What was that smell?

Lamora(4)April 21, 2012

Hi all. :)

My mom has what I believe to be a "Golden Potho" I can post a pic if you want to see it. It is faded a lot.

This plant was my DH's after his mom died a few years back. We gave it to mom when we started moving around. Since we got it, it has only been repotted once. a few yrs ago. All she does is water it, no feeding at all.

We were gone for at least 7 mths, we come back and it isn't any bigger and looks real poor. I know it needs new soil, doesn't really need a bigger pot tho. (I can't do anything about the soil till next month sometime)

Anyway, today I told mom that I would like to take care of it. (no objection from her-- lol) Do what I can for now. I flushed it with tap water, and I could not believe the smell that came out of it!! It smelled rotten. Could this plant have some root rot? She has one of those pots that come with the drain pan attached to it, so a lot of the water stayed in.(mom never drained that out) Should I try to just "pop" that off? If I can? It is hard to drain.

The water that came out was yellow/brown, and I tried to flush till it was clear, I don't think I did it enough tho. I waited for about a half hr. and fed it some food.

I would really like to keep this plant going if I can. Is there anything I can until it untill I can get new soil for it?

Oh and I was wondering-- what does "soil collaps" mean? I think this has it because the soil line is very low and it is lower in the center. Is that what it is?

Any advice would be helpful-- thanks

Marjie :)

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Marjie, I would for sure pry that catch tray off the bottom of the pot, and get it elevated above another dish (I use lids from juice jugs or soda caps as feet - thx to whoever posted that originally on GW!).

If the potting medium is mostly organic matter, the smell certainly could be from decomposition, not only of rotten roots, but of the components of the soil; although chances are good there was stagnant water in the tray or hanging in the bottom of the pot...

One action that may be appropriate would be to unpot the pothos, remove any soil not attached to the rootball, and then replace it with a faster-draining mix. This would basically be an emergency pot up, but using the same pot. Don't be surprised if the rootball is totally dry, even after you soaked the pot!


    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 3:54PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Soil collapse occurs as soil particles become smaller and smaller as they age and go through the composting process. Soils have structure, which ideally keeps the particles separated so air can occupy the interparticular air spaces. When the particles are too small to start with, the soil lacks good structure. When the particles become smaller with age, the structure of the soil is collapsing.

Some plants just have really stinky roots. I have snow rose bonsai that stink so bad their binomial is Serissa foetida. From the latin 'foetida' comes the word 'fetid', which means REALLY stinky, as in rotting flesh stinky.

Yes, it's possible the plant has root rot. Why not lift the plant from the pot and erase uncertainty? And if I could, I'd get rid of the attached saucer.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 3:57PM
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Definitely sounds to me like the plant was left too soggy and the stagnant water caused rot. I would definitely agree with allowing it to dry out and make sure it doesn't sit in standing water anymore. You're lucky that it's still alive, because overwatering is the number one killer of houseplants.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 9:57PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

You can try to remove all the soil and just grow it in water for a while. If it has root rot the organisms that cause it will not thrive without soil and it can give the plant a better change to recover.

Cut off any roots that look damaged and set it in water. when new roots are starting to grow, then you set it back in a good (soil or soil-less, your choice) mix. You can also just keep it in water but it will be very difficult for the plant to adapt back to soil later if you do. Pothos can live very well in water only.

You may also want to consider not using any fertilizers on plants that are stressed because it will promote growth rather than healing.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 9:16AM
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Thanks for all the info on this,

dellis-- are you saying I should not have fed it? It was half dose Schultz Plant Food, cheap I know, but it's all I have right now.
And putting it in water-- I won't have soil for it for at least 2 weeks, is that to long of time for just water? (mom won't understand this-- but I will try anything for it) Should I put something in the water to help it?

I think just that little bit of flushing and feeding helped some. It is standing a bit taller today, but the color is really bad, real faded and almost, I want to say "grayish", for lack of a better discription.

I could have almost killed someone yesterday- had all my plants in shade on the porch. Someone decided that full sun would be better for them, I didn't realize that till way late. Now my spider and her potho has burned leaves!! not many, but some. I was so mad, I think I know who did it, not sure, but EVERYONE HERE knows now, NOT to mess with my plants!! lol

thanks again
Marjie :)

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 11:12AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Feeding it likely didn't help, it's not like medicine. It's suggested here often to fertilize only when plants are in active growth, not while they're ailing.

I know it's an important plant for DH, but it sounds iffy to me. Plants don't necessarily recover by trying various things as remedies. Keeping it on the simpler side is often best.

