Help! Large pothos (marble queen) wilting after repot

sally_kAugust 5, 2013

Hi all,

Big-time fan but long-time lurker of this forum. I've finally made an account in desperation, hoping that someone can help me figure out how to revive my beloved pothos. I will be forever grateful to whoever has the patience to read and reply. Apologies in advance for the lengthy post.

Background, and house environment:
I bought my pothos several months ago (end of winter early spring) from a Home Depot and it was very large but obviously very old --no other pothos plants were on sale and a lot of the leaves were mangled --it looked quite beat up. When I moved it home, at first it lived in a rather shady spot in my apartment then I moved it to my kitchen on top of my cupboards. It's about 10ft from very large windows and receives very bright indirect light in the morning, then indirect light the rest of the day. Since moving it to the kitchen the plant took off, sending vines down the side of the cupboard, sending vines along the cupboard on the opposite side, a bush at the centre, lots of marbled leaves, new ones everyday --I was so happy!

Repot reasoning:
I decided to repot two days ago. My reasoning for repotting: roots were growing up out the top of the pot (several inches). The soil, when dried, felt hard as a rock, and when watered, would pass water through immediately (and the soil would still feel kind of dry). I figured the soil had become hydrophobic which doesn't necessarily merit a repot, but combined with the root situation, I figured it would't hurt (fatal mistake #1?).

New pot:
I purchased a larger plastic pot, I believe two sizes up, something I was hesitant to do but was stuck because there were only much smaller pots available. I drilled several drainage holes into the bottom. It went from an 8 inch to a 12 inch pot. (Fatal mistake #2?)

New soil:
For the soil, I had miracle grow potting mix on hand. I know it's not the ideal product because it holds too much moisture. I did however have perlite and small pine bark chips (from an orchid mix) and decided to mix all those together, with slightly more perlite. The final product seemed light and 'chunky' . My reasoning for the mix was anything that can make the MG drain more readily and have more air the better, but I'm recalling now comments from older threads about potting media with different particle size --essentially, I've negated any beneficial effects of the bark chips if the mix isn't coarse enough because water will still move to the finer fractions. I was hoping the pothos would be robust enough to withstand an MG-based mix since these plants are renowned for growing (sometimes thriving) in less-than-ideal circumstances. Fatal mistake #3?

The repotting process:
I tapped out my pothos and holy moly was it root bound. Long roots wrapped around the bottom and top of the rootball (now the shape of the container) a couple of times. The roots were all tangled together, trapping the small amount of soil left like a cage. However, the roots looked healthy --they were whiteish and hard, no signs of rot, and some were really thick. I tried my best to separate the roots with my fingers but in the end had to make some cuts in the rootball, and in the detangling process some roots fell off. I wasn't planning on bare-rooting but it came to that, and in the end 15 individual plants emerged, most with very long roots. I'm thinking this is the most fatal mistake (#4), maybe I shouldn't have disrupted the roots so much? (Even though I've read separating root bound plants and root pruning are are beneficial to growth)?

I then proceed as I normally do for repots, I added some of my soil mix to the pot, then started adding in the plants with their roots, making sure the stems weren't in too deep. I arranged the long hanging vines to one side and the shorter vines to the other side. Placing all those plants back in was difficult without the roots criss-crossing one another in the pot. Then when I was pleased with the arrangement, I finished adding the soil mix, and then sprayed the soil so it was moistened, not wet.

Current state:
Over the past two days, I've seen the pothos grow limper and limper (with me becoming increasingly sadder and sadder). The leaves are flimsy and look flattened out, no stems sticking up and reaching for light as they used to. Some near the top are looking pale but I can't yet tell if they are yellowing. It's definitely worse than yesterday. The top inch of soil is moist but not wet. Same light and temperature as always.

What to do?
I've read that it may be transplant shock and that I need to let it be for a few weeks and it should rebound. But it's seems that it's wilting at a steady pace and I'm worried in a few more days it will no longer be salvageable.

I've read that it may need more water if the roots were out in air for too long, and to water it from the bottom (by filling it's saucer). It could be that I didn't give it a thorough enough drink when I repotted, but I usually don't right away --I usually wait a few days after the repot to give them a proper drink (with water flowing out the bottom).

Should I cut some of the longer vines so there's less plant for the now lessened amount of roots to sustain? Should I cut all the long vines? Can I put those vines to root in this pot or should I try rooting them in a separate smaller pot? I'm worried if I slice and dice the plant, there won't be enough leaves to make food for growth.

Should I repot the whole thing in a better mix (i.e. without bark chips?) in a much smaller pot? Or will that stress the poor plant out?

I'll try to add a picture soon.

Big big big thanks in advance for any feedback.


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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I would give it a thorough drink. If you don't usually bare root when repotting, wilt isn't such a concern. From what you described, the plants desperately need a drink, just make sure the excess drips away. Watering from the bottom isn't something I ever do, and could only help if there are established connections with roots and such in the pot already. With this new situation, there's no way for water to wick up.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 12:52PM
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Hi purpleinopp,

Thank you so much for your reply!

I will proceed with watering (from the top). Normally, how long should it take for it to perk back up (so I can gauge if it's doing better)? It's never wilted before!

If it fails to perk up by the end of the week, should I go into salvage mode and cut the long vines and try rooting those?

