Please help me identify this plant!

valerieeeOctober 22, 2013

My boss is going on maternity leave and I have been charged with taking care of her plant while she is gone.

I will be in big trouble if it dies and it is already not doing so well, so I really need to figure out what it is.

Any help would be appreciated.


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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi Valerie,

Well I'd talk to her BEFORE SHE LEAVES as the plant's not looking its best now (looks a bit too dry from here).

Also, I wouldn't take this quite so seriously (unless you're joking). It's really HER responsibility to tell you how to care for it.

It's a Peperomia of some kind, 1st I thought P obtusifolia, but I haven't seen those patterned leaves before.

Let's see what others think.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 1:21PM
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She won't actually hold me responsible if it dies - she is a very nice person, but it is still something I would like to avoid since she has had it for years.

She has never known what it is. It was a gift from someone else in the office who is no longer here.

It has always been one of those things that she just kind of did the best she could, but recently someone else in the office (not me) brought in soil and fertilizer for it.

It has since taken a turn for the worse, which is too bad cause I asked them to wait until I could confirm what it was.

Thank you so much for your response - Peperomia is definitely the closest I've come before.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 1:36PM
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Peperomia obtusifolia is the correct id. :)

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 2:04PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

"recently someone else in the office (not me) brought in soil and fertilizer for it. It has since taken a turn for the worse,"

If the soil has moisture control crystals in it, this plant might not appreciate that. Also sounds like someone might suddenly be paying more attention to it. If this is manifest in the form of watering more often, I'd recommend backing off. In a potting soil of mostly peat, (an assumption on my part,) these kinds of plants need to dry well before adding more water each time, or roots can rot. It might be good to make sure only one person is giving this plant water, so it doesn't get a double-dose.

Is excess water able to escape from the pot when water is added? If not, excess water sitting at the bottom of the pot can cause roots to rot as well.

Has its' location been changed?

Dogs ARE funny!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 2:54PM
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The plant is in a cubicle with no light and has recently gone through two consecutive phases of being seriously over-watered to slightly under watered.

I have officially taken charge of it's care so it is getting adequate water now. I will also be moving this plant to spot in our building with a little more light.

I just confirmed that the 'new' soil is actually from a planter we had gotten rid of because it was rotted and had fungus gnats. (Thanks to whoever did that.)

I'm going to bring in more appropriate soil and repot it, but I'm wondering if I should do it right away and correct the dubious conditions or if I should wait a little while so as not to shock the plant too much...

Any opinions?

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 4:01PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

You could pull it out, as gently as possible, and put it on some newspaper to dry more quickly. This is not a thirsty, wilty plant, and the soil in which another plant previously died from what anybody would describe as "rotting" isn't stuff I'd want any plant in. So whenever you do repot, I'd try to get rid of as much of it as possible, then not pack the soil around the roots, so they can breathe and move/grow easily through it.

If you find the roots aren't taking up most of the space/soil in the pot already, something in the bottom of the pot, taking up space so some of the soil is eliminated (so it dries more quickly,) might help. Anything that doesn't impede water escaping from the pot, block the drain hole(s), or hold excess moisture itself, like some pieces of styrofoam, could help do that.

If you see that the pot is packed with mostly roots and very little soil, (which I doubt,) untangling them a bit, trimming some of the longest, could help.

I don't do much with store-bought potting mixes, so hope some folks will jump in and talk about what they like for Peps. I don't get the idea you're into 'mixing something' for one office plant. Something chunky, porous, that dries quickly, will be the most comfortable for the plant, though that usually requires taking a plant to a sink for watering. Since so much water runs right through this kind of mix, comes out of the drain hole(s) so easily, it's necessary to add a lot of water over the whole surface or the whole contents of the pot won't get wet. This could be too messy, or need to be done too often for your office environment. For that reason, a more traditional potting soil that you don't get soggy wet, and just let dry for longer periods of time might be what you choose (though once in a while, I'd let it get a little extra dry, then take to sink and water so some flows out of the hole, to try to avoid any issues with tap water chemicals building up to toxic levels.) Every grower has to find the balance between what the plant would prefer and their schedule/environment.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 4:42PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Excuse me Purp, I think you might be getting a bit ahead of things; maybe we could slow down a bit?

That plant looks dry as in de-hydrated, not too wet (have you grown Peps?). P obtusifolia don't usually have veins/patterns like that on their leaves, which leaves me thinking it's too DRY.

(1) Does the pot have a drainage hole?

(2) Will the owner allow you to cut it back a bit? Doing work on it going into Fall, I'm afraid some of that long growth will only get worse & worse.

(3) What is your version of 'adequate watering'? Until it comes out the bottom? If not, it should be.

I think the soil needs remedying first & foremost. I would't do anything else until that is resolved.

