Help with Wilting Aralia

discordiatreeDecember 11, 2013

Hi there,

I'm very worried about my beautiful Aralia stump. I believe it's a Fabian or Balfour. I'm not sure which as online research has not been easy with this plant. I've had it for 2 years and only last summer I saved it from the clutches of death by mealy bugs by re potting, flushing and trimming. I was so relived and now mysteriously it is sick again.

I noticed a bunch of drooping wilted leaves a week ago. It turned out to be the entire branch (1 of 5 branches), which seemed shriveled and dead, so i amputated it. I thought it might be root rot so I pulled it out of its soil and had a look. White thick roots and lots of little hairy roots. Nothing black or squishy. It's winter in Canada but my windows aren't drafty. It is dry in here and my window sill is right above the heat vents. This window receives low indirect light but it has always been in the sill and ok.

All of the leaves are a medium green colour, are very soft to the touch and seem too heavy to stand up. I usually wait for the plant to dry out quite a bit before watering. I had been putting a few drops of fertilizer in one a month, which seemed to help it spring back. I don't think I overwatered it but I can't be sure. The soil was slightly moist at the base after weeks of not watering.

So last night I moved it to a sunnier window also over a radiator, got a humidifier and sprayed the plant with water. It seemed really dry in the morning so I have it a little water and sun. After work the plant looks terrible. Everything is drooping. All the leaves are green. And the other branches are not as firm as I'd like.

I've been through a lot with this plant. I don't want it to die and I have no idea what's wrong with it. Help me please.

Other specs: it's in a soiless mixture and it's not a pest infestation.

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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Hi & welcome to Gardenweb! Sorry your plant is ailing. From what you said, these are the important clues.

"my window sill is right above the heat vents."
This sounds like it's getting directly blasted with hot, dry air occasionally. Plants don't like that, intermittently, in a generally cold room.

"The soil was slightly moist at the base after weeks of not watering."
This sounds like the roots have rotted and are unable to deliver moisture to the plant. So the foliage wilts. Adding more water won't help that, just exacerbate it. This is what overwatering means but it's not your fault. It's the soil holding too much moisture, so the problem is really underdrying.

If there are no tiny particles in a pot, it will dry soooo much faster. People who lose plants because they forget to water would have a hard time with this, but if you're the more common 'overwatering' type, which it sounds like you are from reading about your Aralia, this can mean the difference between plants that stay alive vs. those that die. I used to kill plants by 'overwatering' too until learning how to fix things through the great info here at GW.

I might recommend an alternative source of water other than tap water, such as rain, melted snow, condensate from dehumidifier or A/C, distilled. It makes a huge difference if tap water is making one visibly ill (which it usually does over time.)

Due to genetic reasons, these Aralias have been renamed Schefflera. Your plant's correct name (for today anyway,) is probably Schefflera elegantissima 'Cultivar name here.' That gives us more clues about its' preferences. Mainly, that the roots can't survive sitting in soggy, dense, airless soil (if we didn't already know that when it was Aralia.) To fix that, we need to give them something much more chunky, porous, airy. Most plants can survive getting too dry once in a while. OTOH, getting soppy wet too often and taking forever to dry out is fatal to most.

More light sounds like a good idea. I have several cultivars of S. elegantissima that grow outside, with the sun hitting them for a few hours in the afternoon. Another pot that is an east windowsill, so direct sun for a few hours in the morning.

I would encourage you to paste what you've written into a post on the house plant forum, to gather all of the excellent advice possible there. This informative post there will make it an easy trip via a click. (At the top of the post will be a link to the house plant forum page.) If you can add a pic, you'll get even more specific advice. Sending good vibes!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 11:02AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

*checking after typing isn't the best, I think I spoke incorrectly above about it being renamed to Schefflera, sorry. Your plant may be Polyscias. A pic would also help to ID it.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 11:04AM
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DiablaD(5)

Just wondering if there's as way to encourage foliage when it has only sprung out in awkward spots-will they continue to pop from the trunk?-a couple were obviously dead but a couple had green cambium under the bark. I know you can lightly nick through the bark with a sterilized blade with some trees and it will stimulate limb growth- anybody tried this or am I just impatient - they will be a fab forest if I can work this out- one thing I forgot to mention that these are all trunk propagated, but the stump left is at least3-5 inches- isn't that a little long

    Bookmark   October 17, 2014 at 9:33PM
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DiablaD(5)

I've never seen an aralia die slow. I've seen complete leaf drop, that's called "shattering" I learned today just this summeri lost a trunk of an extremely vertical upright, bot once I cleaned it up I liked it better- I like the law of three- no even numbers, but, when I gently eased it from its pot,it was full, I mean FULL of carpenter ants- almost like an inch thick layer of pea gravel.that pot got tossed- I usually use plastic mesh for needlepoint to cover the drainage hole but I missed this one- threw it in jungle mixi-- a ice product sold at pet stores for lining reptile cages, mostly a light peat-ish mix and she came back strong. Brought her in for the winter on October.1 and it's throwing new shoots like crazy!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2014 at 9:53PM
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