Variegata Plants

hankeatJanuary 11, 2011

I collect variegata plants, but I always face a problem, because my variegated Monstera and Spathiphyllum have always brown spots on their variegated part of leaves? Too much water or too much light? Can anyone help? Thanks in advance.

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Sorry just a testing. Why I can't see my posting on the list?

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 3:17AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

That's GardenWeb for you...
Hit refresh, refresh, refresh, and it'll probably update.


More info needed. What kind of soil are you growing in?

Browned leaf-parts can be caused by several factors - root-rot from over-watering, yes,
but also possible concentration of salts in the soil.


    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 9:34AM
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I agree with Josh. Be very careful about your soil mixtures and excess water in the soil.

I am known to "write excessively" so if this bores you or anyone else, please just skip to the end right now. However I listed some important information on variegated plants I suspect you will want to read since most folks just don't understand the structure and processes of these plants.

I just don't know how to explain things without explaining enough so a grower understands both the concept and the background provided by science. You can find some very good discussions on this forum about soil so if this is useless, please try to find a few of them now, mostly written by Al Tapla.

Once anyone understands how a rainforest functions, how the soil in the rainforest is composed and how different it often is from the bagged "mud" we buy in a garden supply center, how often it actually rains and how individual specimens tolerate and utilize so much water, along with the role humidity plays in making plants prosper and the survival techniques employed by the many species, only then do we grow them successfully.

There is a natural balance in the forest between air, heat, humidity and water and most home growers don't understand the process, nor believe it can be duplicated in a home.

If you could visit a rainforest you would quickly learn the soil is composed of leaf litter, decaying wood, compost and the charcoal left behind when a part of the forest burns. If we'll just listen to Mother Nature we can all make our plants grow as they should in nature. In the forest a great deal of litter falls to the ground where it is broken down through natural decomposition via earthworms, insects and fungi. . The shallow roots of very large trees then rapidly absorb almost all of this organic matter. Although many of us grow our plants in air-conditioned living rooms where there is little humidity, in the forest the heat and humidity encourage the further decomposition of the rainforest leaf litter. That does not mean you cannot continue to reuse plant material refuse and create your own compost for future use with your own plants. In a natural rainforest the frequent rainfall that washes away many nutrients to leave the soil infertile and acidic leaches out the majority of the nutrients that manage to be absorbed into the soil. It is not uncommon for very large trees to fall in a storm but all the seedlings waiting for the patch of light that is left when a giant falls quickly replace them. Neither space nor light is wasted in the forest!

Tropical plants need light and have developed some very unique ways of finding it. Home growers tend to starve their plants for light and I will touch on that subject. In almost any rainforest, light is a very precious commodity! Plants fight for position and large ones often deprive small specimens of any light at all! Anthurium, Philodendron and other species climb trees to reach the light! As they grow high on the side of the tree they morph into what often appears to be a totally different species! Although a few, mostly with velvet-textured leaves prefer lower light, most tropical plants prefer bright indirect light. Some will exist in deep shade like your living room but will often not flourish. Filtered, relatively strong light is best in most cases. The light coming through a window is much stronger than the light from an inflorescent tube. Your plant will reward you with a dramatic change in the production of inflorescences and leaf shape if you give it what it craves!

The topsoil layers of a rainforest may be only one to two inches deep (often less) and provides only a limited amount of nutrition to the plants. Still, the plant life is lush since the plants store the nutrients inside their own cells as well as produce sugars via photosynthesis rather than gathering a great deal of their food from the soil. Were you to step into a living rainforest you will find far more varied plants dangling from the trees than you will ever find growing in the soil. Even in the trees, plants in the forest have adapted to utilize the falling nutrients from their "brethren" in order to flourish themselves and survive. When plants decay, others rapidly absorb the nutrients left behind from the dead vegetative matter and reuse them all.

Despite the belief of far too many growers, successfully growing tropical species, especially aroids, is not just about when and how much you water a plant, it is far more about the content of the soil�s moisture! Some aroids grow well in wet soil; others need a period of dryness! In most cases the water quantity is instead about how fast the water flows through the soil that can cause a lack of oxygen to the roots of our plants. We must learn how to control and preferably eliminate anerobic fermentation and saprophytes that can quickly turn into pathogens that are capable of killing our specimens.

Have you ever picked up a pot and were suddenly aware of the strong odor of death? That odor is due to the growth of saprophytes. Saprophytes are organisms including fungus or bacteria that grow on and draw nourishment, often saprophytes utilize dead or decaying organic matter, matter including soggy wet mud-like soil. They are bacteria proficient at the breakdown of the bodies of dead plants and animals returning the organic materials to the food chain. Saprophytic bacteria are usually non-pathogenic but may also contain the pathogens that attack the roots of our plants and cause them to rot. The advice to "slow down on the water" is really about how to control these pathogens. Fermentation often occurs in muddy soil that will not allow the roots of your specimen to breathe along with the uptake of fresh oxygen. However, fermentation does not necessarily occur in clean water, which is why we can cause a plant that is about to die to grow new roots if kept in a clean glass of water.

It is necessary to use soil mixes in both your pots that can allow the roots to freely draw in fresh oxygen and will not remain compacted or soggy. The reason plants rot is not entirely as a result of the amount of water given to the plant but can often be due to the structure and content of the soil! These are rainforest plants and many other plants are literally drowned for months at a time during the rainy season and flowing rivers flood and rise!

