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What is Wrong With My Schefflera?

Ask the Expert: Please help me identify the problem with this plant!

A dear friend of mine gave me a cutting off her HUGE and prolific plant about 1.5 years ago. Around the same time, I believe I brought some insects in with some bad potting soil. I have sprayed with Bayer Natria Insect, disease & mite control as well as another Bayer insect killer. After I treat, I usually find dead insects around the plant which look like fruit flies. The plant seems to put out new growth but looks wilted.

I forgot to tell you this plant usually lives on the windowsill facing south of our house which has blind-filtered light. I have moved it to other areas such as by a room with north and east facing windows with filtered light and a north window. The mother plant lives in a north-facing sliding glass door and is a prolific grower to say the LEAST! I have repotted twice in the 1.5 years. I water only when the surface soil seems dry.

Schefflera With Distorted Leaves Schefflera With Yellow Veined Leaves

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What Causes Azalea Leaves To Fall Off

azaleasAsk the Expert: Leaves falling off established azaleas
the azaleas in the front yard that have been in place for many years are suddenly losing their green leaves. any ideas.i am attaching two pics. Tim

Plant Expert Reply:

It is hard to tell from the picture. If the leaves are dropping from the bottom of the azalea, you have a pruning issue.  See how the top of your azalea is shading the bottom. The top should not be wider than the bottom. When the top of the azalea is wider than the bottom, the lower leaves will become too shaded and drop off. That is why proper pruning is important. Most plants do better if trimmed like a pear shape – fuller at the bottom and gradually narrower at the top. This will allow sunlight exposure to all the leaves.

Other issue that cause azalea leaves to fall off are: too much water, insect damage, chemical damage.

If your area has been experiencing usually heavy rain fall, the azalea will start to drop leaves. Azaleas become stressed in soggy soil. When in stress they will drop their leaves. Correction for this problem is a well-drained soil or enough time for the area to dry before another rain or watering.

There are a few insects that will attack azalea and can cause the leaves to fall off. Lace bugs will give the azalea leaves a lacy pattern and can cause some of the leaves to drop off. Correction for this problem is to use the appropriate insecticide and a treatment of fertilizer.

Some insecticides and pesticides if not used properly can cause azaleas to drop their leaves.

In your case, I believe you have a water issue or a pruning issue.

This plant problem question was brought to you by Shreveport Florists.


Freezing Temp and Spindle Palms – A Deadly Combination?

Ask the Expert: Spindle palms in trouble what to do?

We had an cold snap and the temp dropped into the 20’s.  My outdoor, potted spindle palms now are turning brown but the trunk still looks alive.  What can I do, if anything to save them?  I have 5 total. Terri

Plant Expert Reply:

Spindle palm (Hyophorbe verschaffeltii) a zone 10b-11 plant which means they can do not like temperatures under 35degrees.  For very short periods of time they can tolerate temperatures lower than 35degrees.  Since, I don’t know where you live, I am going to give two answer – one that address those who live in zone 10b-11 and another for those who don’t.

Zone 10b-11 – this is probably not the normal temperature for your area and should not occur again.  Leave the plant alone. It will go into shock but should recover.  If the temperature is going to drop again below the 35degree threshold, cover the plant with a cloth made of natural fiber (not plastic) until the temperature rises.

Other zones – Move the plants to a warmer location.  The temperatures will continue to dip below the 35 degree theshold.  You can move them to a garage or out-building that will stay above 35degrees.  It would be best to find one that has windows, this will give the plants the light source they will need.  The plants will go through shock, so watch your watering. They will not use much water during this time – be sure not to over-water them.

Basically it is a wait and see game now.  Usually a light exposure to cold temperatures will destroy the leaves, but the main plant will survive.

Good luck and keep me posted.

This plant emergency question was brought to you by Flower Shop Network.

The Unique Beauty Of Christmas Cactus

Whenever I think of a Christmas cactus, I am reminded of the large one my Grandmother had while I was growing up. It sat on a shelf in a back bedroom and had long green arms of the unique-shaped leaves that spilled out everywhere around it. Only a few times can I remember seeing the beautiful white tubular flowers blooming on it. I always enjoyed seeing the plant when I visited and wished to have one of my own.

