will allow the excess chemicals to evaporate before you water the plant.

 

Other Related Posts

 

Excess Light

Schefflera enjoy plenty of light. But there is such a thing as too much light.

If you keep your schefflera under direct sunlight or full sun, you’ll later notice that its leaves will dry out fairly quickly.

The heat and intensity will also cause the plant to dry out faster as well.

And when this happens, you’ll see your schefflera’s leaves curling to try and slow down the amount of water it is losing through its leaves.

That said, excess light also puts the plant’s leaves at risk of scorching or sunburn.

 

Solution

The good news is that this is easy to fix.

Sadly, once the leaves are damaged, change color or become very dry, there’s no recovery for them. So, you’ll need to remove the damaged leaves.

However, once you move the plant to a less bright location, the problem will not happen again.

Schefflera enjoys medium to bright indirect light.

Thus, try to place it somewhere with plenty of light but away from the direct rays of the sun.

Direct sunlight or exposure to full sun it too much for this plant. And it puts it at risk of drying up and sunburn.

At home, this means the best locations are near an east facing window or a few feet from a west facing window.

If you want to keep the plant towards the south, make sure to position it so that the sun’s rays never touch the plant at any time of the day.

 

Temperature Stress

Schefflera leaves curling can likewise be caused by temperature issues.

Schefflera are tropical plants. As such, they prefer moderate to warm climate conditions.

But because they live in jungles where they get the benefit of the shade provided by larger trees, the plant is used to moderate to warm temperatures.

Its ideal temperature range is between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

More importantly, the plant is not used to the cold.

And it will have a hard time once the temperature drops under 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

On the other hand, while it can tolerate hot weather, the plant will dry out faster due to evaporation. This increases the risk of dehydration when temperature consistently stays over 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

In this climate conditions, transpiration also increases which makes the leaves dry out.

This is when you’ll see your schefflera leaves curling.

Also, the leaves will start turning brown if they do not get enough moisture.

 

Solution

Indoors, it is easier to care for schefflera plants because the conditions are under your control.

If you experience hot summers and cold winters, then you may want to get a digital thermometer to keep track of your home’s internal temperature.

Keeping it withing 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit will allow the schefflera to thrive.

When it gets too hot or too cold, you can move the plant somewhere else where conditions are ideal.

For the most part, it is not a good idea to keep the plant outdoors. The only exception is if you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 to 12.

Since there is not winter in these areas, it will happily grow outdoors.

Otherwise, it is best to keep the plant indoors. You can still bring it outside during spring and summer. But once the weather gets colder in the fall, make sure to take it back indoors.

Never leave the plant outside during winter.

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