In order to duplicate Mother Nature as best possible we use a basic mixture on the advice of Emily Colletti, Horticulturist of the Research/Aroid Collection at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Missouri. Many of our specimens have reached or are beginning to reach their adult size and have produced inflorescences for sexual reproduction. The goal of this mix is to allow the roots to freely find places to stretch and extend without
constantly finding soggy soil where they may eventually contact fermentation and rot. If mixed well, this mix will remain damp but still drain quickly.

This is a basic mix and can be modified (often should be based on the plant). Our basic mix is about 30% good potting soil, 30% high quality peat moss, 20% orchid potting media that has hard and soft woods, charcoal and a small amount of gravel and/or sand mixed with approximately 10% Perlite�. All that is combined and mixed thoroughly with a few handfuls or two of cedar mulch along with finely cut spahgnum moss. The purpose to include charcoal is to increase drainage but also to take advantage of the tiny air spaces in the charcoal for growing beneficial microbes. All of these combined help with water retention and oxygen content in the soil. If you are composting your own dead vegetation and have some good compost, feel free to add it. Small pieces of granulated charcoal plus most of the other needed supplies can be purchased from any good orchid supply store.
Depending on the species, we sometimes also add small pieces of crushed volcanic rock, also frequently sold in orchid supply stores.

The exact mixture is not critical but all of these ingredients should be mixed as thoroughly as possible. You will notice the total does not add up to 100% since I will throw in whatever is needed to make the soil right for he plant. I certainly recommend more organic material rather than more soil if this is confusing.

Some important info on variegation most don't understand:

Since you collect variegated plants (commonly called "variegata" by growers) you may already know all of this but since many people read these posts and don't always understand the nature of the discussion I felt it important to make these things known about variegation. Excess variegation can be the cause of the plant's death and completely white (those that have no chlorophyll) plants rarely if ever survive.

Variegation is a phenomenon observed in some plants where partially or irregularly colored patches or streaks of different colored tissues in a variety plant organs are observed, normally on a leaf or stem but sometimes on a flower. Variegation may the result of natural DNA characteristics, the suppression of normal pigment development, pathogenic infection (particularly a viral infection known as Colour Break Virus) but may also be a mineral deficiency or genetic differences within the plant's cellular structure as a result of mutation. The virus is a somatic (cellular) mutation induced in tissue culture.

Similar mutations are being generated in tissue culture around the globe with Spathiphyllum, Homalomena, and Philodendron and other plants that usually involve the introduction of a benign colour-breaking virus in the lab. Variegation is sometimes seen in nature in species such as Epipremnum aureum (commonly called Pothos) and some Dieffenbachia as well as other species. It is now common for tissue culture laboratories to deliberately expose plants to the Colour Break Virus in order to chemically induce variegated specimens that may be sold at a higher retail price. Chimeral variegation as well as viral variegation (Color Break Virus) are unstable and temporary since they are not passed along through seeds and often vanish in a generation or two. Plants that are excessively variegated and lack sufficient chlorophyll (green tissue) are often incapable of survival due to the lack of an ability to conduct photosynthesis.

A chimera (KEE-mer-a) is a plant or part of a plant such as a leaf blade that is composed of layers that are genetically different and whose apical meristem is composed of two different types of tissues, one pigmented and one not pigmented. The most common form is a variegated plant where the leaf may be partially white or yellowish as a result of a lack of the ability to synthesize chlorophyll. These white and yellow patterns are caused by tissues without chlorophyll or other plant pigments. This is normally due to defective tissue formed without pigments since the meristem that produced them lacks cells containing pigments. This kind of chimaral variegation is not stable and morphs as the plant grows. Many popular foliage plants including some commonly available aroids are chimeras and many are artificially created in tissue culture laboratories rather than by nature via the introduction of the Colour Break Virus which inhibits the growth of chlorophyll in parts of the plant including the leaf, stem and petiole. The Colour Break virus is often unstable and in many cases the variegation fades in time. Chimeras are also commonly seen in nature but neither chimeral variegation nor viral variegation is commonly passed along through seeds
Now, just a word on photosynthesis since you asked if light was the problem you are seeing. In green plants and some other organisms including algae and specialized bacteria, photosynthesis is a chemical reaction caused by the interaction of chlorophyll within the plant and the sun's light combined with carbon dioxide, inorganic salts and water to produce carbohydrates. In green plants the autotrophic process converts physical energy from sun light into carbohydrates in the form of sugars. The biological term reduction indicates the hydrogen is molecularly stripped away from the oxygen. These sugars are produced for the purpose of providing energy and food to the plant, thus growth. Most forms of photosynthesis release oxygen to the atmosphere as a byproduct. Plants don't manufacture oxygen, they just release it by using the hydrogen in water.

Autotrophs create their own food by utilizing photosynthesis. The process is completed through the reduction of carbon dioxide by adding hydrogen in water (H2O) to create organic compounds. In green plants an autotroph converts physical energy from sun light into carbohydrates in the form of sugars In biology the term reduction indicates the hydrogen is molecularly stripped away from the oxygen. They may also form chemical energy by synthesizing complex organic compounds from simple inorganic materials in order to produce fats and proteins from light. The process is also known as being autotrophic.

I hope this is helpful but I do understand when many home growers feel I have just wasted their time. You can take a look at the photos on the link below and get an idea how all this works for us.


PS: I hope all this was not too boring!