Most important, get it out of the rotting soil now. IMO, that is the SINGLE best thing; into a cup or vase of plain water, nothing added. I grow cups of Pothos in my bathroom in nothing but water in clear plastic cups, I can see the roots & they do just fine for years.

Then 2nd most important is give it time & leave it alone, giving it time to recover that too is key.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 12:05PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Yes, I am suggesting that you not feed stressed plants until they start to grow.

If you were to remove all the soil today and place the plant in a vase/bowl/what-ever, it would take anywhere between a week to a month for it to start growing new roots and maybe a little longer for leaves. Use room temperature water with nothing mixed in until something starts to grow.

If there is a pile of yard waste or compost at the home you're in now, You can go grab a handful or two and stick it in a (different) container and fill it with some water and let it sit uncovered for one or two weeks to make a compost tea and add that, after new growth has started, a cup at a time to the water your pothos is in. Lets just say you find an old quart jar, drop a handful in and fill it up and let it seep. Now, in the container with your plant, lets say it holds a quart or half gallon, Change the water every 4 to 7 days and after a couple of weeks add to it one cup of the compost water(tea) and use fresh water to fill it up the rest of the way.

Think of it this way, If someone is really sick for a long time, you give them soup, not a steak dinner.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 1:00PM
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penfold2(4b, MN)

"You may also want to consider not using any fertilizers on plants that are stressed because it will promote growth rather than healing."

Healing is growth. Plants heal themselves by growing new tissue, which requires nutrients. In this case the new tissue is likely roots, which presents a bit of a problem when it comes to absorbing nutrients. But any existing and future roots will benefit from having nutrients available. Fertilizing a sick plant is always a good idea as long as the plant is in a soil that allows one to water heavily in order to prevent mineral accumulation.

I would get the plant into a better soil as quickly as possible. The flushing and fertilizing you did was good, but will lead to the same problem if the soil is compacted. A wick in the drainage hole would allow the soil to drain more thoroughly. I believe Al has also recommended removing the root ball from the pot and setting it on newspaper to allow it to drain, and give you a chance to examine the condition of the roots and soil.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 1:36PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Well, Yeah I suppose the healing is cellular growth but I think in common usage most people would refer to growth as new leaves and stems. when plants are growing new leaves and stem there is less energy going to repairing the roots.

Once new root growth has started then the plants can be cared for normally. I would still recommend not fertilizing it until then. Also growing it in water since the original poster has said it will be a month or so until she can do anything about the soil.

We'll just end up arguing semantics here and confusing the issue at hand.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 2:09PM
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I hate being broke! I can't even get new soil for a plant, how sad is that?? So I guess I will put it in water for now, get that old soil off and see what happens. It is very "viney", can't find the end of any vines because mom was just putting them back into the soil, she didn't want them hanging-- go figure. It is just a continuing vine with no end! lol. So I'm not sure how easy it is going to be to re-soil it.

OK now I need a bowl for it, plastic wouldn't hurt it would it? It's all I have. No food for it until new roots form, and I have soil of some sort.

If this isn't right, let me know. I'm an emotional wreck right now due to a death in the family and I can't help with anything about that either! Can't think straight. I come here to excape-- is that sad? or what.

Sorry-- off subject
Thanks for everything
Marjie :)

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 3:39PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Plastic will be fine. They take root along the stems if given a chance. There is a way to figure out which direction the vines go and trim them but that can wait until things balance out again.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 3:48PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I don't think Penfold's assertion was one that shouldn't be glossed over as a matter of semantics. First, when a plant gets sick (begins to decline) where it naturally occurs, who shuts off the nutrients? Second, what about a plant that is 'sick' due to any number of nutritional issues, but mainly deficiencies? In this case, there should be a rider added to the advice so it reads, "Never fertilize a sick plant until it's dead", because withholding nutrients, the deficiency of which is causing the decline, is an absolute death sentence. From these examples, we can see that it's actually reckless to paint with a brush so broad w/o qualifying the advice.

Plants function best, whether they are sick or not, when all nutrients normally taken from the soil are available at an ideal concentration and in an ideal ratio with/to each other. In many cases, advice is given to protect (the collective) you from yourself. Don't fertilize in the winter is advice cut from the same cloth. We can be absolutely certain there is no harm in having the same level of nutrients in the soil when plants are resting as when they are growing. We need only look to nature to see that assertion passes the ultimate test because no one shuts off the nutrient supply for plants.