I think you could use either C&S mix (Cactus & Succulent mix) or AV mix (African Violet), either one w/ extra perlite, at least 1/3 perlite minimum, more like 40-50% perlite probably fine too.

Pls. make a point of removing ALL the old mix; it can be crumbled off w/ your fingers or even a fork, but all the old stuff really needs to come off. While there, pls. cut or break off any dead, drying, black or brittle roots. Anything soft & mushy is rot & needs complete removal. Notice how it smells, rot smells bad, so that's why I mention it.

Pls do not put this plant in direct sun, it doesn't want that.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 6:06PM
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The plant's current pot does have drainage, but I will be repotting it into a clay pot (with drainage hole) & saucer. I also have some plastic pots with drainage if they would be more appropriate.

My protocol for potting almost everything is to put some large rocks at the bottom to allow for extra drainage - I use whatever soil is recommended for the plant.

For this one, I wasn't sure what to use, but I will get the cactus or AV mix as recommended.

For watering, I generally take the plant into the kitchen, set it on a big plastic tray, and water it until the water runs through and fills up the tray. I then wait however long to see if the water gets soaked back up (for when plants are REALLY thirsty). If the water stands for a bit without being absorbed, I then take the plant and put it back wherever it goes. Otherwise, it gets as much water as it wants (a lot of these office plants get neglected for extended periods of time).

I read that these plants like low/filtered light, but the ONLY option in our office for it to get any light at all is in the atrium. There, it would get roughly 2 - 3 hours of direct, overhead sunlight a day. I figure this is better for it than absolutely no light, but that is just an assumption. Also, our office is in Chicago, so it is frequently cloudy (if that makes a difference.)

Also, I will cut the plant back. At the very least, I can try to propagate/root/whatever it is called (I don't know, I just do it) some of the cuttings and make some mini plants in case the original doesn't make it.

Any other advice is welcome - as of now the response has been overwhelming and I'm grateful for such an involved community.

Thank you so much.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 8:24PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

PG, most of my post was about soil, and a plea for other people to address that more specifically as far as a suitable replacement. You think it needs a drink and I was addressing the concern expressed that it's been overwatered. I can't find any conflict between what I said and what you did, and don't want to, I don't disagree with anything you said. I didn't even express an opinion about it's moisture level one way or the other. Not sure you read what I wrote, but glad this plant has the benefit of your excellent advice.

And you're somewhat right, though not totally unfamiliar, Peps aren't "my area," so I didn't try to offer specific advice about it. I don't mind saying that, you seem to want me to.

Val, the combination of changing to a clay pot and more porous soil could likely dramatically decrease the length of time it takes any plant to get thirsty. That's what I was talking about above, about how much time/how often you have time to water. It's my opinion that your plant is a type that would prefer that, if it's not too cumbersome for its' caretaker(s.)

    Bookmark   October 23, 2013 at 10:11AM
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I grow pep's and your advice is right on purple

    Bookmark   October 23, 2013 at 10:29AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Apologies Purp, my bad,

I seem to have missed the OP's mention that she felt it's been overwatered earlier. That's where I thought we were in conflict; I did read what you wrote, tho' apparently not well enough. I'm sorry.

Not clear which pot you're thinking best, clay or plastic, am unsure myself tho' leaning more towards the plastic.

Thx Christine, the more opinions here, the better.

Asleep...ITG Thx for confirming the ID; am curious for your input on this pls. if you're still reading along.

Valerie, the watering sounds good as does the light. I esp. agree w/ Purple last's paragraph abt changing both the mix & pot being likely to dramatically affect how fast the plant gets thirsty. I think I'd go w/ just the mix change & leave in the plastic (but I've never grown them in clay pots), so others may know better & that applies to mix as well.

OH, lastly, I'd skip the big rocks in the bottom of the pot, it's been found not to help drainage after all.

Wish Karen715 was around to see this, she's really into Peps as a group.

Nice of you to try & care for the plant in her absence, good for you, glad she'll appreciate it.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2013 at 11:25AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I appreciate that, PG, I didn't understand how I was "speeding." Certainly don't want a ticket tho, thanks for keeping an eye on me!

Those more familiar with 'the dry guys in general' and have a basis for comparing plastic vs. clay keep touting the benefits of clay pots for these kinds of plants in a lot of situations but not all. Some people's schedules just don't allow them to water plants as often as that would require. I know you've mentioned having troubles with plants drying too fast in them, and I'd water plants every day if that wouldn't kill 'em. As someone who can overwater anything, including Peps in the past, I've been trying to get some clay pots for these kinds of plants, Peps and others that can rot so easily if soggy. They're so heavy though, a concern with a huge number of pots, and throws off my test-the-weight to see if a plant is dry method. Not that changing to a more quickly drying mix hasn't made a world of difference, but everyone always wants to improve, me too. That's probably all I'm qualified to say about recommending a pot for a Pep.

Thanks, Christine.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2013 at 12:35PM
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