New Plant Lover In Distress! Please Help!

uniquelydivine(6)May 20, 2012

Hello Everyone,

I posted this in the wrong forum and was instructed to re-post in the Houseplant Forum.

I just started loving plants last year and now I have some but are experiencing problems.

I have a Croton I bought about 2 weeks ago and noticed a mushroom and gnats coming out of the soil between yesterday and today. Someone told me the soil is contaminated and I should return the Croton. I see nothing bad happening to the leaves but I want to be safe than sorry. What should I do?

I also bought a Calathea (Praying Plant) this past Wednesday and they used the Miracle Gro Palm, Cactus and Citrus soil to do the repot. I'm not sure this was the best soil to use and its my fault too cause I just stood there and didn't say anything or ask any questions. Should I be worried? I saw tiny particles that look like salt on the soil but I'm guessing since its Cactus soil it will look like that.

I bought both of these plants at Home Depot and they were in plastic pots (the nursery pots) and the roots were beginning to come from the bottom.

If I decide to bring them back and start over (which I think is my best bet at this point), what is the general rule for repotting? Should I do it immediately after I purchase the plant or should I wait about a 1-3 months to repot the plant? If they roots are coming out of the bottom of the nursery pot, can they wait a while before I repot the plant?

The plants were repotted in Terra Cotta (Clay) Pots and they have a white residue that comes on the pots (it looks unattractive to me and no matter how I try to clean the residue off I have no luck). Does anyone know what will take the residue off?

Is there an alternative to Terra Cotta (Clay) that will be fine for my plants? Are plastic or glazed terra cotta (the shiny pots) safe to use? I would be repotting: Croton, Calathea (Praying Plant) and an Anthurium. Will those be fine when potted in alternatives to clay?


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teengardener1888(NY Albany 5a)

lets see you have a lot of questions
. for your croton; you may haved to return it. the flies spread from plant to plant. or you can go on the internet and type in how to get rid of these flies and mushrooms from my house
plants. if the store doesn't. take it and methods don't work either toss the

plant out or give it to someone who can help

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 7:53PM
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teengardener1888(NY Albany 5a)

the prayer plant will be fine in the mix just. water when it is dry whitch will be a couple of times a week in a cactus mix

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 7:57PM
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I agree it may be best to return it. Should I return the Calathea as well? The gnats were resting on the Calathea too. I don't want it to get infected later on. If I start over, should I wait before I get new plants (just to make sure the gnats get out of the house)?


    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 8:00PM
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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)


The white salt-like particles in the Miracle Grow are probably sand.

Personally, I would not return or trash the plants if the only problem is fungus gnats and the mushrooms; the last seems a bit extreme. Besides, doesn't Home Depot give a one-year guarantee if you keep the receipt? Oh, and I would not repot.

Your soil is probably just kept too wet. No matter what you do, if the soil is stays too wet you will get fungus gnats (and sometimes mushrooms).

How often do you water? Did you wait until the soil is dry before rewatering or are you keeping it wet? Clay pots dry out much faster than plastic or glazed (unless these are glazed clay pots) so if your problem is overwatering, it will be worse in plastic or ceramic pots.

There will be several opinions on what you should use as far as planting medium. Since you are new to plants, I would suggest you keep everything as simple as possible.

I grow all my tropicals in some type of Miracle Gro. I keep a plastic bin filled with 1/2 Miracle Gro and 1/2 perlite. You can buy perlite at Home Depot. If you have an option, go for the coarsest grade possible. Sometimes the local farmers' co-op will carry coarse perlite.

You could also purchase a moisture meter which has a probe that allows you to see how wet the plant really is. I think these are a real asset until you learn more about watering and plants. Sorta like a security blanket. :-)

Once you get the watering thing down, you can repot your plants in either plastic or ceramic pots.

How you get rid of the white on clay pots depends on what it is. If you Google "How to get the white off clay pots" you'll see what I mean.

Don't panic. Fungus gnats are quite common but they do flourish in wet soil (as do mushrooms). You can spray your plants with Safer Soap to kill the adults. The forming larvae will die when the plant dries.