There isn't any scientific basis for withholding nutrients from plants unless you're reasonably certain that if you DO fertilize, it will increase the level of total dissolved solids (TDS) in the soil solution to levels high enough to make it difficult for the plant to take up water. This is the basis for repeating that advice over and over again. If you assume growers are using soils that require they water in sips to keep root rot at bay, there is a high likelihood that the level of TDS is already too high and fertilizing would be additionally hurtful. People are willing to act on assumption and offer the advice to not fertilize a sick plant because there's a good POSSIBILITY that the plant is sick due to a high TDS level. IOW - because whoever gives that advice assumes you don't know what you're doing, it's better to be safe than sorry.

If your child or pet is sick, do you withhold their vitamins and dietary supplements until they get better. If a person is anemic, do you withhold iron until the anemia goes away, or if the electrolytes are in imbalance do you withhold what is needed ........ or is it prescribed to fix the imbalance?

Plants can't grow without all the essential nutrients they normally take from the soil. There is absolutely no reason NOT to supply those nutrients in the adequacy range at all times. There is no harm in supplying them, only over-supplying. The myth has been parroted so often it's cloaked in the mantel of fact. That 'new growth' referred to above, when it occurs during times of nutritional deficiency, comes at the expense of other tissues already bought & paid for. When there is a deficiency of one of the mobile nutrients (like N) the plant steals it from other tissue (older leaves usually first), then sheds the old parts. What LOOKS like growth really isn't - it's robbing Peter to pay Paul, and that is an irrefutable sign of a plant in decline for want of nutrients. If the deficiency is a nutrient that isn't mobile in the plant, like Ca or the micro-nutrients, distorted and spoiled foliage is the result. This will never get better unless you supply the proper nutrition.

There is no substitute for a little knowledge in this area. You don't even need to understand how it all works. All you need to know is HOW to fertilize effectively, which includes making all nutrients available at all times and fertilizing when appropriate - even if the plant is 'sick.'

Fertilizer isn't the answer to everything, and the remedy for sick plants almost always involves action, not inaction. Look to the basics - soil choice, watering habits, light, the possibility of a high TDS level in the soil, insects, disease, then ACT to fix the issue. In many cases, the proper action IS going to be to fertilize, even if first, the best thing to do is flush the soil.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 6:02PM
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Hi all!
Update: I cut off all the badly burned leaves, (My fault, that they got burned) there were more good ones then bad, so I guess thats good.
I took it out of the pot, the soil was so wet I could squeeze water out of it like a sponge! BUT!! on a good note, NO ROOT ROT! the roots look good, strong, not mushy or white. Looks bare in places now-- lol, but that's ok.

There were only 2 plants in it, it looked like a lot more. I got both vines separated and long again. the pot they were in was so gross, I can't get it clean, looked like rust to me, but it's plastic, sooo idk. Right now I have it soaking in bleach-- if it comes clean? fine, if not, oh well. I'm going to put them in a smaller pot anyway.

Now-- don't get mad at me-- they are now sitting in a bucket of water, no food, room temp. They won't see soil till the first week of May. But I had to see what it looked like at the roots. At least they are out of that crappy soil.

There are some real good starters on them, the vines are real healthy. It was just the leaves that didn't look good. I think I am going to just cut them up and plant them in the same pot.. maybe I should do that now while they are in the water?

Mom gave me "free-range" with it... so what do you think?

Yes- kinda like an experiment for me,, here's to hoping it works.. :)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 1:51PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Don't forget which direction the vines are going. It can sometimes be easy to plant the wrong end of a cutting

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 2:28PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I believe I last suggested you put them in water & DO NOTHING. I'd leave them alone for at least 2 weeks & see what develops.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 3:35PM
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pirate- that is just what I am doing-- thanks- :)

dellis- I have seen some plants growing up-side down, pretty awsome too! lol-- but I will put them in the right direction-- thanks for the reminder tho. :)

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 8:18AM
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Hi Marj,
No one will be angry with you...:)

The Pothos will do well in water. Even root.
My kitchen windows face north. Very few plants thrive in these windows, except for the Almighty Pothos.
These Pothos have never seen soil..lol. They've been in water over 10-yrs.

Vines grew long, so I clipped ends, and placed cuttings in new cups of water. 'most cuttings were discarded,' don't want too many duplicate plants.

So, until you pot in soil, be sure to change water before it gets funky smelling. And it stinks!!!
No need to worry about fertilizer at this time, Marj.

Money is a problem for everyone. I don't need more plants, but I worry if there will be a day I can't afford to buy soils/mediums/pots.
Soil prices continue rising, like everything else. Most of my plants are in plain, old, plastic growing pots, but as plants grow, they need larger containers.
Cheap, growing pots are now over-priced. The larger the pot, the higher the cost.

I remember a 4" clay pot was .10..lol..Not these days.