Red Christmas Cactus

Red Christmas Cactus

During a visit while I was in college, I took a few clippings with me to try and start one of my own. The leaves did not survive the plane trip from Nevada to Arkansas, and I was disappointed to hear that the plant had died a few years later. I have since enjoyed the wide array of Christmas cacti bloom colors now available. In fact, I look forward to purchasing one this year to enjoy with my family.

With the holidays right around the corner, you may be thinking about your own Christmas cactus. Will it bloom soon? Perhaps you will look for another one this year, or maybe you will send one as a gift for a loved one to enjoy. The plants can be found in a wide variety of bloom colors, including white and shades of pink, red, purple and orange. If you do not have a Christmas cactus, this is the time of year they can be found in your local florist shop. With a little care, the Christmas cactus can become an heirloom, living long and providing beautiful blooms up to twice a year. It can truly be a gift that keeps on giving.

Christmas Cactus Facts

Christmas cacti (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) are native to Brazilian rain forests and have been cultivated for commercial purposes for many years. In nature, the cacti are commonly found growing in decaying plant matter in tree branch crevices: here temperatures remain moderate and water runs off easily, keeping the plants moist but not damp. Because of these characteristics, the cacti make great houseplants.

The cacti require little care and can live and thrive for many years. The soil should be kept moist, but not wet to touch and should not be allowed to dry out completely. Temperatures should be kept moderate, and the plants should not be placed near a heat or air source, or too near a window that gets direct sunlight. A little houseplant fertilizer can be given before or after the cacti have completed their blooming cycle. With the right conditions, your cactus should bloom twice a year, but can be encouraged to bloom several times during the year. Extremes in moisture, temperature and feeding during blooming time can interfere with the length of blooming and the ability of the cactus to maintain buds and blooms.

Christmas cacti belong to a group of Holiday cacti (Schlumbergera) that include Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Easter cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii). There are a few differences between the three cacti, including leaf-stem shape, flower style and structure. The most distinguishing difference is the time period in which the flowers bloom. Thus, the Christmas cactus typically blooms late November to early January. While the differences between Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti can be minor, you may want to check with your florist to see which one to choose, if you want a cactus that blooms repeatedly during one holiday or the other.

Schlumbergera blooming in stores during October and November are probably Thanksgiving cacti. Although Christmas cacti can be found in early November, they have likely been grown under special conditions and may not bloom during the same time period next year.

Caring For A Christmas Cactus: Propagation and Re-blooming

Pink Christmas Cactus

Pink Christmas Cactus

If you’ve had a Christmas cactus for many years and the stems could use a little trim, you may consider propagation. After the cactus completes its blooming cycle, let it recover for a month. Then, cuttings of at least two leaf segments can be made from the tips of the stems. A fourth to half of the cutting is then placed in pot with potting soil. Be sure to place three or more cuttings per pot to ensure a full healthy plant. In a few months you will have another Christmas cactus to enjoy.

A Christmas cactus can also be forced to re-bloom. While you may think that temperature is a factor in blooming, daylight length is actually the key. Christmas cacti are triggered to bloom during short days. This can be achieved by placing the plant in a dark bedroom or by covering the plant for 15 or more hours a day. It may take up to a month to trigger the plant to produce bloom buds, but once the buds appear the plant can be returned to its usual viewing location. Remember to avoid extreme temperatures that would trigger bud release.

Regardless of whether you will purchase your first Christmas cactus this year or have an old one, this is perfect time to take pleasure in the plant’s distinctive green leafy stems. Celebrate the exquisite blooms as they appear, knowing you have a spectacular houseplant that can be shared, gifted and enjoyed by all.

Is Distilled Nutrient Water Good For Lucky Bamboo?

Hi Jamie,

I found your email on a post of yours on a gardener website.  My lucky bamboo has a yellow stalk (stem) but the bottom is green and plant part is green.  What can I do to save this plant…  If anything.  I bought some distilled nutrient water from health food store.  I had to move plant as I was moving and at some point it may have gotten a bit more of sun then it liked.  I emptied water refilled container with distilled, although didn’t take it out of the gravel rocks in container when changed the water.  Kids used tap water and I may have at some point forgetting about the water issue.  Now I have a gallon of distilled w/minerals and hoping to fix it.  Can I, also is another option to do a cutting from above the stalk part or must it have that.. maybe that’s a foolish question.  But, I’m not very good with plants with the exception of a spider plant I’ve had for 10 yrs. Darien

Jamie’s Reply
I am not familiar with distilled nutrient water.  I assume that if it came from a health food store it has been supplemented with nutrients for human consumption. You can check the label for the nutrients that have been added to the water. Although humans and plants need the same basic nutrients, this water may not be the best thing to use for your plants. Lucky bamboo is very sensitive to certain chemicals and minerals which is why I recommend distilled water. The distilling process removes minerals and chemicals from the water.

