Is wilting 'normal' the first few weeks in 5-1-1 mix?

earthworm73(WA z8)May 6, 2012

This season I have committed to using Al's 5-1-1 mix for my palms and tropicals be they permenant in pots or temporary. Some of my palms and tropicals that have been put into 5-1-1 did not skip a beat in growth. Some seem to be okay for about a week or two then seem to wilt or in the case of my young palms the fronds start to close. I use the dowel method for watering to avoid overwatering. I am not sure if they are wilting from shock of being taken out of their original soil or sudden exposure to real sunlight if they had been in a greenhouse all of their lives. When you first put plants into 5-1-1 from traditional potting soil/mix is wilting common until they get used to living in a bark based media?

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The problem I had with 5-1-1 when I first started was that if you let the mix dry just a hair too much, it becomes hydrophobic, or basically it repels water. Then, you water you plants, and the water run right through and out the drains. The top can appear wet, but underneath, it is bone dry. Make sure that when you're watering, that you are actually wetting ALL of the mix, and not just the top inch. I find that I need to water it, let it sit in the tray of water, and reapply the water with a turkey baster a few times. The 5-1-1 mix can be quite a headache for this reason, but plants do love it.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 7:42PM
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I have not had that experience - my plants instantly loved the light, airy mix. I have my pots on grass though, so there is probably a bit less water-loss. Even with this, I water at least once a day in absence of rain; twice if it's over 90 degrees out.

When transplanting, I like to use some Superthrive and Biotone to avoid transplant shock.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 10:45PM
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Adding a couple drops of dishsoap to your watering can the *first* time you wet the mix can help as well. Even better is to wet the mix with a gentle spray of water as you mix it up.

I'll often water once quickly, and then come back and water everything again thoroughly with a second pass.

But then again, you're using the dowel method. Hmm.

In any case, wilting of a transplant can be greatly reduced with a humidity tent and and relatively shady location for a week or two. Humidity tent = clear plastic bag.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 6:07PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Good mention, Greentiger.
Plants that have recently been re-potted should be kept in a protected, shady location
for the first few weeks, unless we're talking about tomatoes or peppers that have been
in the sun prior to the up-potting.


    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 6:48PM
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earthworm73(WA z8)

Thanks for the replies all. I think the issue may be over watering. The top 2/3 seems dry but the very bottom where the roots dwel might still be wet. Also the plants that I mentioned may have been living in a greenhouse enviroment and might be reacting be being placed into the strong spring sun a little too fast. Funny how the mix could still be wet at the very bottom when drainage is superior to any mix I have ever bought or used. I'll try to water mix lightly as I make a new batch.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 2:30PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Did you know things like miracle grow mix are mostly peat moss and have a wetting agent in them? I found they stay too wet, so I did not try that mix, but I would suggest that wilting is not normal unless it is transplant shock. If the roots got disturbed it may be normal transplant shock. That should go away. I had the same problem with I used the miracle grow mix with some gravel like stuff I had, but it did not dry out at all. It was staying wet all the time. Maybe ferns would like that mix? That is why I took the plant out and used the gritty mix instead. Maybe there is not enough perlite in the mix to create enough drying. If you check it many times a day you can gauge if it is drying properly or not. If I did it again, I would use less peat moss and more things like gravel that would promote drainage. I guess the dish soap is like a wetting agent? Or maybe one can buy a wetting agent separately? Peat moss tends to not wet evenly. There can be dry lumps in the peat moss, when other part of the peat moss are too wet.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 4:25PM
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earthworm73(WA z8)

Tropical thought no I hadn't used peat based anything with those that wilted. Just small bark, composted bark and pumice.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 5:40PM
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Earthworm, bark and pumice is not 5-1-1. Should be bark (5) peat moss and perlite. You may not be holding enough water. For what you are growing, gritty mix might be the best option.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 10:20AM
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DaMonkey007(10b - Miami)

That's not necessarily true - the 5-1-1 can be modified in a number of ways. That being said when you start replacing this for that, you need to have a firm understanding of what the combined retention will be, and how to adjust the proportions to achieve the desired characteristics. I think you might be having the exact opposite problem that Capo suggests...I'm leaning towards *too much* water retention. Plants will often wilt under these conditions. One of the biggest mistakes people make is misdiagnosing over-watering for under-watering, then continue to water to "solve" the problem. Pumice holds alot of water - hence it's use as a substitute for peat or turface, and depending on what level of decompostion your "composted bark" is - that could be holding on to water as well, not to mention exactly how small your "small bark" is. If you've got a good fraction that's dust, or even approaching what would be considered very well may be retaining too much water. I suggest that you reevaluate your mix components, proportions, and particle size.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 12:51PM
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DaMonkey, you may be right. 5-1-1 is flexible, but what he's using sounds like it has strayed too far, and possibly the reason he's having issues. I've never used pumice, so I can't comment on it's properties. I didn't realize it held a lot of water. I was assuming the "small bark" was replacing peat, and the pumice was replacing perlite. If it does hold a lot of water, I agree that the mix might be too retensive.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 3:18PM
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prestons_garden(9B SZ 22 HZ 6 SoCal)

Pumice does not hold alot of water.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 11:45PM
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prestons_garden(9B SZ 22 HZ 6 SoCal)

Pumice does not hold alot of water. In all fairness to my response, it would be determined by particle size.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 11:55PM
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