Marj, I'm sure everything will work out..seems it always does. Too bad we can't win the lottery, lol. Toni

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 1:29PM
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Toni- thanks. "they" say that money doesn't buy happiness, but neither does poverty. I think some rich person said it first-- lol

I got some real nice pots at the dollar store a while back. So far I like them. pretty too-- :) I miss that store-- need to drive 45 mins to get to the one here.. :(

but yes- it will work out.. i just hope it is sooner rather than later.

thanks again
Marjie :)

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 1:36AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy you the brand of misery you prefer; and while money isn't the most important thing in life, most of us rate it as being reasonably close to oxygen on the "gotta have it" scale.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 3:28PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Marjie, I don't mean hanging down rather than growing up. I mean that when you take a cutting, take note of the direction of growth along the vine. let say you take a two foot long cutting from the pothos and then cut that up into two or three pieces and pot them up or stick them in water. On the pieces you've cut the growing end off so that there are two cut ends instead of one cut and one growing end, it can be easy to forget which end is the "root" end and which is the "new" end.

For pots, since you can't just go out and buy what you need there are good options available if you use your imagination a little bit. A lot of things can be made into cool planters if you just stop and look at whats around you. Old cans and buckets can work well, just don't use something that's had oil or anything toxic in it. I've seen old beat up shoes used to grow plants in. I have even seen plants growing in an old toilet. Second hand store sell all kinds of stuff cheap that can be used, same with yard sales.

"Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy you the brand of misery you prefer" Awesome quote Al, I'm going to remember that one!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 11:30PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Ok I couldn't resist anymore, the title of this thread keeps making me hum Lynyrd Skynyrd, "ooh that smell, can't you smell that smell?"

Glad the discussion (and plant) has evolved away from anaerobic decomposition! It's way too easy to spend money on gardening, so I try to limit purchases to plants and "dirt" and try to use (and re-use) all free containers.

I used to find free pots all the time when I lived in more of a "yuppie" neighborhood, not so much since moving to AL, but you never know what you'll see on those curbs on trash day. Hanging baskets get thrown out often if the plant dies. I've found 2 big metal wash tubs with rusted-out bottoms. Any kind of plastic thing can usually be drilled, cut, or poked to make drain holes. If you have some garage sales or thrift stores around, look for bowls or pitchers. Some groceries come in big plastic things and after I lose the lid, they often become planters. Like sherbet, spread margarine, 2-liter soda bottles, milk jug, I hate to throw stuff away if I can think of something else to do with it first.

If there are neighbors who look like they garden, you could ask if they have any pots to spare. Most people stack up pots that had annuals or perennials that they put in the ground. Probably ugly, but free, and they would feel vindicated for finally finding something to "do" with them.

Occasionally you can find a clearance plant that has more pot value than plant value. You gotta love the irony of an almost dead potted plant for $1 one aisle from all the empty pots, starting at about $3 for anything big enough to bother buying. I prefer green over black, but I prefer keeping my money even more.

Drawers from an old dresser are a fav of mine when I find them. Easy to drill some holes, paint if you want, big! Not terribly practical for bringing inside, but cute place to grow cuttings in the summer.

Have you ever checked out the frugal forum? It's kind of slow as far as new conversations go, but there's a wealth of info stored there.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 11:09AM
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Thanks dellis and purple: you both have some great ideas for pots! never thought of using a drawer, thay may be awsome to do! Yes- I have used butter tubs too. lol, was the only thing for the size i needed at the time.

I do look for containers that I can use for pots, I have a few already, just need plants for them now. Yard sales will be starting up here soon, cant wait to see what I will find in this department..

I am hoping that tomorrow I will be able to get some soil for mom's plant. Right now Im not too sure of how it is really doing. It isn't looking any better. but the roots look good and the vines look healthy, it's just the leaves that look sad, so I'm still hoping for the best.. :)

thanks again for everything
Marjie-- :)

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 10:16AM
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I like both quotes..

Marj, your quote is unfortunately true, and so sad.

When will you be able to buy soil? If we didn't live so far apart, I'd give you a bag. Shipping soil would cost more than buying a bag locally.
Are you looking for any particular type?

Don't know where you buy soil, but if you have a printer, so a Google seach for coupons, print them out, present at the store.

You were given fantastic options.

I like Danny's idea about buying dead plants for the pots. Sometimes you can find annuals/perennials, especially from late summer for a dime. Toss dead plant, clean pot, and voila, a new pot for ten cents.
Is there any special size pot you're looking for?

Danny, what exactly do you do w/a drawer? lol.

Danny, speaking of shoe pots.

LOL. Got this planter for 4/5.00 many moons ago..But, I believe you're talking real shoes.
You might have seen the same pics I did. An old shoe w/Sedum growing inside??