I would go back to using a plain distilled water. I would also remove the yellowing part of the lucky bamboo.  You can cut the top of the lucky bamboo off and the remaining stalk and roots will allow the plant to form new leaves.  If the top of the lucky bamboo is green you can cut it and new roots will form.  I wrote a post a while back that demonstrates how to propagate new lucky bamboo from this type of situation.  The photos and detailed explanation in the above post will help you determine how and where to cut your lucky bamboo.
Good luck and keep me posted.

What Is Causing Brown Leaf Tips On My Parlor Palm?


Parlor Plam

Ask the Expert: care of little parlor palm tree doesn’t seem to grow, a few of leaves turn brown, Mary

Plant Expert Reply:

Parlor plams (Chamaedorea elegans) are plants that thrive in low-light, so exposure to bright light sources can scorch the leaves.  Lack of moisture can also cause brown leaf tips in a parlor palm. Since parlor plams like humid enviornments but not soggy soil, you will need to mist the air around the plant every so often.  Keep the soil moist but not soggy.

For the parlor palm to thrive rather than just live, you need to fertilze it with a balance fertilzer.  You can do this on a monthly basis or every time you water it. You will need to use a very light fertizer solution if you do it every time you water.

You might want to read the our parlor palm care instructions for more detailed suggestions.

Good Luck.  I hope this information has been helpful.

What Should I Do About Yellow Leaves On Peace Lily?

Ask the Expert: Peace Lily care
I purchased a peace lily about 4 weeks ago for my office. It is not in direct sunlight, I have been watering it regularly to keep the soil moist, and spray the leaves. However, the leaves are CONSTANTLY turning yellow. Everyday there are new yellow leaves appearing. Any suggestions? How often should I be watering the plant. Lisa

Plant Expert Reply:

I believe your plant is receiving too much water.  Peace lilies generally get by with once a week watering.  If they are in a climate that is cooler or has low light levels, the peace lily (Spathiphyllum) can go even longer between watering.  The first thing to check is drainage.  Make sure your container allows the plant to drain off excess water. Once the water issue is corrected it will take a couple of weeks for the plant to fully recover.  The first sign of recovery will be new green leaves.    Good luck and keep me posted.

This plant problem diagnosis was brought to you by Flower Shop Network.

How To Combat Schefflera Problems

Ask the Expert: Help with my Schefflera, please!
Actually, I was told that my plant isn’t a traditional Schlefflera, but in the same genus.  It has a long, skinny trunk (I guess you could call it), and then the leaves bloom out at the top — like a tree.  Anyway, almost as soon as I took it home, it started losing leaves at a pretty alarming rate.  At first, it was close to the front door, so I moved it somewhere else to avoid the cold draft (but still in a place with plenty of light).  Then, I discovered (quite late) small moving black bugs on it that were later identified as aphids.  By this point, the plant had lost almost all its leaves.  But there were signs of growth, so I used an insecticide spray on it, and it seemed to come to life again.  However, I guess my plant is bug prone because I eventually found these white, fuzzy things on it that were identified as mealy bugs.  I used another lighter soap mixture/spray on it, and the bugs “seem” to have been contained (though I guess you can’t be sure).  But my plant is in rough shape again, and now, for some reason, all the new buds are not blooming into leaves like they did before.  Instead, they are drying out and turning black.  I should mention that I also never really got the watering thing down.  I have one of those soil moisture gages, and when I stick it in, it’s always moist.  As a result, I don’t water it at any kind of regular interval, but, rather, I wait until the gage says it’s dry — as I was told to do by the people I bought the plant from (though this sometimes takes up to two weeks or more).  Do you have any idea why this might be happening?  I would appreciate any suggestions.  Thank you! Scott

Plant Expect Reply:

Watering is a crucial element in keeping your Schefflera healthy.  When plants are under water stress (either too much or too little), they become susceptible to insect invasion, fungal problems and all around decline.  Don’t rely on your water gauge. Water guages are fine except sometimes they don’t always tell the whole picture.  The soil needs to be moist throughout not just the top inch.  Stick your finger in the soil up to your second knuckle in a coouple places. This will give you the best indicator as to the moist of the soil.  If the soil is dry, saturate the soil not just the top.  If it is wet wait a couple of days and check again.  Once you have the watering straightened out, treating the insects and other problems will be easier.

