Need Help! My Corn Plant is in TROUBLE!

misty1975July 30, 2011

My beautiful corn plant is 4 years old. I brought it outside 2 days ago, to gently wash the leaves with the water hose because the leave were a little dusty. Well, I had to run an errand, and when I returned, my husband was DROWNING my poor plant. I mean, he put so much water in the pot, that it was slushy!!! I said "What are you doing?!?" and he said he didn't realize my pot didn't have holes in the bottom and told me that he thought the plant seemed very dry. He didn't know that this plant doesn't require alot of water. I mean, I was really mad, because he hasn't watered that plant in 4 years, so I don't know what made him an authority in the plant's care. Anyways, I knew I had to get the plant out of that swamp he had created so I transplanted it to a different pot and transfered lots of dry planting soil to try to soak up some of the excess water. I left it outside out of the sun for the past 2 days hoping it would dry out. The soil is semi-moist, and the leaves are still green, BUT I now notice they seem to be wilting and some of the leaves are showing bruises. I brought it back inside because I am afraid the heat may be bad for it. I am afraid it will die. This was my mother's plant, I got it for her for Mother's day and she died of cancer later that same year. It is very sentimental to me. I have nurtured this plant and it was beautiful - now it's a mess. In short, is there anything I can be doing to help save my plant? Someone please help me!

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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Put it somewhere where it can drain. (Yes, I know it doesn't have drain holes, but hang in there a moment.)

If outdoors, put it in full shade.
Lay it on its side, perhaps elevated on a bench.
Then rig a towel (paper or fabric) or whatever as a sort of wick which starts at the surface of the potting mix and hangs downward.

Whether or not it survives depends upon how long it was in standing water.

If it survives, I suggest you unpot the thing (but only after it's doing very well), drill holes in the container's bottom, then return the plant.

If it remains in a container without drain holes, it will eventually have serious problems anyway, low need for water or not.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 8:33PM
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My guess is that the wilting and brown spots are from the plant not being acclimated to the stronger light outdoors and/or maybe being shocked from repotting.
I do not think that the water from your husband hurt it. It would have been bad if the plant had stayed sitting in the water for days, but just briefly sitting in the water is not going to be enough to make the roots rot.

I would also suggest looking into taking cuttings or air layering so you have some 'backup' plants form the same plant so that you still have plants with a connection to this one. It might be peace of mind against anything happening to this plant. I know how important plants can be if there is a sentimental connection.

Here is a link that might be useful: corn plant propagation info

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 11:16PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If the plant was in the shade, it's doubtful that heat was much of a contributing factor to the plant's ills; and I actually think that your husband's efforts might have been a blessing in disguise. I say that because pots without holes will always become progressively limiting as dissolved solids (salts) from tap water and fertilizers accumulate and make it increasingly difficult for the plant to absorb water and the nutrients dissolved in water. The end result is a plant that dies of thirst in the middle of a sea of plenty. That you transitioned the plant to a pot with drain holes is assuredly a good thing, but the drain holes can only do half a job unless the soil also drains well.

If it was my plant, I'd bare-root it (now is a very good time to do this) and repot into a durable medium I KNOW will drain well & retain its structure until it's time for another repot. You'll be quite surprised at how the plant will respond when you eliminate the old collapsed soil and alleviate the root congestion that is undoubtedly limiting its growth and vitality.

LOTs of people bring me plants that have some sort of sentimental value, and the story behind their decline is almost always the same - congested roota along with a collapsed or poor soil that forces people to water in sips, which promotes high salt levels in the soil. The remedy is to bare-root and repot into a fast-draining and durable soil if I get the plant in the summer, and a scoring of the root ball and potting up if I get the plant in the winter. The later practice is only a stop-gap effort that allows the plant to limp through until the following summer when a proper repot can be done.