Here is a link that might be useful: Our little plant collection

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 11:36AM
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@Josh: I grow them in normal soil for house plants. How can concentration of salts happen in the soil? Does it mean I've to water my plants with rain water?

@Steve: Thanks for the long and detailed respond. More accurate I collect variegated aroids and succulents. It's difficult to create rain forest condition at home, because I've to beware of the wallpaper in my apartment. The humidity in my living room is 60 to 70%. I think it's enough for aroids. One thing could be wrong is I grow my Spathiphyllum in Lechuza pot. In fact most of my aroids are in Lechuza, as I plan to grow all of them in such pots. Moreover I put a layer of grit on the surface of the soil. I think that's wrong too. But all my normal aroids (those without variegation) are growing well. After I moved my Spathiphyllum my bathroom to living room few days ago, it becomes better. I believe because it's more light now.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 1:40PM
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birdsnblooms're here. lol.

I'd like to add a couple points. Variegated plants need more sun than green.
Second. They're 'maybe not all,' grow slower than green plants.

About the brown. Is the brown imbedded in the leaves or do they look like brown lumps? Can they be scrapedd off? Toni

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 1:44PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Any chance it's from your water? Do you water w/ fresh tap water, or leave it out for a couple of days? I leave all my water jugs out to stand for a few days, I don't have any trouble w/ brown spots. That COULD be somewhere to start.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 3:18PM
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Excess salts are from both water and fertilizer as indicated in Pirate Girl's response. Water that is very hard can have lots of salts in the form of Magnesium and either minerals. Magnesium is actually good for most aroids but not in excess.

As autotrophs, plants prefer to make their own food and we are often guilty of giving them excess fertilizer rather than enough good light so they can photosynthesize. Good botanical gardens change their soil on a regular schedule in order (about every two years) in order to prevent salt build up in the soil.

As for the leaf problem you are describing, a photo would help.

I am giving you a link on Spathiphyllum. Since in nature they love water but require a fast draining soil I would not think your Lechuza pot would be a problem provided the soil is correct for the genus. This link explains all (or at least most) of that with the he help of a number of aroid scientists.


Here is a link that might be useful: Spathiphyllum

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 4:55PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

any chance of pictures?

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 10:55PM
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Thanks everyone for the answers. I posted the photos of my plants below. I hope the links work. They look not so bad now, because I cut off most of the brown part already. :) I posted two photos of Spathiphyllum, one is taken after I bought it and the other is today. Now almost all of the big leaves are gone and the new leaves are much more smaller. Perhaps it was lack of light in my bathroom. Now it's in my living room. I hope it'll recover.

@Toni: The brown is embedded in the leaves.
@Pirate Girl: Most of the time I use fresh tap water and sometimes rain water. It seems that I should use rain water. Although it's quite hard for me to monitor it, because I've about 150 house plants, but I'll keep in mind.
@Steve: Thanks. I'll read the link.
@Jean: Below are the photos.

Here is a link that might be useful: Monstera deliciosa variegata

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 8:58AM
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Now is the photo of Spathiphyllum. It was a very beautiful plant. Unfortunately(?) its variegated part is very high. Some leaves are totally white. This photo is taken just after I bought it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Spathiphyllum - Domino

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 9:03AM
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Now is the photo of Spathiphyllum that I took today. I've just notice that the brown spot happens at the green part of leaves too. The small white leaf below the big ones has brown spot too. In fact this is the beautiful part of the plant. I can't show the worst part of it, because I already cut off most of them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Today Spathiphyllum - Domino

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 9:11AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)


I'd forget about rainwater (I used to have about 200 plants indoors).

Just fill jugs of water & let them stand several days & they should be fine. I've been doing it this way for at least 10 yrs. never had any trouble.

IMO Life is too short to be worrying about rainwater, that would put a damper in my plant collecting for sure.

FWIW, when I tried to grow Domino a few yers. ago I found it much more fussy than the regular Spath & lost it, don't think I'll try that again.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 6:20PM
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Hank, your plants are lovely. A little spotting this time of year, 'especially indoors,' is common.
The variegation on both plants is exceptional. Vivid, highly pronounced. Wish I had such a lovely Monstera. :)

Karen is right. I too save old, 'cleaned' milk containers, hidden behind large plants..When a plant needs a drink the container water is room temp, among other things.

Rainwater, like snow, takes forever, 'unless plants are outdoors,'..One time I came up with a really dumb idea. Catch snow. The container holding the snow was HEAVY. After it melted, there was less than 2" of water. lol.

Karen, you've really increased your plant Toni

    Bookmark   January 13, 2011 at 2:45PM
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It's been my experience that many heavily variegated plants require higher levels of humidity than their solid green counterparts -- especially if the variegation is white (ie, totally devoid of chlorophyll). Regardless of attention to cultural strategies, in typical home environments it's virtually impossible to maintain beautiful specimens of plants like Monstera deliciosa variegata and Spathiphyllum 'Domino'. In fact, they can be a real challenge even in conservatory or greenhouse settings.

Steve -- Many thanks for that long, very interesting & enlightening post. Now I understand why Philodendron wendlandii variegata seems to have disappeared from the planet. I've seen it in old photographs, so I'll simply have to be satisfied with that, quit searching for it, and move on . . .

BTW, I found your site a while back when searching for info on ZZ plants. THANKS for sharing your experience, & for taking the time to clear up all the misinformation on that wonderful plant!

    Bookmark   January 13, 2011 at 3:41PM
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Steve, hope you're still around.

