house plant growing uneven

crabapplemcnJuly 14, 2012

The houseplant I have below has grown uneven and is very top heavy now. I need to repot, but what is the best way to solve this problem? should i cut down one side to make them even?


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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It's difficult to get a clear impression of how the stems are growing from the 2 pics, but the plant is healthy enough and the timing is such that it will tolerate a hard pruning, sooner better than later. It appears there are 2 secondary branches/stems arising from the main stem? The secondary stems could both be cut back to a couple of healthy leaves if you like. This will produce back-budding, probably from the main stem, and more branches that you can choose or prune off as you see fit. When you repot, you're also not limited to a trunk that comes out of the soil vertically. If you think it increases the visual appeal of the composition, you can slant the main trunk in combination with pruning back other branches.

Timing is still good for repotting (vs potting up), but depending on where you live, time might be getting short if you want timing to work for you instead of against you, which is the reason for the 'sooner rather than later' notation above.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 4:12PM
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It is leaning towards the light. As it grows, you should give it a 1/4 turn every week. The plant looks great for a plant growing 4ft from a window.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 11:08PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

Yes, absolutely repot, and it's desperate for more light, and to be turned as mentioned.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 9:55AM
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Your Yucca elephantipes cane is growing toward the strong window light and that is why it is top-heavy and also pulling the cane to one side and exaggerating the top-heaviness all the more.

Yuccas do need regular pruning and they can be pruned at any time of year. I suggest pruning off the top 3 feet or so. It can be pruned back as much as you like, but I suggest pruning it back to a point where the plant does not look top-heavy, but doesn't look sparse either. Remember that new growth will emerge on the stem just below the pruning cut and grow upward from that point.

The pruned off top can be inserted and rooted in the existing pot if you want a second stem there. Otherwise, it can be rooted in its own pot.

The leaning cane be fixed quite easily without exposing your plant to the trauma of repotting. Simply reposition the rootball slightly in the pot so that the cane is completely vertical and does not need a support to hold it. It is not necessary to remove the rootball entirely. In fact, just pull it up barely enough to reposition it to the vertical. I have done this successfully many times and it requires very little effort, mmovement or trauma. The repositioning of the rootball will require you to push the soil down into the small space left on one side. Pack it in tight enough so the the plant supports itself.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 3:52PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I'm not sure why some people hold tight to the belief that repotting, including bare-rooting and root pruning is traumatic, when in fact it has exactly the opposite effect on plants - it rejuvenates them. Plants circling the drain may not be good candidates for repotting, but those in reasonably good health are, and that contention is well supported by the observations of dozens & dozens of those who have repotted, and can be extrapolated from a study recently discussed on this and other forums.

Also, while it's technically correct that you CAN do anything you like to your plants any time you'd like to do it, there is such a thing as timing your work so you're working with nature instead of against it. Certainly you CAN cut a yucca back in mid winter or any other time, but the recovery time and the length of time the plant will be left weakened by removing a large fraction of its ability to make food (leaves and their ability to carry on photosynthesis are the plant's only source of food, other than what is minimally gained in green stem tissues) will be much longer, suggesting that early to mid summer is the best time for any serious work, meaning hard pruning and repotting. Obviously, since day length and light intensity is greater in the early summer, recovery time is much shorter, leaving plants much less susceptible to insects and diseases due to a suppressed metabolism. The list of what you CAN do is unlimited, the list of well-reasoned actions much shorter.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 5:14PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

Repotting has only caused trauma to my plants when done incorrectly, which would be putting a plant in a bigger pot withOUT disturbing a solid root mass (usually of mostly peat.) Something this big would probably best be handled by 2 people so there is not too much stress that could cause breakage. That could be another trauma risk, but since I love to propagate, I rarely would consider such an incidence a problem, but rather an opportunity to have another plant to keep or share with someone.

