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(December 2012)

QuestionI received a beautiful 3ft tall schefflera plant in Sept as a gift upon my mother's death. Since then it has lost over half of its leaves, some brown and dry others green and healthy looking, some with brown spots. It is in a bay window facing east but does get some direct morning sunlight from the southeast window. Some new growth has appeared, but even those leaves drop. I haven't over-watered and have fertilized once. Help - I really don't want to lose this plant.


AnswerMake sure that the pot has a drainage hole and that there is no standing water at the base. Overwatering is usually the cause of houseplant woes, but occasionally under watering also occurs. When you do water, let the water pour through the container, making sure that the entire root ball has moisture. Then throw away the excess water that has poured through. Typically in the winter, houseplants only need watering every two weeks or so. Morning sunlight is ideal, but make sure it is getting enough light, and turn the pot occasionally—you might find a brighter location for it now. Winter is often tough on indoor plants, since we have little humidity and even lower light. I would not fertilize during the winter, since there is little new growth. Once we start having longer days it should start to perk up. Once spring is here, repot it and move it outside and see if it doesn’t thrive.

(February 2010)

QuestionThis past fall, I repotted my houseplants into clay pots before bringing them in for the winter. Recently, I’ve noticed that the pots have a white substance on the outside of them. What is it?


Answerhe white substance you see on the outside of clay pots is usually salt leaching out of the soil. Typically it is more prevalent in houseplants that are fertilized regularly, since fertilizer is salt. The clay is a porous substance and the salts leach out. With heavy buildups you can also get a white or yellow crusting on the top of the soil. Don’t over fertilize houseplants, in fact during the winter I recommend no fertilizer.

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