Several years ago, while grocery shopping, a display of African Violets were on sale.

Among green and variegated AV's, one stood out. Its foliage was pure white, not a dot of green.
He and I debated who'd take it; I relented.

He took this lovely, pure white-leaf AV to work, set it in an east facing window, on the 21st floor.
It flowered regularly, 'single, pink flowers.'
I can't recall the exact number of years he had this beauty..somewhere between 3-4 yrs.

His company relocated...his new office was on the first floor and no windows.
I should have insisted on taking it since its only light were fluorscents. A couple months later, it started to decline, until its death.

The fact is, until the move, his AV was in excellent health. New growth was white.
I took a couple leaf cuttings, but they didn't root. Possibly my fault.

What do you think? Toni

    Bookmark   January 13, 2011 at 4:15PM
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In fact I don't have problems with collecting rainwater or snow. Like Toni I do have some old, cleaned paint containers that are piled up in my bathroom with rainwater. I just need to be more organized. :)

I've another problem plant which is Ficus elastica - Tineke. It has been dropping its leaves since I brought it in and put it in my kitchen. The plant is about 160cm tall, now it's only four leaves on the top and three new shoots at the bottom. What is the cause? Too much water? Too dark? Or does it need cool night?

Here is the photo before I brought it in.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ficus elastica - Tineke.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 9:16AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi again,

Well Hank if the rainwater is not a problem, it's great that works for you.

Nice Ficus, hopefully our friend Al (Tapla) will see this & comment, he's especially helpful on Ficus.

I've got a Ficus elastica similar to yours but variegated w/ Burgundy which I hope to repot in Spring w/ his help.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 12:30PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

Please do not slap me but what has helped me is epsom salt. I put a tablespoon of epsom salt in a gallon of water.

It worked with my Canna Stuttgart, I tried everything placed it in total shade and the plant continued to burn. It looked horrible. This plant was getting rain water growing outside, planted in my homemade compost.

After the epsom salt treatment once a month no more browning.


After the epsom salt treatment

The other plant I had browning trouble with was Stromanth 'trio color. I do not have a before but you can see some of the brown. Before that the leaves were coming out brown spotted before they were fully opened.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2011 at 12:57PM
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Here's a link that you will find resourceful.

I use rain water. I do find a huge difference on certain plants verses faucet water.


Here is a link that might be useful: Ficus thread by Al

    Bookmark   January 19, 2011 at 3:14PM
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Marquest, beautiful plants..Stromanthe Sanguinea Trio is one of the prettiest of all in the Maranta family.

Since using ES's, and new foliage isn't browning, continue applying, as long as it's not over-done.

People I talk to who use ES's, once a month, vow their plants are show plants. :) What baffles me is, when ES is applied to soil of green plants, green/pale leaves supposedly turn vivid green. What affect would ES have on a variegated plant, would it revert to green?

I too add ES's, when I think about it, lol, but have never added to variegated..Scared. lol. What do you think? Toni

    Bookmark   January 19, 2011 at 3:46PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

What do I think? Are you kidding me? LOL!!!!

I am not smart like the others with mixing the soil, with so much bark and this amount of sand and, and......

I just have enough time to buy a bag of soil and throw it in the pot and water. I would not have time to catch the next plane to get to work if I started trying to make soil. LOL!! So my ES is my answer when a plant looks bad. I only have the weekend before I am gone for a week. When I come back Friday they look better. That is all I know.

What I noticed on the Stromanthe is the colors are stronger. I am getting more white variegation, the red is deeper and the green is darker. It does not make sense since it makes green plants a darker green. So you see I know nothing.

What I have read is it builds the plant to take up the nutrients that the plant needs. That is all I remember. It is a miracle worker on my roses. In the Spring I put a handful around the rose bushes and they bloom like crazy. These were old rose bushes that had very few flowers.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2011 at 10:14PM
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Are you talking to me or Mike regarding soil?

IF MG works, use it. I too use bagged soils, but depending on the plant, other mediums are added. For instance, plants that need acidic soil, get added Peat. Succulents get Perlite and when I can find decent sand, both are added. I pre-make mixtures, keep in plastic containers. Label each container. This way, when a plant needs repotting or top dresing, the soil is mixed and ready to go. The only thing that irks me about MG is their new, added fertilizer. It's more money for one. They should sell MG with and w/o fertilizer, this way the consumer can choose which they want.
I also buy black, bagged soils. A certain type of Hyponex for one. Black soil contains nutrients plants require. However, I don't use black soil for sux.

Marquest, you sound very very busy. Always on the go, huh? I don't envy Take care, and good growing, Toni

    Bookmark   January 21, 2011 at 3:34PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

I was not directing the soil to any particular person. It is just that I read some post and they were giving instructions of how to make the perfect soil. LOL I did a little chuckle and looked at my plants and told them their mommy did not have time they were going to have to suck it up.

I found some soil that is called Black Gold at a discount store that everybody seems to love. I do a lot of organic addatives VF-11, and superthrive, coffee grinds, tea leaves etc.

My job was fun when I was young but as you age leaving on Mondays and coming home on Fridays gets old. I do not have too much longer I will retire but until then the plants will have to deal with the store brought soil. I have had plants for 30+ years and they survive so it is all I can do for now.

If I cannot find the Black Gold I use MG but it is seldom I cannot find that brand.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2011 at 4:32PM
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Hi Marquest, beautiful Canna Stuttgart. I will buy one this year. Regarding epsom salt I will try it, if my plants are not getting better.