Your plant probably had insects when you brought it home.  That happens occasionally.  You probably didn’t notice because the insect were in a different life stage – eggs, larvea etc. It often takes a couple of treatments to get rid of all the insects.  It sounds as if you have taken care of them.

The new problem may be insect damage just now presenting.  It could be a result of a fungal problem.  I would trim off any damaged or disease buds and then give the plant sometime.  It usually does take about two weeks for water damage to present itself. It usually takes a couple of weeks for the plant to recover from water problems.

In the meantime, take a magnifying glass and look for spider mites on the plant or thrips in the buds. If you see either, you will need to treat the plant. As for fungal issues, look for lesions on the leaves or on the stems of the plant. If you see either, the Schefflera will need to be treat with a funigicide.  However, most fungicides cause a phototoxicity in Schefflera so it will be a little more tricky to treat.

If you aren’t sure what is going on, send me some photos of the plant from diferent angles and parts of the schefflera and I will try to figure it out.

Taking Care Of Landscaping

Ask the Expert:variegated weigela
Hi. I’m a new home owner and I have a ton of plants that I don’t know how to care for. My dad insisted that I have this perfect yard and got a friend of his, who owns a garden store and greenhouse, to plan my yard. now my dad and his friend do these drive bys to spy on my house while i’m at work to see how the plants are doing. I was given no instruction on how to care for any of these plants and I made a terrible mistake during the first week. I couldn’t figure out how to get my sprinklers to work and I didn’t water my plants for the first week. Now, I’ve figured out how to get the water to work and I’ve been watering almost every day to make up for lost time. My mom had roses, so I think my fairy roses are recovering and my trees are recovering nicely. but I have two plants that i’m not too sure about. The first is I believe it’s a kind of astilbe. they were blooming for a while and I thought they were going to be okay, but i’m not so sure now. In some places, they look like they’re getting some new additions to the plant, but the original part of the plant the flowering part looks dry. Should I trim that part? Will it grow another flower next season? or did I mess everything up? The other plant was one from the previous owner of the house. I looked it up and I think it’s a weigela. The leaf is dark green with a light green border and earlier this spring the bush had beautiful pink flowers all along it’s branches. The branches are long and tall and spread out. But as you go inside the bush, it’s all sticks. And the bush is starting to get too tall and it’s getting too close to the driveway. By now the flowers are all gone, is it safe to trim now? And if I trim it back and down will the sticks in the middle of the bush start blooming? Or will that basically kill the plant off? please help. I have no idea what I’m doing. Thank you! Sarina



Blooming Astilbe

Blooming Astilbe



Plant Expert Reply:
Landscaping should be an enjoyable process, so take a deep breath and relax. On the average most plants are fairly easy to care for. However, watering is the biggest challenge for most people. Depending on the area you live in watering every day is not necessary. A good slow soaking of the ground twice a week during the hot season should be enough.

Plants in the picture seems to be in good health. It is hard to tell from the picture but the Astilbe you labeled bad may have a weed growing in it. However, the plant looks healthy may need a little less water. Astilbe blooms last for a short period and then the bloom will wither and fade a way. It won’t bloom again until next year. Trim spent bloom stems from the plant and any other brown foliage. Be sure to keep the asilbe evenly moist but not soggy. As long as the new leaves look healthy your plant is ok.

The weigela looks very healthy. You can trim it back severely to get it back under control. As a rule of thumb anything can be cut right after it blooms. However, I would not cut the plant back so severely that it doesn’t have any leaves. Once you cut the weigela back and open the center to sunlight, you should start to see some growth in the bare areas. I have been able to get mine to bloom again after I trim it.

The best way to care for your plants is to get a little help from an expert. As a someone who has a garden center, I can tell you that plant people love to share their knowledge. So invite your dad and his friend to the house for supper. After dinner stroll around your house with a notebook and ask your dad’s friend to tell you a little about each plant and how to care for it.

Above all remember successful gardening is all about trial and error. Have fun with your landscape. I’m here anytime you need help.