One important thing about watering: Every other time, water until the water runs through the pot (this is called "flushing"). It rids the plant of salt build-up which is a death sentence. If your plants are small (and since you only have three) you can take them to the sink. Set them in a drain and use the sprayer. This will not only flush the salts away, it will clean the foliage and discourage insects. Use warm water.

Whatever you do, try not to stress. There is always a trial and error period when learning about anything and we all have made mistakes. If a plant dies, try to understand why so as not to repeat the same mistakes. But don't beat yourself up over it. We all lose plants at some point in time.

Trust me, in future years you'll look back on this and think: "Why the heck was I worried about that?" :-D

Happy Growing,


    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 8:59PM
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teengardener1888(NY Albany 5a)

stoneriver, you are correct. i hate to give away or discard plants. its just that if a plant has those pesky flies they multiply and become very annoying. my mom makes me throw away my plants because of it. at my old house, those flies caused a huge infestation so bad that we had to move. i lost most of my plants that were infested. Some of them i had for 6 years.uniquelydivine, please take care of those flies quickly or they will take over your house. as for the rest that stoneriver said, he is correct he probally know more than me

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 8:03AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

UD - The three most important factors in determining how successful you'll be at bringing your plants along are a good soil, the right light, and a reasonable nutritional supplementation program. All of these are quite easy, though at times the light levels we have available leave us wishing for more. I'd add a fourth to the list, watering habits, but with the right soil your watering habits diminish in critical importance.

I think you would probably benefit significantly by reading the thread I'll link you to. It covers most of the basics that if adhered to should make maintaining your houseplants in good health much easier for you. If you have any questions about what practices are most beneficial to your plants, or why one thing is favored over another, please ask. Fortunately for you, it's not how long you've been growing that determines your ability or gets you to green thumb status - it's how much you know about plants and the cultural conditions they favor that sets a good grower apart from the pack. In my estimation, a good grower is one who is consistently able to maintain plants in excellent health over the long term. The more you learn, the faster you get there.

Again - I would urge you to ask for explanations to anything you don't understand.


Here is a link that might be useful: An overview for you

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 9:44AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Hi & welcome to Gardenweb.

The only times I've had problems with fungus gnats was back when I used to use soils that contain peat. Once I banned peat, there have been no gnats.

If the salt-like particles aren't sand, they are probably perlite. Another substance I don't abide (because I don't like the way it looks) but many are fans of it.

Crotons and Calatheas are so very pretty. You have great taste!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 9:59AM
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Unique, unfortunately, most nurseries and big box stores, have gnats flying around plants.

If you said your plants had Mealy, Scale or Mites, I'd say bring them back, and shop elsewhere, but Gnats are easy to rid.

Gnats adore wet soil, especially when air/humidity is too high or low. And no air ciruclation.
Does your HD have fans in the gh?

All it takes is, ridding old soil, cleaning pots, 'if you plan on using those plants came in,' adding a well-draining mix. Hose leaves w/soapy water.
Place in a room w/good air circulation. Opened windows, ceiling or rotating fan. Proper watering in the future is important.

Mushrooms grow in wet soil, but finding a mushroom doesn't mean your plant is ill or contaminated.

I use MG Cactus/Succulent/Palm soil for certain plants, but amend w/additional Perlite and a few other ingredients.

Sometimes, my plants that are potted in clay pots get the white residue. I use the same soil for plants in plastic containers, but don't get the residue. Did you wash clay pots before potting in them?

One problem potting Croton, Anthurium and Calathea in clay. Soil dries fast in clay. During winter months, it isn't an issue, but spring through summer, the 3 plants you mentioned requires moist soil, so depending on pot size, light and temperature, you might need to water more. Or less.

Good luck, keep us posted. Toni

PS: HD has a 1-year return policy. Since you repotted, 'if you're determined to bring your plants back,' keep the original pot w/code and receipt.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 3:33PM
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I can't say much about the bugs--probably the bigger problem here, but my croton sprouts little yellow mushrooms periodically. They been making appearances for a year and the plant seems a-ok. I actually kind of like them. Two plants in one!

For the bugs you might spray the whole thing down with a bit of soapy water.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 7:16PM
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