I've a Stromanthe sanguinea Tricolor too. It had many brown spots as well, when it's in my bathroom. My bathroom is the worst place for plants, only Epipremnums can grow well there. After I put it in kitchen, it became better. This happened the same to my Spathiphyllum - Domino.

I believe the brown spots of your Stromanthe are caused by low humidity, too warm (too near to heater) and too dark. These are the conditions in my bathroom.

Mike, thanks for the link. I'll read through it.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2011 at 1:06PM
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Marquest. I've heard of Black Gold, but it's not sold here.
If the soil you're using works, why change? 30 years is proof enough. Stromanthes aren't the easiest plants to keep, nor for a non-green thumb. Yours is beautiful.
Perfect soil, indeed! Your plants were probably chuckling along with you. Toni

I have a bottle of VF waiting to be used, and been a SuperThrive fan, more years than I dare admit.
When you apply coffee grounds, are they soggy? What's the purpose of tea leaves?
I'm a tea drinker, so the only grounds I have access to are herbal and black teas.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 8:22PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

Toni I am a tea drinker also. I do not use any sugar or cream. Any tea left in the cup gets dumped on the plants. Open the tea bags and dump them in a jar and use that water to water all my plants.

I get all that free coffee in all the hotels I have to stay in. LOL. Any plant that likes acidic soil I have a jar with water that I dump the free coffee use the water from that jar for the acid lover plants.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 9:43PM
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Hi. I have a varigata Monstera was a cutting from a very old plant, this now is up and over the ceiling in my kitchen (just Fab) but it always gets brown edges on the white part of the leaves, especially if the leaf has a lot more white than green, but never on the green edges. The leaves stay there and dont drop, it just gets eaten up by the brown edge. Deforms it a little. Keeps putting out more new leaves ok. Got an enormous one in Spain in totally ideal conditions, does just the same....Would it be hard water??? Help.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 9:58AM
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Hi Clive, now I try the method that marquest suggested, put a tablespoon of epsom salt in a gallon of RAIN water. Let's see what will happen.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 2:21AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hankeat - if you think analytically about adding Epsom salts, you'll probably come away with the idea that adding ANY element or compound designed to 'fix' a struggling plant is more likely to limit a plant than help it. I'll use your plant as a specific example.

It's likely that the spots on the variegated part of the leaves is due to over-watering and/or a high level of soluble salts in the soil and not a nutritional deficiency. Let's examine the possibility of both - that Mg either IS or ISN'T the source of the problem.

If a Mg deficiency isn't the issue, it would do no good, in fact it would be counterproductive to add a solution of Epsom salts as it will create an excess of Mg in the soil solution, and we know that anything that contributes unnecessarily to the level of salts in the soil (especially when there is a strong likelihood that salts are already a part of the problem) is a bad thing. Additionally, adding Mg without adding Ca, as you would be doing by dosing with MgSO4 (Epsom salts) can make it very difficult for the plant to take up Ca(lcium), which causes problems as well. The primary symptoms of a Mg deficiency in most plants are a pale appearance of older leaves and interveinal chlorosis (yellowing) with the main veins standing out because a band of tissue on either side of the veins remains green. Cupping/curling of the leaf's margins is another possible symptom of a Mg deficiency. Vining plants almost always exhibit thin vines with long internodes & look like they've been grown in low light. FWIW, even though there could be a Mg deficiency, the odds almost overwhelmingly favor it NOT being one. More info would be needed to logically say that you are probably dealing with a Mg deficiency and that treating it with Epsom salts is a good course of treatment.

If it IS the problem, then we need to ask WHY? Is it because your soil is more than 2 years old and the Mg fraction of the lime has been depleted? Is it because there is too much Ca or K in the soil, either of the two being antagonistic toward Mg?

If Mg is deficient, it's very likely other individual nutrient levels are out of balance as well. It makes more sense to resolve any possibility of it being a Mg deficiency AND resolve other possible causes and issues simultaneously, rather than put all your eggs in a shaky basket and HOPE it's a Mg deficiency. BTW - container media is almost never deficient in S, the other half of MgSO4 (Epsom salts), so that's almost certainly not a possible issue.

I would flush the soil thoroughly to rid it of excess solubles salts that might be accumulating. I would insert a wick through the drain hole and water your plant so the soil is flushed well each time you water. If you can't do that w/o risking root rot, you should consider a soil that drains well & that will remain well-aerated for the life of the planting. After watering, I would let the wick dangle a few inches below the pot. This will help drain excess water from your soil. Inserting the wick through the bottom at the side wall of the pot, then tipping the pot at a 45* angle with the wick down, until the wick stops dripping will be VERTY helpful in eliminating excess water. Monitor water needs carefully. The first time the plant needs water after flushing, fertilize with a half-strength dose of a soluble fertilizer in the 3:1:2 RATIO (different than NPK %s). My favorite is Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 because it has ALL 12 essential nutrients in favorable NPK %s (including Mg) AND in a favorable ratio to each other. This is the best way to make sure your plants get balanced nutrition. If you don't want to use the Foliage-Pro 9-3-6, other examples of 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers commonly found are 24-8-16 or 12-4-8. Miracle-Gro, Peter's and others make the first formulation in soluble granules, and MG makes the 12-4-8 in a liquid that's very easy to use.

If you decide to use a soluble fertilizer that DOESN'T contain Mg and/or Ca, let me know what you selected and how long your plant has been in the soil it's in now, and I can help with specific instructions on how to treat the Ca/Mg situation.

