Is my Schubert dead?
Eugenia topiary (Eugenia myrtifolia), are common houseplants which are relatively easy to grow and care for, but if they are unhappy they will let you know by dropping their leaves. To understand the care they need, a knowledge of their native habitat is helpful. They are an aromatic evergreen in the myrtle family which is fairly common in tropical & sub-tropical regions such as Brazil, the Northern Andes, the Caribbean and Madagascar. Therefore, they like temperatures that do not go below Zero degrees Celsius, so they make good houseplants for us here in Canada.
Basic care involves:
Placing the plant in a sunny window facing south or west is ideal but, make sure it is not too close to the glazing so as to avoid cold air exposure in winter. Supplemental fluorescent lighting can help your plant maintain healthy green leaves throughout its slower growing winter season.
Your plant should have good air circulation around the globes so leaving 6 – 12 inches all around is advisable.
The plant should be in an appropriate sized pot with a good drainage hole. If roots are growing out the drainage hole or there are dense roots when you insert your finger into the topsoil, it may be time to repot into a bigger size. Only go up one pot size and use a potting soil for containers which can be purchased at your local nursery.
Watering can be tricky depending on the age of your plant. Younger plants need to be watered more frequently, maybe as much as 2-3 times a week, whereas older plants should only need watering about once a week. A good rule is to stick your finger into the topsoil and only water when the top 1 inch, or to your first knuckle, is dry.
Fertilizing should only be needed 3-4 times a year, beginning in the spring, so about every 4-6 weeks. Do not fertilize in the winter months. Use a 10-10-10 organic fertilizer made up at half the recommended strength. You should be able to find something suitable at your local nursery. Do not get the fertilizer solution on the trunk or leaves of the plant, just carefully administer to the soil. Overtime, fertilizing can lead to salt buildup in the soil so it is good to use distilled water in order to flush these out of the soil when doing your regular watering.
Trimming your topiary can be done every 2-3 weeks depending on time of year and vigor of plant. Use a sharp, clean pruning instrument, taking care to clean the blades with rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab after every cut.
Pests & diseases are usually not a big factor for Eugenia but they can periodically get infestations of aphids, scale or whitefly. If you see an infestation on the undersides of leaves, on the twigs or on the soil surface, spray with insecticidal soap following the application instructions carefully, and be prepared to do this every couple of weeks until the pests are controlled.
So now basic care has been covered, and there you may be able to find the answer to your falling leaves, but I’ve had one more thought.
If your plant has been outside for the summer and you have just brought it inside, you may have shocked it. Sometimes, changes to air temperature and/or light levels are enough to make a plant drop its leaves. Continue to care for your plant as I’ve outlined and it should come back for you.