Help - Geranium Leaf Aralia loosing leaves

piscesgirlFebruary 23, 2014

Need help with our Geranium Leaf Aralia. Our 6'+ plant has had some tough times lately.

We were impacted by the ice storm here in the Philadelphia area and had lost power for 5 days. Our house was down to 40 degrees for many days. When we finally got power and came back to the house all our houseplants didn't look to great. All the other houseplants have since bounced back but our Geranium Leaf Aralia is dropping all of its leaves. I would say about 70-80% of them are yellow and leaves just keep falling off.

Shortly after we got back into the house I watered all the plants (since we were out of the house and they had not been watered for well over a week or two and were dry). I have since again watered the plant with fertilizer. Now concerned that maybe it was too much watering since the plant is looking worse instead of better.

I know they are sensitive to cold, draughts, overwatering and temperature changes. Unfortunately in the last several weeks the tree has managed to go through probably majority of these.

Any suggestions on what we can do to get the plant o bounce back?. Just hoping it can survive long enough to make it to growing season.

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

At a minimum, you should probably look at the roots to see how soggy they are, because that plant doesn't like wet feet at all. If the soil is soggy - depot it and set the root/soil mass on a stack of newspapers or old towels for an hr or so. That will remove the excess water. Return it to the pot and do not water until you're sure it needs it - check soil deep in the pot with a sharpened wood dowel - works much better than "water meters" which actually measure electrical conductivity - not moisture. Keep it warm and in bright light .... and be patient. Your tree is probably pretty weak and won't be able to vigorously push a new flush of growth. Guard against anything that could cause the loss of any new foliage because the new growth will probably sap all the reserve energy the plant has, which means loss of the next flush would almost certainly seal its fate.

There are more things you can do to help the plant along, but I'm not sure how much proactivity you're up for?


    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 5:34PM
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tapla -
The soil is not soggy. Checked the soil deep in the pot with a wooden dowel. It comes out with soil stuck to it, would say the soils is wet or damp.

It would be extreamly difficult for me to depot the plant. The plant is a tree 6 feet tall and quite large. I can't even lift the pot. I got the plant when my office closed and it is in an integrated pot that has a metal outside an inner integrated plastic shell. For me to depot it, I would have to figure out how to literally pull the tree out of it's pot without breaking the tree and having soil everywhere. I gave a slight attempt to depot the tree when I first got it and realized I might break or hurt the tree in the process so I just left it in it's pot. It is in there pretty good.

Do you think it is necessary for the plants survival? If so I will figure out a way to remove it from the pot. Is there anyway else to dry the soil? Hairdryer? :-)

The tree is located at my front dining room window. East side of house. Window has a heater vent in front of that should keep it warm and also typically drys our plants out earlier than most other locations. I could move it to the south side of the house, which may give it more sun, but it would also be in front of a french door, which can be drafty.

Any other things I can do to help the plant along. I am willing to try anything.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 7:23PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hello! If you can post a picture, I'm sure that will help with developing a plan of action.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 7:46PM
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Here is a picture of the plant.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 8:25PM
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Here is a picture of the soil. It is what I would call moist throughout. Not soggy by any means, but I have to admit it is probably more wet than I typically water it as I tend to under rather than over-water.

I have stuffed newspaper down the side of the soil and pulled it out to try and wick the moisture out.....which appears to be working.

Again, not sure if it was the cold house after having no heat for 5 days, the dry soil, the "over' watering, or all of this combined with the generally horrible cold overcast and dry winter we have been having....that has impacted this plant.

The plant has had this happen once before a few years ago (dropping yellow leaves) and it did bounce back. Hoping it does the same again.

Again - any advise is appreciated.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 8:35PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Is there any drainage in that metal can?

I would assume that the yellowing is due to excess moisture in the root-zone, which is impairing root function and the plant's ability to take up nutrients. The cold could certainly have compounded the issue.

Do you fertilize this plant?


    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 8:46PM
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There are no drain holes. Again, I got this plant from our office when it closed so I didn't purchase this pot. I tried once to take it out of the pot but decided not to proceed because i was worried I would break the plant as it is it was pretty stuck in the pot.

I did fertilize the plant when I last watered it (after it was dry and looking pretty sad after the cold shock).

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 8:52PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Well, the first order of business has got to be drainage, and I think - as Al said - it is imperative to get it out of the container. The longer the root-ball sits in that confined space, the harder the plant will be to maintain. Under-watering the plant will ensure the slow build-up of salts in the soil, leading to more issues.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 9:28PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I agree. It's hard to tell if the issue is related to a build-up of dissolved solids (salts) in the soil, over-watering, or a combination. You could get by with moving the plant to a spot where it can drain, then flushing the soil with LOTS of water - maybe flushing the soil with a volume = to 10x that of the pot.

It's a sad fact, but if you want to reverse the decline, you need to eliminate the cause. At a minimum, you'd need to flush the soil. If you can't depot, you'll need to take a chance that the roots don't rot after flushing the soil, and that's not a good bet with this plant. There are a couple of things you can do to help more water drain after the flushing, but first you need to decide if you want to drill a hole in the side of the pot at the bottom and figure out a way to collect the water that will pass through the soil. The only other option is to wait and see, but the likelihood of the plant reversing its decline without your intervention is pretty slim.

If you get the plant through the winter, you'll be able to cut it back and reduce the root mass by more than half, probably to about 1/3 of its current size.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 10:01PM
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