Sickly Philodendron?

purplefoxMarch 22, 2013

Hi all,

I have what I believe to be a type of Philodendron that is not looking so hot as of late. I've had this plant for a long time and it has always been very easy to care for. I water it when the soil is dry and put it outdoors the shade during the summer. In the winter, I bring it inside and keep it by a window, or a few feet away from one.

Last winter it was looking a little on the small side, which it usually does in the winter. I expected it to perk up after a summer outdoors. It didn't really, and now after this winter it looks awful. I tried repotting it with a standard house plant mix. (I don't know much about repotting, pretty much just transferred it into new soil) -- nothing has changed in a could of weeks, except the leaves are looking yellow and a white mold is going on top of the soil.

I was told to look for little white bugs in the soil, and I didn't think I saw any but I finally found one. I just looked again and noticed three more, but I have to look pretty hard for them as they are VERY tiny.

I assume the mites are the issue, but what are they? How do I get rid of them? I was told to water the plant with soapy water, but I am hesitant of that until I know for sure. I don't think it needs any water for at least another week, but I am afraid something needs to be done very soon. I am attaching a photo to this post.

Thank you very much in advance!!!

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Is it Philodendron Xanadu?

Mold on the soil surface could be a sign of too much water but Im sure the mites aren't helping.

Hopefully someone else is more helpful?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 3:43PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Hi & welcome to Gardenweb, from one purple to another!!

I agree, Tuck.

From the stumpy things, I think it may be P. bipinnatifidum. If so, those are planted in the ground around here and go dormant from cold during the winter. In the summer they start again from the ground and can get to the roof of a house. I would let your plant dry significantly before watering again, the general rule for bringing tropical plants inside for a cold, dreary, dry-air winter.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 4:01PM
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Hi and Welcome, Purplefox.

You said you found four bugs in the soil?
Do they move?

Could the white objects be perlite, vermiculite or timed-release fertilizer?

Did the person who advised you to check the soil have any idea which insect to look for?

The soil looks pretty wet. Did you recently water?
Allow soil to dry between waterings, especially during winter months.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 4:40PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Do you have any idea what kind of bugs you've found? I don't know if only 4 of them on a plant this size would be causing the problems you're having. Take another closer look and see if you can find more. You can try to dab them with rubbing alcohol or spraying the whole plant and soil with Neem oil, follow the directions on the bottle on how to dilute it and add a couple of drops of liquid dish soap, (not detergent! Detergent will damage your plants) There can also be any number of harmless bugs in the soil.

All soils have fungus in it, molds are fungus, most are harmless and do not have any detrimental effect on plants. In fact many species of fungus are beneficial to plants, If the roots were not mushy when you repotted it then rot is not likely to be your problem. If they were brownish, soft and wet feeling then dig the plants back up and cut them off before repotting it again. Pruning these roots off will not hurt anything. You can mix your soil 50/50 with orchid bark to make it faster draining for a quick and easy fix.

The mold may or may not be harmless but it's growth on the soil is an indicator that the soil is too wet. If you dig down into the pot does the soil has a muddy sorta feel to it?

Personally I disagree with the idea of pots being too big for a plant but with a large pot it is easy for the soil to feel dry enough to need to be watered on the top but still be saturated on the bottom.

My guess is P. bipinnatifidum Too

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 11:16PM
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In my experience so far a bip will not have a woody trunk like that until years and years later(my two are very old and were taken from the ground in the deep south and their trunks are getting rather large). Sooooooo my guess would be xanadu as well (their "wood" comes along MUCH earlier compared to a bip).

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 10:48AM
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Hi guys,

Thank you for all of the responses. I will do my best to answer your questions.

I looked today and there are MANY more bugs in the soil. I did not notice these before I repotted the plant, and the plant was looking on the small side even before I repotted. They look very small and white/translucent. They may have wings, and I saw a full-sized gnat in the pot with them today. In short, I think this bug issue came along with the new potting soil I used. If this is the case, I am not sure why the plant was looking bad before I repotted, but I have to admit since repotting it has gotten worse.

I see the time-released fertilizer and these bugs are much, much smaller than those and they do indeed move. I am thinking perhaps these are possibly early stage fungus gnats? I usually do not overwater, but out of fear of it dying I think I might have overdone it. Oh, the irony!

As far as the roots go... It looked like the person who repotted it into the pot I have now (this was maybe 5 years ago) transferred all of the old soil directly into the new and larger pot, so everything was still pretty contained in the shape of the old pot. This soil was different than the potting soil around it, seemed more like the dirt I could find in my yard here. I didn't break it up too much in fear of hurting the plant. The bulk of the roots were still contained in soil when I repotted it. I am happy to take it out again and remove the oldest dirt if I need to, I just don't want to hurt it.

Since I can't water it (with dish soap to help remove the bugs), I might run to the store to purchase new potting soil and maybe a mixture of orchid bark, like dellis326 suggested. If anyone else has any other mixture suggestions, I'd be happy to consider that too.

Thank you so much! I will be checking back and I will update on what I come home with. I will also look for Neem Insecticide.. thoughts on sand?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 5:15PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

The easiest, safest, cheapest thing would be to just let it dry out, give it a brighter spot. From lack of proper light, heat, humidity, it's just basically dormant, AND adjusting from repotting.

Sand will fill all of the tiny air holes within the pot, suffocating the roots and retaining more excess water. I would advise against it. I don't think neem is recommended for fungus gnats, and dish soap is not interchangeable with insecticidal soap. When you are able to put your plant outside, it should vastly improve and grow.

I bought one around Christmas that had no foliage at all (dormant from the cold) but the stumpy parts are about the same size. It has grown quite a few leaves and I've only watered it twice I think. It was drippy wet when I got it.

Going dormant is not a hardship for the plant, unless it rots in that state from soggy, airless conditions.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 6:13PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Neem oil will help to control gnats. It will help control most common pests, it interferes with breeding and feeding. You mist it onto the plants and soil, don't just pour it on. Get cold-pressed or virgin oil, not an extract because they often do not really have any of the active chemicals in them.

No, dish soap is not the same as insecticidal soap. You use the dish soap to break surface tension of the oil so it will mix better with the water. Dish soap is rumored to also weaken the waxy oils on the soft tissue between the chitin plates of the exoskeleton but I don't know if this is true.

Immature (Pupa and Larvae) fungus gnats are white but they don't have functional wings, they are maggots. Tiny, white, winged insects will be something else, maybe white flies or thrips.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 11:29PM
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Hey Danny! How are you?

Purplefox. As Purple suggested, the easiest and most economical way to go is allowing soil to dry and placing in a brighter location.
But, if you have time and engery, perhaps repotting should be done. Especially if you seriously believe the previous owner repotted using old, garden soil.

I have both Split-Leaf and standard Philos. SL soil needs to dry, almost completely, 'during grey/dark winter days.'
They need more light than other Philos, too.

Gnats appear when air is dry and soil stays wet. They're tiny, silvery-hue bodies are more noticeable when soil is watered.

I've seen fungus gnats in commercial green houses.
Plants were potted in heavy soils.

Gnats aren't a pretty sight, but I doubt they're causing pale leaves. Unless you have Xanadu 'Golden.'

In the last 5-yrs, has your plant been fertilized?

Good luck, Toni

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 3:33PM
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