Iron Plant - long and windy, so grab a cup of coffee
Warning - this is long.
Apparently, I'm the only person in the world who knows how to kill an iron plant, which is supposed to be one of the easiest carefree plants on the planet. Or at least, I seem well and able to make one extraordinarily unhappy.
This is a plant that apparently likes low-light corners, thrives on neglect, yadda yadda.
When I first got the plant, it was from my late grandmother, and it was enormous. Big tall dark emerald green leaves. She had a lovely green thumb and I used to help her all the time in her greenhouse which grandpa built off the south side of their house so she could just walk from the living room into her greenhouse area. It was beautiful in there. She potted the plant in very high-drainage mix so the water literally runs through. When she died, my dad had it outside on the north side of the house during the summer and only watered it when the soil was rather on the dry side, even when the summer temperature hovered around 38 degrees Celsius (nearly 100 F).
Then he gives me the plant. I tried to repeat the conditions, except in Alberta, we never get scalding hot temperatures. So, it sits inside my house with an average daily temperature of about 20 degrees Celsius. At first, I put it in front of the north sliding glass door which never has direct sunlight, but still provides good light. I maintained the same watering - only watering when it got rather on the dry side and let the water drain out (never sitting in water). It developed brown tips and started to die back. Dad said too much light. So, I moved it into the corner beside the sliding glass doors, where it is considerably darker. It sits underneath a golden pothos and a spider plant, but behind light-hogging 6' tall variegated fig and 5 foot high Norwegian pine, (all of these plants are thriving). Leaves started to die back, turning brown and withering away. Thinking maybe I was underwatering, I increased the watering frequency, (again NEVER letting it sit in standing water). It died back even faster, and I was losing lots of leaves, although curiously it was also trying to grow new leaves at a furious pace, but they never got bigger than 8 inches before looking burnt.
Then me thinks to myself, "ok, maybe the soil is full of salts", so I flushed it, but good. The water running through was coffee colored, so I ran it until it ran clear, let it drain well and put it back in its spot. That seemed to revive it a bit and started to grow many new leaves, so I thought this was progress. I continued with watering about every 7-10 days (when the soil felt dry within top 2 inches), always letting it drain thoroughly. The water always promptly runs through, so the drainage is excellent.
Now the plant got to about 8 inches high with many leaves, but now it is browning again and stopped getting taller. As well, instead of being solid dark emerald green, the leaves have pale green streaks on them. So, is this a nutrient deficiency? A watering problem? A soil problem? Lighting? The plant is now sulking and not growing any new leaves at all. A very unhappy plant, indeed.
I also looked very carefully for bugs - no aphids, mealy, spiders, nothing. Not even those little fungus gnats.
You know, I usually do pretty good with plants and have a wide variety in my (jungle) home, all healthy, all with varying needs and demands. Except for 2... an elephant ears which is also sulking and this iron plant that I fear I may lose. Everything else is happy and healthy.
I guess we can't win them all... but I would rather not lose my grandmother's plant as it reminds me of the days and hours she and I spent in her greenhouse.