Again, kind thanks for your reply.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 1:19PM
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trim the plant by 1/3. you can root cuttings in water and then plant or put them in seed starter mix + inclose them in a plastic bag.
curl up the rest of vines in a ball and put the whole thing an largest transparent plastic bag you can find (dry-cleaning bags are good, especially from large mens items).
most time when I xplant pothos is starts wilting and sulking somehwhat. bagging really helps to increase humidity/decrease moisture loss from leaves. it also decreases the need to water, so root rot is less likely.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 3:49PM
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In future I wouldn't do anything to disturb the roots of a Pothos unless I had to. They are very sensitive to damage.

I know you guys seem to love your repotting but it really is Russian Roulette with these.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 7:05AM
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i repot my large ones once ev 4-5yrs - not that often.that is bareroot repot, complete soil change - then it's bagged for the whole summer in good diffused light. interim i just topdress.
otherwise small plants that i rooted in my own soil - i just uppot into a next size up may be after 1-2 years, depending on size/growth.
i am a lazy potter at best. i did not know that they resent root disturbance, but i noticed the sulking every time.
they are the easiest plants though, somehow i thought it was all my fault.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 10:56AM
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Hi everyone,

Thanks for your replies and all the info. I will never again disturb a thriving pothos, even if the pot/soil situation seems less than ideal. Argh, I feel so dumb!

Unfortunately, I think I managed to kill it. I woke up this morning to limp leaves that had begun to yellow near the base. Curiosity got the best of me and I unearthed some roots...some were brown, and a lot of the finer, feeder roots were soft and dark that quickly fell off. I don't think it's normal for some of a plant's roots to die after a repot, so I'm assuming it got root rot... don't know how they managed to go from perfect to dead in 3 days :(

At any rate, I went into emergency mode and cut the vines, removed the leaves near the nodes, and plopped them in water. I have so many cuttings, my kitchen counters are covered in jars, bottles, vases of all kinds with vines of varying lengths (but none longer than 10 inches). I also experimented with some cuttings and planted them directly in some tiny pots I had laying around, and misted the soil. They're super limp though. Has anyone here had luck rooting a cutting from a sick mother plant? I hope some will make it. I'm praying to the plant gods!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 11:57AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

At this point, I don't think you have anything more to worry about. I don't usually bother with the roots of Pothos (or many other vines/creepers) at all if I'm in a hurry or just don't feel like it. They make way more roots than they need, don't have a 'crown to ruin.' Like you've done, just cut everything off at the soil level, stick in water until the aerial root nubs soften, turn white, (about a week,) then back in a fresh pot'o'soil.

Sometimes I just dump the pot out and pull out the nice pieces, cutting off most of the roots anyway. I would do that if I wanted to instantly go back to a pot since I always see a lot more wilting with this plant when trying to root directly in a pot.

Either way, the foliage doesn't need the old roots, which are just taking up space where new soil could go (lessening the longevity of the repot.) Plant will grow new roots, much nicer, brand-new ones.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 12:22PM
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Thanks for the input purple. I'll let them be for a few weeks or so and see if any roots come. The leaves that were limp are now turgid, so hopefully that's a good sign!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 10:06AM
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Thanks for the input purple. I'll let them be for a few weeks or so and see if any roots come. The leaves that were limp are now turgid, so hopefully that's a good sign!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 11:09AM
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Thanks for the input purple. I'll let them be for a few weeks or so and see if any roots come. The leaves that were limp are now turgid, so hopefully that's a good sign!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 11:22AM
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I recently repotted my Pothos Marble Queen as well. It went from a very crowded pot in whatever soil it was sold in into 3 different pots in gritty mix. I've also had some wilting issues, especially in a pot that is wider (7 inches) than it is deep (4 inches) - the pothos clearly seems to not like shallow pots, so check that you are not using one like that. Watering helps perk it up for a while, but your mileage will be highly dependent on the soil there, of course.

I did not think of bagging it - I probably should. Or I'll repot it into something more appropriate. I feel like pothos is a forgiving plant - there's a lot of margin of error / learning room in there.

Best of luck with your plant!

This post was edited by greentoe357 on Fri, Aug 9, 13 at 1:10

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 6:16AM
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Hi all,

Kind thanks for all your replies. Here's my very late update:

All my cuttings rooted in water after a week or so but I only potted them a couple of weeks after the fact (got busy with other things). Potted them in left over 50% MG (bad I know) 50% perlite. I found it very difficult arranging the vines after they had been growing this way and that over the past several months --had to cut some vines up so they would fit. I also tried NOT to bury a lot of stem deep in the potting medium out of fear for future rot, but found it difficult to keep some of the vines stabilized otherwise. Hope I didn't mess that up too badly.

In the end, I was left with one medium sized "plant", one small, one tiny, and a handful of leftover vines to give away to friends. After potting, I watered, and then wrapped them up in those big dry cleaner bags and set aside.

None wilted! Hurrah! Two leaves turned yellow but I suppose that's acceptable collateral damage. Overall they seem to be doing well --some new leaves have unfurled at the tips. I've only watered once or twice since they were potted, when the soil feels dry. I hope by next spring I'll see the same level of growth as the mother plant had this year.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 1:48PM
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I should clarify: when I said I only planted the cuttings after roots had been growing for a few weeks, the roots by this point were pretty long (several inches). I'm pretty sure they should have been potted when the white roots were just emerging from the nodes. For future reference, is it OK to pot cuttings with established water roots? Or should they be planted as soon as water roots sprout? Is trimming long water roots to a smaller length when potting OK to do? (I may have been guilty of doing that last one as well.)

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 2:05PM
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