Tending plants is a holistic endeavor. Our goal should be to reduce the limiting effects of all potentially limiting factors. This not only includes our consideration of all nutrients + things like temperature, soil air and moisture levels, light, pH ..... it also includes our being careful not to introduce a new limiting factor in our quest to resolve another one - out of the pan into the fire is what comes to mind when we start adding Epsom salts, iron sulfate, and other elements/compounds in an attempt to fix things that are probably not even wrong to begin with.

Your plant - your choice, of course. I just thought I'd offer my suggestion for the most productive course from an analytical view.

Best luck. Let me know if you think there is any way I can help further.


    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 12:08PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

I had a thought not on the analytical side. But.....I know different countries just as different cities in the US use different chemicals and different amounts of chemicals in the water. It could be why the epsom salt works so well for me due to the chemicals my area uses. I have not killed a plant with a tablespoon of epsom salt in a gallon of water once a month. Now I have killed many by not watering though. LOL

Maybe buy some bottle water and try some good clean H2O for a year and see what happens.

I grew up with plants back in the old days and my Mom would never use water out of the tap it was rain water she saved through the summer and water that was in jugs on the patio for weeks. I never remember her having to spray for bugs and never used any fertilizers.

Old timers always used natural remedies back then though.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 6:44PM
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Thanks for the analysis Al. I didn't pay much attention on my Spath until this winter. It was in my dim bathroom at the highest shelf for almost two years. I noticed the problem few months ago.

First of all I potted it in a Lechuza about a year ago. Yes, the brown spots could be due to over water, high level of soluble salts, winter or wrong place. It was at the shelf beside my bathroom's window. Everyday the bathroom would be aired twice, even in cold winter. Could it be due to the cold air or the water in the Lechuza pot was cool down by the cold air? It became better after I moved it into my living room, but there are still brown spots (much more lesser)on it, but this time they are only along the white edges of leaves.

Regarding the drainage. There isn't any hole in Lechuza pot. I grow all of my aroids in such pot, all of them (non-variegated) grows very well. so far only the Spath has problem, perhaps it's the only one that has thin leaves. My variegated Monstera could consider free of problem now, as the brown edges stop expending.

Regarding the fertilizer. I stick a pallet form slow release fertilizer into the pot once a year. It's a NPK fertilizer containing Magnesium. 10+11+18 (+2.0). Beside I add another NPK fertilizer without Magnesium 7+3+6 on and off.

As you can see, I'm an amateur. Your suggestion is very good, but it's kind of too complicated for me. Anyway I'll try to implement it and pay more attention to my Spath, because the Spath that contains more than 60% variegation isn't easy to get and perhaps not easy to grow as well.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 8:46AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I think what's most important at this point is you understand that ALL the solubles in your fertilizer and tap water that aren't used by the plant are remaining in the soil. The ratio of nutrients, one to the other(s) will undoubtedly become unbalanced enough to cause antagonistic deficiencies of certain nutrients, the pH of the soil solution will undoubtedly continue to rise, and the o/a level of soluble salts in the soil will become so high that it will be impossible for the plant to take up water. All of these ills are occurring now or will occur in the future unless you act.

As salts accumulate in the soil, their concentration can become so high that water cannot move into cells. I suspect that is what is occurring now. Like curing salt pulls moisture from ham or bacon, the salts in the soil solution can become so high that they actually PULL water from plant cells. This causes the plasma in cells to shrink and be torn from cell walls. The technical term for this is called plasmolysis, but we commonly call it 'fertilizer burn', which CAN actually occur even if you don't fertilize - from only the dissolved solids in tap water that are trapped in the soil.

I would seriously consider changing pots, or at least unpotting the plant, bare-rooting, root pruning, cutting the plant back, and repotting in a fresh soil that is durable and drains freely.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 10:28AM
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Here's my favourite variegated plant, but there are ones much prettier, too.

Agave applanata (and it's a miniature, too!)

But then how can one forget a cultivar of Agave potatorum 'Kisshokan'

And here's a coyote....wait, he's not variegated, but he is near a Yucca, which is near another Yucca that is variegated...

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 10:09PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Here's a couple of my favorite variegated plants, which I too collect:

Hoya kerrii variegate growing Hydro in fired clay stones & water.

Its new leaves are all clean & pristine, the splotchy ones are the older, aging out leaves, that's how this one grows it seems.

One of my all time favorite plants: Polyscias balfouriana or Balfour Aralia:

a Ficus elastica variegate called Burgundy

I hope to repot this in Spring w/ a bit of Al's help & hopefully some of his gritty mix too. ;>) Hi Al!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 11:45PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Rockin'! Whenever you're ready .......


    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 9:46AM
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@Al: I changed the soil and pot of Spathiphyllum yesterday. Just wait and see the development.

@pirate_girl: unfortunately my beautiful Ficus elastica - Tineke is dead. It was a 1.5 meter tall plant. Anyway I won't buy any Ficus anymore, because I don't have the right condition for them.

I still have my Ficus benjamina - Starlight.

My new Citrus mitis variegata

For people who are interested, all photos of my variegated plants are in my Flickr "Variegated" album.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 3:22AM
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Marquest. I too am a tea drinker. Sometimes, expired tea goes on sale for .25 or so, I'll buy a few boxes.
BTW, I keep water in used 'cleaned' milk containers, toss two tea bags in the water, and let sit until plant/s are ready to get watered.
The water turns light to medium brown. I've used both herbal and caffiene teas. I add honey with herbal tea, or a little milk and sugar with caffiene teas, so can't add used packets.
Which tea/s do you drink? Herbal or regular?

