HELP with Chicken Gizzard Aralia!

GeeEssKayOctober 27, 2012


I recently repotted my 35-year-old chicken gizzard aralia, thinking that she could use some fresh soil fortified with nutrients and minerals. I used MiracleGro potting soil for indoor plants and a little bit of generic potting soil. She seemed okay after the first two weeks, but then things started going downhill.

The new soil was rather moist, and my partner watered her shortly after repotting. I think he over-watered because soon after, she started profusely dropping leaves, and she's still dropping leaves and won't stop. Most of the leaves start to turn yellow before dropping, but some of the leaves that drop are still green. I put a moratorium on watering her and have been allowing the soil to dry out by digging up holes and turning the soil every few days. I'm not quite sure what else to do. She won't stop dropping leaves, and at this rate, she'll be barren soon.

Anyone who knows anything about aralias, particularly the chicken gizzard variety, please chime in.

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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Id like to see a pic cos Im not sure what it is. I think it may be a plant I had tho.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 5:12AM
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Hi greenlarry. Here is a recent picture of her.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 8:53AM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Ah that's not the aralia I had. Are the leaves meant to be wrinkly like that?

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 8:59AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

GSK - Almost certainly, you'll find your problem lies in the fact that your plant doesn't tolerate wet feet well. That is to say, soggy conditions in the pot significantly impede the root function of your plant due to an insufficiency of O2 in the root zone, or worse, cause the death of a notable volume of roots, which of course is a less than ideal scenario. Very likely, this is due to perhaps one of: over-watering, a soil too water-retentive, over-potting, but more likely it's some combination of these influences that is working against you.

As a grower, your job would be to minimize the effects these conditions have on the plant by improving the conditions. That's how growers grow - by improving their ability to reduce the effects of those things that limit their plants. If you're interested in chasing that idea a bit, let me know and I'll lead you to some things that will hopefully get you thinking about how you can get more from your growing experience.

Best luck.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 9:27AM
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Hello. Since I never heard of a Chicken Gizzard Aralia, I had to Google its proper name.

Your plant is Polyscias crispatum.

Another common name is Geranium Leaf Aralia..

The number one Aralia killer is wet feet. Especially larger specimens.

Soil must dry in-between waterings. Since your Aralia is mature, potted in a large pot, it's mandatory soil is tested before adding water.

Have you read posts about inserting a skewer/stick deep within soil to check whether or not bottom soil is moist or dry?

BTW, did you recently water? Soil looks wet.

Your Aralia's trunk is nice and thick...healthy.

Have you made any changes? For instance, moving to a new location, repotting or bringing in from outside...
Does the container have drainage holes? Toni

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 11:40AM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Ah so its not an Aralia !

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 11:57AM
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Larry, yes, GEK's plant is an Aralia.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 12:12PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Coincidentally, I left a post on another thread a little while ago that addresses the idea that certain plants "must dry between waterings." This is one of those statements that could be useful if it was properly qualified, but is simply wrong on its face. Strangely enough, I even used aralia as an example of plants that do indeed rebel quickly and notably when over-watered; however, that the plant doesn't like the stress associated with over-watering is not an indication it likes the stress associated with a dry soil, either.

Following, is a copy/paste of what I offered on a thread about F alii. Remember it was written and posted before this thread appeared:

[The question was asked] "Before I lightly water, should the soil be completely dry from top to bottom of my pot?" Your question begs a yes/no answer, but if I answered YES, I would be wrong, and NO wouldn't be very helpful because it needs qualifying to be useful.

Some growers confidently give the advice that plants like succulents, schefflera, aralia, ficus, and many others, should be allowed to go dry before you water again. This is an error that cuts against the well-being of the plant. These plants TOLERATE drought stress better than most other plants when they're taken as a group, but that doesn't mean they are immune to the ill effects of drought stress - they're not.

Let's add some perspective though, to what I just said. It's easy to see how that advice originated and came to be accepted as a near universal truth, when in fact it should be relegated to the pile of horticultural myths. Aralia, for example, is a plant that reacts quickly and poorly to soggy soil conditions. Somewhere, someone writing a plant book said, "I don't think my readers will understand, or want to be bothered with what it takes to understand, this watering business, so I'd better make sure the information I supply at least keeps them from killing their plant from over-watering." The author then evaluates whether or not it's better to let the plant go dry and suffer the effects of drought stress, or to tell them to keep the soil moist and risk the grower being too heavy-handed on the watering can. The lesser of the evils is to let the plant dry down before you water. It's not "good for the plant"; it's simply 'less bad' than over-watering.

'Balance', is a nuance that escapes a high % of even long-time growers. It's important to understand that what you THINK you're seeing isn't always what is actually happening. For instance, many growers assume that when you can only detect (with finger/probe) moisture in the extreme bottom of the pot, all the roots above the detectable moisture level are unable to take up water and nutrients. That's what it LOOKS like - the soil is dry - right? That's what we assume and what we act on, if we don't understand that plants take up water a molecule at a time from a microscopically water in the bottom of the pot diffuses in vapor form throughout the entire soil mass. So in actuality, it might only be the top 10% of the soil that is actually too dry for the plant ..... and the roots in the top 10% of the soil are going to be almost all conducting/anchoring roots anyway. Additionally, when there is moisture detectable only at the pot bottom, the diffusion rate can easily be high enough that not only will there be water available in vapor form in the upper part of the pot, but enough diffusion might be going on that it maintains the integrity of that microscopic film of water on colloidal surfaces from which plants gather water. Remember, plants don't take up water in sips/gulps like we do. Water moves into the plant a molecule at a time, so water that can actually be SEEN in soils is inhibiting of root function. That's why it's so important to understand that evenly damp or moist is the ideal state of water retention for almost everything we grow. HOW to achieve 'evenly moist' is part of the same play - just a different act. At this juncture, what's important is that 'evenly moist' is ideal, but if you have to err, err on the dry side - but not TOO dry.

One thing you need to consider is where the roots are in the container. A 12" pot containing a plant with 3" of root depth due to a recent root pruning/repotting/potting up, shouldn't be allowed to dry down as much as the same set-up that's mature (roots have thoroughly colonized the soil mass).

The key to this whole watering thing is reducing the amount of perched water in the soil to the greatest degree possible. It may seem like word play, but reducing the amount of perched water a soil CAN hold is better than working toward reducing the amount of perched water a soil DOES hold. The reason there is a difference is, the former is achieved as a function of particle size and the physical properties of the particles, both of which affect ACTUAL aeration and drainage. The later can be achieved via a variety of ways that don't necessarily depend on changes in particle size and aeration; so while the net result is still an improvement, it's not as significant an improvement as reducing the amount of water a soil is capable of holding.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 1:02PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

It IS an Aralia or Polyscias GL, pls. look them up. They go by various names, Ming Aralia, Polycias Ming, I've seen it under this name. I grow my particular favorite, Balfour Aralia, or Polyscias Balfouriana.

I happen to love this combination of form & variegation

Here's a different, related form, a cutting I was trying to root earlier this year (mine failed).

Sorry, I don't grow this or know what to suggest. I'd listen to Al & Toni, I'm sure it's overwatered, they simply do not tolerate that well.

It's otherwise a nice looking plant, I've never known the age of one so old. Might pruning it back somewhat help save the main trunk?

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 1:13PM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Thing is Aralia is, or was, a latin name, not a common name. Nowadays of course everything becomes a common name!
I had a plant that was an actual Aralia, and there's a plant that used to be called Dizygotheca. Lovely plant Ive long wanted. It got reclassified in genus Aralia.
Of course its been a while, things could have changed since ...

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 1:41PM
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