Schefflera, also known as Umbrella plants, are a super popular houseplant.
They are known for being very easy to care for, but one common issue that I’ve had over the years is curling leaves. Schefflera leaves usually curl if you over or underwater the soil, but there are a lot of other potential reasons as well.
In this guide, I’ll take you through 11 reasons for Schefflera leaves curling and what to do in each case.
Let’s get right into it.
- 1. Overwatering
- 2. Underwatering
- 3. Too Much Sunlight
- 4. Not Enough Sunlight
- 5. Poor Soil Quality (Lack Of Drainage/Nutrients)
- 6. Pests
- 7. Disease
- 8. Too Much Fertilizer
- 9. Aging
- 10. Shock
- 11. Humidity Problems
- Isn’t Temperature A Problem?
- In Summary
Overwatering a Schefflera can cause the leaves to curl and change color pretty rapidly.
Schefflera plants prefer moist but not overwatered soil. If you water your Schefflera too much, the roots will suffocate and die, which can lead to root rot which can kill the plant over time.
In the meantime, the plant will be starved of nutrients due to suffocated roots, which causes the leaves to curl as part of the process.
Root rot can also develop due to a fungus in the soil that is favored in overwatered conditions, so you should avoid overwatering as much as possible.
To avoid overwatering your Schefflera, make sure your soil is well-draining for a start. I like to add perlite to my soil mix to improve drainability, but you can also use vermiculite or gravel for a similar effect.
After that, only water your Schefflera when it actually needs to be watered. I use a simple rule for this – if the top one to two inches of soil are dry, I will water my Schefflera.
I like this rule because it’s super simple, and it works for a variety of plants.
If root rot has developed, you’ll need to trim any affected roots and treat the remaining healthy roots with an insecticide. You’ll also need to repot in fresh soil.
Underwatering is also a common reason for Schefflera leaves curling.
If you don’t provide enough water, the leaves will dry up and turn ‘crispy’ – a telltale sign that your Schefflera has been underwatered quite severely.
To tackle underwatering, you need to use the same rule as overwatering to make sure you are keeping a consistent level of moisture in the soil.
I’d argue that underwatered conditions – though not ideal – are better than overwatered, as overwatered conditions are breeding grounds for root rot which is very difficult to deal with.
3. Too Much Sunlight
Schefflera leaves can get scorched by the sun if there is too much direct sunlight on the leaves.
Sun-scorched leaves will develop irregular spots with yellow halos and brown centers, and leaves affected by these spots will curl and die slowly.
Schefflera thrives with bright, indirect sunlight as the leaves are susceptible to sun scorch.
This may sound confusing, but you’re looking for areas where your Schefflera won’t have direct sunlight hitting the leaves, but the room is still bright.
4. Not Enough Sunlight
Although direct sunlight can be a problem, a Schefflera plant still obviously needs some sunlight for photosynthesis.
Without enough sunlight, leaves will start to curl and die quickly.
Same as before – make sure your Schefflera is getting enough bright, indirect sunlight, and avoid direct sunlight where possible.
5. Poor Soil Quality (Lack Of Drainage/Nutrients)
Soil quality is something that I overlooked for quite a few years, but it makes a big impact on many plants.
If your Schefflera doesn’t have nutrient-dense, well-draining soil, it can impact the plant in a number of ways.
Overwatering becomes much more likely, and it’s also very likely that the leaves will suffer and curl if they aren’t getting enough nutrients – particularly nitrogen.
Nitrogen is responsible primarily for leaf growth, and while it can be supplemented with fertilizer, it’s beneficial to have soil that contains lots of it as well.
Make sure your soil mix drains well and contains a lot of nutrients.
A generic houseplant soil mix combined with perlite or sand is a great starting point. You can also use compost to boost the nutrient content and supplement it with fertilizer as well.
If you’re worried about your soil mix, you can always repot your Schefflera and change out the soil. I do this once every couple of years and have seen great results.
Aphids, mites, and mealybugs are just a selection of pests that feed on the sap in Schefflera leaves, causing them to curl and die over time.
Some pets are visible to the eye, and others leave behind honeydew residue on the leaves that is sticky.
For minor infestations, I recommend washing your Schefflera down with water. This is much easier to do outside and should wash away most of the pests like mealybugs or scale.
If the infestation is quite large, you’ll need to use an insecticide spray that targets the pests and kills them. It’s also worth checking any other plants you have, as pests can spread between plants very quickly.
Aside from root rot, Scheffleras can also get different types of leaf spot disease that spread quickly and cause leaves to curl up and die.
Most diseases are dealt with by removing infected leaves and then treating the rest of the plant with a fungicide.
I recommend reading this guide for a more in-depth look at the different types of diseases that can affect Schefflera.
8. Too Much Fertilizer
Over-fertilizing can burn the roots and lead to wilting and even death.
Curling leaves are obviously one of many symptoms that could arise due to this, with others including yellowing and browning leaves.
I only fertilize once every two to three weeks during the summer using a complete fertilizer solution diluted according to the label.
Over the winter time, I never fertilize my plants, but the winters here are quite harsh, so it depends on your situation. I would start off fertilizing your Schefflera once every month during the summer and increase/decrease the frequency as necessary.
It’s very normal for your Schefflera to lose some leaves due to age, and the first sign of them dying is usually curling or yellowing at the edges.
With old leaves, there isn’t really any solution as this isn’t a problem and is instead part of the natural cycle of the plant.
You can choose to prune dying leaves or let them drop off naturally. I personally prune mine once they start to turn yellow, but it is again completely up to you.
Schefflera is prone to going into shock if you move them into a new location that has different conditions (temperature, sunlight levels, humidity, etc).
This is common with a lot of plants and can also happen when you move a plant into new soil. Key symptoms of shock include curling or yellowing leaves, as well as a sudden decline in growth.
In most cases, shock due to moving your Schefflera plant isn’t going to cause long-term damage as long as the new location fits the care needs.
Obviously, if you move your Schefflera outside into a location with lots of direct sunlight after keeping it inside for years, there’s a good chance it won’t survive, but in most cases losing a few leaves is pretty much all that will happen.
After moving any plant, I like to monitor it for a few weeks and make sure it’s getting enough water, but that’s about it.
11. Humidity Problems
Schefflera like humidity of at least 60%, which is quite high.
If the humidity is too low, it can cause brown tips on the leaves due to a loss of moisture, eventually causing them to curl and eventually die.
On the other hand, if the humidity is too high without proper air circulation, it can be a breeding ground for fungal growth, which can kill the leaves, causing them to curl in the process.
It can be difficult to get the humidity right for a Schefflera.
Pebble trays and humidifiers are great ways to increase humidity, but you need to make sure that there’s good circulation around your plant before you increase the humidity drastically.
In my experience, I prefer to use a hygrometer to check the humidity levels first quickly. If the humidity is around 50%, I’ve found that a Schefflera will still grow fine.
Anything lower than this, and you should consider a method to increase the humidity, as long as there is good circulation.
Isn’t Temperature A Problem?
Schefflera is very temperature-hardy and can tolerate 35 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit without any chilling or heat damage.
This means that temperature is very rarely a problem in itself. It can obviously cause some issues if you move your Schefflera from a very cold environment to a hot one (and vice versa), but it’s very rare for temperature alone to cause the leaves to curl.
There are lots of reasons why Schefflera leaves may start to curl.
Most of the time, it isn’t anything to worry about, but it’s never a bad thing to make sure you are looking after your plant correctly!