I've never tried loose tea. What about coffee? You mentioned 'freebie' lol, coffee packets from motels. Do you drink coffee, then add the grounds in soil, or sprinkle 'dry'?

Clive, don't know if you're still's strange the variegated parts of leaves brown, but green doesn't.
Do all parts of your Monstera, 'top/middle/bottom' have this problems?
Do you have a pic of your Monstera?

Marquest, your mom is a smart woman. NO chemicals, yet she has nice, healthy plants. Many of 'the old ways' work, and so much better for the environment.

Hank, some variegated Spaths are fussier than green. Domino doesn't require much more attention than plain green, but some variegated Spaths want constant attention. lol..
You said you were going to 'Pay More Attention' to your Spath..that's fine, but don't plants do better when neglected, 'to a degree.'
You also said it was in the same spot 2 yrs. Could it need repotting? I find Spaths do better semi-pot-bound, but when roots are growing out of drainage holes or on top of soil, needs daily water, or all you see are roots, 'no soil,' up'ing a pot size, even one-two sizes larger, might help.

Most slow-release, pellet fertilizers last 3 months..does the container say apply once a year or is adding once a year, your own choice?

Cactus, beautiful Agaves. You said A. applanata is a mini? What size container is it in? The pot looks large, but pics are sometimes deceiving. How big does a mini get?

Gorgeous Coyote. Nope, he's not variegated, but beautiful. If you have pets, keep an eye on them.
A few Poodles were snatched up by hungry Coyotes within walkiing distance from our house. We have a 16lb Shih-po who isn't afraid of any dog, dispite size..He thinks he's the Hulk. lol.

Karen, is your Hoya growing in water?? If so, how long? All three plants look great. One day, you'll have to tell me your secret growing Balfours.

Hank..WOW! Both Ficus and Citrus are the most most beautiful variegated trees I've ever seen. Where on earth did you find green and yellow? My variegated Ficus and two lemons are green and white..
I will definately check your Flickr site.

Some of my Fav Variegated plants.



Crown of Thorns

Purple Heart

F. Rubber Tree

Variegated Vanilla

Nowadays, I prefer buying variegated opposed to green. Toni

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 3:49PM
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Toni, you variegated Clivia is beautiful. I've one too, but it's till small.

I bought the Ficus bejamina- Stralight in Turkey, when I was there, as they are not available in Germany.

I bought Citrus mitis variegata in Germany.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 3:38AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Gosh, such nice plants everybody, really something to see!

Toni, that Clivia pic left me stunned, floored, most of their variegates I've seen have been w/ yellow, not my cup of tea. But the white striping on yours, wow, so much white! Stunning gorgeous, looks like striped fabric to me (I'm a quilter & recovering textile designer, so there's my bias).

Your varieg. H kerris looks very nice too; all your Hoyas look happy.

For more on my Hydro growing Hoya kerrii, pls. go on over to Hoya Forum & search same where I wrote & showed some pix. I've had it since Fall '08, when my Local Indoor Gardening Society had some Hydro vendors in to give a talk & show their plants.

Hiya Al,

Thanks, I hope to write privately soon, revving up for a big Quilt Show next week, after that I hope to get on this, especially since the Ficus burgundy made it through the winter. It was a bit tough tho', I had to pull its pot off, rough up the rootball & make holes down into the mix to allow water to get way into the rootball, sigh, but it did. (Just stopped to take some pix so I so I'll write you w/ a few pix of its current state.)

I do so love the variegates, all kinds.

Hankat, Thanks for starting such a nice thread.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 1:19PM
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Hank. Thanks. The Clivia was purchased on Ebay from a seller in China. He has the nicest Clives at great prices. I can't afford large Clivias, so all my guys were started as seedlings to young plants, 4-5 leaves.

Germany has some beautiful plants..Why is it, the prettiest colored plants come from other countries? lol.
I've never, ever seen a Ficus or Citrus with so much variegation and beauty.

Karen, thanks. So, you're still quilting. I can't find the page your quilts were on. Those I found were professional. I don't quilt, but have an eye for quality and patterns. Yours were exceptional.

I'll check the Hoya forum..haven't been there in months.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 7:51PM
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You are welcome Karen. I'll check the Hoya forum.

Haha, Tony. I would say the same. Why all the prettiest variegated plants are sold only in USA? Besides most of the nurseries don't send plants to Europe. If yes, I have to pay 100 US$ for the Phytosanitary Certification. Grrrrrr.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 6:15AM
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marquest(z5 PA)

Yep I agree "Toni, you variegated Clivia is beautiful" I wish I had that one. LOL

I do not drink coffee I just take the free coffee for my plants since they put it in the room.

I drink regular black tea and green tea through the day. No sugar, cream or lemon. I drink my tea straight and strong. LOL

Yes I grow my plants simple as my Mom taught me.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 8:46PM
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Hank, I meant why are the pretties plants grown outside of USA. lol
Thailand's plants are the best. Africa has true beautys too. Same with China.
Now after seeing Germany's plants, another country to add.

Marquest thanks. I'm not a coffee drinker either, but love teas. Black, Green w/Ginsing and herbals before bed.

