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Houseplant Problems

Q.Polyscias fruticosa dropping complete branches

Per707 added on December 24, 2015 | Answered

I have a Ming aralia that I bought in April/May of this year and lately I notice that time to time some complete branches are dropping. At some point I thought it was a normal process of the plant but more recently I found that bigger branches are dropping too, and now I’m starting to really worry about my plant because it is totally collapsing.

Here are some questions about my plant:

The plant doesn’t move, it has its own place in the living. But when I water the plant I have to remove it from the cachepot and water it in my balcony. When the extra water has gone, I put it again in the cachepot.

About cold drafts, the plant is in the living area between my kitchen where my balcony is and the bedroom. What I do often is open the balcony door and the bedroom window to ventilate the apartment. I don’t know if it affects it. The livingroom has two heaters and the plant is near one of them, but I never open that one.

The branches are dropping completely, I mean we can see that the branches open up from its base to detach from its support and then fall down to the floor.

When I bought the plant, it was in a small pot and I put the plant directly in a bit larger one and with 3cm clay pebbles in the pot bottom. I also drilled some 3mm holes all around the pot thinking it would be good for the soil aeration. Also, I made a system were the plant has some big plastic plates filled with clay pebbles and water near them to keep a constant humidity around. Maybe there should be too much humidity with those clay pebble in the bottom of the pot and on the plates around?

The soil doesn’t seem to have hardened for me, even after a week and more the soil is still a little bit wet and fresh. Note that it’s my first plant, never had one before. I don’t know why this happened because the plant looked nice and healthy and it even had some news growth on certain trunk and branches so it’s very strange. For the soil I buy a bag for indoor plants from one of my local stores. I think it’s from the brand DCM but not sure. I’ll take a pic of the bag as well.

The stems are detaching completely. Before watering, what I do usually is put a long thin wooden skewer from top to the pot bottom, leave it for like 15 min and remove it. If the skewer is almost dry, I water the plant, if not, I leave it. In this way I water the plant every 2 weeks, I think, and sometimes it even lasts longer. I was indeed surprised that sometimes after more than a week the wooden skewer was still a little bit wet sometimes.

Unfortunately, before I bought the plant, I tried to get as much information as I could get and I read or hear often here and there that keeping some clay pebbles inside the pot was good to keep a reserve of humidity and also to keep some air in the bottom of it. About the stick test, as I wrote above, I did this to see if I need to water the plant or not. But if I’m not mistaken, I think that the stick is usually dry when I have to water it. Now it’s been two days since watering the plant so the stick test won’t show anything because the soil would be obviously still wet.

The small 3mm holes I did wasn’t on the bottom of the pot but all around the sides of the pot.

Also, I live in Brussels, Belgium. Definitively not the hottest part of the world. The usual temperature in my living room is around 18° and rarely use any heater there because I’m almost never in my living room. Actually, to be honest, I put just once my plant in the balcony for watering and it was last time, so since two days. The temperature outside was 15° Celsius. Otherwise, when watering the plant, I do it in my kitchen and then replace it in my living room.

Side note: I notice something that I didn’t before taking those pictures. The trunk base seems to have some limestone I think. Since here in Brussels our water is very hard, I wouldn’t be surprised. I water the plant with tap water that I keep in a 5 litre watering can for several days to let the chlorine evaporate because our water in Brussels contains chlorine. Also, this is the soil I used to mix when I moved the plant to a larger pot.


Since I can’t find the same page in English, I made a translation for you from google translate:

Quality compost composition suitable for potting and repotting of all green and flowering house plants
Contains lava and coconut fibers for sustainable aerated structure, a better distribution of water and healthy roots
Contains sufficient fertilizer for balanced growth for 100 days

Last note: In the bottom of the cachepot, I have another small plate with clay pebbles with a bit of water where the plant pot is sitting. I also added some pictures of my plant, on one of those pictures you can see how the branches detach completely from its own base and drop.

It was long but thanks for reading. I tried to found some answers on internet about my plant symptoms but I haven’t so far, so I hope I will find some help here. Thank you.

A.Answers to this queston: Add Answer
Certified GKH Gardening Expert
Answered on August 9, 2019

A Ming Aralia is a tropical plant and can't survive below 10 degrees C (50 F). It sounds like there is temperature variation when it is watered and moved to the balcony. Also, the soil needs to stay moist but not wet. Other than that, they should be an easy plant to care for.

I would try to maintain a warm environment with moderate light (near a north or east facing window), and make sure the soil is moist, but not wet. Underwatering or overwatering can cause leaf drop, or in your case, possibly the branch drop. Let the soil dry to the touch before watering thoroughly to make sure it isn't getting too much water.



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