Marj, can't help much with pots, but I keep many items for saucers..Frozen dinner treys, pie pans, etc.
Every so often, Walgreen's has plastic dish sales. I bought a few bowls and holding treys for 1.00 each. They eventully went on sale for .75.
The picture on each plate, etc is a palm tree..Ironic, huh? lol.
One holder is divided in 6 sections, another has 4. The holder w/six sections holds 6, 3" pots, the other w/four holds four, 4" pots. All for 1.00!

Not all, but some nurseries will give away used pots. They're plastic, growing pots, but who cares?

Marj, I'd remove leaves that are marred or ripped. Toni

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 2:14PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Toni; the drawer was purp's ideal, not mine.

A "real" pot shaped like a shoe? That's cheating...

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 4:53PM
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Ok- Today I got some stuff for Al's 5:1:1 soil mix. I didn't have to cut many leaves off, they were falling off.. :(

I did have a few good starters tho, put them all in a 8" pot. I think I made it much too high tho. I was having troubles with the ones with the old roots, seemed as if they were going in all different directions, so the soil is almost to the top of the pot! I tried different ways of doing it, but this is how it ended up. There are about 5 plants in it. Hope that isn't too many. And it isn't centered, I have so much trouble getting my plants in the center of the pot!! uggg!

I am hoping to have my camera back tomorrow, (DH is on his way home!!YEAAA!) and if you want I can post a picture of it, before and after.

It isn't nearly as big as it was-- lol, but I am hoping it will get better and grow. I didn't feed it like I should have, but I will this weekend when I feed my other plants. I know I should have done that, but to tell the truth- I didn't think about it til I was watering it. Duh moment--
But I did what I did and it looks better so far. I hope I did everything right. Only time will tell.

Toni-- Love the shoe!
Marjie :)

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 12:08AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I too love the shoe!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 9:11AM
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Danny, sorry asking about the drawer.
LOL, yep, guess posting a shoe planter is cheating. lol.

In Orthos Cactus & Succulent book, there's a pic of Sedum growing in a 'real' shoe.
Actually, this book has great ideas, photos of different items that can be used as planters..

Purple, what about the drawer? lol.

Thanks Marj and Purple.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 12:49PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

A thousand pictures say a million (?) words? They usually get painted, but I like the patina of an old drawer as is. Usually only last one or 2 seasons, but it's one last thing to do with it before that broken old dresser gets tossed.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 2:33PM
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Well-- sadly one of my starter is already almost dead, not even 24 hrs. The others look good for the most part. I'm not sure what I did to it that was different. Maybe it wasn't as good as I thought it was. Live and learn..

DH thinks I should take them out and put them in water and let them root b4 putting them into soil. I think I will wait to see first, if anything.. mom will get a new plant for mom's day-- :) It's just the one starter out of 4-5, can't remember just how many there were.

Wish it was warmer, would put them out, barely 55 F at the moment, cold wind. This is IDAHO SPRING!! lol

I like the idea of a dresser drawer as a planter..paint it up some, put in a couple of different plants in it, (compatible of course) sounds like it would be interesting and fun.. maybe something for the kids to do when they are bored?

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 4:42PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Did I read that right that you soaked it in BLEACH? Was it straight or dilute?

Yikes, sorry to be a bummer, but that might have killed it right there?

Did I miss something? It's back in soil now? I thought you were going to leave it alone in the water for 2 wks? It hasn't been 2 wks; maybe I should stop reading this thread, I'm getting too confused.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 5:30PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

I've always had better results leaving them to root in water. once the roots are showing, then transfer them.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 8:40PM
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Pirate-- the POT it was in was soaking in bleach-- NOT the PLANT!! LOL It did come out clean-- finally. And yes-- I am confusing-- ask anyone! lol

I know it hasn't been 2 wks. But it didn't seem to make any difference, the leaves were still falling off, I just wanted to get them in soil-- the roots still look good.

Now with that, there are only 4 or 5 leaves in soil out of those 2 long vines. That is how bad it was. Another starter died today,, I just can't seem to get starters to root in soil. Not sure what I am doing wrong with that. Maybe I am not giving them enough "stem" to get rooted? (next time I will put them in water to root)

Now all that is in the pot are the two original roots that have a few pretty good leaves on them.. But I am hoping that these 2 plants will surprise me and actually survive and be a nice plant.

I want to thank you all for all your advice, input, and pics of shoes! ;) Kinda got off the subject of the "smell" thing-- but the response was great! Your help,ideas and suggestions was very much appreciated..

Thank you all-- :)

    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 11:25PM
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$230.00 | Hayneedle
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