Have you examined the roots to assess their condition (rotted?)? If you're still undecided about what to do, I'd slip-pot it into a larger pot. That is, fill a larger pot with about 4-6" of soil, then set your pot on top of that soil and fill in around the sides with more soil. The soil at the bottom of the larger pot acts as a wick & will 'pull' excess water from the smaller pot - much like the wick Jean described, but the pot-in-pot technique offers the added benefit of helping to keep the soil cooler - especially if the larger pot is gas-permeable (terra cotta or mesh, like a pond basket).

Let me know if you decide to do what it takes to rejuvenate the plant. I'll ask the right questions, and guide you so there is little risk that you'll lose the plant - unless it's already infected with one of the damping off fungal infections.


    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 1:18AM
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Misty...and they say women are mysteries!

Since you repotted in fresh, dry soil and placed in a different container, 'refrain from watering and fertilizing until the soil is dry' hopefully your D.'Corn Plant' will resume health.

What's the temp there? If you leave your Corn Plant outside, place in a very, very shady spot. Low-Medium light plants can even burn in shade.

Another option is keeping your Corn Plant inside. Was it in or outdoors when your husband decided to water? Toni

    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 4:03PM
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I have taken your advices collectively. THANK YOU very very much for your help. Now I some recourse and a little hope.

We re-potted the plant into a larger pot with holes. I did the rag/cloth in the pot to help funnel out some of the water and it worked beautifully. However, I did add a lot of dry soil to aid in the absorption and that worked even better. I don't know how to do a cutting as suggested by summersunshine, but I'd like to do that too - a 'backup' might be needed indeed.

The plant is back inside now, but it look like hell. Some leaves are bruised with blackish spots. Some leaves are wilted and sagging. But, some of the leaves have perked up quite a bit.

Is there a special fertilizer I can put in it? Also, how long will it take for my plant to get well?

Again, THANK YOU ALL, for responding to my post. This is a great forum for help with knowledgeable people. I am very thankful for your help!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 7:07PM
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I haven't personally done a corn plant cutting yet (planning on it) but the technique that was suggested on here was this: "cut the cane, dip bottom ends into water & the into rooting horomone. place directly into dirt, mounding up a little hill to help support itselt & wait" that will do the trick.
Hope that things get better for the corn plant!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 5:18PM
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I haven't watered my corn plant at all since the drama of last week... It is dry now. A lot of the leaves are browning and drooping. Do I need to water it now? I wish I could post a pic of it so you'd have some idea...

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 5:34PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Misty - please don't take this as being critical of you, but in my experience and in a large % of the cases we need to take a more aggressive, pro-active approach to reach resolution, and the longer we wait, the less likely there will be a favorable outcome. It's pretty unusual for plants in decline to simply reverse that decline because someone potted up a pot size ..... and this is particularly true when root rot is the primary suspect.

Please reread my offering above before you plot your course. The logic is based on the plant's physiology and the methodology is aimed at curtailing the effects of infected roots and at preventing the same thing from happening in the future.

Growing is an holistic endeavor, but good o/a plant health always starts with keeping the roots happy.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 11:02AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I'm willing to bet that it was sunburned while outside and that is primarily what is wrong with it. Nothing will help sunburn but growing out new leaves. The damaged leaves won't heal. Houseplants can be burned in very short time periods when exposed to outdoor sunlight even if the temperatures are cool.

It wasn't in standing water long enough for that to have hurt it.

A photo would be helpful.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 8:09PM
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Misty, don't fertilize.

A stressed plant that is fertilized sometimes turns for the worse. Please wait.
However, there are plant hormones, such as Superthrive that might help.
It's something to think about. Check out info on Superthrive by Googling or Bing'ing. Or go to their website.

Thankfully, some of your Corn Plants leaves are perkier..that's a start.

I hadn't thought about leaf burn until BuyorSell mentioned it. Overwatering surely didn't help, but leaf burn, 'especially D. 'corn plants,' will redden, brown or blacken leaves.

Wish you could snap a pic...Toni

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 9:46PM
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