3 Reasons Your Schefflera Has Brown Spots (& How to Fix Them)

Variegated schefflera leaves.

Scheffleras are fast growing, popular houseplants. They’re easy to care for and make a great choice for beginners.

They have distinctive oval-shaped leaves that resemble fingers. These leaves grow in circular groups and can be variegated or solid green in color.

Normally, Schefflera leaves are glossy and lush. 

But what if brown spots start appearing on that green foliage? What does this mean and what can you do about it?

There can be a number of reasons why your Schefflera has developed brown spots. Three common ones are,

  • Improper watering
  • Fungal disease
  • Sunburn

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at these 3 causes so you can learn to identify and fix brown spots on your Schefflera leaves.

Common Reasons for Brown Spots on a Schefflera

1. Improper Watering

Scheffleras like having a deep watering. Once watered, though, they should dry out about 50-75% before receiving another watering.

Underwatering or overwatering can cause your Schefflera leaves to discolor.


When you habitually overwater your plant, you’re basically drowning that plant. It can’t absorb all that water. So the roots can’t get enough oxygen or the nutrients the plant needs to grow. 

Soft, dark brown spots can signal your plant is getting too much water.

You may also see signs of root rot in addition to brown spots. These can include stunted growth, a general decline of the plant, or thinning of the plant’s leaves.

Soil that’s very wet to the touch may also indicate overwatering. 

But remember, it’s not just the surface soil you need to check. Dig a little deeper and examine the soil closer to the roots. 

The soil up top can be dry, but down below where the roots sit may be a different matter. It’s very easy to overwater your Schefflera if you’re watering based solely on surface dryness.

The Fix

This should be obvious, but if you suspect overwatering is causing brown spots, stop watering. Let your plant dry out. 

And not only on the surface. Don’t water until the soil around the roots has dried as well. 

To test the deeper soil, you can use a moisture meter, like this one. Or take any other dull instrument and insert it into the soil. If the instrument comes away with soil clinging to it, it’s still wet down there. 

Don’t worry if takes a while for your Schefflera to dry out. A plant can take a dry spell more easily than it can take being constantly soggy.

I’ve written a guide on watering your house plants. You’ll find it has a lot of helpful information.

If you can, move your plant to a sunnier spot. More light means more opportunity for the plant to photosynthesize. And, since photosynthesis uses water, it will help dry the soil quicker.

Lastly, you may need to repot your plant, especially if you suspect root rot. Once removed from the pot, inspect the roots. Remove any damaged roots and repot your Schefflera in fresh soil.


If you’re underwatering your Schefflera, the leaves may turn brown and crispy.

Water and sunlight give your plant energy. If you’re not providing enough water, it can’t produce enough energy for new plant growth. It’ll stop giving energy to old leaves. In turn, those leaves will brown and dry up, then fall off.

The Fix

To fix underwatering issues, you need to give your Schefflera water.  And, you need to maintain a regular watering schedule. This means watering deeply, then letting your plant dry out a bit before watering again.

My article on tips for watering your Schefflera has some more helpful information.

2.    Fungal Leaf Spot

Fungal disease is another common reason for brown spots on a Schefflera leaf. Two leading culprits are Alternaria and anthracnose.

With Alternaria leaf spot, you’ll find small dark spots on your leaves.  These spots may grow up to ½” in size. They can have a yellow halo around the edges and concentric black rings within the spots themselves.

Anthracnose spots, on the other hand, develop on the veins and the underside of infected leaves. Oftentimes black setae – hair-like projections – develop on the veins of the infected tissue.

Both fungal diseases thrive in warm, humid environments with poor airflow.

They spread through splashing water or through spores. If a spore comes in contact with gardening instruments, such as pruners, or even your clothing, it can transfer to another plant. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important you keep your gardening tools clean.

To learn more about how to care for your Schefflera, take a look at the guide I wrote on Schefflera care. You’ll find it useful. 

The Fix

The first thing to do is to remove the infected plant away from your other houseplants. 

Remove any infected leaves. Remember! When finished, clean your pruners or any cutting instruments you’ve used.

If your Schefflera is overgrown, you can prune your plant to help with air circulation. 

Lowering humidity and decreasing wetness on the leaves will also help reduce infection. It’s a good idea to water early in the day, so the leaves have a chance to dry off quicker. 

Once you’ve removed the infected leaves, you can treat your Schefflera with a fungicide.

Fungal diseases can linger in the soil. If the infection keeps returning, even after treatment, you may need to repot your plant into fresh soil. Do not recycle the old soil. My article on the dos and don’ts of reusing soil talks more about recycling used soil.  

3.     Sunburn

Although Scheffleras prefer bright spots, prolonged direct sunlight can burn the leaves. This, in turn, may result in brown spots on your Schefflera.

Remember, glass can intensify the heat. So be doubly careful if your plant sits next to a south or west facing window.

With sunburn, your leaves will initially yellow, then turn brown and crispy before falling off. The whole leaf may change color, or you may notice the edges browning.

The Fix

To fix sunburn start by removing the affected leaves. However, I wouldn’t do any heavy pruning at this point. This can be too stressful for your plant who’s already stressed from the sunburn.

Move your plant back from the window, or to a different spot that’s still bright but doesn’t receive direct sunlight.

Also, don’t fertilize at this time. Too much fertilizer can further burn a plant. Instead, give your plant a bit of a break and let it heal from the sunburn first.

Final Thoughts

  • Improper watering, fungal disease, and sunburn are common causes of brown spots on Schefflera leaves.
  • Both underwatering and overwatering can affect your plant. 
  • Two leading fungal diseases are Alternaria and anthracnose. 
  • Exposure to prolonged direct sunlight can burn a plant’s leaves.
  • There are fixes to try with each cause of brown spots.

If you found this article on why Schefflera leaves have brown spots, feel free to share it.


Hi! My name is Angela Carr. I started this site to share my love for plants and gardening. My aim is to provide my readers with easy tips and tricks on plant care, fun facts, and encouragement for the new plant owner or anyone questioning the colour of their thumb!

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