Windfall (help!)

tigerdawn(7)September 13, 2010

Over Labor Day I helped repot the toxic plant collection at my Alma Mater. I cam home with more houseplants and cuttings than I ever thought possible. This is good and bad. For one, none of the plants were too happy since they hadn't been repotted in 5 years and then they've spent a week on the east side of my house until I can find time to do something with them. I just moved them around this evening to better light for each of them. Some of them are having a lot of trouble:

The Dieffenbachia has lots of yellowing leaves and is droopy. It is very lanky from years of insufficient light.

The holiday cactus (can't remember latin) is just plain funny looking. I want to prune it but I'm not sure if it's wise.

The Philodendron selloum (I think) is really floppy and tall. All 7 of the leaves are the same height and they can't stand up on their own.

And I have the top bit of a Dracaena of some kind. It seems to have tried growing in a corkscrew to get to light or something. It is very difficult to keep the pot upright.

I plan to take pictures of everything soon. Basically I'm just rambling because nobody IRL knows what I'm talking about. LOL!

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It sounds like most of them need cutting back hard and a full repot, but the fly in the ointment is it's not the best time of year to be doing radical work. Probably best (for me) not to jump ahead of things, but from the sound of it, some minimal disruption of any tight root masses & a quick potting up would be the best approach until you can do full repots in early summer, but let's see what you add to the stew. ;o)


    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 9:03PM
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I need help with the Red Emerald Philodendron. At least that's what it was ID'd as. It was pretty happy until all this disruption and now both my parts and the part I left at the garden are having serious leaf yellowing. Is that just transplant shock?

They said the kalanchoe is also dropping leaves. I don't really like kalanchoe because they seem to drop leaves when somebody looks at them funny. Is there something different I can do?

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 10:17PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Can you tell me about the repot? Was it potted up or did you do extensive root work? Have the plants been moved from where they were sited - brighter/darker, cooler/warmer? Same people watering the plants - on a schedule or as needed? allowances made for any increases in soil mass (water less often)? Fertilizer applications?

Same questions for the K.


    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 4:20PM
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None of the plants had been repotted or anything for 5 years (to the day actually) so we took every plant out of its pot, loosened the roots, reduced the plant to a more manageable size (if applicable), and potted it back in an appropriately sized pot with a mix of shredded pine bark, pearlite, and Scott's potting soil.

I put each plant in the best light location based on my knowledge of the species. Some moved around and some didn't. They have a moisture meter. I told them to water most of the plants when the meter is at 1 of 4 and a few (like the ferns) needed more water at 2. The girl in charge of the plants seems competent and has a terrarium with plants and a snake at her house. They have had trouble in the past with students watering the plants, especially the ones closest to the water fountain. I put the practically dead peace lily there so they can kill it and it won't hurt much.

Hopefully this weekend I can get some pictures of the plants I brought home. I got bits of most of the collection.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2010 at 7:21PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

At this point, I'm curious if you reduced the top and the bottom commensurately?

If you're conveying the likelihood that over-watering isn't to blame, and you can eliminate over-fertilizing or a high level of salts in the soil, it would seem likely the leaves aren't getting enough water & the yellowing is a precursor to leaf abscission (shedding) as a drought response. In a way, you could call it transplant shock because it occurred after the repot.

It's unfortunate that the issue raises its head now, because plants need a good store of energy to keep their systems orderly and to fend off insects & disease through the winter. Replacing foliage lost to a drought response is expensive and taxes reserves, which means you'll probably need to be patient. I probably don't need to mention that optimizing light levels and careful attention to fertilizing and watering will be a help; and flushing the soil thoroughly every month or so if you can't water copiously w/o risking root rot will go a long way toward keeping salt levels low when that is most important - winter. I realize most of this is all boiler plate you probably already know, but maybe someone else can make use of it if it's just reinforcing what you already know.

Still curious about how much top vs bottom you cut back, though.


    Bookmark   September 17, 2010 at 7:51PM
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Most of the plants only got either divided, or some top pruning. I remember one out of all of them that got root pruning, but after 35 repots, I can't remember which one it was.

If I had been aware of these plants or in charge of the maintenance, it would have been done much differently, trust me. But I was just along for the ride and I did what I could. At least they're no longer in straight MiracleGro potting mix.

Something interesting about this particular indoor environment: in the winter the library gets really hot and dry, and in the summer it is really cold. I'm seriously thinking about suggesting a misting regimin.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 8:52PM
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Tiger. It's possible, your plants went in shock, especially since they haven't been repotted in 5 yrs.

First, remove any yellow or damaged leaves. There isn't any sense leaving them on..makes a plant look sick, and takes nutrients meant to focus on healthy growth.

Give it time. Water meter guages are okay, but there's nothing better than the finger method. Sticking a finger in soil, if it comes out wet, don't water, if dry, give soil a drink..If you don't want to use your finger, a probe/stick works well, too.

You seem unsure about the Philo's type. IT could be a viney philo. On the other hand, it's either getting too much water or not enough..Again, try the finger method.
I let my Philos dry completely, before watering. Actually, I do this w/most plants. In the meantime, why not stake your Philo?

It's important containers aren't too large. Especially if you have a tendency to overwater. :)

Although some people don't believe this product works, pick up a bottle of Superthrive Hormone and Vitamins. Add a few drops, '1-10' per gallon of water. You'll be amazed of the results.

Good luck, Toni

    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 3:57PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

As I think about it, Dawn, the plants that were divided were probably horribly root bound after such a lengthy time in the same container w/o repotting. I would expect a lot of damage to roots, and particularly to the fine roots when cutting these plants apart or separating them. The stay in what sounds like reduced light probably didn't help. It's probably going to end up being a case of just being patient & trying to minimize transpirational water loss while the roots 'catch up' so they can fill the water needs of the top of the plant.

I wouldn't remove damaged leaves, or leaves that are going yellow until you're sure they are completely dead. Plants recognize organs (leaves & branches) that are not pulling their weight. That is to say if a leaf or branch is a net user of energy instead of a net producer, the plant recognizes this through chemical messengers within the plant and starts the shedding process. During the process, the plant salvages the nutrients, pigments, and other bio-compounds that are mobile in the plant and translocates them to other plant parts - 'recycles the nutrients' is a good way of looking at it. Removing injured leaves or leaves that are going yellow might be fine for a robust plant that is full of vitality, but it's not such a good idea to remove anything you're not sure is dead on a plant that is already very stressed and struggling with a compromised root system. The plant will not allocate energy TO the plant parts it is shedding or are dying. The plant will remove and translocate everything it can from the dying parts before they are shed, and as noted, translocate it to/use it in viable plant parts. Mother nature always has a plan, and she is very frugal.

As far as expecting Superthrive to provide any help in a sudden turn around ...... well, you can use the embedded link to see what Linda Chalker-Scott, PhD has to say. Dr. Scott is widely read and quoted on GW and other garden sites. She has a website (see below) that is often linked to, and it contains a list of many horticultural myths she dispels, providing in the process some interesting reading and information that should put plenty of long held but erroneous beliefs to rest.


Here is a link that might be useful: 10 years worth of myths from Dr. L. Chalker-Scott

    Bookmark   September 20, 2010 at 9:25PM
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The interesting thing is so many of the plants had been overwatered for so long that they hardly had any roots at all. I potted those down. I gave strict instructions on watering (i.e. not watering!) and I've been checking on them when I make it back up there, which is about twice a month. The plants I brought home seem to be working themselves out, like you said, Al. The yellow parts are dying off and the green parts are looking healthier.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2010 at 9:08PM
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