Remember we were talking about Jamacan Gardens? I heard they closed the sister chain now. Is that terrible or what? Thankfully, Ted's is around, but it was nice driving up north, viewing all those plants in their huge green houses.

Thinking about your cream, lemon or sugar..You must zoom around the house all

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 9:39PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

Toni, Zoom I do through airports in a single bound. I do not have a "S" on my chest but a "T". LOL I put 2 tea bags in the cup and steep until black and full body.

The company is cutting the travel because the airfares are getting high all I can say is bless their little green the color of money hearts. I might get some time with my plants for a few months. I can catch up on the reports and breath. Jump for Joy for me.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 12:59AM
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It's a Bird, it's a Plane, no wait, it's T-Woman. lol

It sounds like you're a little tired flying?? When you travel, do you have time for yourself? Other than work, stuck in a hotel/meetings?
Do you go overseas?

If you're happy you get to spend time w/plants, stay in one place a while, I'm happy for you.

Do you have someone care for your plants when you're away?

That's one advantage growing Cactus. They can go without water a long, long time.

I just stood up, jumping for
Tropicals, especially youngsters, are a different ball-game.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 4:35PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

Toni, I do not have to go out of the country. We have a division that does the middle east I was asked once and they know that is not going to happen. The money is awesome but so is the danger.

I do not have anyone that likes my plants so they only depend on me to survive.

I have been tired of traveling for a few years but it pays the bills. I cannot wait not to get x-ray, patted down, undressing and feeling like a criminal on a weekly basis. Do you know before you go through security you have to take off your shoes, a jacket if you have one on and if you put a blouse on over a camisole they want you to remove your blouse.

People think the job is fun. You work from 7 am until 6 pm travel time to the hotel from the work site can be up to 2 hr. So you get to the hotel between 7-8 pm if you are not dead you might eat dinner.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 8:35PM
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God, Marquest..sounds very dangerous. I don't blame you for not heading east. When I think about that poor reporter, it sickens me. Stay in the states, even if it means less money.. It's not worth it.

What do you mean ppl don't like your plants? WHAT?

I know, it's getting harder and harder to fly these days. It's been a few years since we flew, and you're right, it's embarrassing and a hassle. On the other hand, I was happy security was so diligent. If they missed something...Don't like thinking about it.

A friend flew last year. She bought new face and body creams for her trip. They took was not returned. Wonder what happens to our possessions???

Can you tell me what type of work you do? If not, I understand. Oh, sounds get to eat if you're not'll be in my prayers, Marquest..hugs, Toni

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 2:38AM
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marquest(z5 PA)

Thank you Toni for your prayers. I need all I can get now.

Yep no one that cares about my beloved plants. Only once one was noticed. The Armaryllis bloom stem started growing so fast my daughter was afraid it was a man eating plant so she moved it to the family room which was on the lower level and closed the door so it could not reach her upstairs in her bedroom. LOL

I am a auditor. I do gov't contract run facilities for safety. There is a group that audit different areas so you travel as a group. That helps because you are not alone these people are like family because you are together so much of your waking hours.

I think we hijacked the variegated question. I am sorry Hankeat. I have enjoyed looking at all the pretty pants that I want one day. I hope you got some answers that will help.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 1:49PM
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Marquest, that's sooo funny your daughter thought your Amaryllis was a man-eating plant. lol. How old was she when this happened? Kids are adorable..they say and imagine the funniest things.

Your job sounds dangerous, Ms. Bond. lol. Seriously, it's definately not an average 9-5.
Spending so much time with people, day after day, dining together, makes one feel like the person/people are family. Moreso if tension is involved, and I'm assuming by the things you said, there's quite a bit.
Take care of youself, Marquest.

Sorry Hank. Guess we did hijack your thread. You know how it goes when two females start chatting? lol Toni

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 10:48PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

I know we are hijacking your variegated plant discussion but this is a variegated kid I have. Maybe a few people with a spouse, kid, family member that have no interest in the plants we love so much can relate. This is what happened to the beautiful Armaryllis.

I knew the plant would be in bloom when I arrived home Friday night. So before I left to catch the plane Monday morning I placed it in the middle of the dining room table. As much as I love plants the dining room has no plants it is the only no plant room. It is the past thru room to the kitchen and open plan that you can see it from the living room. I wanted to see it before I went upstairs after my long week.

She said she came down for breakfast the first morning it was 4" by the time she arrived home from school it looked like it was 6". When she got up the next morning it was 10" tall. She sat at the table eating her breakfast and she thought she saw it grow more and turn and look at her. LOL

When she came home that evening it was even taller and the round head at the top looked like it was as big as a basketball. She then decided something was not right and if it had any plans of eating her thru the night or the next morning when she came down for breakfast it had better grow legs to go with that big head because she was moving it downstairs and locked in the basement. LOL

She was 30 yrs old. From the age of 16 she had been to college and studied overseas (Brazil, Germany) so although I have had many plants always she never really noticed. She was always in her books studying, in school and just being a busy child enjoying her life never noticing every corner of the house had plants you just walked around and go out the door.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 12:16AM
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Marquest, so how many inches is your Amaryllis now? Is it in bud? This time of year? Do you force it?

An Amaryllis with variegated leaves would be a true beauty. Wonder if such a plant exists? If there is, I'd be on my 'WANT LIST.' lol.

As a child, I remember hearing about Man Eating Plants, and believed it. lol.
Especially, the first time I saw a huge cactus in a movie, resembling a thorny, green man. Toni

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 7:09PM
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