Why is this dying?

ratherbestrummingSeptember 7, 2012

This past spring I decided to try my hand at keeping house plants, having no prior experience. I began with several store-bought house plants and a few I planted myself in small pots.

Everything was going fine until some time in early summer, when nearly all of them quickly died without any clear cause. I'm sure there are a thousand reasons why that might happen to a plant, but it seemed improbable that they'd all die at the same time. I had looked up light and watering requirements, and each got what was proscribed.

I suspected some sort of pathogen, as some of the dead ones displayed a white/grey fuzz of fine filaments, as of a mold. But this was not apparent on all of them.

Anyway, two survived. One was eaten by my cat, leaving this pothos as the only survivor. It looked far worse than this when all the others died, and I'd all but given up on ever keeping anything alive. But it perked up and began new growth; it looked like it might pull through. It continued that way all summer, then three or four days ago began to wilt, and is now as you see it in the photo.

I'm at a loss. I'm sure I've made some nigh-trivial mistake that anyone with any sense for plant care would catch, but I don't know what that might be. Consider me a blank slate with regard to plant care; anything you can tell me will likely be more than I know now.

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Whoops, looks as though I forgot to upload the photo.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 8:14PM
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Looks rather dry

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 8:31PM
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1. buy perlite and make up a mix of 50/50 with potting soil or do a search on this forum for "gritty mix" and mix it up
2. when you repot out of a store mix, make sure you get as much of the store's "dirt" removed from the roots as possible before repotting.
3. never go more than one or two sizes up in pot size when repotting
4. when you water, water until you see it running out the bottom of the pot, don't give the plant "sips" of water.

This should start you off until others chime in.


    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 8:53PM
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Looks like an EA plant. The soil is atrocious - good for keeping it alive in store, but it can get hard as bricks when you get it home for a bit!

Always make sure your plant has proper drainage. If the water just sits at the top, you know the soil isn't fast draining and most likely drowning your plant's roots. Perlite, orchid bark, hyrdoton, etc. are your friends!

It also looks a bit overpotted. Pothos doesn't mind a smaller pot.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 9:38PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

RBS - Growing doesn't have to be that hard. Albeit most often unwittingly, we sometimes make growing houseplants much more difficult than it needs to be. Making it easy, or perhaps more accurately - eliminating much of the potential for problems, does require a grower to be somewhat proficient at covering the basics, and there is nothing magic in a box or bottle that can do that.

The best way to actually learn is to find a source of facts you can trust, acquire the knowledge, then justify (prove) what you learned through practical application. The basic facts that cover things like soil choice, light, watering, fertilizing, temperatures, ..... can be covered in a few short reading sessions, and you can actually almost instantly start putting to work what you learned - and have fun doing it. That method o learning is much superior to being bitten on the butt by our mistakes, something the more civil refer to as the trial and error method of learning.

I'll leave a link to a thread you might find helpful. If you read it and want to learn more, just ask and I'll link you to a thread about a concept that probably represents the biggest forward step anyone who grows in containers can make at any one time. If you don't find it helpful or interesting - nothing's lost except the time it takes to look. Essentially, what I'm trying to provide is the opportunity to find the basics addressed all in one place, along with the opportunity to expand from there if the spirit so moves you. ;-)

Best to you ....


Here is a link that might be useful: A basic overview

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 6:42AM
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Thanks to each of you for your input! I haven't heard of perlite, but will try that today.

And I'm working on your good growing practices post, Al.

I appreciate it!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 9:42AM
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murraysmom Zone 6 OH

You mentioned your cat had eaten one of your plants. Be very, very careful which plants you bring into the house. Some are poisonous to cats. Be sure to look them up before you buy!!

Pothos is toxic to cats.

Here is a link that might be useful: aspca poisonous plants

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 12:07PM
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After reading Al's post on good growing practices, I see that this soil was retaining a great deal of water. It would stand for far too long before really going into the soil, and I basically never saw anything come out the bottom of the pot.

I was also sometimes giving it just sips - I had no idea how to even water the plant!

I repotted it (made sure to remove as much of the old soil as possible) in a mixture of half potting soil and half perlite by volume. The old stuff came out of the pot in a single large piece; many roots circled the bottom of the pot like a ring. These I cut back, along with some that looked necrotic.

I'm not in the habit of wasting things. Is there something good I can do with the old soil? Any way to reclaim it?

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 4:46PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It's probably best to turn the old soil into the compost pile or spread it on the lawn/garden/beds .... rather than try to reuse it in a container medium.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 5:11PM
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