What makes plants "suddenly grow" is removing all of the old soil, trimming roots to a reasonable size (proportionate to the top,) and then putting in a pot full of well-draining soil.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 5:25PM
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The conventional wisdom is based on ideal growing conditions under the care of experienced people who know exactly what they are doing. Unfortunately, it does not apply to most folks who have limited experience with plants and are growing their plants in far from ideal conditions and are likely to make mistakes performing more complicated procedures.

Repotting is fine if you know what you are expereineced, know wat you are doing and want to go through that process, but more times than not it is unnecessary.

For most folks, the simplest solution is usually the best one. It is not about right or wrong, but about helping people find the best solutions for themselves. Acknowledging alternatives rather than dogma is a better way.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 8:33PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Who decides what conventional wisdom is, and for that matter, who cares? How much conventional wisdom do we find to be in error every day - especially where growing is concerned? What about the conventional wisdom that varies widely, depending on what forum you happen to land on?

Some of us are trying to help people to 'know what they are doing' and explain things in such a way that they are willing to let their practical experience validate what they are learning. I give the people on the forum more credit that to think that they are 'likely to make mistakes during complicated procedures'. Repotting? Complicated? I don't think so. Remove the soil - cut the big roots off - keep the roots wet while you're doing it covers about 90% of the chore - hard to go wrong ......

Those of us familiar with repotting, including root pruning and a complete change of soil where the plant lends itself to that treatment, know how easy it is - that anyone who WANTS to do it CAN do it. We understand and regularly see the rejuvenating effect on plants that can be explained in terms of physiology.

So many times I've listened to you tell people what they don't have to do - what is unnecessary. Everyone knows that nothing any of us suggests is a requirement, but suggesting that in most cases repotting isn't necessary is misleading. Just when IS repotting necessary? I could argue from one perspective that it's necessary every 1-3 years if you want your plant to have the best opportunity to grow to its genetic potential, while you argue it's never necessary. Your argument is of course correct, as correct as the thought that you don't need to water or fertilize either if you don't want to.

Inevitably, potting up leads to steady decline. I see it in fast forward because I grow so many plants in small containers, but soo many others have seen the results of root pruning and repotting that there is no denying how rejuvenating it is for plants, and how it lifts the limitations of root restriction.

None of us are born knowing how to repot, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist either. The longer you wait and continue to pot up, the more difficult the process becomes, so the sooner you start, the less difficult it is and the sooner you can reap the benefits of the revitalizing effect it has. It doesn't matter to me whether or not people actually repot or not - what matters is that they have accurate information to make their decision. Dogma, btw, is clinging to the idea that repotting is something whimsical and completely unnecessary in the face of so much information and testimony to the contrary. People decide best when they have accurate information and can weigh the pros and cons.

Repotting means more work but much greater growth/vitality potential for your plants. Potting up means less work but it ensures a steady decline and no chance for your plant to grow to its potential within the limiting effect of other factors. I'll discuss that with anyone you'd like to recruit. When you pot up, even if every other cultural influence was perfect, your plants would still be limited to the degree that roots are constricted.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 9:55PM
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Well, I think the original poster has some good advice here, but it is going to take some sorting out on his/her part. I think he or she is going to do whatever, and we don't really have to have the "best" advice, but just say our piece as clearly as we can, with reasons why we do things that way. The poster ultimately decides which thing answers the question, so we don't have to be "right" or "wrong". I've often gotten conflicting advice on this forum, and I just try to sort out what seems the most logical for my situation. Really we aren't going to change anyone's mind but our own, and then very rarely. So just say your ideas, and go on.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 11:05PM
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Excuse a newbie butting in...

As I work with indoor plants in offices, our rule is "if it doesn't make the room it's in look nice, get rid".

So in the case of the OP's yucca, I'd say chop the big protrusion off for aesthetic reasons.

And repot it into something nicer looking!

As for the big debate about repotting, I personally hjave found that there is a risk to it - most plants will suffer a bit then bouce back, but you will lose the odd one; it depends on many factors but particularly that some plants's roots really don't like being messed with.

Yuccas are pretty tough though!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 3:31AM
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